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Bearing our crown

“Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”― William Shakespeare

We have been “social distancing” for a while and now are in quarantine due to this coronavirus. It has been a trying time for all of us. Hospitals and medical providers are carrying the brunt of this crisis. Schools and universities are closed. Even our churches have closed. All the spaces we go to distract ourselves have been shut off–most of our businesses and workplaces as well. While some may enjoy the time off, for me, it feels very much like being trapped. Reading too much about what is happening and where this could go, fear starts to grip my mind. The walls close around my heart and soul, and I find myself in tears each day. Who is running the show and making decisions? How will this all work out? How will I be able to provide when my ability to work is limited? You may be feeling the same things.

I think of my kids and everyone’s kids who are facing disappointments about activities canceled and not seeing their friends. I think of people who are alone and those in hospitals without loved ones being able to see them. I think of weddings canceled, funerals that cannot be attended, and graduations postponed. Lifetime celebrations all coming to a halt. I think of my niece who works as a nurse in New York and others like her who are risking their lives to save others. Business owners in fear of what happens next. I think of those who are struggling on every level–socially, mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually. Yes, there are blessings, and most of what we at home are experiencing is “inconvenient.” However, with every routine and ceremony upended, it is okay to recognize that sometimes this is difficult.

As I often do when confronting a situation, I consider the words being used and what they mean at their root. Sometimes by turning things around, a problem reveals a deeper question that is being asked. Where did this coronavirus come from, and how did it get its name? We mostly know “corona” as a brand of a beverage, but the meaning of the word “corona” is actually “crown.” The name comes from the way the virus is shaped, and yet, the irony is that a crown symbolizes “nobility.” A crown signifies someone of power and distinction. Corona also is used to describe that gaseous envelope around the sun that we can only see during a total solar eclipse…when the light of the sun is darkened.  

When I was researching the Civil Graces Project, the Civil Grace Generosity was one that was most interesting–the root of the word “generous” comes from the meaning “of noble birth.” Those who were noble were called “generous” because they were expected to be benevolent. But digging deeper, it is more than giving and being kind. It is a way of life that involves trust in the goodwill of humanity. Despite what we are told and taught in school, the course of human history is dominated by good people just trying to live a life of meaning. Generosity comes from a space of abundance and trust that not only will we have enough, but that we are enough.

So considering these meanings, and hopefully to bring us some light in the darkness that we feel, I have this suggestion. We are being symbolically called to wear a crown…hopefully, not of contracting the virus, obviously. But in this time of darkness and fear, the image of the crown can remind us of our noble nature. I have heard more than one person say that maybe this is our wake up call, and I have the same sense. We are away from the typical rush of our lives, and we are being invited to experience something more profound. It is a time of significant introspection, and it was flung upon us suddenly. We hardly feel like we are in power, and with our worries about our survival, we may struggle with the idea of being noble.  

However, if we can honor both sides of this challenge–the crisis we feel as well as the opportunity to find new ways of doing things, we may give our hearts something to ponder and a way to find courage in this situation. We are learning new ways to communicate with one another and how to make do with somewhat limited resources. Maybe there is an opportunity to reinvent the ways we work and the amount of travel we do. These things would all be beneficial to our environment. We also realize, once again, how much human contact means and the importance of genuine relationships.  

We are all of noble birth, and while other symbols of the crown are painful, as in a crown of thorns, we can use this time to reflect on our lives and how we want to come forth once this crisis has passed. As a world, I think we have awakened to new understandings. We definitely have much to learn about how to cope with pandemic and crises that are yet to come. We have learned that no military, no amount of wealth, and no amount of status protects us from this invisible force. We have learned once again that our lives are fragile and impermanent.

We need each other. We need ideas and new ways of living. When we can’t go out, we have to go in and be willing to do the inner work of our lives. We have to meet the spirit within to find our strength. Can you imagine a world where we each embrace this sense of noble nature as it relates to the spirit of generosity? Perhaps bringing forth our goodwill and trusting in that of each other, we will find a way to bring peace to our hearts and create inspired action of how we will make it through to be better than we were.

I offer this reflection to give you some ideas of holding this situation and not losing hope. Let’s keep the conversations going with one another as we work through this. This is a time for us to come together even when we are distanced physically. Please share your comments below on how you are managing. Much love to all of you!

Photo credit: Elizabeth Moro

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Perfect Vision

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” -Carl Jung

The dawn of the decade, 2020, has always had some mystical energy. It was predicted to be a time of great transformation. Just the numbers themselves are symbolic in many ways, but the most common is a measurement of perfect vision. Everything is in balance, and your perspective is clear. We excitedly toasted this year as a gift.

