The Search for Simplicity

The sweet, satisfied sigh that ensues a Sudoku puzzle accomplished.

The chubby rolls of a baby’s leg.

The quickly abated tragedy put aside with ice cream and a game of catch.

The nightly news that speaks of a neighborhood robbery, not the salacious stealing of our souls.

Counting on the World Order.

Counting on World Leaders.

Counting our blessings.

These are the days I miss.

As I looked about the lush, green lawn on a self-imposed smartphone sabbatical amidst hundreds of fellow bathers today, I recognized how complicated our lives have become. Admittedly, everyone appears on the same level when they show up in bathing suits. Fat or thin, mal- or well-nourished, dark skinned or light skinned, freckled or frowning. Nothing smacks of grassroots democracy more than a day at the community pool.

My children are no longer small or even medium-sized kids. They are in their mid- and late-teens. The intricate web of complication called growing up has begun as they navigate this world under very different circumstances than I did at their age.

They have to battle the constant onslaught of (mis)information. Of competitive Instagram appearances. Of snap-chat that and oh, please this. We can never start a meal until someone has photographed it first to share with the universe.

Simply put: Life has gotten complicated.

So I recognized, even as I put away my phone last night with no excuse that I needed it on my nightstand to serve as an alarm clock, that I struggle with my habitual need to be needed. Or to be needy. Or to be — simply put — on.

On what? God knows. On much of social media, I’ve witnessed rampaging rants and rude thrusts of opinion; excusing misbehavior and playground bullying.

Only the world stage is not a playground. And it is hard with each passing day not to succumb to equally ruthless wickedness that has besieged us since November.

But the hopeful are the last to die. And I shall not perish without a good fight. It is time to find pockets of simplicity.

You can find it

  • in the dusty pages of that Sudoku puzzle book at the foot of your nightstand
  • in the gloriousness of homemade lemonade on a bright sunny summer morning
  • in the accomplishment you feel when you walk 10,000 daily steps (FitBit fans unite!)
  • in the sweet smell of your loved one’s neck that says “I am here for you. Because I am here.”
  • in re-watching that old movie from the late 1980s that reminds you of the times when you knew less and it didn’t matter
  • in the kindness you show every single day to those you know and to those you don’t simply because the world deserves your care
  • in the absence of malice when you could have chosen otherwise
  • in the words “I am thinking of you”.

The search for simplicity may never end as we combat the avalanche of our modern world. I vote for its pursuit anyway.

In my view it is a battle worth attempting. Yes, indeed. It’s that simple.

The Alignment of Heart and Head

Kindness has a broader reach than hatred, which trickles in the snow like blood, standing frozen, marring beauty, seeping into the deep, but going nowhere.

Kindness has a gentler bounce, a firmer foundation, a more profound penetration. It is like silk to hatred’s dirty rags. Kindness, once rendered, shows up again and again. Hatred leaves frayed edges. It jangles its chains, spewing fumes of funk and fantasy. It settles into exhausted minds, confuses, leads astray.

Sowing seeds of kindness or, as I like to put it, sprinkling fairy dust wherever we go, starts with a single ripple. It is a quieter motion than hatred’s tsunami wave. But it is more sustaining and sustainable. It rocks like a cradle, lulling us into a calming centeredness.

When my children were tiny tots, I would tell them the story of Mr. Heart and Mr. Head. Mr. Head was always wanting to have his way. He demanded chocolate for breakfast, never brushed his teeth and insisted that it was his way or the high way. Mr. Heart would gently ask Mr. Head if he thought it was a good idea to do those things. Mr. Head’s standard response was always the same:

“I want what I want when I want it!”

Then Mr. Head would get or do what he wanted and his remorse was nearly immediate. Mr. Heart would then hug him and say, “And the lesson learned? Don’t eat chocolate for breakfast (or fill in the blank)!”

The stories were meant to acknowledge my children’s rather irrational desires while teaching them that better choices were available to them. Emotion-driven decision making can lead to disaster (and cavities!). But more importantly, an alignment between the heart and the head is important to lead a great life.

What I have witnessed over the past few months is a tsunami of emotion, which can be helpful when balanced with rational thought. It is my plea that we choose kindness over hatred, principles over populism. It means taking a stand for what we believe in, maintaining our standards and using our anger to make the world more just. Pretending that we are not angry is not kind. Being “nice” for the sake of a harmony that is not justified is not kind. It is false. Applying those emotions to create a better space for everyone, based on decisions that have a lasting, positive impact, is the right thing to do.

I think Mr. Heart – and eventually Mr. Head – would agree.

The Curative Nature of Kindness

“You may be sorry that you spoke, sorry you stayed or went, sorry you won or lost, sorry so much was spent. But as you go through life, you’ll find — you’re never sorry you were kind.” — Herbert V. Prochnow

Kindness has its own special type of loveliness. Every day we are faced with the decision to show kindness — or not. We can help that person on the tram or choose to ignore him. We can reach out to a friend in pain just to listen, or we can fill their ears with our own crap without asking how they are.

