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What Unites

“And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another” -Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb” presented during the Inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden

We are witnessing history in the making, and we are the creators of that story. The Inauguration of 2021 for President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris feels like a turning point for our nation. It was a triumph of the people that power transferred peacefully despite it being threatened. Even though our country has been tested again and again, nevertheless, democracy prevailed. Nothing said it better than the beautiful poetic gift of Amanda Gorman calling us to begin the journey back to each other.

How do we begin the work? How can we lay aside our swords and turn them into plowshares to plant the seeds for that more perfect union? It seems overwhelming, but something I recalled seeing yesterday gives me hope. From every age and background, ordinary people inspired to do whatever they can, are lifting another’s burdens, and in the case of Eugene Goodman, protecting liberty in a split second choice. We tend to think unless something is big or noticed, it doesn’t matter. I know I feel this way from time to time, depressed that I am not where the action is, and wonder how I can still serve my community in a meaningful way. It is about finding one’s purpose in this life, and considering the challenges of the year since the pandemic started, there is something for everyone to do and multiple ways to contribute.

As I share in The Civil Graces Project, I think the idea of division is a myth we continue to embody. While we are deeply at odds with one another, I wonder how the story would change if we stopped believing in separation. What if we truly realized that our actions or inactions set into motion a wave that affected ourselves and those around us? Quantum theory has explored this idea, and at a fundamental level, has demonstrated we are operating in this unified field with one another. When we slow down and recognize this by making time and space, we can truly see it. At a psychological level, what we think about is what we often perceive. If we look for division, we will see it. Likewise, as we saw presented yesterday, thousands of acts of love surround us and transform lives every day across our country.  

Where will we put our focus? Will we seek our shared future or solely our own survival? Are we willing to enter the field with respect and truth? What will be the oath we make as asked by the project The People’s Inauguration?  Can America depend on us to carry the spark of freedom within ourselves? Will we use our spark to inspire others to do the same? How can we re-member what and who we are as a nation?

Renewal is an opportunity to reconnect with our heritage with one another, make atonement, and then decide how we will move forward. We need each other and depend on thousands of great and small acts to make it through each day. President Biden spoke of one word in particular in his speech. “To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity.”

Unity comes from the Latin root word, unus, which means ‘one.’ In order to create that sense of one-ness, we have to let go of our belief in separateness and superiority. It summons the spirit of harmony that finds its source in our very origin–E Pluribus Unum meaning “from many one.” We have always portrayed ourselves to be a nation of many merged into one whole no matter our diversity. We have seldom lived up to that vision. It is time we take up that call by putting our differences aside, not to lose sight of our diversity, but to realize everything belongs. The poem above invites us to reach out to each other and begin to reenvision a new world together.  It will take time and patience, but it feels like we are heading in the right direction!

Photo credit Biden-Harris Inauguration website.

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Every Day Civil Graces

“The time is always right to do the right thing. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have observed a few things and maybe needed to include them in The Civil Graces Project. These are basic things, but apparently, they aren’t clear to all by what we continue to see. Like Life’s Little Instruction Book, by H. Jackson Brown Jr., perhaps we need a primer for how to engage with each other in our democracy. How can we approach life in this republic in our modern age in a way that honors the pledge we make with each other and our ancestors to uphold the values of our Constitution? Here a few that hopefully will start a civil discourse on what we can expect and should expect from each other.

One does not have a Constitutional right to use social media. Companies make the rules for their businesses and are very much like stores that have policies of “no shoes, no shirt, no service.” Want to play? Follow the rules. Be courteous and don’t spread rumors or ignite fires by reposting lies. If you’re going to do that, then be willing to engage in the debate without making vitriolic threats to one another. Social media companies also need to be aware of their responsibilities for allowing the spread of false propaganda, as we have learned through multiple election cycles and world events. 

We don’t get to create chaos without repercussions. We have freedom of speech with some exceptions to protect each other…like not yelling ‘fire’ when there isn’t one. We don’t get to impose our will upon each other and ignore the rule of law. For instance, one cannot drive down the opposite side of the road without expecting a crash. We do not exist in a vacuum, but rather are like links that when one breaks, it creates destruction to the whole.

It is not acceptable to scream at people online, in airports, or any place. Do you notice when another screams, we stop listening? So they are wasting their breath. Speak so we can understand what is being said, and even more powerful pause and listen…a great way to learn. Something that is missing so much in our society is curiosity and the willingness to hear other perspectives. Author of See No Stranger, Valarie Kaur, describes it beautifully: 

“There is no such thing as monsters in this world. There are only human beings who are wounded. When we choose to wonder about people we don’t know, when we imagine their lives and listen for their stories, we begin to expand the circle of those we see as part of us.”

The stories we tell have power to affect our thoughts and actions. Pay attention to the stories you tell and test them with Byron Katie’s four liberating questions: 

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

Lying and cheating are NEVER okay. Both destroy trust and relationships–so does covering up the truth or telling half-truths. We all have experienced the heartbreak and damage of having someone we love lie to us in small and big ways. It hurts immensely and is so destructive on a personal level as well as a societal level. Repeating false ideas, again and again, does not make them real…ever. We have to have the courage to call upon our leaders and the media to be accountable to the truth. It is time we revisit the Fairness Doctrine so we can begin to rebuild our networks of information based on facts.

