“In this day and age, when it feels that the global unconsciousness is leading the headlines, it is time for us to make a commitment to something better. We must raise our own energies and make the inner quest to do all we can to bring forth the civil graces and save the world from those who wish otherwise.” -Elizabeth Moro
After my political race, despite how disheartened I was at the process, I didn’t want to rest there. I wanted to create something beautiful out of that experience, even though it was an extremely challenging time in my life. It reminds me of the poetic lines by Dinos Christianopoulos:
“What didn’t you do to bury me, but you forgot I was a seed.”
Sometimes the moments of darkness are when we grow the most. By doing the inner work and exploring these last few years around the idea of creating space for the common ground, I realized that we needed to re-member what unites us without losing what we each bring forth. I dedicated myself to find those principles, and with that the Civil Graces Project was born.
There are many ways to live a life, but one thing we know for sure through studying history, the arts, psychology, business, or nearly any field you wish is that there are certain characteristics to living a life of meaning and purpose—elements that also resonate with the founding ideals of our country. I refer to these self-evident truths as the Civil Graces.
The Civil Graces Project is an invitation to embark on a journey with the power to transform your life and the world around you. There are many graces to choose from, and embracing a few or even one in your life can shift your perspective and bring about dramatic change. You can live your life with intention and attention, despite what might be happening in the broader context of the world. You can save the world by first examining your life and then putting these truths into practice. This book focuses on uniting principles that uplift us and bring us together to pursue the common ground to make a more perfect union.
I think we are tired of the feeling of fighting one another, and inside we each know that there has to be a better way. This book is not full of answers. Instead, it explores the questions that can shift the narrative of “a country divided” to a country with many gifts and opportunities to heal. We can redesign our future together through dialogue while respecting each other’s ideas and the diversity that is our strength. We have seen in so many ways how our society is hurting. If we are always told we are at odds, we begin to lose hope in one another. That is the real tragedy. I want to shift that conversation onto what we all can do, and that each of us can play a part in creating a better world. There is a hidden wholeness that connects all of life–even science is starting to recognize this. Each of us has had moments that shaped our view of the world. Our stories and our ideas are needed more than ever. We don’t have to wait for an election or for someone outside to save us. We are precisely the answer we are looking for–we just have to see it and believe it. We can find new ways to transform our world into one that works for all.
“Individual liberty and interdependence are both essential for life in society.” -Mahatma Gandhi
We are celebrating inter-dependence today instead of independence. My husband, Vince, and I talk about the big questions all the time…like any of us, we have experienced the joys, celebrations, trials, and heartbreak of life. We realize as human beings, we are far from perfect ourselves. It’s like the ideas which formed this nation…that lofty vision didn’t always translate into noble or just actions. Our country is continually evolving. Humanity struggles often because we have so much of our focus on “making it” as individuals. This creates not only a sense of being alone but also the fear of separateness. We protect our little piece of the pie, thinking someone might take what is ours.
If we are willing to let go of this limited way of viewing life and embrace true freedom, that sense of lack and attachment to what we have releases its grip. In this uncomfortable time of growth, we can transform this emphasis on independence and realize that we are all connected in a web of life. We can move forward as a better nation if we are willing to let go of our attachment to the past (the way things were) and open the window to possibilities of new relationships with one another. We can explore ideas that may push a little bit. We are free to be who we are, but this exists in relation to those around us. Our freedom doesn’t mean we get to cause pain to others. It requires letting go of judgment and self-righteousness so that we can open our hearts to one another. Every day is an invitation to continue working toward that more perfect union.
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” — Pema Chodron
As we have been more close to nature these past weeks, I find all sorts of empty nests on the path of my morning walk. Each nest is very different from the next, and I am amazed by the skill and resourcefulness of the tiny avian artisans who crafted them. One nest is woven with batting that must have been found nearby our own house construction project. The next carefully twisted from twigs, and yet another was made entirely of fine blades of grass. Elegant works of art created as a shelter for the potential of life and love that would grow there.
I have so much gratitude for what it means to have a place to nest with those I love as we have all sheltered in place these past months. It has been my saving grace to have a space to clean and be creative when I feel near the breaking point, when anxieties over the unknown creep in, or the lack of control overrides my mind. It is a gift to have something to keep myself busy. Ironically I am reminded of the ancient Proverb, “That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change; but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” It hasn’t been easy for anyone. We have all have been thrown from the nest of our security and what we once knew.
On top of that, we see the stark reality for too many who have no place to call home and feel the guilt of even uttering a complaint. Everything is up in the air. It has been for a while, and this event just made us more aware of how imbalanced things are on every level. There is so much to do to make things better, and yet going anywhere is not allowed.
