5 STEPS TO KEEP GOING WHEN TRAGEDY HITS

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Do you feel it? Do you feel the pain this world is in cracking you upon, causing the tears to trickle down your skin, enraging you, paralyzing you, making your heart ache. I feel it.

Friday’s violence in Charlottesville left my heart breaking open once again. The same thing happened with the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, with Columbine, with every act of police brutality, with Standing Rock, with people telling me about attempted suicides, assaults, ICE raids. Every time I sense the pain… I ache. Do you?

As human beings we are connected to one another. There is no denying this.  When tragedy hits we may feel the pain of others. When tragedy hits, it’s a sign to open our eyes a little wider, not close them or turn them away in ignorance.

I know seeing the news these days is no pleasant task. For some of us, the news is familiar. We’ve seen bigotry, sexism, racism, and hate before. It’s part of our day-to-day. For others, it may feel newer…unexpected.

Regardless of which category you fall into, the world needs you now.

Now is the time to show up, speak out, take action, and use your resources and talents to make this world a better place.

So, what can you do to keep going strong? To keep loving? To keep contributing to the betterment of this world without burning out?

1. Feel What You Need to Feel

Allow yourself to take a few moments to feel what you need to feel. When tragedy hits, intense emotions are bound to arise. Feel all of those emotions in their intensity. Cry your tears out, punch your pillows, yell.

Brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor has found that it takes 90 seconds for emotions to pass through us if we allow them to move through without judgement. After that point, it’s our choice whether we choose to continue with our sadness, our anger, our happiness, or not.

2. Ground in and Protect Your Energy

Take a moment to connect with your breath. As changemakers it’s easy to feel the weight of the world. However, feeling that weight is not going to allow you to do the work you need to do. So, take a moment to ground in and protect yourself energetically.

Close your eyes and feel your feet firmly planted in the ground. Imagine roots shooting out of the soles of your feet and connecting you into the soil and down to the core of the earth. Now, imagine a beam of light pouring from the sky into the top of your head and surrounding your body in protective layer of white or pink light. This light provides a layer of energetic protection between you and any negative energy that may come your way while simultaneously allowing you to love and give in the way you need to.

3. Engage in Energizing Self-Care

Engaging in energizing self-care is critical to contribution. If you are depleted you will face burnout. So, make energizing self-care part of your activism. Know exactly what it is that energizes you. This is going to differ for everyone and it is important for you to know which activities are true energizing self-care for you and which ones just look like self-care. For example my sister energizes by spending time with other people, my boyfriend energizes by dancing, and I energize by spending time in nature.

Take 10 minutes and write  a list of all the things that energize you.  Whenever you feel exhausted or that you’re heading towards the path of burnout choose one of your activities for energizing self-care and do it ASAP.

To create your list you can ask yourself the following:

  • I feel the most energy after I __________.
  • I feel better after I __________.
  • Doing __________ makes me feel _________.
  • Doing __________ gives me __________.

Take that time for yourself, it’ll keep you going in the long run.

4. Connect with Communities of Care

Just as important as engaging in self-care is connecting with communities of care. We’re on this planet together and to create sustainable change we need to work together. Know who comprises your support system. Who can you call on to listen, to inspire, and to collaborate with? What communities can you connect with that are creating change? What communities can you connect with who will lift you up and that you can lift up? This can be a community of faith, a student group, a community organization, a group of friends.

Find those communities where you can vent, brainstorm, act, and celebrate and take part in them.*

5. Keep Showing Up

In order to catalyze change, you must keep showing up. Small actions add up over time. Consistency makes a difference. Keep speaking up when you need to. Keep showing up to participate in marches, protests, vigils, and community events. Keep contacting your government representatives. Keep donating your time, money and resources. Keep taking action. Keep showing up.

And… as my favorite quote goes:

The heart is  a muscle the size of your fist; keep loving, keep fighting.