When one makes a mess, respect oneself and others to apologize and clean it up/compensate for the loss. When the roll is empty, replace it. Images of Representative Andy Kim of New Jersey cleaning up the Rotunda quietly after the siege gave a powerful sign of love despite the attack. His words came right from the heart: “We [also] need to recognize that how we get through that is by seeing the humanity in each other. There are ways we can have debates and disagreements but not resort to violence.”

Love of country starts with taking care of the people who live there and understanding it’s not all about me/myself/I. Our Constitution begins with “we,” not “me,” and that’s important. “We” doesn’t equate to just a faction or group; it’s ALL of us, so we better learn how to work together. Something I can remember so clearly when my siblings were fighting was my dad’s discipline, “You all need to learn to get along!” Even as much of a challenge as that can be still today, he was right!

It is so helpful if you plan to engage in political discourse to have a basic understanding of history and how our government works. Read as much as you can, and don’t necessarily take everything you hear or read as fact. Part of the power of discourse is we can sort out ideas. Don’t become a parrot for the news you watch or what you read. Explore others’ opinions and consider what the opposition might say so you can seek to understand others’ ideas. Hurting each other is wrong no matter what the context, and in a society like ours, the power comes from sharing ideas, not building walls to shut each other out.  

Winning is not everything. Sometimes there’s something better waiting ahead. Have the grace to move on when a loss happens. I learned that in my own race for Congress. Was it fair? I didn’t think so. Was I upset and felt cheated? For a while, but then I got really tired of telling that same old story and realized I had to face the music and move on so I could do something else. Joseph Campbell’s quote was an inspiration to me: “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Moving on was the best thing I ever did, and it freed me from the past I was holding onto and opened my life to possibilities. Stacey Abrams is another excellent example of someone who took her upset and created lasting and more significant change.

Spellcheck and grammar checks are available for free on most online applications. Try to use them and remember, I comes before E except after C. Watch out for their/there/they’re. If you are going to state your ideas, take time to think them through and make sure you are clear and concise. I have to read through what I write multiple times to catch my errors, but I reflect upon what I am presenting in that process. More often than not, I find myself adjusting things, especially when I feel passionate or angry. It is never a good idea to publish anything with anger. Take a walk, take a breath, and collect your thoughts first. Then write. Your opinions matter, but make sure you don’t regret what you say because, like arrows we shoot, words can create damage that never goes away.

Something to consider, politicians use highly emotional issues to get votes…make sure you check on them to see if their actions reflect their words. That includes critical thinking when things don’t add up. Consider the whole picture, especially when there are issues that are meant to divide. Those are their favorites. I saw this upfront when I ran and even in the many years of being in politics working on campaigns. Politicians would say one thing on stage to the people and be quite the opposite behind the scene. Watching someone talk about moral values and then after make suggestive or discriminatory comments doesn’t align. We have to walk our talk and demand the same of those who want to lead. There are important issues before us, but most of them require us to come to the table to get to the heart of the matter, not draw lines in the sand or swords in the air. It requires getting the facts straight, which leads us back to telling the truth.

Radio and television hosts depend on ratings. Some like to make you feel like you are in on a secret, so you will be loyal and come back to hear more. Remember that and challenge what is said on all channels, including chat groups and videos. Just because something has been produced, it doesn’t make it factual. It doesn’t matter who you usually watch or listen to either. Switch the media and listen to multiple perspectives. Engage with each other in dialogue about what someone else might have perceived. Don’t be afraid of having your ideas challenged–that is how new ideas emerge. That is how democracies thrive by the free exchange of ideas that lift people up, not those which seek to divide us.

Follow the money…that is most likely the motivation for many things especially in policy. Also, be wise with where you vote with your dollars and time. Too many are letting their next promotion, reelection, and thirst for power drive their behavior. This is a losing strategy. John F. Kennedy had the best line on this: “Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” Don’t allow your focus to be fogged by delusions of grandeur. Listen for these clues: Are the words of love or fear? Do they seek unity for all or division? Do they put someone down or make fun of someone different? Doing the right thing requires courage and integrity. Be aware of where your elected officials are getting their funding, watch their behavior on the issues, and hold them accountable. We also need to demand campaign finance reform if we want to see things get better. Consumer pressure to hold corporations responsible is already working to change how they invest in our political process. This is a step in the right direction.

Finally, one of the most courageous things a person can do is reflect on their ideas and actions and admit when they were wrong. No one gets it right 100% of the time. We all learn from our mistakes, but learning is the key. We all have areas where we need to do better. Author Edith Wharton once wrote, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Right now, too many are spreading fear and hate, which roots back to the very founding of this nation. It spews racism, xenophobia, sexism, and discrimination of every kind. Any time we treat each other like “the other,” we dehumanize one another and move to a dangerous path of destruction. We have a choice. It is about charting a way forward together and recognizing that our diversity is the very thing that makes our nation strong.