And yet, this year has been anything but clear. Vince and I were talking about the REM song, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” Indeed, it feels that way right now. We had such high hopes that 2020 would be a coming of age, and something better than the path we have been going.  Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.  We weren’t expecting to be living in challenging times of pandemic, quarantine, and everything we thought we “knew” in question. In the absence of definitive timelines and answers, fear can creep into our hearts.  

And yet, pushing past the clouds of unknowing, there is a new vision emerging…if we are willing to see it.  

The vision is one of the human spirit rising and finding the answers within us. We hear about singing across the balconies, scaremongering being transformed into “caremongering,” reaching out to neighbors, and communities creatively coming together virtually. There is a new awareness of just how beautiful this life can be. The things we took for granted, like each other, are all of a sudden incredibly important. Despite all our emphasis on political issues and opinions, perhaps it is time we realize we have so much more power than we are aware of when we work together in our common humanity.

We have to do some introspection as we move together through this. Consider the ways we have been living. Maybe we have not been conscious and took simple things for granted. The culture we live in is radically being altered right now. We see limits like many never have before. Institutions that were central to our lives have closed. Bare shelves are something we aren’t used to in our stores, and yet this is something other parts of the world and different generations have had as their reality. Our world is abundant, but only if we work together to make sure everyone has the opportunity to get what they need. 

There is a marked change on the planet. Birds are singing. Did you always notice this? Climatologists already see the benefits of less travel and human activity. Would this have happened voluntarily? I think we can admit it became necessary when confronted with our collective survival, and yet for years, scientists have been telling us we are in danger of extinction. Perhaps we can finally see what they were saying. The blinders have been removed. The world, as we know, has indeed ended. We cannot move forward without adjusting our vision and our behaviors in the world.

Possibly most significant is our vision for our own lives. Three of the major questions we have been discussing this year at the Little Barn of Big Ideas are:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you passionate about in life?
  • What does this mean to your relationships with the people in your life? To the work you do? And how to spend your time?

I think we all have quietly confronted some of our fears in this crisis…one of them may be our mortality and that of those we love. None of us have any guarantees to be here tomorrow–ever. This moment in time, hopefully, will sharpen our vision that life is a blessing and is short. This day is the day to set your vision of what your life means. Tomorrow may never come for any of us.  

Let us see this crisis as a blessed opportunity to clarify areas where we would like to improve in our lives and in our relationships with those we love. We miss coming together like we used to. We now realize the sacredness of the healing touch and the profundity of a hug. Take time to send messages to those you love. Let them know they matter…and keep that going beyond this instant.

In my family’s tradition, this is the season of reflection and reconciliation before we come to celebrate new life. Spring is a turning point when that which is in the darkness arises to light. We can continue an ancient ritual that carried generations through the night. It is a time to look deep within and be still. In that place, we realize where our real power resides. Feel it. Unpack all that you are carrying and release the fears one by one so that you may experience a new life.

2020 not about something transforming outside of us. What is to be transformed and re-awaken is US! This awareness is the greatest gift we can give…to truly see who we are and then spend the rest of our lives sharing that with our world. We have incredible power when we work together to make a better world, and we don’t have to wait another moment to start. We are more than our stuff, our jobs, and our routines. We are held in an infinite grace that will guide us through this. 2020 is the dawn of a new era…it is a gift and it is up to every one of us to see it with fresh eyes.

Photo credit: Vince Moro, Chadds Peak Farm. 2020

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Compassion

“Life is short, and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind.” -Henri Frederic Amiel

This quote above is on my kitchen shelf, and it is one of the first things I see each day as I make the morning coffee. It is a reminder not only that life can sometimes have moments of darkness, but it is the simple acts of kindness that can make the difference. A lovely thought to carry me through each day. I wasn’t ready to have it guide me through something more significant.

It seemed like it came suddenly. We are face to face with the extreme fragility of life on a worldwide scale. It isn’t about just one of us or a part of us. It is all of us, and we cannot survive if we refuse to recognize our common bond with one another. If there is a gift in this situation, it is this acute sense of our connection to one another. Given a choice, I think most of us wish this situation would resolve itself quickly so we can get back to life as before. But I have a hunch that life doesn’t exist anymore. We are not going to be able to go it alone, nor in the ways we have in the past. We have a new awareness, and we all are going to need to adjust. The Civil Grace of Compassion is what could help us get through. 

Compassion is about acknowledging not only our shared humanity but also our connection with all living beings on the planet. This includes loving and having Compassion for yourself. Right now, our world is going through significant transitions, and most of us feel it intensely. We are living through a time of pandemic, social isolation, and considerable disruption. For many, myself included, just the social isolation part can be too much.