*If you are a woman changemaker or a woman who is wanting this type of community, I invite you to sign up for my free Virtual Sister Circle for Changemakers.

Honor Your Imperfections, Honor the Divine

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One of my breasts is bigger than the other. So is one of my eyes. It took me 18 years and a statue at the Louvre with my profile to appreciate the curve in my nose.

I didn’t learn how to “correctly” say the words “museum” and “wolf” until I entered adulthood. I still struggle to understand sarcasm but love dry humor. I don’t really think I’m that funny, but other people do when I’m not trying to be.

I still wait until the last minute to do things but I think about them a lot beforehand. My ideas just take a lot of time to gestate before they’re ready to be birthed.

Some people say I’m too quiet- an award I was given in the 6th grade. I’m just absorbing the words, the way the light falls, the interaction between people, what remains unsaid.

Ever since I was in my single digits I’ve come out of the library with armloads of books. I tend to look like the mouse Gus in Cinderella after he gathers corn. I still never read all of them, I just like having options.

I’m not always who people think I’m supposed to be. I’m not always doing what people think I’m supposed to do. But I am exactly who I need to be.

I am imperfect perfection.

You are your own unique being. You say things that not everyone says. You think things that not everyone thinks. You have corporeal asymmetries that may be noticeable only to you.

You have your own unique ways of signing your name, planning your day, and living your life. You have your own collections of passions. You have your own way of defying the status quo.

You have a name with its own story. You have lived your own life of stories that not everyone has lived. You are the only you there will ever be.

You are imperfect perfection.

Throughout the world, imperfection has become a signature, an honoring of the divine. Spirit beads are incorporated into beadwork, mistakes woven into Persian and Navajo rugs.  The entire Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi gives tribute to the beauty of imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion.

In honoring our imperfections, we honor the divine.

In honoring our imperfections, we honor the beauty within us that is uniquely ours.

In what ways are you imperfectly perfect?

The Magic of Acting Like a Child

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When I was a child, I sold fortune telling, acrylic-painted rocks and hand-picked herbs to passersby. I scavenged dumps (yes, I know that’s kind of weird) and junkyards to find treasures to incorporate into my inventions because… Leonardo da Vinci was my hero… and I was an inventor.

When I was a child, along with my siblings and cousins, we would script out 2-hour long follies shows to perform for our entire family at nearly every reunion- summer visits, Christmas celebrations, Thanksgiving. We would have raft building contests and yes… sometimes the rafts would sink… but we built anyway.

As children, we imagine things into being nourishing them with our passions, our time, our energy, our devotion. We pour all of who we are into our imaginings, seeing the potential of what could be without ever seeing the doubt.

The muse finds us easily and we create…without expectation, without seeking to please, without second-guessing.

As adults, we often lose sight of this part of ourself- the part that has an idea and moves forward with it. The part of ourself that gets captivated by the sheer joy of creation. The part of ourself that presents our gifts to the world because we’re just so freakin’ proud of them.

We’re not creating to appease others, to receive compliments, or because it’s what we’re told to do. We’re creating because it’s what we have to do.

What would be possible if you took the mindset of childhood and applied it to your life in this very instant?

What would you create?

Really though, I want you to take this question seriously. I know there’s something right now that you feel called to do. What is it? What is your deepest self inviting you to bring into reality?

Is it a novel? A non-profit? A themed party to celebrate summertime?

Is it a collaboration with someone you admire? An adventure to Australia? A summit of health experts?

Stop distracting yourself with “but”s, “can’t”s, “what if”s. Just do it. Take the mindset you had when you were a child and start birthing your idea into reality.

Even if it doesn’t turn out exactly like you expected it to, you listened to the call, and sometimes that turns out even more magical than what you ever envisioned.

In the comments below, tell me what your deepest self is inviting you to create. I can’t wait to cheer you on!