This is just the beginning of an ongoing dialogue on steps we can take. On Monday, we celebrate the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He dedicated and sacrificed his life toward non-violent efforts to help bring a more fair and just society. Perhaps it is a good day to reflect upon our own hearts and how we show up in this nation of ours. How can we bring the civil graces alive every day? As the proverb states, “For such a time as this, you were born.” We cannot give up on the possibilities of our democracy, and I hope you will join me in working to discover that more perfect union.  

Photo credit: Vince Moro, taken during my campaign in 2018 as I was meeting someone along the trail.

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Manifesting Our Destiny

“We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.” -Abraham Lincoln

Like many, my eyes watched the disturbing images at the Capitol today. My heart is breaking for our nation. We should be celebrating the peaceful transfer of power today. Instead, those who stoke the fires of division created one of the scariest moments in the history of our republic. It is angering that this was permitted and even encouraged. It clearly was representative of the double-standards that exist in enforcing the law for anyone aware of history. We had feared for the longest time that this would happen as the seeds of hatred, mistrust, and destruction were sown. Enough is enough.

We have to find a way to move forward as a nation despite those who wish to deny the truth. These rioters’ violent and disrespectful actions betray the rule of law upon which our country is based. We cannot tolerate these acts, and people of hope and goodwill must stand firm to continue to heal and defend our democracy. President-elect Biden called us to reflect on the words in the quote above spoken by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. We are standing in the balance of history once again. We have the power to come back together to do the work. We have witnessed the power of our vote and our voice–all as outlined in our Constitution. Our duty continues beyond the ballot as we find ways to move forward together sorting out our differences. It is essential to do the work first on ourselves and then in our communities by uniting with those willing. It will take time, yet those who chose hatred and fear cannot have the final say. This is not the only crisis when our democracy has been challenged, but it brings things into clearer focus. Our civil graces can help restore the discourse in preserving our fragile and noble institutions of self-governing.

Today is the Epiphany feast, also known as the Twelfth Night of the Christmas season. My family celebrates “little Christmas,” and we look to the three gifts presented by the Magi, wise rulers. It is a time when we think of manifesting the miracles of the season of love–something we carry forth into the days ahead for the rest of the year.

The end of December is a time of deep emotion for me, and this year, it was hard to put my thoughts into words. In addition to 2020 being a very challenging year on its own, it was the fifth anniversary of my dad’s passing two days before Christmas. His memory is still a veil over the holiday and my birthday, which comes two days later. It is also when love was renewed when Vince and I had our first date, the vision of New Year’s hopes, and the celebration of my first daughter’s 22nd birthday. Holding the space for the sadness of the loss together with the joy of love is deep heart work. It opens oneself to the manifestation of truth, wisdom, and courage. Three gifts that can help lead us in our current situation as a nation today.

I have been critiqued for being “too soft” on what sometimes are complicated issues by calling us back to civil graces. I have discovered that yes, there are moments when anger gets the best of me, and I want an immediate resolution to issues. However, long term results to the big things we must overcome take patience, compassion, and respect. It requires reflection on where we missed the mark and where we need to offer forgiveness. It also requires calling forth justice and the balance between our powers. We need all our talents and skills to move past the violence and hatred among us to create a new and better world. As scary as this day was, today, we honor leaders such as Stacey Abrams, whose vision is reshaping our representative government by ensuring everyone has a voice and a vote. Regardless of what side of the aisle you stand on, we need to listen to each other and find the path forward. Our destinies are tied together, and our brightest days are ahead if we lead with love instead of fear.

Let us all unite in praying for our democracy. Nothing is achieved in violence. May we all remember the civil graces that connect us. Happy New Year!

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Excess Baggage

“No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.” ― Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

Where do we stand? It all depends on our vantage point. In the final weeks of the transformative year 2020, it feels like we have been on a very long journey. Arduous and yet revealing, this moment has laid us bare to the realities of a world that is searching. What is it that we are seeking? Where are we going? How will we find our way to the common ground so we can work together for a better world for all?

In The Civil Graces Project, I challenge that we can change the world first and foremost by doing the inner work. Like spiritual yoga, each of the civil graces is a path to creating a life of meaning. It is an invitation to look at ourselves and explore our connections with the outer realities we witness. It means unpacking the baggage of our lives and looking at what we carry. Here are some questions to consider: 

  • When have we been brilliant but were afraid to let our light shine because of fear or what others may think?  
  • What holds us back from living our truth? Is there someone or something who would benefit if we spoke our truth?
  • What are we holding onto that, if released, would bring us back to balance with our core?  
  • Where do we need to forgive ourselves and others?
  • And the biggies…Who am I? What do I feel passionate about in my life? How have I shown up this year for the people in my space and what I love?

Moving from one year to the next without reflection is missing out on the purpose of the journey. It is like accumulating all sorts of stuff but not having any sense of alignment with it until suddenly we are weighed down by it all.  Life then becomes a burden, and we become hoarders of the past.