Looking forward to events, celebrating achievements, or just being able to connect with those you love is what makes life sweet. Having that all stop, on top of worrying about how we will survive, can put us over the edge. I find myself busting out in tears at things I usually can handle well and then spend the rest of the day beating myself up for over-reacting. It feels like the game “don’t break the ice” when everything is just one block away from tumbling apart.  This energetically wears on us. The places that were part of our “routine” are mostly closed. Resources feel limited because when some take more than they need, there isn’t enough to go around.

And yet, there is an invitation that we can rise together and meet whatever comes before us. Working on a transaction today, I comforted a woman on the phone who cannot be with her dad as he suffers and may die. The sadness over losing a dad is something we share, and just like that, a sacred moment was created that immediately connected two strangers. Compassion is what opened the door, and after I hung up the phone, there was a cardinal singing loudly outside my window…a symbol that always reminds me of my own dad. We are connected beyond this life.

The incredible lessons that are presenting themselves can be transformative if we remain open to them. We cannot go on the way we have and expect to survive. Isn’t this the message scientists and others have been saying for a while now? It took this pandemic to help us see that we are in jeopardy if we don’t adjust and work together for the survival of the planet.

We have to remember deep down who we really are. As French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” We all have the common bonds of suffering, and we all have the universal need for love and Compassion. I think of my parents’ generation and the ones that came before them. They survived world wars, pandemics, and severe economic challenges. I believe what helped them get through was working together, having faith in something larger than themselves, and having Compassion for each other along the way. They reached out to one another and gave what they could. I don’t remember ever hearing them speak of despair because they knew what mattered even if they were quietly terrified of how it might work out.  

Social distancing is palpable because we can still “connect” online, but even that has its drawbacks. We are inundated with “news” regularly, and some of this is less than favorable. All too often, we see highlights of a world gone mad with things like hoarding, and in the next moment, we are touched to hear neighbors singing across the balcony to one another. Sharing what we have, even if it is a song or a kind word, sometimes is all it takes. Compassion…the ability to empathize and reach out is how we will make it through.  

When we choose to see the world as falling apart, there is plenty out there to suggest we are right. There are still individuals lashing out with their opinions, which in the grand scheme of what is happening, are not necessary. However, if we can view these changing times as an opportunity for us to confront some age-old behaviors and beliefs that no longer fit, well, then there is definitely a reason for hope.  

Our modern world, with so much exhausting noise surrounding us, requires that we all do some introspection. That is the gift of isolation. We can’t run and just get busy. We have no more excuses but to observe the contrasts of our lives. In the epic tale of the clash between opposites, Moby Dick, Herman Melville points to the value of opposing views. “To enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.” Neither do we.

We need each other to help wrestle with opposites to find the truths. Living in times of crisis, we learn to savor what life is truly about. We realize that we have very little control over much…except how we show up and the energy we put into the world. Bringing the spirit of Compassion toward this situation is essential. It is something we each can freely give, and it will bring us through. My spirit is in solitude with all of you in prayers that we will weather this together and come out renewed.

Photo credit: Vince Moro–outside of Sumène, France, Fall 2019

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Confidence

Etymology: from Latin confidentia, from confidere ‘have full trust’ 

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”  -Marie Curie

When you are born into a huge family, people often say strange things to you as a kid. Things like, 

“God bless your mother! She must be a saint!”  

“You must be Catholic!” 

“Didn’t your family have a television?”  

“The winters must have been cold that year.”

As I get older, these are somewhat humorous statements. Everyone was dancing around the issue of all those babies!! As a child, though, it sounded like a subtle way of saying:  you were a mistake, a burden, or something the Pope made happen.  In short, you weren’t necessarily wanted.

Now every kid has their issues. Only children and oldest children feel the weight of the world on their shoulders to perform and often feel the need to control. Middle children (of which I was one of the 10 in my family!) feel like they are overlooked, and don’t even get me started on the baby! As many things can, this perception took a toll on my self-esteem growing up. I wisely learned to mask it as a desire to do great things just to be noticed and deemed worthy. It was, in some ways, a gift. I was a reasonably good kid, straight A’s all the way, and an overachiever. My parents had it pretty easy because secretly I was afraid that I might be a burden to them.

I have wrestled with the other side of this perception as well. It translated into something our society is also attached–the art of perfection. If I am perfect, if I achieve great things, if I look the right way, maybe I will be worth my place. Perhaps then, I will be worthy. So you run after love in all the wrong places, take jobs you don’t enjoy, shop trying to fill the Swiss-cheese holes in yourself, or give your time away for free. We all have ways to numb those sore spots in our life. Fortunately, I have often turned to meditation and creative pursuits like writing to do my soul work. I also have a thing with shoes…the higher, the better!