Kindness cures. It isn’t possessive. It exists simply for the sake of its own wonderfulness. Like a wildflower in a meadow, dancing in the wind.

We can access our inner kindness any time we wish, although sometimes we lose our way to that place. The opening to our hearts gets covered in layers of gunk, generated by stress, fatigue or even boredom.

To create a heart-clearing, we need to stop, breathe and forgive ourselves. If we remove self-judgement and resistance from the equation, that opening becomes free again. And we are able, once again, to reach into that deeper part of ourselves to sip from the well of kindness.

Being kind to others does not mean we are unkind to ourselves. In fact, the greatest acts of kindness come from our center. And we can’t be centered and give to others if we have nothing left to give to ourselves.

What act of kindness can you commit today?

It may be as simple as sending love through your eyes.

On Being Real

Dreams are an awesome map to the psyche. They illustrate our innermost thoughts and fears. And hopes too.

In our dreams anything is possible. We can bend time, suspend it or move beyond it, if we wish.

Last night I had the best dream ever. I walked into a café and was greeted by the owner who was wearing a wool sweater. He asked how I was, although I didn’t know him. I put on my very best face and said “Great!” even though, in my dream, I really wasn’t that great at all. He hugged me, then went about his business. I sat next to an artist, whose paintings suddenly turned dark. The room filled with a negative vibration and I could feel the walls closing in on me.

I didn’t like how things were going so I decided — in mid-dream — to back it up and try again. I hit the “rewind” button on the scene and started it again.

Same café. Same owner. Same wool sweater. He asked the same question, only this time I decided to be real. I told him I wasn’t that great at all and that, well, life had thrown a few curveballs my way. He hugged me again, then went about his business. I sat next to the same artist whose pictures now took on a whole new vibrancy. Shoot, her images even danced! The room filled with an atmosphere of love, care and compassion.

So symbolic.

When we choose to be real, we give people permission to do the same. It builds trust and opens hearts.

It gives us the space to let things be exactly as they are. No fighting. No struggle. Just acceptance for the Way Things Are.

I learned a lot from that dream. We have a lot more freedom than we sometimes believe. With that freedom comes the power to choose who and how we wish to be.

I vote for being real and wooly-sweater hugs. How about you?

Are You Authentic…or Just Annoying?

Mike Robbins recently gave a Tedx speech on the power of authenticity. Being authentic is not always easy, he says, but it is equally liberating when we attempt it with courage. Speaking your heartfelt truth gives other license to do the same.

There is a difference, however, between being authentic and being simply annoying.

Authenticity doesn’t mean you have free reign to puke all over everyone with your opinions. Do you know anyone who claims he or she is “authentic”, but what that person really is is opinionated? Most people I know who say they are authentic fall into the annoying category.


Because being authentic means you don’t have to claim that you are being so. You simply are being so.

Recently I have run into several individuals who celebrate their truth-telling, but what they are really doing is being hurtful, tactless and murderously unaware of the impact their words have on others. Coming from a space of care and true connection with self has an entirely different feel to it.

Let’s look at an example.

Consider your friend who asks you for your opinion about how she looks in that green dress that actually makes her look more like a reptile than Rupunzel. Do you tell her your opinion?

Annoying response:

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph. You look God-awful in that thing. Take it off. Now!”

Authentic response:

“I bet you have another outfit that highlights your features better. Let’s take a look in your closet.”

You aren’t being mean while being honest. You are being kind, authentic and loving to your friend by redirecting her efforts to a more suitable dress.

Authentic communication is about being empowered while empowering others. It has a special quality to it and you know it when you experience it.

Authenticity sets you free to be who you are. And who you truly are, underneath all those opinions, is a beautiful soul that deserves to soar.


Something to Laugh About

When was the last time you had a great good belly laugh? You know. The kind that makes your sides split. The type that scrunches your face and has you forget your troubles instantly?

It is reported that the average adult laughs 17 times a day while your average four year-old cackles up to 300 times in that same time period.

Kids don’t have to pay taxes. Adults do. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find things to giggle about more frequently. If laughter is the best medicine, why aren’t we doing more of it?

You know your laugh quotient is down if, after you smile, your face feels funny because it hasn’t been in that position for a while.

Meet with a friend who tickles your funny bone. Or watch a great comedy. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good. Remove yourself from toxic situations. Make someone else laugh today. It’s contagious. Pretty soon you’ll be laughing right along with them!

Laughter is a good start to slough off the bad and bring in the good. It is balm for the soul. And for the world, too.

The Joy Option

Love comes from within. And it starts with loving yourself first. You know the adage: you can’t find love if you don’t know how to give it. That applies to giving it to yourself in heaps too.

I learned this lesson the hard way, always looking outside myself for validation. If only I were fast enough, got good enough grades, spoke foreign languages without an accent, had the right weight, height, hair color. My need for love took me to very strange places indeed. I became a speedaholic, wanting more, faster and faster. Nothing ever seemed to be enough.

