Sometimes releasing attachments to our old beliefs can open up whole new worlds…and shortcake recipes!
As I sat in traffic today, I pondered the bumper sticker in front of me advising: Be patient, student driver. With an inexperienced driver behind the wheel, the car-related wisdom seemed worth following. We would probably all agree that new drivers—unaccustomed to traffic, laws, crazy other drivers, left turns, etc.—should all get an extra dose of our tolerance, and support, even. So, go ahead new driver, after you…
But then I wondered, “Why just new drivers?” Why does our compassion depend mostly on a certain (pre-approved) situation? Surely we all live under the condition of “work in progress.” Shouldn’t that be enough to merit compassion? And yet, we withhold. OK, I won’t speak for you: I have been known to withhold. But really (staying with driving analogies here), if someone cut you off in traffic, practically sending you into an oncoming cement truck, you’d probably be furious, right? You’d pile up all the reasons why you were the “good guy,” and the other driver was a jerk (or worse). You may even find yourself bolstering your position, explaining to coworkers and family members over dinner, how some idiot almost made you crash…
Then, later that night while watching the news, you discover the guy who nearly ran you out of your proper lane, must have been that young father of one-month-old triplets and Volunteer of the Year who suffered a massive heart attack, tragically dying in the five-o’clock traffic! He wasn’t a lousy driver, he was someone in deep pain. You just didn’t know his “story.”
Now things look completely different. But why? Because now there’s a “reason” for compassion? Because now it “makes sense?”
The truth is, we never have all the information, and unless we’re enlightened beings (in which case, why bother with a car when we could just beam ourselves from here to there?), we all bumble the very best way we know how, under the condition of being human. Sometimes that means mistake-making, and too infrequently that means not giving each other “get out of jail free” cards. Unless, of course, some news story, bumper sticker, or other inadvertent compassion-prompt comes along to reorient our thinking.
It was a long light, so my thoughts had time to head a different direction. What if those four words, Be patient, student driver, were more like instructions for self-reflective inspiration? As in: “Be patient (with yourself), student driver (there’s a lot to learn, but that’s what we’re here for).” I know, self-reflection isn’t nearly as popular as selfie-distribution these days, but what if we were actually patient with our sweet selves as we navigated down the road of Life? I’m pretty sure we would all feel less stress, and by extension, probably have a lot more patience for our fellow “student drivers.”
And what if giving ourselves a little extra patience/kindness/Love meant we had more patience/kindness/Love for everyone else? I guess, then, we’d need to change the comma placement to reveal a whole new way of thinking:
“She’s such a young eighty,” Catherine and I concurred after a delicious lunch with our beautiful friend Maxine. Maxine, who attends Pilates class every morning and goes dancing on a weekly basis, celebrated eighty delight-in-everything years this year.
While her physical stamina is quite impressive, her status as life-inspirer comes as much, I believe, from her hale attitude as her hale body. Chicken or egg? Body or mindset? Maybe they are so intrinsically linked that it’s not possible to order them.
True, Maxine has filled many of her eight decades with exercise, but she also views the world as a very joyful, exciting place; makes time for friends (LOTS of friends); is a good listener, and expects to find good stuff in everything and everyone…and so she does. This translates to a largely complaint-free life: when she sees something “wrong,” she seeks to improve things, rather than whah-whah-whah. Of course, she’s had her share of expectations-gone-awry, but rather than look at them as disappointments, she inevitably sees them more as opportunities—which is how (among other things) she helped found a non-profit to protect abused children. Her attitude helps her adapt to life and whatever that may bring, and her attitude affects her aging process.
Science once confidently declared that our genes determined what we got in life—lifespan, personality, health, etc. But now science tells us a different story: that our attitudes, and our “proximal” behaviors (diet and exercise) can not only “up-regulate” or “down-regulate” (turn on or off the expression of) our genes, but telomeres, the protective “shoelace caps” on the ends of our chromosomes, can predict our longevity (longer telomeres indicate longer lifespans). Even more interesting—thank you, scientific inquiry—is that we can intentionally impact our telomeres, and the expression of our genes!
So far, the best and easiest technique/idea/activity I’ve found to impact our wellbeing overall, is the practice of mindfulness. OK, I am a mindfulness teacher, so I’ve not only witnessed its power firsthand, but I’ve read all the research, as well. It’s now a fact: folks who spend time being mindful can change the physical nature of their brains (and even their bodies)! Impressively, their grey matter gets thicker (usually, as we age, the opposite occurs), and their amygdala (fight or flight, worrying part) shrinks. Though I don’t have my own fMRI, I can imagine that my hilarious octogenarian inspirational friend, Maxine, has a brain that lights up in all the right places. And I bet her grey matter is thicker and more robust than her biological age would suggest.