After much reflection, I suspect that the whole dream to run for office was also a manifestation of that energy. No one else but my dad got into politics, so it was one-on-one time and attention with him as well as the idea that I could save the world from its malaise. Whether that be war, poverty, injustice, or just growing up through the 70s, I had lots of reasons to think that would be the ultimate calling. I could be a hero and transform the world! What I was looking for in all these efforts was to discover my Confidence. I had to learn to have “full trust” in the purpose of my life beyond what I tried to do in the external world. 

After my campaign experience was over, all the time and money spent for nothing, I felt like I lost a lifelong friend. I mourned for many, many months after. Part of that sadness was the reality of what I experienced, and that is a whole other book how corrupt the process is. But in a real way, it was about saying goodbye to the idea that I would never be what I thought I needed to be worthy. I was sad that I felt I had to put myself through that in the first place, but on the flip side, I was the loser in the race. Having to wade through that dichotomy was not a swift process. In the end, the grace of Confidence was there with a message. You have been all you needed to be all along.  I just needed to trust it.

When one experiences major setbacks or life-changing situations, it can feel like you have to relearn who you are. Long ago, I had a friend survive cancer, who said after all he lived through, he couldn’t go back to life as he knew it. He was forever changed. When it is the death of a loved one or a dream, divorce, or tragedy of any kind, not knowing who you are can be so overwhelming on top of the grief you are trying to get over.  Con-fidere…to come with faith when you have no evidence that there is a resolution for the puzzle in your mind is one of the hardest things we have to work through. Even though it is cloudy, a rainbow will appear, and you will find your path.

I cried my way through the next election cycle. My heart was too tender even to see anything about who was running or winning. I’ll never forget coming home from work that day and looking up in the sky over my home…across the sky was a majestic rainbow. All my angels were conspiring to let me know it would all work out; something else was waiting for me. Later that fall, I was walking next to the ocean, and I have a ringing ear that makes it hard to hear at times. In that ear, I clearly felt the words “you will be compensated.” I couldn’t imagine what that meant, but for a kid who has been searching for meaning, how many more signs did I need to know I was enough? We all are enough.  

The process of life and the humans we encounter can shape the lenses through which we see our world. The dynamic process of uncovering why you are here in the first place sometimes is elusive. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, and writer talked about the Hero’s Journey that each of us is on–the call to adventure, refusing that call at first, initiation into it, meeting and defeating our demons, and returning to tell the story. We have to enter the places we most fear, because as Campbell stated, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” By entering into the cave, we discover that grace of Confidence that pushes us further. We realize we have all we need inside us.  

This is hard stuff to accept in a culture like ours, which seems so driven to get more and be more. It is challenging to emerge from experiences without victory. It was the most lonely time I can ever remember, but in one magic moment, I realized I had found a treasure. My son, Jack, on the way to school one day openly said, “Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to go on after failure.” Fighting back the emotions while he got out of the car, I felt that presence. That amazing presence–Confidere…Confidence….with full trust that we are always on a journey to self-revelation, and to find those self-evident truths within ourselves that unite us with all of life. We are continually being compensated as long as we are willing to stay open long enough to let it shine through.

Challenge:  Find a space where you can have some quiet and time to explore your heart.  Close your eyes and envision that cave in your life you may be afraid to enter.  Really observe the feelings that arise within you.  Ask yourself, what might be the treasure waiting for you.  Breathe deeply.  See yourself taking that first step knowing you can trust that you will find it.  The journey will be worthwhile.  You are worthwhile.  Open your eyes and write down what you saw.  Make ready for the journey ahead! You are worthy of this journey!

Photo Credit: Vince Moro, Chadds Peak Farm

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A day of reflection

“Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

-Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Inspiration

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Robert F. Kennedy

What would it mean if we couldn’t breathe? That is a reasonably simple question because physiologically, we all know that we would cease to be. I remember as a kid the fearful feeling of having the wind knocked out of me…panicked trying to remember how to inhale. But what would it mean to live without the breath of Inspiration? That, I believe, is when our spirit or our inner fire fades, and life ceases to have a purpose. The wind gets knocked out of us, despair moves in, and the light goes out. Most of us have had experiences like this if we have been around long enough. Our lives thrive with Inspiration.

The word “Inspiration” comes from the Latin word inspirare, which means to draw in a breath and from Middle English, which relates the term to “divine guidance.” To some traditions, human origin mystically can be traced back to the book of Genesis when the spirit of life was breathed into form. To be inspired is to be filled with life and have breath for the journey. The two meanings are linked, and I believe living an inspired life is an essential Civil Grace, which allows us to see beyond our current situation to the horizons of what we are called to be.   

Isn’t it interesting that the word Inspiration means to give breath, motivate, and do something creative? It is the belief in ourselves and others, to expect the best, to challenge and care about each other. Inspiration allows us to embrace the possible, to be awakened, and transcend. It is not just to be alive, but being alive for something as Winston Churchill would have declared. It is the foundation of our being.

