On Love

What is love?

“In recognizing that you’re here only to love, you realize that as long as you do that, you’re already a success. And love doesn’t have to be something grand. As Mother Teresa said, ‘There are no great deeds; there are just small deeds done with great love….The point isn’t just what you give when you love, but also what you open yourself to receive. As you send out love, the universe will send love back.’” – Marianne Williamson, The Law of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money and Miracles

I think it took me a long time to grasp that love doesn’t cause pain.

And it took me a long time to realize that love doesn’t ask me to sacrifice who I am.

Love – in the pure, divine sense of that word – is unconditional and loves you back. It doesn’t make you smaller. It doesn’t contract your world. This love expands your world.

Love is contained in the small gestures as much as in the big pronouncements. In the context of a romantic relationship, I have come to recognize that I much prefer (and trust) love in the form of regular, reliable and consistent acts of consideration and kindness than the occasional and dramatic gestures. To me, it’s the difference between being given flowers on a random day because someone is thinking of you and want to express appreciation and love versus being given flowers because of some holiday when flowers are expected.

Of course, the love that is referred to in the Marianne Williamson quote above is about a much bigger, deeper love than romantic love. It is love in the fuller, more expansive sense of the word – love beyond that which exists between two individuals (or a family), love that speaks to the human condition, love that is the divine. That love transforms, heals, and contributes to making the world a better place.

To be in the flow of love, to be a being of love, an ambassador of that bigger love – that love has as much to do with how I carry myself in the world (what I think, how I act, the decisions I make, how I express myself, how I conduct myself when I interact with strangers) as how I relate to those close to me. And to embrace that kind of love means that every moment of every day is an opportunity to give and receive love.  

How are you showing up as a being of love?

Lessons in Healing From a Business Book

Inspiration and teachings can come from all kinds of places. I know that. And yet I was still surprised to discover that I would find a profound lesson about forgiveness and a tool for healing in a business book. In a chapter on communication, I was encouraged to think about how often misunderstandings arose from the separation between words and intentions.

By becoming more aware of my own reactions in conversations and recognizing the frequency at which I assume my responses are exactly what were intended (without actually confirming the veracity of those intentions with other people), I am realizing how often I create unnecessary confusion, pain and suffering for myself. 

“…we need to accept that we can only know the impact that others’ actions have had on us, but we cannot know what intentions they had when they acted the way they did. Similarly, we can only know what we were thinking when we took some action, but we cannot know what impact our actions had on others.”

Fred Kofman, Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values (Sounds True, 2006), p. 139

This seems like such common sense and, on some level, I’ve known this to be true for some time. I think that is why I try to be mindful of how I communicate (albeit not always successfully – it’s definitely a skill that I am continuing to work on). But something was different about how I took in this information when I read this passage. Maybe it was just the frame of mind I was in when I read it. Regardless of why, I started thinking about how this shows up in my personal life. And when I thought about this in relation to some difficult relationships I have in my life and some hurtful experiences I have had, I suddenly felt a deeper level of compassion and capacity for forgiveness.

If I really take responsibility for my own feelings and own my response to the action rather than conflate my response with the intention of the action, then my response is actually an opportunity to gain deeper insight into my own assumptions, hurts, vulnerabilities and expectations. And that self-awareness can allow for more freedom in communication. If I wanted to (and if it was appropriate and/or possible), I could approach the other person and ask about their intention.

Sometimes just knowing that my reaction is not necessarily what was intended is enough to open up possibilities for alternate responses. And sometimes that knowing can be enough to create the space and possibilities for forgiveness.

Indulgence or Self-Kindness?

I just read a post on 40 Simple Ways to Practice Self-Kindness over on the kindness blog and it reminded me of how simple, yet important, it is to practice self-kindness. And how easy it is for me to forget or fall out of practice.

When things are hectic, when there are a lot of demands on my time or energy, those are the times that acts of self-kindness are especially critical and necessary. Those times when it feels super indulgent to take the time to breath and meditate?  Those are exactly the times when I absolutely benefit from slowing down and taking a minute (or five or ten) to breathe.

I am amazed at how easily I can slide into thinking that self-care and self-kindness are indulgent. For example, one self-kindness I often think of as an indulgence is sleep. I know I need a lot of sleep. I am someone who needs at least eight hours of sleep a night. When I was younger, I didn’t think much about pulling all-nighters or functioning on just a few hours of sleep a night for long stretches of time. I really can’t say with much objectivity how functional I really was back then. Basically I was powered by a lot caffeine and those years are now a bit of a blur.

Over the years I’ve come to learn that I am a much happier, healthier and more balanced person when I get my seven or eight hours a night consistently. I know that. I have experienced its impact on my mind and body. I have no doubt of its necessity. And still I think it’s indulgent when I get those eight hours! So I like that the post framed getting enough sleep as an act of self-kindness.

Have you noticed any thought patterns in which acts of self-kindness are framed as indulgences?  If so, what do you do to re-frame?

40 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness

With all the intense emotions, busyness and disruptions to our normal schedules, the holidays are a time when we are both more aware of the love and gratitude we have for our lives AND a time when all the demands on our time and energy can leave us crankier and more self-involved than usual. Which is why I find this post so timely. I find practicing simple acts of kindness like the ones of this list inevitably bring me more joy and immediately brings me back to the present moment. No matter what is going on in my day, taking a moment to smile genuinely at a stranger or to really listen to a friend reminds me of our connection to each other as human beings and puts the material demands of life into perspective.