The winter solstice is coming next Monday, December 21st, in the northern hemisphere. Likewise, it is the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. Traditionally the solstice is surrounded by ceremonies and rituals about honoring the passing of one season to the next. The word solstice comes from the Latin word sol or “sun” and sistere, meaning “to stand still” because of how the sun appears to pause in its path. We can claim this time to pause, reflect, and clean out our baggage to make way for a new year and manifest a freer sense within.  

This year is an essential one to clear out because so much came forth from our collective basement. When everything is chaos, a way to overcome the storms is to go within and check our core values. One practice I do each year is to make a list of the things I want to release. I take time to be quiet, write everything down on paper, and then throw it into the flames of our fireplace. Consider doing something to commemorate letting go–lighting a candle, burning sage or incense, even ring some chimes or bells. There is a reason angels get their wings when bells ring–we can lift off from the burdens we carry just by the joyous sound.

Rabindranath Tagore once wrote, “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” We have had the most amazing sunsets for December in our area, and it reminded me of this saying and how letting go of those storms in our lives, the things we cannot control, can be so healing. When we meet our inner gremlins, we can see them for what they are and let them go. Things somehow will work out, and all we can do is show up each day and be of service however we may be called. Letting go of dear loved ones was one of the more challenging lessons this year, but love surprises in many ways to reassure us we are still connected. Time is our most precious gift, and if anything, 2020 taught us clearly to spend our moments on what is essential.

Beyond all of what we may discover in this process, freedom comes when we forgive ourselves and others. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we wipe the slate clean, but rather, we remove its ability to keep causing injury, and we find ways to act in justice and truth. We let go of the baggage but bear the lesson the experience revealed. The ending of the year offers us the gift of closure and awakening to the possibilities of what we could be. Having that experience doesn’t rely on what others do or say, but on what we choose to carry within us. Carefully move through this process with love for yourself, and then select what you will bring forth. When you are ready, pack your bags with what is essential and has truth for you, and then get ready for the adventure of a new year! Let us have courage in our hearts to be open to the graces that will guide us.

Photo credit: Vince Moro, antique suitcases we were given by a dear friend who has moved on to a wonderful new place!

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Instruments of Peace

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

In my writings, I often refer to the big table where we gathered when I was growing up. This is where we would do our homework, play games, and do art projects. Anything and everything happening in our house usually centered on the big table, including our evening meal. My dad would come in from the radiator shop, and all of us had to help my mom get dinner ready, including setting the table. My parents believed in the importance of being together at the end of the day, and visitors always found space. Before the dishes were passed, we would join each other in prayers of gratitude and one for peace–what is known as the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. My dad had heard it first at a retreat and thought it was a beautiful prayer. It became part of our daily blessing.  

The origins of the prayer are a little unknown, and ironically it is not likely to have been written by St. Francis at all. It is believed to have been first published in 1912 in a small parish in France and gained popularity during the great world wars. Both political and religious leaders worldwide have invoked the prayer over the years, and popular culture has quoted it in songs and movies. It is a marvelous prayer of motion that, upon consideration, reflects the spirit of the Civil Graces Project. It is in what we are willing to offer of ourselves and how we show up that we can change the world. It is the flow between the inner life of spirit and the outer life of purpose.  

So much that we are witnessing today is about creating separation and discord. Power is stoked by being forceful and willful. How elegant that a simple prayer for peace holds the keys to a world transformed. Rather than come from a place of “right is might,” the words invoke us to consider that we are connected to one another. What we do to each other, we give to ourselves, so, therefore, let everything be in the spirit of love.

At the beginning of this year, our leaders suggested war was the answer to settle disputes among countries, and I remember thinking about how irresponsible it was. I heard young people worriedly talking about being drawn into a conflict, and I decided to do something to change the energy. We opened our farm to friends and their kids, and together we lit some candles. 195 candles, to be exact, one for each country in the world. We said a prayer for peace. We talked about creating the energy of peace and not to let the headlines control us. The war never happened, and while we had no control over that decision, we did have control over the space of our minds. We created a space for love to begin this new year.

We have that same decision to make today…what seeds are we sowing? What kind of energy do we wish to carry into the next new year? Will it be that of anger, revenge, and discord? Or will we become instruments of peace? In researching the history of this prayer, I am almost glad that it wasn’t written by a revered saint but was probably written by an ordinary person who saw the world on the brink of war and made a plea for peace. That is the power of our words and our ideas to change the world we live in today. We don’t have to be elected, noble or famous. We can each just do our part to light the way for each other on the journey.  

In closing, I want to share the words of the Prayer for Peace and ask that you read it slowly. Feel the rhythm of the text and the invitation to create a balance within yourself. It is in giving that we truly receive all that we could ever ask. It is in love that we make a life that will be cherished and remembered by those we touched long after we are gone. Let us be instruments of peace in our world today and take active steps to bring all that we are to be a blessing!

This is the original text translated into English:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me put love.

Where there is offense, let me put forgiveness.

Where there is discord, let me put the union.

Where there is error, let me put the truth.

Where there is doubt, let me put faith.

Where there is despair, let me put hope.

Where there is darkness, let me put your light.

Where there is sadness, let me put joy.