Similarly, the foundational documents of our democracy were inspired by ideas that we could build a new world together and a new way of governing. It is quite incredible if you think of it all. We agreed to work for the betterment of all humanity without putting our power into something above us. It was never perfect, but if you read the words of the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, you will know the individuals who put those ideas into meaning struggled through each stanza to choose words that captured the deeper intent. They did it because they were inspired to find a better way. We read about the giants at that time: Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and others, but there were many well before who asked the more critical questions of our existence and what gives meaning to life. Those early discourses created the space for that conversation that led to “we hold these truths as self-evident.” These ideals constantly evolved and were redefined by the next period of enlightenment and continue today in our current dialogue. When we feel discouraged, we can take hope from the fact that Inspiration will arise if we continue to ask profound questions about our existence and take creative action.

My husband, Vince, and I were inspired to start a community organization called the “Little Barn of Big Ideas” on our farm. We wanted to create a space where people can come together as neighbors and brainstorm about the big ideas in our community and how we can use our talents, build resources, and make a positive impact in areas where we are passionate. It is our belief that we are not a divided nation…we are diverse, and that is going to be the key to changing the current climate of our country and our world. We believe the issues of the world will be solved by small groups of people coming together to create the changes we seek. Every one of us has a purpose–we refer to that as your genius. Our goal is to create the space for Inspiration, engagement, and uplifting of the human spirit so people will launch their purpose into the world. It has been exciting to see our community light up just by the idea that we can use what we have to make things better. We don’t have to wait for something outside of ourselves.

One thing I hear lately is everyone talking about “the good ole days,” as if the best years are behind us. While there is no doubt that memories are often sweeter than the actual encounter, we are living in extraordinary times right now! We have so many opportunities and possibilities to be Inspired. The communication revolution has changed the way we can connect, and the speed of sharing ideas is beyond what we could have imagined just a decade ago. It truly is brilliant as much as it is overwhelming! The Civil Grace of Inspiration reminds us to take a breath and receive the spirit of the wonders of it all. Allow yourself to see the possibilities despite the dismal news that may crowd your mind and look for the ways you can open your imagination to a more just, peaceful, and abundant world for all. Anything is possible when you hold the Civil Grace of Inspiration.  

So what is your big idea? Write it down and take an inspired leap toward it every day.

photo credit: “Moonrise” by Vince Moro. This was the Wolf Moon…the first moon of 2020 on the horizon over our pond at Chadds Peak Farm.

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Perseverance

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” -E.E. Cummings

Isn’t it interesting the things we choose to remember in our lives? For instance, one of my earliest memories of school was in kindergarten, happily coloring away with a green crayon, only to look up and realize everyone else had followed the direction and used red. The teacher scolded me for not doing as the others had. When I think of it now, I chuckle. There has always been a little “color outside the box” in my nature. At the time, I felt diminished as if I failed. Even though years later I went on to graduate at the top of my class, that idea stuck with me. Nevertheless, she persisted!

Growing up in a large family, we were always trying to measure up to the older siblings. It was as if your very survival depended on differentiation and achievement. My Perseverance developed in each accomplishment, and thus, I dreamed big dreams. The belief that I could become anything I put my heart and mind to was a core component of that drive. Each of us has a natural gift of wonder and having a trusting space to step out is essential to revealing our purpose.

One of the challenges of our time is the institutions we were taught to trust are undergoing a metamorphosis, and this energy can create a lot of insecurity in each of us. We aren’t sure if you can believe someone’s word, in the organizations that use to be the backbone of society, or worse, in our self-knowing. Are we getting the full story? Where is the information coming from that we read? What’s the motive? Who is behind any agenda? We are afraid to speak out because of what might happen next. Why step out of line and be called out? We are inundated with information and not quite sure what is fact and what is fiction. In a world of questions, the Civil Grace of Perseverance is what can give us hope that we can rise above it all no matter what it is as long as we put our minds to it. 

We have every resource in this country to make things happen: brilliant people, money, natural resources, ideas, and the freedom to do it. We could solve every significant crisis and issue. The problem is that the emphasis is on the wrong thing–the focus is on the money and not the people. Why is this a problem? Because it isn’t always just about the economy. It is about making a world where all can thrive. Because in our political process when candidates have to bend every which way to raise funds to feed the consultants recommended by the leadership ecosystem, they fill their pockets full of dollars, which equal promises to those who put them there. If those dollars come from special interests and corporations, they want a return on their investment. Those “contributions” equate to influence and votes, which is why we don’t see sensible legislation on almost any area you can imagine. Think about it–we are the wealthiest nation in the world. We have the resources to have the best education, health care, quality of life, inventions, and economy but instead, we have a process that pits one side against another all in the name of winning. Who loses? The American people do…all of us.