The ways to incorporate mindful attitudes into our lives are myriad. As Rumi said, “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Being mindful can include breathing more purposefully—in traffic, during yoga, before going to sleep, when the kids are fighting; sitting in the back yard and listening to the birds; finding more opportunities to serve your community; or even, sitting on a comfortable pillow in a group, counting your blessings. (I know I am thankful to have a friend setting a new standard for what it means to age mindfully.)
Even if you don’t know Maxine, knowing about her can give us all new ideas of The Possible…yet another blessing she’s offering the world!
What I’ve learned from teaching mindfulness classes is that we can ALL benefit from a “Grab ’n Go.” It’s a phrase that, like a bungee cord, can quickly pull us back up when we’ve inadvertently talked ourselves off an unhelpful emotional cliff. “I can’t believe I did that. I’m so stupid. Nothing ever works out for me. I ruin everything—like the time…” A Grab ’n Go can snap us back from the negativity abyss, and offer us the chance at a do-over. Of course, do-overs require an intentional new direction, otherwise, we might find ourselves in an infinite repeat loop!
The words we tell ourselves (and before the words, the thoughts) turn into our lives, so it’s crazy important to superintend our approximately 70,000 daily thoughts! It’s probably not too easy to change all 70,000 of them at once (hopefully, they don’t all need changing!), but one by one, daily, cumulatively, they can—and DO!—change our lives.
I tried to find a social-media-ish Grab ’n Go for my oldest son—an insightful 17-year-old. But most of what I found seemed oriented toward specific groups. As he is neither an alcoholic nor particularly religiously affiliated, and definitely not a quote-hound, I discovered nothing I thought he’d relate to. So, I decided to make one.
Starting tomorrow, I’m going to do my darndest to Tweet and Instagram at least an occasional Grab ’n Go phrase to help us all ChYL (CHange Your Life), in the hopes that a quick and easy positive message can help us all improve our thoughts, and our lives, for the better. I confess that I’ll likely throw some quotes in (I do LOVE a good quote!), but I’ll include lots of ideas and action-items that can be helpful in creating our lives in a more positive direction: ChYL!
My hope is that more of us can start the day looking for (and finding!) the Good Stuff, rather than, as one student in my class did, hear the alarm go off and immediately think: “Oh, %@?#, another day!!”
I hope you’ll follow—and enjoy— the daily ChYL!
During a recent conference, a lovely and enthusiastic woman approached me, waving a mint colored note card. “I’ve been practicing the thankfulness exercise from your Gratitude Workshop three weeks ago, AND I’VE ALREADY LOST ELEVEN POUNDS!”
I recognized the card as one I’d shared in a recent workshop so attendees could write a thank you note “in advance.” The goal of the exercise had nothing (specifically) to do with weight, but everything (specifically) to do with attitude. By changing our attitude—our energetic relationship—toward something, we change the outcome. Since I’ve found gratitude to be the most impressive Fast-Pass to observable improvement, my instructions were to pen a note of thanks about some desired life situation upgrade, as if it already had happened. Bolstered with a new directional energy, the follow-up homework was to read and feel the words, morning and evening, until the feeling became the seeing.
Apparently, this woman is earning an A+ in homework! And her good news thrilled me: not because it matters how much anyone weighs, but because she physically experienced the power of gratitude (and found the entryway to non-duality, but that’s for another blog).
The first thing I noticed about gratitude (after I finally started paying attention) is that it helps us locate true joy—the ineffable feeling that vibrates so far and deep, in a very knowing sort of way. During my classes, when I invite folks to practice my favorite 3-minute thankfulness hack (instructions are in the March 21st blog below, 6th paragraph), I can’t help but peek, witnessing their mouths curve upward en masse. Basking in gratitude just makes people smile.
The second big hoo-ha about finding our way to focused gratitude is that it plops us right in the middle of this present moment (which is all there ever was, anyway), and keeps us there by our attention to it. Very few of us are right here, right now, but when we “be gratitude,” it’s impossible to hurt over some history, or worry over some tomorrow (like what the scale might report).
The world will not tell us that being thankful (for our healthiest body ever) can help shed pounds, and gratitude isn’t typically marketed as a weight-loss strategy, but by being in the “now-ness” of gratitude, we sidestep assumptions/predictions/social contracts/rules/whatever we’ve unconsciously adopted, and carry around with us like extra pounds. Surely, we of this culture have all heard (and perhaps internalized?) the following aphorisms:
- “No pain, no gain.”
- “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”
- “Everything delicious is fattening.”
- “After the feast comes the reckoning.”
- “The pain of today is the victory of tomorrow.”