Returning to my little growing collection of nests, I realize somehow each of these birds trusted that they would find exactly what they needed for what they instinctually know how to create. Despite all the news of scarcity that we are continually hearing, is it possible that this could be the truth for us as well? Can we trust that we will know what we need and find it as we move forward? I think the beauty of these nests is the simplicity they represent…not more, not less, just right for what was necessary. How often do we feel the urge to take more, to puff our feathers, or on the flip side, not feel worthy of asking for what we need?
I look at the hollow in the middle of the nest and consider what each of them once held. Little birds that grew and flew away. Ouch. How I feel that in my own nest as my children are becoming adults and finding their wings. They say the hardest part of love is letting go. My heart knows this to be true as my own nest is emptying.
What is forming inside of myself now? Not having a job to do for many weeks has added to that growing depression. What is my purpose for being if not to do what I can to serve? How can being home be enough even though we are told it is? When this is over, to what will we be returning? So many questions. I am hopeful that we have a new understanding of the interdependency of our Earth and how important every member and moment is.
Winged creatures have always inspired me by their fearless flight and their ability to ascend it all. They call my spirit in so many ways inviting me to join in the dance of knowing all is well.
We will know when to build nests and when it is time to move along to a new journey. They remind me that somehow we will find what we need to move forward to make way for the next season. They sing their song and tell me not to let my music die within me. There is a purpose for each of us now more than ever. We have to be willing to open up to it no matter what is going on around us.
These nests are magical and beautiful symbols that encourage me to keep going. My walks outside help me find that home center within my spirit. When the trail ends, I gently leave the nests back in place, in the sense of my profession as a real estate broker…just in case another bird is looking to relocate.
It is, therefore, the sacred duty of every individual human soul to be utterly and completely itself—to be that jewel at that time and in that place, and to be that jewel utterly. It is in this way—merely by being itself—that one jewel holds together its own particular corner of Space and Time. The action of each individual soul holds together the entire net. Small and large at the same time.”― Stephen Cope, The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling
Staying home these past weeks to honor the efforts to flatten the curve and spread of the coronavirus has been filled with moments sacred and mundane. The rhythm of the hours beats as we go about our day cleaning up from one meal to the next. The hot bubbly water in my hands as I wash the dishes, usually a mundane task, brings peace in my heart. These small chores we do each day become a comfort as larger questions swirl in our minds. Aside from the practical matter of keeping things tidy, there is a sense of harmony created by these simple acts–quiet security that at least we can do something to contribute even if it is small and insignificant.
However, in the back of my mind is this nagging feeling that I should be doing something more, something higher than just domestic tasks and the work of my employment each day. The world is changing around us, and being removed from the flow can be unsettling if you have the spirit of a change agent within you. It is challenging just sitting at home because I feel things stirring underneath the surface. Exploring different opportunities online, reading books on finding your dharma, and searching for a place in the world to express meaning but just not seeing it can feel like life is drifting day by day. It is like fishing, and I have never been patient enough to fish. When I was younger, my brothers used to let me tag along, but soon regretted it when they realized I couldn’t sit still. I like to see things moving and getting better. However, the messages I keep coming across are about deepening right now. Be patient. Be quiet and wait on the will of Heaven.
So many of the people we call “great” today were just individuals who let go of the way they thought life should be and embraced the sacredness of simplicity. They found the drumbeat of their hearts by listening intently, and when its rhythm arose, then they began to create. One of the people Stephen Cope talks about in his book quoted above is Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau wanted to be a great writer and early in his career moved to New York City to hang out with the big names of the time. He couldn’t make anything happen, and finally went back home to Concord, where he took up residence at Walden Pond. Cope explains that it was here in this small place he was able to explore his soul and write the words that inspired people for generations to come–like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and me. Thoreau’s lines about “advancing confidently in the direction of your dreams” have been my lifelong mantra. Ironic that he became small to uncover his more significant work. Countless jewels in the history of the world did just that…small acts of great love and quiet humility.
We are all jewels in the net of life as Cope quotes–each holding our space and time, which allows the whole to stay together. Right now, that may mean staying at home to tend to the tasks and hearts there, so we are ready when the call comes. The moments we feel impatient and small are times to get quiet and take in what is trying to give birth. We are the midwives of a new journey for our world, and by getting honest about ourselves and what we love, we will be able to understand not only how we may serve, but the deeper meaning of our lives. We may discover that it is right in front of us. Oscar Wilde wrote, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” We each came here to expand and bring unique expressions to life by sorting through what stirs our hearts and what we know needs to change. We are at a profound time when we can decide in big and small ways how we will show up in the new world, and what our great work will be. Who is the Self that is emerging?