So this is a very disappointing story so far if we are considering what we can do. Why have any hope at all? I will tell you why. “We the People” are the actual power in this country. We just have lost sight of that fact because the emphasis is on dividing us. We have forgotten that we can make a change in our country when things aren’t working. Our elected officials are supposed to hold this power in trust with us. It is okay to color outside the box and try new things. Innovation is at our core! We are living through a historical moment, and Persevering together will be critical.  

Perseverance comes from the Latin word perseverantia which means steadfastness, constancy. When we hold steadfast to the ideals that connect us, we find our truth and our hope again. Perseverance is a Civil Grace because it is those self-evident truths that form the foundation of our nation and our individual lives. It is the belief that all are created equal and have gifts to bring forth to make a more perfect union. We have to take the energy we are placing in fighting for dying institutions and start to focus it on the core of what made this nation so incredible–the belief that the people had the power to self-govern and the ability to dream new dreams. We are not divided; we are diverse. It is this diversity that gives us all the options to find the solutions to the questions we are asking. It is with continuing to stand with each other that we will change the world for the better.

I recently was sent a quote by a friend that read, “those who tried to bury you didn’t realize you were a seed.” The pressures we feel in our world today are there for a reason. Each of us is being asked to look again and see how we can bring our genius forth. What’s your Big Idea? Every one of us has something to offer, and it is why my husband and I created the “Little Barn of Big Ideas” on our farm–a space for everyone to bring forth their big ideas and help them grow. It is up to each of us to think differently than what we are always being told. The most powerful thing we can do is ask questions and listen to one another. To not buy into this notion that we are against one another, but rather we are stronger together. 

The lessons of life don’t always make sense immediately. It takes time for the path to reveal itself. Each of us has had moments that shaped our view of the world. Your story and your ideas are needed more than ever. I invite you to consider the Civil Grace Perseverance to be your companion on the journey so you may rekindle your curiosity, hope in your abilities, belief in a better world, and the willingness to work with all of us to make it happen.

photo credit: Vince Moro, Washington, DC

Merry Christmas!!

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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Respect

“No tree has branches so foolish as to fight amongst themselves.” -Native American Proverb

Right before Thanksgiving Day, I had to stop at the market to get a couple last minute items, and waiting in the check out lane, I saw an issue of a national magazine stating that the Royal Family is divided. Again. I thought that was odd. It seemed like last issue was the same story. I bet if we had the chance to ask Will, Kate, Harry and Meghan we could hear a different tale–one of a family tired of always being portrayed at odds with each other. It reminded me of the headlines I hear about our own country as we are constantly told we are divided. Are we really?  

I am going to be bold and say no, we are not divided; we are diverse. Looking over our history, we have seldom agreed on how things should be done save a few moments when we were collectively attacked. We have had heated debate and discourse from the very beginning. The current challenge is the breakdown in that discourse. Some leaders would very much like to see this alleged divide get deeper. When people are looking for a better way, those who would like to control use fear to paralyze and create animosity. It sells newspapers and gets us anxious. When a nation is divided, it is much easier to overcome, but a united people, even if their ideas are diverse, are much harder to break. If we are constantly told we are at odds, we begin to lose hope in one another. That is the real tragedy.

Abraham Lincoln wisely stated, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” It was Lincoln’s patience and wisdom that held our country together during one of our most challenging times when the nation literally was divided between north and south over the rights of freedom for all people and the battle over states’ rights. Harriet Tubman was a guiding force during those times. She lead people to freedom from bondage and her words ring true today as they did when she crossed over into freedom from slavery, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

We have the invitation to cross over the line to each other. To listen to the many voices and be willing to work to create a better world together. That was the dream of America–from many countries would come one stronger nation of self-governance. The people of this nation committed to ending the centralized control of one person (the king) and to the idea we could do this together. Our history is checkered with times when we have been heroic and at times cruel. The challenge is to find ways to grow beyond that, and the Civil Grace that will lead us there is Respect. The word Respect is from Latin respectus, from the verb respicere ‘to look back at, to regard.’ When we can look back and see the eyes of another and not see them as “other” but rather “brother or sister,” we realize that we need their ideas and our own. We cannot accomplish self-governing with one side anymore that we can row a boat with one oar in the water…we will just keep going around in circles.

I have a good friend who works with helping organize communities before disasters strike. She says it is amazing to see when people are dealing with a crisis, we forget who is on what side of the aisle and who voted for whichever candidate. We come together as neighbors and work together to resolve the issues and rebuild the community. This happens every single day in a thousand communities across our country. When we remember our common humanity, we let go of the labels and help each other get back up when we are down.