But, what if, after all the detoxing, calorie-counting, scale provocations, and self-denial, we discover that writing notes of gratitude to our Selves and our cells could ease our bodies back to where they wanted to be naturally?
This is exactly, it seems, what my new friend recognized. “The cravings are gone,” she announced. “They just disappeared!” (AKA being in gratitude-induced non-duality...really, more on that soon!)
(This Thank You Note practice is Exercise 16 in my book, Already Here: the matter of Love.)
Even the way he answers the phone is awash in understatement. “Goodenough,” he says clearly into the receiver. Good enough. The restraint inherent in his family name makes me want to giggle.
If you don’t know John B. Goodenough, you confirm my thesis of his subtle greatness. Our lives would be unimaginably different without him: it is because of Dr. Goodenough that most of our “electronicals” enjoy portable power. He is the man who brought us the rechargeable lithium-ion battery. If the idea of a “battery” doesn’t thrill you, consider how frequently/incessantly we recharge our phones (and completely depend on them keeping a charge!), watch movies on our device in a plane, or drive a car without gas. See? Unimaginably different.
Yet for all his work’s outrageous ubiquity, he remains largely unfettered by press and paparazzi (though if you spend time in his office, you will hear his name whispered frequently—and reverently—in the halls). In this era of major image management, John B. Goodenough inhabits a rare and beautiful humbleness. The limelight holds no sparkle in his world view.
A delightful woman taking my mindfulness class suggested I meet this amazing man of science who has taught classes at her church. He also happens to be, impressively, 94 years old and still productively inventing (he just shocked the world with an upgraded version of his battery from several decades ago, making it less expensive, safer, and more environmentally friendly), and, he lets off the best laugh in the history of joy. I knew this was someone I had to meet. So I invited myself to his office, and commenced to question him on science and spirituality.
I was not disappointed. The scientists I find most inspiring—from biologists to astrophysicists—are all (coincidentally?) deeply grounded in their faith. They are brave enough to ask “different” questions, and not fear what that might do to their core beliefs. Professor Goodenough follows that tradition, telling me, “A scientist is only an explorer...In your religious life, too, you’ve got to be an explorer.”
“Exploring” isn’t something we take very seriously these days, which is why I think the science and spirituality class I lead is so popular with attendees. The class challenges people to explore—to “re-think”—what we accept as “true,” and explains how new technologies help us better understand our connection to the infinite, rather than argue against it. People love discovering how science “backs up” so much of what we know about prayer and connectedness.
I also think people feel a sense of relief, correcting the misconception that what we call “scientific” and what we call “spiritual” are in opposition. John B. Goodenough sees no opposition: “Science is morally neutral,” he states. “Understanding moral truth requires a different perception than that used in scientific argument. It is communicated in metaphor and parable rather than argued from defined concepts.” He goes on to explain that, “A scientist can show respect for the Creator by learning to live in harmony with nature. He can show love for his neighbor by working to improve the life of mankind.”
Many other famous scientific powerhouses saw no conflict in exploring. Mostly, they, too, were looking for answers to the Big Picture when they discovered something that would improve the world.
- Galileo, The Father of Modern Science, said, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
- Isaac Newton found re-thinking essential to finding God: “He who thinks half-heartedly will not believe in God; but he who really thinks has to believe in God.”
- Max Planck, who earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, stated, “Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: ‘Ye must have faith.’”
- Sir Arthur Eddington was an active and devout Quaker, who believed, “In science as in religion the truth shines ahead as a beacon showing us the path; we do not ask to attain it; it is better far that we be permitted to seek.”
- Carl Sagan believed “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”
So…is being open to revelation as well as discovery, what leads us to deeper, better ideas and insights (and not just about science)? I believe that is the only thing that can and does. My meeting with the laudable Dr. Goodenough reminded me of that…and I am inspired to explore more in that direction. Thank you, Dr. Goodenough, thank you!
Recently, after guiding one of my Mindfulness 2.0 classes, an enthusiastic student asked, “Could you teach this stuff at my office? Everyone’s despondent over what’s happening politically.” (Appropriately, the topic that evening was “Anger, Frustration, and Criticism.”) “Of course!” is always my reaction to sharing what I know about mindfulness. Having benefitted wildly from meditation and mindfulness, I want everyone to have their own keys to “Peaceful Even Though...” But don’t worry if you can’t attend the class, here are some notes you might find helpful.
The first idea I give any class addresses our own responsibility to change the conversation in our heads. If, every day, we consciously superintend those 50,000 to 70,000-ish (same-ish) thoughts routing through our brains, we won’t be buffeted by radios announcing the latest leaky intelligence, and headlines won’t impel us to bang our heads against a wall. What meditation does most immediately, is help us recognize all the subconscious chatter (influenced by news, upbringing, education, etc.), and then gently, kindly release it. Beneath the cacophony, we find our Truth, our Joy, our Peace. Though we usually use a timer to remind us to “come out of it,” the benefits remain inside us, and impressively accrue.