But do you know something? Now is always enough. Right here. At this moment. We can live in abundance no matter where we are, no matter our circumstance, no matter how full or depleted our bank accounts are.

Getting the big house didn’t fulfill the big dream of finding that love. It wasn’t until I was ready to truly give it to myself did I begin to realize how luscious life can be.

We can opt for joy any time of the day or night. You might not know this, but the key to your happiness resides inside yourself.

Let me give you an example.

Scenario #1: You know on those days when you are feeling good, everything seems to just flow in the right direction. Your car has trouble starting, but then it does. You are flooded with gratitude for the grace of the Universe. The traffic lights are all green and, even though it’s raining, your mood is elevated to the stars, and people seem to be so much nicer.

Scenario #2: And then there are those days when everything seems to be against you. Again, it’s raining, the car won’t start, the kids seems to be more agitated than usual, and you’d rather just stay in bed altogether. And, well, people seem to be so much meaner than you remember.

What’s the difference between the two scenarios?

You got it.


So how do you get from scenario 2 to scenario 1?

Start a mental practice. Every morning when you awake, set your intention for the day. You can even state something simple such as “I intend to bring joy to myself and others today. And so it shall be.”

When you start to feel your mood slide, check in with yourself. Ask yourself: “What are you feeling right now?”**

You may not get an answer right away. That’s okay. It’s important to let that piece of yourself be heard, even in silence. Then ask yourself, “What do you need right now?”

Then listen.

When you create that opening within yourself, joy has room to slide right in. And who knows who else might slide up right beside you to join you in the fun?

**Many thanks to Katherine Woodward Thomas and Claire Zammit for their fabulous work from which some of these concepts have been developed.


Creators of the Storyline

The life of a writer can be extremely isolating, insular, yet vast and full. We think, we observe, we hear, we write. We live off the hope that a reader’s life will be changed by what we say.

Stories live inside our heads, begging to be told, seen, expressed. They swirl. They dance. They speak. A writer’s ear catches it all, whether she wants to or not.

Writers listen. Interpret. Absorb. All of life is meshed into the fabric of their storyline. In essence, writers give back to the world that which they experience.

Many people have asked me, “How can you imagine so much?”

I say, “How can I not?”

Characters form in my mind, robbing my sleep if I ignore them for too long.

When a story emerges, a writer must carefully form the message for the world to take in. It is a craft that gives us life.

Son, an emerging writer with an imagination so large that his web ensnares reality with the subtext behind it, recently admitted he had to write a page about why he should be kind. He had not been nice in class and his teacher asked him to explain why it might be a good idea that he should be.

He wrote his prose in the form of a conversation.

Being kind means not to hurt the soul of another.

Being kind is an opportunity to empower a person.

Being kind translates to changing the world.

Being kind is a good idea because I won’t have to write another story like this one.

Stories can heal, instruct, and encourage mankind. Even a little boy who chose his words less than carefully.

Stories can be mentors for us all.

Imagination is more powerful than any medicine. If you believe in the truth of what you tell yourself, no doctor can cure you from it. What you believe far outweighs what others will tell you is so.

What story do you tell yourself every day? That you are lazy, unlucky, out of time? The nice one? The mean one? The crazy one?

You are the creator of your own story. Which ending will you choose?



Move the World with Your Awesome

The papers in my office must copulate at night because I swear to you I have recycled, tossed and filed for weeks and it keeps on coming.

The Grand Canyon

In yet another vigorous act of purging, I recently threw out reams of grade school notebooks that my children will never glance at again. In doing so I came across an archived document of my own that brought me to my knees. It was an old book proposal for a kindness project I so firmly believed in that I even contacted the Dalai Lama to see if he wanted in on it.

He politely declined.

But what moved me more than my unexpressed passion on those pages in that moment was the inner knowing that we can all move the world with our special kind of awesome, even if things, such as my book project on kindness, don’t work out as you’d like.

In the wise words of singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, sometimes your life turns out better than you can even imagine.

If you read my post on the pretty pictures in our heads, you will know that what we envision and what really happens are often two separate events. The arc of our suffering is determined by the level of our attachment to the outcome of our expressed desires. With the law of attraction, we are led to believe we can fully manifest our destiny. And to some degree I believe that is true. We have more influence over our lives than we care to admit. We can consciously engage in the universal energy force field that pulls in whatever we call out to. That is what happens anyway, whether we do it consciously or not. We bring in the lessons we need to learn time and again until we have really learned them.

If we take full personal responsibility for our lives, we would no longer look around at others to blame for our unhappiness. Do you want to be happy? Guess who you’ve got to love first?

Yup. That’s right. You.

If you spend your time trying to please others, you will be left depleted. I continue to learn that lesson and recognize my own conditioning in that area. If you raise others up while doing the same for yourself, you are on a path to joy. And your awesome will grow in kind.

Maybe one day that kindness book will get written and His Holiness will decide to play with me after all. In truth, it doesn’t matter either way. If I live the principles set out in that untold work, all the effort I put into writing it will have been worth it just the same.

How will you move the world with your awesome today?