Kindness Blog

kindness image - figure spreading hearts

40 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness

by Mike O’Connor

  1. Smiles are irresistible. Don’t hesitate to smile warmly at friends, family, colleagues and even…strangers.
  2. Write hand-written thank-you notes. The notes don’t need to be an essay and people love to receive them. It’s the personal touch.
  3. If you use public transport, it’s busy and there are no free seats, be the first to stand-up and let a weary traveller, pregnant woman or elderly person take rest.
  4. Pay it forward – When you are in a coffee shop or café , maybe you could buy a coffee or cake in advance for the next customer that comes in. How tasty! Imagine what a sweet surprise that person will get when they discover that a kind stranger has paid it forward for them.
  5. When you see a homeless person, think about how you might be able to help them in some way…

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Work From a Place of Authenticity

“Something in us knows that we are not just here to toil at our work.” – Jack Kornfield

Do you find your daily schedule packed with work-related activities and all the things you “should” do?  Are your identity and self-worth dependent on how much you work, how closely you adhere to the way you are supposed to be?

After long long days (weeks, months, even years) of working to the point of exhaustion, do you ever find yourself wondering, “Is that all there is to this life?”

I have found myself at those points too many times.  And I am grateful that each time I have found my way out with new insights about myself and my growth.

Looking back, I have noticed that it is when I have lost my connection to the greater purpose of my being that hours spent working becomes draining and pointless.  Sure, working to pay the bills is important and necessary.  Yet that is not enough.  Our existence has to be about more than just getting up, slogging through the day and putting in the hours to get a paycheck so that we can then pay someone else.

I find such a significant difference in my energy and attitude as well as the results of my efforts when I act from a deeper knowing. From the outside the actions may look the same and yet the internal experience is vastly different.  It’s a lot like when I practice yoga as a form of offering, as a moving meditation, as an expression of my inner being versus when I practice mindlessly and just making my way through the poses, looking at the clock and counting the minutes until I would be done.

In my business it is the difference between having a soul-less conversation with someone and just focusing on them as a potential client when we meet at an open house versus having a meaningful engagement with someone and interacting from a place of service. From the outside, it may look like I am having the same conversation and yet my experience of the interaction is dramatically different: the former is depressing, deflating and an energy drain whereas the latter approach is much more authentic, energizing, enlivening and purposeful.

The tricky part, sometimes, is that when people walk into an open house, they’re not always energetically open to having that kind of exchange with me.  My job, and this is effortless when I am strongly connected with my inner self, is to hold that space for those who are open to it so that we may have the meaningful exchange.  Just because we are talking about the number of bedrooms, the square footage, the functionality of the fireplace, etc. does not mean that I have to hide my inner self.  It would not be authentic for me to not allow my spirit to come through.

I used to think that when I was in my real estate mode, I had to send my yoga self off to a separate room.  It was as if I was playing dress up and I would put on my real estate mask to cover up my yoga self.  And that was not authentic.  And it made me feel horrible.  Not to mention bad for business (would you want to work with someone whom your gut could tell was not being completely real and authentic?).  I now realize that my yoga self and my real estate self can and need to co-exist, to show up together if I am to operate as an authentic and whole human being.  As much as I know that, there still are days when it’s a little scary to be so open.  Being authentic can feel a bit scary because it requires us to be vulnerable.  And yet, it’s totally worth.

Why waste time and energy on anything less than the authentic?

Many Paths to the Divine

A colleague recently mentioned how stressed he was and how much he wanted to learn meditation because he had heard it would help with stress management.  And that conversation got me thinking about how often we look outside for answers.  On the one hand, I know that we are Truth, we are Light, we are Love.  I know that simply connecting with breath may be all that I need to find peace and connection with spirit.  And yet I also know that I sometimes forget or lose my way and it is through the guidance of teachers that I find my way back to my own knowing.  I guess it’s about being open to both the possibility of finding our way in to experiencing the divine on our own and recognizing that, sometimes, finding the teacher guides along the way is the path through which we come to connect with and experience the divine.

I love this reminder from Jack Kornfield as to how there are many different ways in which we may awaken to spirit.  In After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, he writes “We can go to India or Jerusalem – and some of the most magical stories…might have us believe that this is the way a spiritual life must begin.  But it also begins in a moment of gardening, in the simple act of returning home after a voyage and seeing it fresh, in the touch of an inspired piece of music, a poem’s song, the flight of a bird.  Every pair of eyes we look into can become the eyes of the Beloved.”

New Beginnings

The number one is often associated with new beginnings and this being November 11 (11.11) I got to thinking: what new journey, what next step, what new path am I embarking on and supporting?

Something about it being Monday and all those ones are inspiring me to take new, more focused, deliberate and directed action towards creating the life I want.  I find it interesting that I had just completed a specific 40-day meditation cycle yesterday and am starting a new one today.  And to tend to the practical, this-life-in-this-dimension-on-this-earth-reality, I’m spending the morning in a business planning workshop to map out my goals for 2014.

So there’s new beginnings, planning and envisioning on the spiritual level and the physical level.  My goal as I continue to grow and evolve in my personal practices is to be more consistently connected to my embodiment so that my inner self and my outer self are more fully integrated.  Yoga taught me how tending to my body can help clear my mind.  My physical body is the home for my spirit.  So perhaps it is not surprising that now, as a real estate professional, I view houses as the structure for housing the physical body and how they support the spirit.  My personal experience is that, just as there are certain practices that are more suited for different physical bodies as they move through their transformation, certain physical spaces are more supportive than others of that journey of personal transformation.

If you were free to pursue your passion, what would you do?  What is stopping you?  What ONE thing can you do to begin incorporating more of that passion into your life, beginning today?