P.S. If you want to connect even more deeply with your inner child and the creativity that embracing a childlike mindset can bring, I invite you to sign-up for my newsletter. When you do, you’ll receive a free Inner Child Meditation and Workbook. It’s one of my favorite tools!

Life Lessons from Dr. King

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I can’t remember the first time I heard of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rather, he’s been intertwined into my consciousness, serving as a force of personal inspiration for decades. I remember going with my mom and siblings to celebrate his memory at the Santa Fe Roundhouse. I remember driving by the Lorraine Motel in Memphis to see where he was shot. I remember sewing his image into a tapestry I created for a high school senior project. I remember attending Kingian non-violence meetings in Hartford. I remember reading his speeches, his letters, his words and soaking up the layers of wisdom. Even now, I look at his words and notice how they apply not only to our work in the world but to our own lives.

We cannot walk alone.

Each one of us is stitched into the fabric of the universe, our lives interweaving with those of others. We are connected in ways we can’t even fathom at times. Just think of the clothes you’re wearing, the food you’re eating, the roads you’re walking upon. Each of those things was created by another and in that alone your life is connected to the life of another.

Know that you are never alone. Know that you have support systems all around lifting you up and loving you. Sometimes (at least for me) it can feel like you have to do everything on your own, but that simply isn’t true and if you go that route, you won’t get far. When we acknowledge that we have a community, we can go so much further… we can create so much more.

Who do you have walking beside you?

Only in the darkness can you see the stars.

It is often in the most difficult moments of life that the epiphanies come. It is sometimes during the most challenging times that the small moments of beauty seem that much more wondrous. Look around you, there is beauty everywhere- in the freckles and veins of a leaf, in the pattern of a snowflake, in the smiling eyes of your love, in the constellations drawing themselves upon the sky.

What beauty do you notice in your life right now?

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk than crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

Some days we soar and everything seems to be running perfectly. Other days it can be a struggle to change out of your pajamas and scoot out of bed. That’s okay. Do what you can where you are with how you’re feeling. Be gentle with yourself and set the intention for what movement forward you will take. It could be as simple as journaling or taking the day to rest and rejuvenate. It could be as grandiose as running a marathon or organizing a letter writing campaign. What matters is the intention behind what you’re doing and to take the next step that feels perfect for you.

What’s your intention for the day?

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Disappointment is fleeting loves. It happens. You can grow from it. You can learn from it. Hope, however, can keep you going day after day. There are infinite possibilities out there and more than a million ways things can go right. Focus on the hope because it will get you a lot farther than the fear of being disappointed.

I had a recent realization (like super recent, like 2017 recent) that a disappointment I faced back in 2012 has kept its grasp on me and I’ve been living in disappointment instead of the infinite abundance of hope. I never used to do that. Moving across country to Oakland, sending out hundreds of job applications, draining my bank account, and living in a converted illegal garage apartment only to move home 6 months later has haunted me and it’s time to release it. It’s time to return to hope.

What disappointment are you holding on to that you’re ready to release?

What is your hope? For yourself? For the world?

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Where do you stand in moments of adversity? When life becomes challenging, how do you react? Do you keep hoping? Do you keep standing up and trying something new? Do you take loving care of yourself? When life is flowing smoothly it’s easy to go with the flow and simply be, but when life becomes challenging, it’s then that we often learn who we really are. We begin to recognize what most impacts us and how we respond. These are moments that can allow us to grow whether that’s through intentional action or quiet cultivation.

On the world level too, moments of challenge and controversy can show us where we stand as a collective. Right now, we’re facing a time where we are truly seeing the divisiveness of our country and our world. Now is a time for us to take a stand for what we believe in. How will you act? What changes will you make? How can you take steps towards creating the community you desire?

Where do you stand in your personal life and in your community in times of ease? Where do you stand in your personal life and in your community in times of challenge? What do you stand for?

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day my loves!

I hope you all go out and celebrate or take some time to reflect on the wisdom of Dr. King personally and/or in the comments below.