I was at dinner with a friend recently. He had flown into the area for work and we were catching up. We dined al fresco at a little Italian restaurant in Old Town.
Over an impossible amount of appetizers, Tortellini alla Panna, and a bottle of Chianti, we reconnected. For hours, we discussed everything from family to politics, from our current spiritual pursuits to the highs and lows of our pasts.
After an anecdote about his new home, he said he’d show me a picture, but it was on his phone.
And his phone was in the car.
I thought about what a rare–and brave–act it is in today’s world to not have that digital shield in tow. Brave is a strong word here, but—look around you—how many times is a conversation stalled by a buzz, or is a fledgling topic not pursued because one (or perhaps both) of the participants use the beautiful raw moment of potential to glance down at an update from someone they hardly care about?
Sitting across from another human soul, you have every opportunity for deep connection.
Go anywhere, take it in any direction.
Drop to that next level of conversation where the intonations, the subtleties are even more important than the words themselves.
Connect with another human being—really connect.
It’s vulnerable; it can be scary. Thus the shield.
This is not about vilifying the iPhone. There’s a time and place for such a tool; it’s just not everywhere and all the time.
My friend commented later that we had had a riveting three hour conversation without lulls, pauses or awkward silences. How did that happen?
His phone was in the car.
(Mine was tucked away in my purse.)
The point of life is love, but not this love. Not this conditional love. Not this rock it till the morning love. Not even this I love you as long as you’re successful or happy or un-addicted or faithful or pleasant love.
The sun doesn’t rise only on days when we behave. Gravity doesn’t hold us in place only if we’re helping others or being gracious. The tide doesn’t stop its eternal dance because we woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Life doesn’t stop because we don’t honor it.
So it is with love.
Love is the most natural force. The most primal force.
It just keeps being there. You don’t have to let it in. Shut your doors, pronounce your heart closed for business. Come at love with a hacksaw and a lifetime of brokenhearted intention.
It’ll still just keep being there.
There’s something so eternal, so unshakeable, so safe about love.
It just keeps being there.
When we’re sitting broken and alone, it still surrounds us.
Love just keeps being there.
Opening up my heart today to love–to God–to that essence that just keeps being there. Despite my foibles, my weird and useless circumlocution, running around the globe to find the one thing that has been there all along.
Whenever you’re ready, step into it. It’s there. If you’re not ready, just keep running. When you stop, it’ll be there too. No rush. Wherever you go, God will just keep being there.
Strong doesn’t have to mean rigid. There is extreme strength in the wind, in water. Water is such a powerful force, and yet it is vulnerable, flexible, soft, open, life-giving.
Strength isn’t just rock solid. Muscles. Brute force.
It’s intense compassion.
Forgiveness is one of the strongest and most vulnerable forces in the world. So relenting, so humble, so unassuming. Yet it requires a rock-solid foundation of love, the ability to stand tall and unbending in the face of cold-hard facts.
The most powerful and essential qualities of physical and spiritual nature exist in this seeming dichotomy. Mighty yet delicate. Overpowering yet fragile.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” The spiritual skills of love, compassion, forgiveness, humility have been relegated to the role of people with no backbone because they’ve been portrayed in binary terms as being weak.
Let’s redefine strength to include the ability to bend, to bow humbly, to let go. All the while maintaining our ability to stand tall in the mighty wind and to fight fiercely in pursuit of our calling.
In a class discussion recently, a girl pointed out that most people don’t love themselves. I told her that I do; I genuinely love myself. She looked surprised, as if self-love were abnormal. The moment that haunts me though, is, on hearing my statement, a shy girl sitting in the circle mumbled a barely audible, “I don’t.” Her slumped body language supported the silent claim.
It broke my heart.
And it reminded me of why I’m here, on this planet today.
The things that break your heart are a reminder of your mission. When you don’t know what to do, go to the heartbreak. When you’re not sure if you even have a purpose, imagine the moment when that heartbreak is reversed.
Then you go and you try to bridge the gap. You tell her that you’ve been where she’s been. You become a little ray of hope in a world that can get too dark for comfort.
My mission is to help women uncover, nurture, and love their best selves.
What’s your mission? Go to the heartbreak. You just might find it there.
When you take the leap, of course it’s going to hurt.
It’s going to hurt your ego and your comfort zone and your heart. It’s going to hurt like hell. It’s going to be the most difficult thing you ever did.