Within just eight short weeks, studies report that 10 daily minutes of sitting still and listening can develop thicker grey matter (a great thing!), while withering our primitive, immature fight-or-flight amygdala (another great thing!). Such changes confer myriad research-documented benefits: better grades, improved immunity, increased lifespan, better-balanced hormones, upgraded sleep, fewer cardiovascular problems, more loving relationships, and heightened self-confidence, to name only a few. No brain-measuring fMRI is necessary, since we can feel our brains change, and know our (who-put-all-those-there?) thoughts no longer unconsciously control us. That’s a major step forward in the feel-good department.
But inward examination and release are only the beginning, they are the chorus of a new song. “Mobile Mindfulness” moves us beyond zafu-sitting and into the world; it consciously wraps the peace from our meditation around our dailynesses. And how that shows up every day is the new verse. Equipped with better brain-power, less fettered by unproductive thoughts, we see the world from a different angle, a higher perspective, and that changes everything for the better.
The second thing I share is my favorite—and speediest—peace hack ever. Students have told me that this short practice helps them find their way to calmness faster than meditations they’ve practiced for years. Try it yourself:
Set your timer for a whopping 3 minutes. Close your eyes and breathe (you do that anyway, so you’re already 96% there!) Breathe consciously, watching air flow in and out. Now, think of something for which you are profoundly grateful, something that brings humongous joy into your life (keep breathing). Bask in the fabulosity. When the bell beckons, if you are like most people, you will have found some of the peace that may have been eluding you lately, or even for decades.(During classes, I get to watch people’s lips curl into smiles, which is thoroughly delightful!) When I practice this mini-med, my energetic direction change is noteworthy, and knowing I can do it to myself, for myself reminds my subconscious that nobody else (not a politician, not the economy, not my teenager…well…) is responsible for my happiness. Talk about liberating!
From our weekly homework (it’s a class: we have homework!), we all look forward to hearing how beautifully mindfulness plays out in the lives of our classmates. Recently, I assigned everyone to send “love” to strangers—in Starbucks, the library, wherever—and watch what happened. I received the following email just one hour after class:
I practiced feeling loving after our class - I went to the frozen yogurt shop next door - the person at the counter and I talked, and he rang me up and then said, “forget it, I should have the frozen yogurt on the ‘house’ b/c he wanted me to have a good night.” How crazy!!! Very new experience for me! --J
So, imagine you give yourself the gift of a new, more Love-filled perspective, not from convincing yourself something/someone is “right” or “wrong,” but from learning to listen to the wisdom within you. Just be still and listen a few minutes daily. Trust me, when you can do that, you create a world that offers you a lot more than free frozen yogurt!
Last Saturday I experienced the humongous joy and privilege of walking with approximately three million other women and men and children and dogs from around the world (I rode there with my beautiful friends, Claudia, Gary, and Audrey…THANK YOU!). The “march” (which seemed more like a very large gathering of friends than a protest) felt like an honor—I was deeply grateful for everyone around me who devoted their day to lovingly and democratically expressing their opinions (mostly).
Among the women and men and children and dogs, were some amazingly creative signs. Mine was neither “amazing,” nor “creative.” In fact, my oldest son complained that both sides were completely irrelevant to the march!
Here they (yawn yawn) are:
I totally see what he means. No mention of Trump or body parts or rights or popular votes. No graphics. And not even funny! I get it. But then I saw a sign, held by someone certainly known as Grandma, that said, poignantly, "I cannot believe I still have to protest this shit!" It immediately convinced me that the sign I carried was EXACTLY the point!
The plain sentiments--though totally devoid of color and pizazz, and boringly glitter-free--did get to the heart of the issue: Compassion. If compassion had been the centerpiece for discussion and policy-making way back when that darling still-protesting woman first marched, she (and the rest of us) wouldn’t need to march now.
We humans often mistake symptoms for "The Issue." In this case, the symptoms are many: women's/human rights, racism, reproductive options, immigration, walls, diversity, small hands, democracy, etc. They are all, however, symptomatic manifestations of a culture that doesn't know how to teach peace, and has forgotten how to let Love win.
Maybe, though, the mightily-peopled march served as the beginning of remembering. Love was palpable in every footstep that day. It was with us, supporting us, leading us on. We all felt it. In a very brief moment, when someone began a negative Trump chant, a brilliant woman behind me gently responded, "Oh, let's not make this about him: let's keep it about us." The silence that followed beautifully acknowledged our (mostly) common agreement.
