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THE SOUL OF AMERICA

 

 

“In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet… Love is wise; hatred is foolish.”
                                                      ~  Bertrand Russell

 

Like millions of other people in America and around the world, I am deeply concerned not only about the direction, the health, and the safety of our country, I am concerned about its soul. Our soul.

How did meanness and bullying become acceptable? How did bravado come to be admired? How and why did fear, hate and disrespect erupt and spread like a disease among us?

I’ve heard the theories – perhaps you have too – that hidden dis-ease rising to the surface is a good thing.

Actually, it CAN be a good thing, but it IS NOT automatically a good thing. Continue reading

ABOUT BEAUTY, FROM A RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST

Tree in a meadow

“If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice its knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.”
~ Matthew Fox

 


I have often used polished stones as a way to demonstrate this message about beauty and imperfection.

When I give polished stones away at school presentations and workshops, I invite everyone to look closely and notice all the little nicks and scratches on the stones. Yes, they are strong and beautiful – the agates, the ambers, the amethysts, the apache tears, and the aquamarines, to name just a few. And, they are not perfect. Like us.

Another take-away from the stones is this: Colorful polished stones in circle
the stones come in all different colors,
shapes, and sizes. Like us.
And they are all beautiful. Like us.

Today and every day, let’s focus on the good and the beautiful in ourselves, others, and the world.

From a recovering perfectionist…

With love and compassion,
Charlene

SEE WITH AWE

SEE WITH WONDERWhat a beautiful idea. Imagine if we could see at least one thing this way every day. What joy that would bring. Peace too.

How do we do this?  We don’t see as we did when we were children. With wonderment. Over time our senses have dulled. We’ve seen so much. Perhaps too much. There may be things we wish we have never seen. Continue reading

BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD

“Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

                                                                                          ~ Courtroom Oath Question      

A few days ago I wrote a touchstone that invited us all to be courageous and hopeful about beginning something for the first time or “yet again.”    

When I wrote that touchstone, I thought of many possible “somethings” I might approach with this fresh start intention, such as eating more greens and organizing my office, to name two simple ones.

But when I read that touchstone in my own email in-box, something deeper came up from the guiding voice within. Be impeccable with your word, I heard, which, as you may know, is the first of the four principles written about in the bestselling book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.   Continue reading

HOPE FOR ALL AGES AND STAGES OF LIFE

 A week ago, Suffield High School Principal Donna Hayward in Suffield, Connecticut delivered a commencement address that was inspired by The Twelve Gifts of Birth.  I’m sharing it here because I believe Ms. Hayward’s message of hope and courage is for all of us. Thank you, Donna, for permission to post your speech along with your photo. I hope to meet you someday, new friend!  And thank you, dear reader. As always, I would love to hear your comments.  

Donna HaywardClass of 2014, you are just minutes from receiving your high school diploma. Your parents are wondering how you got here so fast, as it seems such a short time ago that you were born. Just a few years ago, you took your first steps, spoke your first words, got on the school bus kindergarten bound, learned to ride a bike. This is a natural time for your parents to reflect on the last 18 or so years and for us, your teachers, to reflect on whatever role we have played in your upbringing. As it turns out, teaching and parenting are closely related.

When my daughter was born, we received the usual tidal wave of gifts – blankets, cute little outfits, and baby gear of all kinds. One gift, in particular, though stood out as it arrived without a note or tag from the sender to indicate who had given it. One day, it simply arrived in my mailbox – its message clear – but to this day I don’t know who sent it. It was a book entitled, The Twelve Gifts of Birth, by Charlene Costanzo and it details the gifts or qualities bestowed upon each of you upon your birth as a human. “Royal dignity was yours from the day you were born,” the book begins – and on that day and on a day such as this all parents and teachers hope their children know these gifts. My role today is to remind you that you do all have them and to implore you to use them consciously and with purpose from this day forward.