Your demons will surface to fight you.
Your own body will writhe with pain and resistance. Your own mind will work against you and bare its teeth and fangs in a fight to its death.
Your whole world will push against you.
Everything you thought you knew will come crumbling down upon you. Your heart will shatter. And when you’ve been beaten down and bashed and tussled and tortured for days, months, years even, when you have nothing else to give, when the rubble is so thick that you can see nothing but darkness, the miracle happens.
And you know.
You stand in the same place and yet the universe has transformed. Everything is exactly the same and yet strangely different. It’s as if a metaphysical film has been peeled off every surface.
It’s as if a veil has been lifted, as if reality is glowing. Life is brighter somehow.
Your body remains intact, your day goes about its business. Time doesn’t stop but your relationship to it does. You float through days and situations and temptations that only recently filled you with dread.
You stop, sit back in amazement at all the brilliance you’ve been missing and actually talk to the beautiful custodian who is changing the trash bag in your office. You peel a ripe, juicy kiwi as if it were a miraculous gift, which of course it is. You listen to music with your soul. You step into the grass and walk with no destination. You chop vegetables and write poems and vacuum the living room carpet and climb mountains and nurture relationships with the same love and devotion that you devote to everything.
Because, as they say, how you do one thing is how you do everything.
Do it with love.
Being willing to be a little bit less than you can be in the ways of the world while being everything that is metaphysically possible in the ways of the spirit.
Will there be bad days? Of course.
Will there be days of doubt and trials and tribulations? Only when it’s time to grow.
But every day, you can choose to hide underneath the rubble or to step out of your own shadow.
Every day, you have the choice to embody gratitude by skipping, dancing, loving your way through this tiny little speck of existence, so small that it’s almost nothing, so perfect that it just might be everything.
You don’t need anything else. You don’t need a bigger house. You don’t need a boat. You don’t need to lose weight. You don’t need anything.
You don’t need to write a book. You don’t need to think that relationship to death.
You don’t need to do anything.
Stop. Take a day off and don’t think. Don’t read. Don’t talk. Don’t worry or plan or ruminate.
The irony of course, is that the moment you allow yourself to just be, inspiration strikes and soul takes over.
And true growth takes off again.
Do you live in your head?
Do you go to sleep thinking and worrying, then wake up doing the same? Many of us spend most of our time stuck in our brains ruminating, worrying, and just plain chewin’ the cud, as they say. That overactive brain doesn’t want to let go of control, hates not being the one to call the shots.
If this sounds all too familiar, try pushing through the brain’s resistance. Get out of your mind and into your body. When you get in your body, you’re really living instead of thinking about living.
For me, two climbs into an evening rock climbing session, and I’m in my body. I can have a million issues on my mind, but the moment I pull up to the first hold, I feel it: my mind letting go, my body engaging. The only thing on my mind is what’s in front of me. I like to say that I’ve never had a problem on the wall. I can’t; I’m too busy climbing.
When I’m in my body, I forget to think about life and I just live it.
What is it for you? Is it being with a particular person who just lets you be yourself–no posturing needed? Is it running or meditating or sex? Is it bubblebaths or being in the sunshine or having a good laugh? Is it all of the above?
When do you allow your mind to let go? When do you put down your defenses?
Do that more often, so often that living in your body becomes your new normal.
Your brain will learn to enjoy the break, I promise.
We’ve got to ditch the scarcity mindset, the belief that there’s not enough to go around.
Of course, we’re right: there’s not enough extreme material wealth to go around. If everyone’s path involved an SUV, a 16 bedroom house, and a tennis court, we’d be in trouble. Our planet does not, in fact, have the resources to provide such a lifestyle for each of the billions of humans on the planet.
So how do we reconcile the fact that there’s not enough wealth to go around with an abundance mindset?
We redefine what our society calls wealth.
Your abundance may not be financial or material at all. In fact, when you have what your heart really desires, money and possessions and fame are nothing but potential and often unnecessarily cumbersome accessories.
Abundance is found in the pursuit of your particular path. And your path won’t look exactly like anyone else’s. It will be unique and custom-tailored to you.
Let’s be done with the one-size-fits-all malarkey. Like Daniel Quinn says, “There is no one right way for people to live.”
But there is one right way for you to live.
Follow your heart.
You’ll find it.