Here's the question to actually remediate The Issue: as we all continue marching onward as committed citizens, how do we remember to make changes that create more peace, more Love? How do we make it about us? How can we keep the march going? Part of my own answer has been to start a weekly meditation (I call it SOLVing: Sending Out Loving Vibrations). I've invited everyone I think might be remotely interested to either join me energetically or "for real." We started today, and it was INCREDIBLE! People showed up feeling frazzled, and left with the gift of peace to share with anyone they were about to encounter.
So, if you are reading this, I invite you to SOLV with us every Wednesday, from 11:30-noon Texas time. If we practice peace and teach peace, then Love wins. Always. It is the Truth of us.*
* SOLVing means sitting in peace, breathing in and out, conscious of our breath. What I do is "drop down" to my heart, and imagine sending Love out in every direction from my heartspace, similar to how a pebble ripples after being dropped in the water, but in every dimension. I don't think thoughts, but if some try to stop in, I just offer them Love and let them float on by, returning to my breath. That's how I SOLV, anyway, you might find something even better for YOU!
Kelly Corbet is an author, mother, meditator, and mindfulness teacher whose greatest wish is to invite more Love into the world. Her latest book, Already Here: the matter of Love, was published just a few months ago.
Having listened for a week now, I am compelled to suggest we not allow Trump to "win." We can bemoan (and gnash and whimper and scream) over the current presidential choice, but does it serve us? What we focus on expands, so it is only ourselves we hurt in the bemoaning (and gnashing and whimpering and screaming). If we give up even one moment of joy and consciously created positive change, then Trump wins over and over and over. We allow him to trap our precious focus that, rather than eternally enumerating his faults, could be used to propel us forward and upward. Is that what we really want? Again: does it serve us?
I think part of our collective despondency results from an inherited (and unexamined) inaccurate belief. Somehow we ascribe to a view that goes along these lines: the deeper we suffer, the deeper we care. But is that true? Have we just assumed those traits are bonded because for so long, they have been? Are they really inextricably co-mingled? Mother Theresa is smiling (or at least looks peaceful) in any picture I’ve ever seen of her. And as far as I know, Gandhi never flipped anyone off, or chanted nasty invectives as successful change tactics. Kvetching is not what made them great changers. How much we drag the pain along with us is just how much we drag the pain along with us, NOT how much we care, and CERTAINLY NOT how effective we are at change.
People claim a “right” to feeling bad over the presidential selection. Of course! We all have the “right” to feel however we feel. You are totally, 100% in charge of your feelings, so feel whatever you want! But know that you are choosing those feelings. Trump may now be in charge of policies I do not align with, but he is NOT in charge of my joy. I offer you the possibility that it’s not constructive or healthy to allow him to be in charge of yours, either. As my friend Julie stated so accurately, “Nobody’s happy being unhappy.”
This is our chance, we left-leaners who profess a love for the environment; a view of the world that includes more bridges than walls; rights to equality that are blind to gender or color or anything else; and a belief that kindness is what makes us great. Don’t let Trump "win!" He will likely be in the White House for a few years, yes, but let’s use those four years to organize and bring forth our own positive changes. It is our choice—individually and collectively—that will keep America great!
Here are three steps to extinguishing the Post-Election Blues:
1. Every time you listen to/read a Trumpism that starts your blood boiling, stop and remember that you can do something positive to balance his actions (and your emotional power). For example:
a. Angry that he wants to cut social programs? Have you volunteered today?
b. Concerned that he’s trying to change regulations that matter to you? Have you called your representative in Congress, town council, or neighborhood board to share your opinions?
c. Don’t think you have time to actively help today? Have you written a quick thank you note to someone you feel is intently change-making on behalf of your values?
d. Concerned about the environment? Try gathering a group to clean up your local trails, or parks (even if the “group” is only you and your neighbor, at least you are moving forward!)
There are plenty more undertakings you can drive instead of merely reiterating your outrage. Get creative and get going!
2. Start changing The Conversation. Instead of echoing how all your friends, or your entire city is devastated, begin talking about things you can do to change or even pre-empt the perceived ruination of our country/the environment/rights for various groups/etc. Don’t intensify the problem by focusing only on the problem.
3. Send Out Loving Vibrations (SOLV). To me, this is the most important, and is what I do with many friends when we feel stressed. We text/call each other, and “together” (maybe from different states or even countries), we Send Out Loving Vibrations. You can call it prayer or meditation if you like, but those words seem to have some extra meanings attached, and SOLVing is not “religious,” nor does it ask for anything. It’s just what it says: it’s an outward-facing thing. I cannot possibly relate how valuable and uplifting this practice has been for me and many friends. For 5 minutes or 30, alone or simultaneously with someone else who wants to send Love the same direction, just breathe in and out, and offer Love to the situation in whatever way feels most natural to you. Since I believe Big Love (Grace, whatever you want to call it) is always around us, just waiting for us to notice it, I simply try to get in the flow of noticing it. It’s truly a miraculous practice. (If you ever want to do it together, follow me on Twitter—that’s where I send out group SOLV invites!)