The first gift is Hope and each of you were born with it. Continue reading

CATS: AND THE LESSONS THEY TEACH US

We have two cats. Both adopted us in 2001.

 

My husband and I were traveling in a motor home from Arizona to Florida.

 

MinkaAt a KOA in Texas, as we pulled onto our site, a homeless Tortie kitten raced across the campground, sat, and meowed outside our door. We let her in and named her Minka.

 

Three days later, a handsome grey shorthair did the same thing at a campground in Orlando. We named him Bailey.

 

Over the years, Minka and Bailey have given us many gifts and life lessons. They’ve shown us how to play, be silly, stretch, be flexible and graceful, cuddle, snuggle, nap, be present, savor scents and all our senses, stay nicely groomed, and more.

 

Last week, Bailey was diagnosed with widespread carcinomatosis. Our vet saidBailey that our sweet boy cat has perhaps two months to live. Probably less. Among the hard things: we are going to have to decide when to say when.

 

We’ve never had to put a pet down. We aim to preserve life. In fact, in our home we’ve had a catch-and-release program (for spiders, mice, and other unwelcomed house guests) in place since the 1980s.

 

But we must consider Bailey’s comfort and quality of life.

 

Among the good things: facing death hurts, and yet it can lead us toward greater love and compassion.  Continue reading

SPRING CLEAN

 

Clean heart“Create in me a clean heart, O God…”  

                                     ~ Psalm 51:10

I love this psalm.
Long ago I had a vinyl record of a song inspired by this passage. I can still play it in my mind. 

 

As winter ends and spring draws near, let’s make way for heart cleanings and clearings.

 

 

Intend to release judgments, regrets, and resentments. Consider using, today and every day, a song, a prayer, a ritual, an affirmation, some activity that helps you open to the grace of letting go, with love and compassion. 

                                                      

WHO SAYS THE WORLD IS GETTING BETTER?

Who says the world is getting better?Hope for the World

 

Well, the Dalai Lama for one.

 

Every day we are bombarded with news of gloom and doom. If we focus on that, we’re likely to conclude that the state of the world is worsening.

 

Please don’t despair.

 

According to His Holiness, humankind is maturing. We are also becoming more compassionate. Of course we still have a ways to go, but we are moving toward greater awareness of our connectedness and into a higher state of consciousness and love.

 

In several presentations, the Dalai Lama recalls discussing with the late Queen Mother this question about the world improving or worsening.

 

“The world is definitely getting better,” said Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. As an example, she pointed out that, when she was a child, there was no awareness in England around the issue of human rights. But in the course of the last century, human rights as a concept has become part of our world-wide universal consciousness.  While equal rights for all has certainly not yet been fully manifested, it is being realized a bit more day-by-day.

 

Please don’t give up. Become a conscious part of “the becoming better.” Focus on good news. Share it. Join the growing numbers of people practicing at least one random act of kindness every day. Be kind to you.

 

You matter. Your love. Your hope. Your caring. Your dreams. Your talent. You becoming more and more authentically you, with courage and compassion, is one of the ways the world is getting better.

ADOPT THE PACE OF NATURE

bird at pond
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience, said Ralph Waldo Emerson.


“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day,” wrote A.A. Milne.

 

As I rush toward leaving home to go on a personal retreat, I’m holding these quotes in mind. Wise advice, both of them. Lately my pace has been more like a hurricane wind than a tree growing or a river flowing or the swimming turtle I saw in the pond near my home this morning.

 

How has your pace been this summer? Whatever your pace, I invite you to practice “unconditional friendliness” toward yourself and what is in your life right now.

 

Unconditional friendliness. Like the quotes above, I’m holding this expression like a touchstone as I aim to be compassionate and not judge myself for once again letting things get out of balance and swing wildly like a conch shell hanging from a string on tree during high winds.
weather conch

I hope you enjoy the playful lightness of this “Official Weather Conch” photo, taken on a vacation a few years ago, and feel the love with which this post is written.