O Master, let me not seek so much

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love,

because it is by giving that we receive,

it is by forgetting oneself that we find,

it is by forgiving that we are forgiven,

it is by dying that we are renewed to eternal life.

P.S. Later today, Donna Seebo, founder of Delphi Vision Broadcasting, will air an interview she did with me a few weeks back. Donna felt the work of the Civil Graces Project embodies the work of ”Warriors for Peace.” Click here to listen. It was such an honor to be on the show with Donna. (I was a little nervous! Hopefully, it sounds okay!)

P.S.S. Signed copies of The Civil Graces Project: The Pursuit for Common Ground are available on the “shop” tab. I hope you will share your thoughts on the book with me.

Photo credit: Vince Moro, Chartres Cathedral, one of my favorite peaceful places. October 2019

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Discerning our Place

“It is in the depths of your life that you will discover the invisible necessity that has brought you here. When you begin to decipher this, your gift and giftedness come alive. Your heart quickens and the urgency of living rekindles your creativity.”― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

In light of all that is happening, you may feel like I do at times–overwhelmed and wanting to disengage. It is difficult to know our place in the scheme of it all. So many say, “I am done with people,” and a little part of me at times agrees. Sometimes it is just too much, and it even seems dangerous to engage in specific settings right now. How can one follow the roller coaster of world events in a time of political unrest, civil digression, economic and racial injustices, and an out-of-control pandemic even to envision common ground? How can we still do our part when it seems like this is much bigger than any of us can solve? How do we know when and how to act from wholeness in a world pushed apart?

My last post was about reclaiming our power and the importance of staying engaged. However, if we will be successful in enduring the challenges ahead of us, we have to insert another word, discernment. Discernment comes from the idea of separating, which might seem so contrary to the premise of the Civil Graces Project, which focuses on inclusion and healing. However, if you go to the heart of the word, to discern is to see for sure what is there. It is the ability to separate the fact from the fiction. It is about raising our consciousness to find what is essential and how we can help make things better. It is listening to that still small voice within us–the voice in children’s tales called our conscience. What we know to be true often can be felt in our core. We just have a feeling about something that it is real. In a world of conspiracy theories and lies, this is our sixth sense that something isn’t adding up, and it causes us to question. It leads us further on a path to pursue the truth.

Discernment is a gift that develops with practice and keeping a mind open to receive both ideas and inspiration. It is fostered when we consider different points of view, have dialogue with each other, and sift through concepts. Civil discourse is a key component to strengthening a discerning mind. It is like trying something on to see how it feels. We often discredit our feelings as purely emotional, but modern science has dispelled that myth. Our emotions and senses are a part of our inner knowing process. They are powerful indicators of what has truth for us, and yet, discernment becomes stunted if we only feed from the same sources. We have to explore and be courageous in finding ways to develop our knowledge and understanding. We cannot allow ourselves to be limited by “group think” or closed off to other options even when we find offense. Sometimes something that offends us is an area where we need to heal or expand our awareness. 

We live in the dichotomy of having boundaries that protect and also knowing when we need to grow. Discernment is necessary for staying focused on the work that is required of us in this moment. With the ability to discuss online, we often get pulled into the political sway, and what is political becomes extremely personal. We need to discern that our opinions don’t belong to anyone but ourselves. We don’t have to spend our lives trying to make everyone else comfortable nor agree. We each are unique and have gifts to bear in our diversity. It is what makes our lives worth living–our unique perspectives and purpose. We can create a vision of life, community, and politics rooted in our meaning and purpose without the overwhelm.    

Many are calling these times revolutionary when we have a choice between love or fear. Do we have the courage to fully step into who we are and act from a place of foundational change, or will we disconnect out of fear? By using the gift of discernment and going deep within ourselves, I think we all know we cannot afford to play small nor disengage. When we are reinventing what it means to be a member of society, the voices of those seeking grace are needed to challenge those calling for violence and war. We are the descendants of revolutionaries who changed the face of history, and it is our time to show up with our gifts to help reshape this moment.  

One thing I know to be true, we cannot choose to stand still–if we do, someone else will determine where we move. Our history exemplifies the tremendous cost when we collapse into civil war or leave each other behind. Nearly a century ago, America was coming through a pandemic and great depression, and we charted a new course to bring us forward. Though some did not like the sweeping reforms and his style, Franklin Roosevelt challenged his opposition that we couldn’t sit by while millions of Americans suffered. He said, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” It is a lesson we encounter yet again today.

This moment is our time, and discernment will help us know where we can be of service. We may upset a few areas of our life, but we are dying if we are not growing. Spend time every day contemplating what stirs your heart, and call upon grace to lead you. We each have a place in creating a revolution of love. We don’t have to do it alone. As long as we continue to show up and do our part from a place of the heart, the world will forever change for the better.

Photo credit Vince Moro, Paris–October 2019.