Once you decide that Trump is not the president of your happiness, the election—and all the potential good you can create with your new perspective—will take on a whole new meaning. You won’t even remember to bemoan (or gnash or whimper or scream), so empowered will you be with all the concrete blessings you are now sharing with the planet.
 Grace is really hard to notice when we are so loudly complaining about what we don’t like!
Kelly Corbet is an author, mother, meditator, and mindfulness teacher whose greatest wish is to invite more Love into the world. Her latest book, Already Here: the matter of Love, was published earlier this year.
Inescapable witness to recent political paroxysms, I’ve been wishing (along with so many of us) for a totally honest, compassionate, intelligent, polite leader to show up. Where is he or she? Where is a universally respected expert to help us foist ourselves out of the mud? So, while I usually read material with more intrigue than—yawn—manners, I was smitten with a list of social prescriptions our first president copied (from French Jesuits) when he was only 16. In these “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation,” some concepts remain basic, and some are so long anachronistic they just seem silly. But the employment of most is so remote from our lives today, that I had to wonder how the bulk of “Civility and Decent Behavior” went so otherwhere. Of course, this little trove can’t, on its own, lift us beyond where we can only take ourselves, but it is insightful to look at the self-control and self-responsibility concepts that surely contributed to George Washington’s undeniable greatness…and the germinal understructure of our (still awesome) country.
As far as I can see, civility and decent behavior have largely evacuated quite a few arenas: politics, media, culture, commerce, education, religion. But it does us no good to point fingers: the lack of “civil and decent” conduct just shows up in each of these outlets as consequence, not cause. For example, disregarding recommendation #49, to “Use no Reproachful Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile,” is not the reason nobody’s respectful in politics now, nor is such ignorance the grounds for random mass shootings. Most of us have simply forgotten to pay attention to—or even consciously come up with—our own list of how we should treat ourselves and each other. And in losing our focus, we forgot the Truth about ourselves (we aren’t born mean or nasty!)
Probably because of the looming election, I’m tempted to say our Truth-nesia drops anchor most deeply in political waters. With that in mind, consider President Washington’s first two “Rules:”
1. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present. (Translation: Be respectful to others.)
2. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered. (Translation: Keep your hands off your privates in public and—this is pure interpolation on my part—off anyone else’s, as well.)
These turn out to be two rather helpful hints while participating in this election (and life). Though George didn’t face an opponent, can any of us fathom the father of our country treating his political peers to incendiary scowls, ardent interruptions, or flagrantly rude, 1780’s Tweet-equivalents? My imagination just isn’t that creative. And even if the spiel about the cherry tree didn’t quite pass history’s fact-check department, George’s reputation for telling the truth stands solid in numerous other instances. He was meticulous in his attention to civility and decent behavior (I mean, there he was, a teenager, scribing ways to improve!)
Of course, politics is not the only field where just being nice proves just too much. What we call culture has also sloughed off civility in plenty of formats, particularly music. My youngest son is a break dancer/hip hop ace, so we discuss lyrics, and more importantly, lyric meanings a lot—which is how, at age ten, he came to know the definition of “misogynistic.” For example, in “Rock My Chain,” Fetty Wap sings the same word that appropriately thrust Trump into a murky and indecorous spotlight. Somehow, though, it’s not only ok, but lucrative, if it’s art. We listen to it, admire it, buy it, sing it, and then we wonder why women don’t enjoy across-the-board equality. Or more basically still, respect.
Then there is our clear obsession with all things material. In Washington’s 52nd rule, he advises, “In your Apparel be Modest and endeavor to accommodate Nature, rather than to procure Admiration.” Magazines, songs, movies, advertising—they are all more or less paeans to expensive stuff, from shoes, jeans, “raris,” sex, and drugs, etc. None of that aligns with us trying not to “procure Adimiration.” Isn’t the admiration of others the reason we spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of sneakers? And while I’m not saying any of these things is bad—pretty stuff is fun!—I do believe (and I’m confident George would back me up on this one) our obsession with them doesn’t serve us. It adds neither to our cultural civility nor our decent behavior.
“Celebrities” exist center stage in a way most of us will never endure, but if we are part of this society, and continue to do nothing but act disgusted and Tweet/complain about the bad stuff going on “out there,” then we are, very surely, contributors to the problem. I suggest we try, as George did, to think about (and perhaps, radically, write down) our own list of how to behave, and then follow it. We must intentionally change our common path. For me that includes choosing to see the best in people (including politicians and musicians who employ words I don’t love); helping more in my community; being the most loving family member and friend I can be; and spending more time in silence (AKA meditation/prayer), where I can remember the Truth about me (and everyone else).