I encourage you to spend time in nature if you are able and write the ideas that come to you as you reconnect to your soul. Observe how you feel when you are doing simple acts for those you love each day. Notice how the mundane can become profound and how the little things we do make a difference. We are all called to greatness in big and small ways, and the joy of our lives is finding out how we shall express it.
Photo credit: Vince Moro, Chartres Cathedral, France. Fall 2019
You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you don’t know the value of your own soul, it’s all foolishness. -Rumi
As I ponder the current situation of the world, I ride the space between two worlds: the fear and sorrow of loss, and the wonderment of the gift to create a new world with all we have discovered. Deciding what to carry on this journey reminds me very much of the gospel admonishment made by Jesus, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” The idea of the “camel’s gate” is an ancient one. When the darkness of night fell around the walled city, the main gate closed, and a small passage was the only way to get back inside. This action prevented being attacked by large armies in the night.
In my experience, each time this quote was read, it was interpreted to mean that material possessions often get in the way in our lives. It alluded to being lost in an artificial sense of who we show up to be in the world–what I have and what I do is who I am. It is about believing in specialness and separation from each other. It is why sometimes we race around to make sure we have what we need without regard to what may be available for others. It is the disease of always needing more. We are familiar with this idea–that the hunger for more possessions can cause problems in our lives in a myriad of ways, including our current global climate, political, and economic challenges.
Yet, in a profound sense, this quote speaks to being disconnected from the realm of consciousness. What do we hold in our minds? We can’t carry both fear and love any more than we can be in two places at once. Emotional baggage can block our connection with one another, as well as to health and healing. Our emotions of despair, hatred, and anger have been scientifically proven to lower our immunity and can shorten our lives and well-being. Piling on the hurts and pains from past woundings to the point that we relive them, again and again, makes it impossible for healing to take place. We can’t get through the portal. We carry too many burdens.
In the last few years, I have been rebuilding my life from a place of defeat and despair after so much loss to find a space of healing and forgiveness. I have spent many hours meditating, asking my spirit to heal not only my heart and my mind but my body because I know stress strains our systems. Holistically, I have been examining my “burdens” one by one to release them to a place where I could be lighter. Finally, I am coming to the place of transformation. The sadness is literally changing form to be a gift. What is left is a strength of knowing in my spirit. There is always expansion within no matter what happens, and I can arise from the ashes to still be of service. It is a process that slowly emerges just as sure as the bulb breaks through the soil to be a blossom.
This time of going inside is not just about getting away from the risk of spreading disease, while that is incredibly important to preserve the health of everyone. The larger question that seems to arise for me is, what kind of thoughts are we bearing? What ideas are in our minds? What burdens are we still carrying that perhaps need to be unloaded? Cleaning and organizing our space is a spiritual act that allows us to make harmony in our homes. But as we do that outer work, we also need to do the inner work of observing where our minds spend their time and energy. Energy creates things even when we are not aware. When we have too much of our minds outside, there is nothing left to fuel us inside. In certain tribes, the native Elders greet one another, “how are your connections?” This question is posed to you today. How are your connections to the people, spaces, and things in your outer world, and more importantly, to the spirit inside you?
Aside from being a pandemic in the outer realm, this situation is a call to take action for our inner health and knowing. It is an invitation to explore the thoughts and emotions we carry day to day. An incredible book that explains in-depth how this will improve our health is Dr. Joe Dispenza’s Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon, and there are many sources out there with similar messages. We are as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin genuinely expressed, “not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” It is our ability to be both human and divine that is being called into service today…to dance in both worlds of the inner and outer life to find a balance.
These are times of great transition and change. Because we are wired to our routines and modes of being, change can be incredibly uncomfortable. It is alarming to realize that some of our freedoms have been suspended without knowing when this will end, many of us are currently without income, and we hear every day, more people are sick and dying. It is impossible for any of us to feel grateful and inspired all of the time. Our frustration and anger can be tools for expansion, but we can’t stay in that space forever. It does damage when we do.
Sometimes we can’t do it alone. That is why we need our connections with each other in whatever ways we can safely achieve them. We also need to reconnect with our inner wisdom, which will guide us through the valley of darkness so we can unload our burdens and come through the portal to full healing. It is there for every one of us. If there was any lesson that I learned through my experiences, the most powerful one was this–every moment of every day of our lives, we can create the world of our dreams. We have to be willing to release the things and ideas of separation and fear, and to ask the question, how may I genuinely serve in manifesting it? Just imagine the world we will create!
photo credit: Vince Moro, outside of Pézenas, France. Fall 2019.
“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!
“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.
“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
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!
“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.”
“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.
“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
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