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Gratitude is enough

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” -Melody Beattie

One of my favorite memories was teaching my gravy-loving son the alchemy of how the gravy is made. He was so excited to see the magic. Tomorrow I will be cooking away…just a tiny dinner as we know this year is one of distance but also of great love. What will you create?? Whether your party be of one or a few more, know you will be connected to my table and all those who pause to be grateful for the blessings of this moment. The times are constantly changing, and I am so glad to have all of you in my world and on the journey to that more perfect union! Many blessings to you!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!💗

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Reclaiming Our Power

“Diverse groups that figure out how to cooperate outperform and outlast groups that don’t…Social virtues such as trust and generosity and compassion may seem like they’re for suckers, but in fact, they’re for winners. They help groups cohere in ways that enable all members to survive and thrive and the group to endure.” -Eric Liu, You’re More Powerful Than You Think

I have been reading a lot over the last few months about how change happens and what initiates it. I’m intrigued by how cultures shift, the power of ideas, and how we interpret current events. How did great movements begin in our country, and what inspired that transformation? What are the traits of the people who lead the charge? Maybe not so surprising, it is ordinary people like you and me who out of necessity decide that it is time. Often it takes one courageous person who ignites the hearts of others. On every level of involvement and in every age, citizens in this country have been asking questions, articulating visions, and redefining who gets to make the rules from the beginning. Many groups unite around a particular issue and take into account what we value and cherish together. Against the odds, how can we cooperate with each other to get to where we want to be? How do we decide who has power?

In recent years, with streaming news, social media and information at our fingertips, we are inundated with ideas and options of what is real, and we continually have to sift through it all to find the power of truth. It is incredibly time-consuming and mentally overwhelming to keep on top of it all. However, uncovering the truth makes a big difference. One thing I witnessed and have challenged despite it seeming so contrary is this idea that we are a nation divided from one another. I audaciously reject that notion in The Civil Graces Project and suggest we are not separated, but we are diverse, so naturally, we don’t see things the same. Choosing to see each other as opponents changes how we engage with one another. Why do we keep listening to this diminishing sense that we are at odds with one another? 

I believe it has to do with power–who is speaking the loudest, who is trying to retain power, and who we perceive has power. Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “When people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters—first and foremost—how they behave.” We hear a reality that doesn’t make sense, and before we can get to the bottom of it, another issue arises, taking our attention off the first crisis. This cycle is a pattern you can see throughout history when fear is used to control. Imagine if we challenged that reality and decided to make one of our own based upon values we cherish, like cooperation, caring for our communities, and having compassion for each other. Think about how things would shift if we started engaging around the ideas that each of us has something to offer.  Each of us has power.

What I love about Eric Liu’s quote above is that if we change the way we see power, we can redefine how we will move forward. We can challenge the notion that those in higher echelons, offices, or even financial status know better because we have seen plenty of examples where this is not true. We have seen that some have motives beyond the public good that have damaged us and our society.  That is not to discount what anyone offers, but it is to call out the assumption that status equates to wisdom and ability.

We each approach things from our perspectives and our experiences. Those viewpoints are valid to us and can contribute to discovering a better way. It is the sharing of ideas that helps us determine what is needed. We find solutions through civil discourse. That dialogue is extremely powerful in shaping policy, where our dollars get allocated, who speaks for us, and what deserves our attention. So imagine what happens when the civil discourse breaks down because we believe it is impossible? We start looking outside of ourselves for the solutions and soon disengage from the process because we don’t have confidence that our voice matters. We give our power away.

One of the reasons so many conspiracy theories have been cropping up is the lack of truth in leadership. Common sense gives way to the bizarre because fear is a potent tool in a time of insecurity. Historically, false narratives are often the justification of discrimination and harsh treatment of one group by another. Once enough people buy into the story, it takes on a life of its own. Then artificial nostalgic visions of how things used to be are created, and we start looking for someone to blame. With this sense of “the other,” we lose our human connection. Power gets diffused and then concentrated into the hands of a few. We have seen this repeatedly happen throughout time, and what changed it was the people recognizing the call to reclaim their power.

This past election was an excellent example of how that happens. The one take away…when we show up, we get heard and we change power structures. Did it show we all have the same feelings? Absolutely not! This past election showed that we are a country that is in a hot debate with one another. Ancient hatreds and prejudices came into full view, but so did those who stood up to say this is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Our democracy is being tested. We cannot sit back and assume those who hold power will always do the right things. We have to remind them that they hold it in trust with us. We have to act upon those ideals that strengthen us as a nation, and not allow others to control our reality. That is why showing up in this election was so important. It was about standing up for who we are as a nation. By engaging in the process, we took our power back, and many stood in line for hours to make sure they got their vote counted. That matters, and every single vote made a difference. We now have to see this through that the will of the people be honored.

I believe we are at a turning point. The recognition of what we can do together should inspire us. Our diversity is our strength. When we act with those attributes we admire and respect, like integrity, compassion, generosity, and responsibility, we create a new direction. We no longer buy into the “every person for themselves” mentality, and we rediscover our individual and collective power. It may seem impossible when we think about all that we have witnessed in the past years, but Margaret Mead said it best when she stated, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

We are beginning a new era, and it is the civil graces that we can call upon as guides for how we make that more perfect union upon which this nation envisioned itself. These lasting values which connect humanity are the things we can lean upon as our foundation.  We have to rebuild and decide what we are going to be together. It is by recognizing our power and taking action from the heart that we can transform our world from this current place so that all may not just survive but thrive.