And, I just might glance through President Washington’s suggestions a few more times. I’m not sure that #95, advising us not to “Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pie upon a Dish,” will help me reach a higher level of civility, but his last point, #110, which admonishes, “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience,” will surely compel and propel me (and all of us?) in the right direction.
Kelly Corbet is an author, mother, and meditator, whose greatest wish is to invite more Love into the world. Her latest book, Already Here: the matter of Love, was published earlier this year.
 He remains, in fact, the ONLY president backed 100% by the entire Electoral College. Twice.
I have a middle schooler now, which provides more opportunity than I thought I needed to practice the power of words and intention (this is, after all, my second go ’round!) What I find helpful in times when, ahem, we aren’t quite communicating at our highest levels, is to think of rice. Not just any rice, but rice (as pictured below) that has been subjected to negative or positive words.
In case you haven’t read about this in Already Here yet, on pages 116-118 I discuss research by the brilliant Dr. Emoto that creatively illustrates how words visually alter stuff our eyes can see. He conducted an easily-done-at-home experiment with two containers of white rice. One was “treated” with kind words, the other with unkind words. The rice that received loving vibes stayed beautifully pristine. The rice that essentially “got yelled at” became schmutzy. You can find varying degrees of shmutziness-proof if you Google “Emoto rice experiment,” but the results mostly lean the same direction. Rice likes being treated kindly.
At first it seems surprising—impossible, even—that rice could respond to emotions (AKA our energy). We do know the human version, though. We’ve all probably felt the downward energy shift after a blurted salvo of accusations or any form of not-so-kindliness. We’ve also, no doubt, basked in the energetic afterglow of generosity, gratitude, and Love (given and received…they’re actually the same thing).
Remembering all this makes it even more meaningful that I not bombard my beautiful pre-teen son with my own inability to witness his un-schmutziness, in spite of what things look like in the moment. So, when my darling, hilarious, joy-filled, glorious son forgets his innate perfection in loud and spikey ways, I try to remind myself to look past the forgetful behavior to his Real Truth!
It is not always easy, and I am not always successful. And let me be clear: by “successful,” I do NOT mean that my redhead has suddenly experienced a personality transplant and skips downstairs (while whistling) to pick up the backyard dog poop before the need even crosses my mind. Success has nothing to do with his momentary behavior. “Success” in this scenario is me maintaining an unwavering focus and my own equanimity (or, finding it quickly if it had thoughts of taking a vacation!) By doing that, I can model behavior that precludes yelling as default mode, and, moreover, keep myself in a Loving place, which is so much more the Truth of me than anger (ahh, the irony of this lesson!!!)
I’m hoping to report soon that my constancy of attitude, and imperturbability have (finally!) been practiced to the point of mastery. Read: my son no longer provides me with surprisingly frequent chances to remember our Truth. In the meantime, I will attempt gratitude (rather than irritation or self-censure) for the opportunities to hone my skills.
 Very interestingly, there are also experimenters who set out to disprove the power of sent Love. I’m not sure why people feel threatened by information that demonstrates our ability to change the world with our Loving thoughts...
One characteristic I noticed while in Croatia is how differently Croatians relate to their country from how we Americans relate to ours. For one thing, Croatians actually call the place they live their “homeland.” When’s the last time you (if you’re American) thought of your own country as your homeland? Oddly, we generally only reference that word in a slightly defensive way, connected to borders and keeping others out. There nothing inherently sentimental about that word for an American. Not so the Croatians—I heard that phrase over and over during my too-brief stay. And most times, when talking about their homeland, Croatians actually put their hands on their heart. It’s very touching to witness.
Another difference I noticed is how Croatians institutionally prioritize their values. For example, today, waiting to go through security at the airport, I witnessed the guard ward off a couple walking through the vacant “PRIORITY” lane. “No, you must stop!” he announced. With a bit of swag, the trespassing man answered, “It’s fine, I am in first class.” “Yes, maybe,” the agent responded, but you are not Priority: you have no children with you.” And he waved them back to the end of the line.
What? The key to priority standing in this country’s travel standards has nothing to do with financially-induced status? It’s not about how many miles you have flown (a proxy for how hard you work)? No. Status in this context is family-induced! What a concept! (Though I am long past the days of schlepping car seats and strollers and screaming kids, I love it when exhausted parents get to cut to the front of the line!)
Of course, broad generalizations like this really only tend to make things smaller. I know that, and yet, they point to an attitude I fell in love with in this glorious, rich-in-so-many-ways spot on the earth.