Respect reminds us that there is more to life than amassing wealth and title. It is about living a life that we can regard and the legacy we will leave behind for those who follow our footsteps. It is not about stoking the fires of political, religious, or cultural division to prove right is might, but rather to seek the call to find the common ground where we can begin anew each day with space for everyone at the table. The headlines beat our minds that hate crimes and division are surrounding us making us too afraid to speak out or to reach out to our neighbor. Social media allows us to repost the outrageous instead of actually sitting face to face to dialogue with one another. Our leaders point the finger at the injustice of one side while three more fingers are pointing back at them.

Respect invites us to heal our own woundedness and see that our role is to be the voice of Liberty for each other. There are many ways to see the world. Why do I know this to be true? When my kids were younger, I would point out the diversity in nature and remind them that there is not one tree or flower alike. Each one is unique, beautiful and diverse. That is what makes our world wonder-full. Just as we may hold our truths to be self-evident, we must Respect that another may hold other beliefs that are just as real to them. To demand that they conform to our answer is to make our world more violent and unjust. Again, I will say, we are not divided. We are diverse. Having Respect to make sure all are at the table and that each voice is heard is a way to find the common ground that still is there for all of us.

Photo credit: Vince Moro–olive branches from the Languedoc-Roussillon Region in France

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Humility

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

― Ernest Hemingway

Did you ever do something as a child and get grounded? If you are like most pioneers who stepped outside the box, I am sure you did! It always was a funny phrase for punishment: “You are grounded.” As an adult, I am continually striving to be in the mindset of groundedness through meditation and reflection. The fact that I was born under the sign Capricorn, an earth sign, to be grounded is in my very nature. To become better than I was yesterday and by recognizing that I am just a slice of the Universe.

We learned as children, we are of the earth to return to the earth. Humus…which is the soil formed by all that has broken down and rotted to create the place where new things grow. A word that springs from the word humus is Humility and being humble. Humility is a Civil Grace not because we are called to be lower than the dirt, but that we are called to embrace life with wonder and to be grounded in the knowledge that we belong here. There is something essential about our very nature that we came into being in this time and space.

Humility allows us to realize that maybe we don’t have all the answers. That life is about living in the mystery of the questions, and the most important questions we can answer are: Who am I? What ignites my passions? What does this mean to all my relations to the people in my life, to my work, and to my world? Can you imagine a world where we all lived from our true essence, from a space of Humility and wonder? I can imagine that we would try less to impress and possess. We would be open to solutions and would be able to recognize them when they presented themselves. We live in on a planet that scientists believe to be over 4.5 billion years old and a Universe that exceeds our ability to comprehend time and space. Physicists believe we came from elements of stardust connected to all of the atoms of our galaxy, and there is a more profound connection we all share, including to our natural world.

We are experiencing times of significant change when the old systems of a controlling culture–our institutions and ideologies–no longer seem to be working. Something new is emerging, and people around the globe are asking, “is there a better way?” Socrates, the early philosopher and considered to be the father of Western Philosophy, stated, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Looking at the surface, it can be overwhelming. Yet according to the mathematical ratio, the Golden Portion, while things may seem in chaos, the solution is there. Everything expands upward and eventually reaches harmony, including us.

Humility invites us to go deep within and to get grounded in our core. To not be swayed by the winds that swirl around but to explore our inner spirit. What is this all about, and how can I help? It is the call to see the dichotomy that we live in the world but are not of it. We share our very nature with all of life on the planet and therefore have a responsibility to take care of it. In the end, we are just soil and stardust.

So in these months, as we head into winter and the darkness pervades, take time to consider the grace that Humility brings. Go within and answer the three essential questions. A new year is coming, and change is on the way. The world needs your gifts.

photo credit: Vince Moro

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Vulnerability

“Everything in nature is given some form of resilience by which it can rehearse finding its way, so that, when it does, it is practiced and ready to seize its moment. This includes us. When things don’t work out—when loves unexpectedly end or careers stop unfolding—it can be painful and sad, but refusing this larger picture keeps us from finding our resilience.” -Mark Nepo

Years ago, I was a research assistant to the poet/author Mark Nepo on his work, The Book of Awakening. We had many fascinating conversations with our team, but the one I will always remember was about salmon. On its pilgrimage to lay its eggs, the salmon’s ability to fly upstream relies on the salmon turning its soft underside to meet the pounding surf. By opening the most vulnerable part of its being, it ascends along the journey. This image Mark shared has helped me to open to my core purpose and ideas, even when it may have been risky or painful to do so. As the salmon are called to return up the waterfall, we are called to open ourselves to the truth of our being. This can feel incredibly vulnerable, especially in our modern age, when we may be quickly exposed in ways we hadn’t imagined.