Photo credit: Vince Moro, The Women’s March in Philadelphia 2018.

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Rewriting our Story

“What you do for yourself dies with you when you leave this world; what you do for others lives on forever.” ―Sir Ken Robinson

This past week was a real defining moment for our country. We went through a roller coaster ride of the election, followed by a sudden announcement this weekend of the new President-elect Joe Biden. Kamala Harris, our new Vice President-elect the first in many ways, broke the nation’s most notorious glass ceiling. We are a country seeking to move forward in a different direction, heralding a time for healing and unity. I am fully behind that message of hope.

If you are not happy with the outcome, it might be time to ask yourself a question…WHY?

For the past four years, I have listened, dialogued, studied, and tried to better understand what was happening to our country. I felt called to run for public office, and in so doing, came face-to-face with people’s stories. Not everyone was doing well, and many, like myself, were deeply concerned with the negative, divisive statements coming out of the Oval Office. I have lost the relationships of family members and friends who felt there was only one answer or one issue. Deep in my heart, I realized we were starting to listen to a message of division and were giving up on the idea of unity and cooperation. I wanted to try to change that narrative by offering that we have such diversity, and while we don’t always agree, diversity is our strength. The Civil Graces talked about ways we could come together by first addressing the issues within our hearts to rediscover common ground with one another. I looked deeply into the spirit of America and wanted to remind us that we still can find a way if we have courage…if we come from a place of the heart.

Even as I published the book, the tensions mounted with increased racism and devastation of a pandemic, exposing our nation’s deep wounds and inequalities. I felt like maybe I was naïve and too optimistic about the possibilities of coming together. My privilege was fogging my vision. Maybe things were too far gone, and those in power were interested only in winning for themselves and those who supported them. As the months continued, I continued to ask myself questions if I genuinely could believe in what I wrote even though all the evidence was pointing to the contrary. The electoral map on Tuesday night was the last straw…yes, I was wrong. I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to be anywhere, but here. It wasn’t a partisan thing, but the revelation of who we are as a nation and what that map symbolized. Are we going to think only of ourselves, or can we transcend that narrative and take back our democracy to be one that works for all? Saturday morning, I will never forget that announcement–America had chosen the path of unity and hope. Suddenly all that I had been holding inside released, and I sobbed. Tears of relief filled my spirit, and as thousands around the planet, we began to dance and sing. We hadn’t given up on each other.

As we move into the flow of the weeks that follow, we have work to do. Rather than shouting more outbursts of deception and division, maybe the recount we need to be doing is in our own lives. Where have we harbored ill feelings toward each other and built walls instead of bridges? I know I have to face family members who eventually stopped talking because we were at an impasse. Somehow we have to find a way back to the table to see each other and try to find ways to heal. Some are saying, “Good riddance! There is no way you can co-exist with someone who voted that way! Let them sort it out on their own.” But I think we all know what happens next when we walk away from each other. The problems don’t just go away. Hatreds may fume and smolder until the next opportunity to punch back arises. We have to address all that is between us–heart to heart and one by one. It is going to take time. I haven’t been a fan of politicians who held office for decades, but when I learned how all these years in public service and personal sacrifice shaped our incoming President, I thought how profound. We are in a magical defining moment where all our struggles can be the very thing that transforms us as they did for him. The beauty of Kamala Harris’ American story gives us hope that anything is possible for those who dream. These are images that we can hold as we shape and define our new paradigm together.

Sir Ken Robinson is one of my favorite thought leaders, and he was one of the many we lost this year. When I searched for a way to express my feelings, his quote above appeared. Not to make a life for just ourselves, but to live a life that will be cherished by loved ones forever. He once said, “love is what we are born with, and fear is what we learn.” Fear leads us to build our world so small in order to feel safe that we lose all hope of having a life of meaning and contribution. We were born to love. Love opens the doors to the unknown and asks us to try again. Many people who justified the way they were voting used economic examples, outrages with labels of “socialism,” conspiracy, and moral superiority inconsistent with what this administration has done. We cannot live a life just for ourselves. Making sure everyone has a fair chance is not the meaning of socialism. We have to step away from the screens and listen for truth within ourselves with discernment.

I am not here to convince you of what politics to believe in, but somewhere in your memory, you may recall that we are here to serve each other and to live a life of purpose beyond what is in our wallets. We have a big task ahead of us to rewrite the American story. Will it be one of inclusiveness, reconciliation, and building a future of equality for all? Or will we choose to follow a path toward retribution and revenge? History will serve to remind us that no one can survive alone nor do the work alone. Those who sought to divide and conquer in the end fell on their own sword. As John Kennedy stated, “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”

It is time we begin again. We take one step forward on a lifelong journey that we have inherited from our ancestors and set the path for generations to come. We are united for better or worse to figure this out, and I believe and hope that somehow we will.