(I love traveling. You get to find out so much about yourself and your own “homeland.”)
To celebrate this holiday with a bang, how about creating your own personal form of independence? Independence from a thought that’s been keeping you limited at some level. Here’s the plan (a little like the exercises in Already Here):
1. Choose a thought that’s been nagging you. One that’s been constantly revisiting you. Keeping you from total joy. Like the presidential campaign. Or how much it drives you crazy that your mother-in-law always criticizes your cooking. Or your boss (who is completely unaware of your awesomeness!)
2. Sit with that thought a minute. When you conjure up how furious you are at your boss, does it make you feel any better? Does it get her to realize your fabulosity? My guess is, NO. It does, however, keep you from joy in the moment (actively displacing the possibility for power-thinking).
3. Now try this: every time that irritation/frustration arises in you today (tomorrow, next week…), send it off into space, like a firework. Marvel at how much space it takes up, and then be grateful for the information that is actually telling you to create something different. Maybe turn off the news. Take your mother-in-law out to dinner, or ask her to teach you how to cook a favorite meal. Quit your job, or at least put your resumé together.
4. Hopefully, this exercise will accomplish (at least) three things. First, it will help you realize how much time you’ve actually wasted being mad about something you probably always had at least some power to change (uhm, when I practiced this, I was embarrassed by how many times I’d let a particular negative thought form a rut in my neural pathways!) Second, it will help you practice being grateful for information, rather than being resentful (a great practice overall, because you can’t change a situation if you don’t create alternatives to “not this!”). And third, it will give you the opportunity to change your mind! You—and only you, really—can come up with happier choices in your life.
5. Now, celebrate the very best kind of independence: knowing that your own happiness is free from whatever anyone else does (or doesn’t do).
I’m not much of a Tweeter, but I’m always glad to send Love—especially with others (see Chapter 6 of Already Here). Frequently I text friends and family (and vice versa) so we can simultaneously send out Love. We don’t have to be in the same room—in fact, I’ve experienced plenty of “off-site miracles,” confirming that the power of Love does not require proximity.
So here's my big plan for Tweeting: send out regular Love Tweets…that is, I’ll Tweet when I’m about to sit down for a few minutes of sending Love, and anyone who wants to join in, can! Together we can amp up the Love! I’ll Tweet at random times, so people from all over the world can join in. Even if you can’t participate at that moment, you can know that Love was sent, and happily feel the extra conscious Love in the world!
Follow me @Kelly_Corbet
Wherever you are is the entry point.
I wondered if I could answer my need to share my beliefs in a way that made sense to people; that didn’t prompt head-scratching, brow-furrowing, or any number of “This Does Not Compute” responses; that could be helpful. So I wrote a book, and foisted it on some of my good friends to edit.
“Kelly, I can hear your voice as I read it!” “It feels like you’re right there with me on every page!” “I finally understand what you’ve been saying all these years!”
Now we all wondered together: “Do you have to know Kelly to ‘get’ Already Here?”
I decided, as with most things in my life, not to care. From deep inside, I had to know for a true fact, that even if nobody other than my mother (and these few friends) enjoyed it, I would find my reward in the writing.
I thought I did.
I was shocked, then, to discover that thumbs-up-ness by someone I’ve never even met could touch me so much. Aberjhani’s kind words actually made me cry. It wasn’t the first time. Aberjhani’s poetry repeatedly breaks me open and inspires me to jump for (tear-filled) joy. He conjures the same kind of magic Rumi did: assembling mere words, he sublimely morphs them into life-changing epiphanies. I really don’t know how he does it, but the world is more beautiful because of it, so I’m thankful he does.
And, I’m thankful for his gracious review of Already Here: the matter of Love— https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1680065227
Already Here took me four-ish years to write, and FIVE DECADES (and probably several hundred lifetimes) to curate. My goal, my hope, my prayer, is to offer up my “study notes” in the form of Already Here, possibly saving you from committing mis-steps similar to mine. Think of all the time you’ll save!
I’m sharing this bit of a disclaimer, because a dear friend who read the book must have forgotten my uncountable foibles that so abundantly paved my way to Now, and felt she somehow came up short. This brilliant, kind, funny beautiful soul could never come up short! Nor, actually, can anyone! We are all precisely where we are supposed to be. Phew!
So, again, these are my study notes. Were I to chronicle all—or even a zillionth—of my mistakes, challenges, shortcomings, and idiosyncrasies, the resulting book would be so unwieldy, so intimidatingly gargantuan, so incredibly boring (due to the repetition of the very same mistake made so very many times), that not even my über-supportive mother would want to read it. So, in Already Here, I trimmed quite a bit to focus on the outcome, the lessons I learned (so I could most efficiently share them with you).