After my campaign, I felt as low as I ever remember being and wanted to escape from the world. I had given it my all, but it wasn’t enough. Worn out, I felt I had let everyone down. My family depended on me, so I had to get back to work and put myself back into the arena. Over the past several months, things have emerged to push me a little further. I saw the need for spaces like I had in my early career to talk about the things that matter. My big idea of running was crushed, and I know the pain of that. However, I could use that energy, my most vulnerable moment, to push me to a place where I could help others bring forth their big ideas and together solve the issues that we face as a community and a world.

Brené Brown speaks of vulnerability as “having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” We like to calculate our chances, and so vulnerability uncomfortably feels like being a fish out of water! Vulnerability steps into the dance of life and takes the lead when, most of the time, we would rather hideout on the sidelines. Vulnerability happens when we take the risk to get close to another, to hear another side of the debate, to watch the one you love go through a challenge and feel helpless about what to do. We don’t like this feeling and will very often run in the opposite direction.

Anne Frank stated, “fear is a poor chisel with which to carve out tomorrow,” and so we have to let go of what would have been to give space to what is meant to be. I began to have meetings around the big table in the barn and we came up with the idea “little barn of BIG ideas.” It is a space to give birth to dreams and big ideas while making room for everyone at the table… precisely what I wanted to do when I was in Congress. Having a place for the genius in all of us to emerge while having supportive mentors around the table is liberating, and it feels a little less vulnerable. Our dream is to continue to grow a bigger vision at our table in our little barn.

Vulnerability is a Civil Grace because our world depends on each of us to bring forth our genius. We cannot let fear stop us from moving forward when we know our spirit is being called higher. Vulnerability is a part of being human and is the gateway of our connection to one another. It is in those tender spaces where we can heal and overcome. We have to be willing to take the leap and throw all that we are into the forces that will carry us to the next level. We go to the place where we give birth to something greater within us.

The rising through my own vulnerability gave birth to a new role–to be a mother of possibility. So I want to know…What is your big idea? I hope you will join us at the table!

Photo credit: Edwin Williams Photography, LLC

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Path to Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”–Mark Twain

Years ago, I was hired by the Fetzer Institute to research the meaning of spiritual freedom. While I learned the various methods of encountering freedom from the voices of world-renowned professors, philosophers, and gurus, the exploration continued well beyond my term of employment. The big questions such as “how does one achieve true freedom” are a life-long journey. No other teacher was more revealing than Forgiveness.

As someone who can’t sit still and watch life happen, I have experienced what my dad would call “the school of hard knocks” from time to time. I have had moments where anger has gotten the better of me. In the space of fear, despair and deep woundedness, my pain and frustration have sometimes caused me to lash out at those who caused the injury, those I love, and most commonly, at myself. If you are going to be in the dance of life, no matter how much you plan and try to protect yourself, no matter how much wealth or wisdom you have, no one escapes the lessons that pain and suffering bring.

We cannot know what it means to love deeply if we haven’t experienced indifference. We cannot understand the power of generosity unless we have been without. Music would have no ability to stir our souls if it weren’t for silence, and we would never be able to wonder at the majesty of the stars if it weren’t for darkness. In the universal dichotomy, all are presently shaping and expanding us for something more significant than where we started. When anger, pain, and fear appear, Forgiveness is the gift that leads us back to the land of the living.

The English poet Alexander Pope eloquently wrote, “to err is human, to forgive, divine.” Indeed here is the answer to achieving the ultimate freedom of spirit. For even when the arrows that fly no longer can control you, your being has expanded to the level of the divine. Forgiveness is not about forgetting or excusing. It is about taking away the ability of anyone or anything to hold you captive and loosens the power of anger and fear to keep you trapped in a web. It is as Wayne Dyer related, “giving up the idea of drinking the poison with the hope it will affect the other person.”

Forgiveness is one of the Civil Graces because it is the key that unlocks the door to a limitless life and that which creates the space for healing among nations, between people, and most important in understanding ourselves. We need Forgiveness to continue the dance where life allows all to be meaningful and beautiful. The tyrant leader awakens my heart to take action and do what I can to make a better world. A hurtful word that stings invites me to explore the depths of my soul and what is looking to take flight. A tragedy begs me to give of myself for another and to expand so that killing and devastation don’t have the final word. In the end, Forgiveness is the ultimate expression of love. We lift our spirits up so they can freely live and discover the adventures we were meant to take. It allows what I call the “manure moments” to fertilize the seeds of something new to sprout.

Before we enter a new year (which is just around the corner), it is an opportune time to let go of some baggage. Where are we each being called to forgive? Where may we need to offer an apology for missing the mark? The new year is bringing new energy, and the time for business, as usual, is over. Take the first step on the path to Forgiveness and welcome freedom and expansion of your spirit.

photo credit: Vince Moro