Photo credit: Edwin Williams Photography LLC–at Chadds Peak Farm

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The Little Barn is Open

The Little Barn will be Open this Saturday! We all need a place to restore the human spirit! 💗 Come pull up a chair, have a cup of coffee, catch your breath, journal, take a walk, sit by the pond, and get your signed copy of The Civil Graces Project: The Pursuit for Common Ground.  It will be a gorgeous day! 

Open Saturday, November 7th, 2020 — 9 a.m. -12 p.m. and BYO sunset walk 4-6 p.m. Bring a blanket if you want to sit and enjoy golden hour. Please wear a mask, and we will have space for healthy distancing. 💗 Message us for info, directions or questions.

Photo credit: Edwin Williams Photography, LLC

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Into the Heart

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” -Dorothy Day

There is a lot of conversation these days about empathy–the lack of it in certain places and the essential need for it in a time of a global pandemic and civil unrest. Empathy comes from the same root as compassion, pathos, which means feelings or emotions. However, unlike compassion, empathy isn’t about jumping into action but rather to take the perspective and feel the feelings of another. It is about daring to sit and imagine what they must be going through…to envision walking a mile in their shoes first to understand. In 2020, almost everyone I know is going through something transformative. Empathy invites us to develop the ability to hold all that without coming to any judgment of each other. Our world is in a fragile space both inside ourselves as well as outside in the village square.    

Empathy also shares the same base as the word pathology, which is the study of our disease. The growing dis-ease in our society has been building on many fronts. Like the tip of a domino, the pandemic has affected everything, and we have to decide how we will move forward. We cannot hide what has been bubbling up to the surface and boiling over. So much loss, pain, and frustration has happened unequally for too many. It is happening at every level. I know so many friends who had big plans for this year. We did. We finally felt we were turning a corner, and 2020 sounded like the big year. We had no idea how big a year it would be, and as we enter into the last months before the election, we hold our breath, hoping for a positive outcome that moves us forward together.

In the Civil Graces Project, I focus on ways to find common ground with one another in the space of growing polarity and civil unrest. It has gotten more and more intense in the past weeks as we clutch to our identities and roles. We are at a point where we have a choice–will we declare a revolution of the heart, or will we continue to collide with one another? How much are we willing to risk to be right and to have the final say? How much could we gain if we tried to see it from each others’ points of view? Maybe we are being asked not to be critical of one another but to seek the wisdom that can guide us back to the center.

Having spent time on both sides of the political debate, I think there is a lot of fear in everyone’s hearts right now on both sides. It is the fear of the unknown and the worry that maybe people don’t care anymore. It is the energy of lack and ego, that feeling that I will have less if I give to you. Can you imagine if we shifted to the heart? Would you feel better if you knew there were more of us who cared and wanted a world that is equal and just for all? Would that make you feel more empowered? Would it make you want to risk reaching out if the odds were that there is more that we share in common? The numbers show we do–more people care and are willing to work for a better world.

I have spent time looking at the significant issues of our society. In fact, as a candidate, I took a lot of time looking at both sides and trying to find the facts. I wanted to know what would move our country forward instead of each of us beating the other up. Many campaigns and candidates use words that incite emotions without offering any solutions or resolutions. Too many are looking to control and cause arguments in areas where if we trusted one another and made sure everyone had an equal chance, the problem could be less. Are we willing to step outside of our comfort zone and consider what another must be feeling?

How would you feel, for example, to continually worry about your safety and that of your loved ones because of the way you looked? How would it feel to achieve what you thought was successful, and have someone take it away? How would it feel to be discriminated against because of what you believe, where you came from, or who you love? How would it feel to want so badly to be healthy and feel better, but you can’t get there? It is just out of reach. How would it feel to lose your job when you did all the right things, and it was someone else’s decision? What does it feel to lose someone you love and not be able to be there to kiss them goodbye? What would it feel like to not know where your child is? And here is a big one, what does it feel like to think your life is not worth living?

These are just some of the worries people are carrying each day. Mental health issues are at an all-time high. I know I am probably preaching to the choir on this. Yet we cannot do this alone, and the more we push for “my rights” over another’s rights, we sink further into the quicksand. We see it every day as more people are getting sick and dying, and we are feeling hopeless that there is anything we can do.  

I believe there is so much each of us can do, but it starts with going within and reconnecting to your heart. What is essential are the things we cannot touch, and money cannot buy. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that love matters. We know that telling the truth and showing up is vital to making democracy work. One side cannot manipulate the outcome and say there was a “win” for the people, no matter what side it is. And let’s just consider the outcome of what some propose—suppose we don’t take care of people and make sure there is equality. In that case, it will cost us more than if we dared to come together and consider a different perspective and holistic solutions. We can find ways forward and can afford to make them happen. We just have to want to do it. We are more powerful than ever before because we have access to information and sharing ideas. If we are willing to cross over to the field of common ground, empathy is the power that will help us create a world that works for all.

The year 2020 begins a new decade and a new era. We have an opportunity to create that more perfect union with each other. Being able to connect on a deeper level will help heal the wounded areas. We have to acknowledge and forgive. We need to see the world in each others’ eyes, and as native cultures have wisely stated, the path to a new understanding starts by taking the first step on the longest voyage on Earth…from the head to the heart.

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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.