Feb. 9, 2018
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:
Be, patient student driver
Nov. 14, 2016
Having listened for a week now, I am compelled to suggest we not allow Trump to keep "winning." 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.
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.
JAN. 25, 2017
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.
Excerpt from my upcoming book, Wild Peas:
I’d say I teach mindfulness in prison, but that would be an impossible lie. There’s no verb—in English, at least—for what happens in the cell every week when I sign in, get patted down, and meet with the YOP (Youthful Offender Program) girls. We talk, we laugh, we share our hearts. But the classic definition of “teach”—where a “more educated” someone imparts information to the less well-versed—is not what happens in those moments. What happens is connection. And every time I feel it, I hear an eraser scrubbing away—pcht, pcht, pcht—at the imaginary lines of our separateness. Like how Zuzu Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, believed ringing bells signified a wing-earning angel. When we are connecting, we become a blur of divine humanness, where discreet start and stop points just don’t exist. Pcht, pcht, pcht.
I hadn’t intended poetry to be such a strong link in this mindfulness class—I’ve never asked any class to access poetry as a deepening tool—but a couple of the girls mentioned they liked to write poetry, and I saw it as an opportunity to bond over something I already adored. So, I introduced them to some of my most-loved poets, including Mary Oliver, Aberjhani, e. e. cummings, and Kahlil Gibran (the girls already knew the amazing Maya Angelou). I then assigned them the task of writing a poem, or two, or ten, as their week’s homework. Pre-poetry, at least one or two girls managed to remember, and maybe even do the mindfulness homework. But when I returned the following Tuesday, not only had everyone remembered her homework, she’d done it with exuberance. Their work was written on scraps of paper, in a diary, and on the back of an infraction notice from a “case.” Whatever they could find became a palette for their creativity.
We undertook our beginning-of-class niceties, three of the girls seated with me at the rounded-so-there’s-no-sharp-edges, bolted-to-the-ground table. The other three girls sat backwards on the nearby, also-bolted metal bench, leaning heads and elbows over the hard, silver back. We usually start the evening with a gratitude meditation, but when I asked, the girls’ poetic enthusiasm was too compelling to postpone, so we decided to sit in gratitude after the poems. We agreed that we’d have much more to be thankful for, having heard the poetry.
Veronica is such a gentle soul, and the shyest of the girls, so she surprised me by offering to share her poem first. She handed it to me. I shook my head, “No, you read your beautiful art to us!” She looked down, thinking for a nanosecond, and when her face peered back into mine, I saw a delight that had not been there before. “And stand up!” We both smiled.
She began unfolding her paper, rising from her chair. Just then, Destiny, a girl sentenced to more years in prison than she’s been on the planet, felt a sudden urgency to interject before everyone started reading. With let-me-make-this-clear formality, she stared toward the far side of the bench, “Hey, Jada, I know you and me don’t get along, and you don’t think I like you, but I want you to know I will honor your poetry, and I will not use it against you later.” Destiny intuited what was coming. She sensed the depth and the beauty and the vulnerability about to emerge from those mismatched pages. Jada, not much for words, nodded, and tossed back half a smile. Pcht, pcht, pcht.
When Veronica finished reading, she looked up for approval, calling herself “a work in progress.” We clapped for Veronica, and we clapped for each girl as she stood relating horrors, that, unlike Destiny, I had ridiculously not anticipated. The poems were magically, surprisingly, simultaneously devastating and glorious. They pulsed a meter that sounded more like Kendrick Lamar than, say, Mary Oliver. Of course. The girls had appreciated Mary Oliver’s genius when we read it (who could not?!), but they saw themselves and the cadence of their lives in the rappers’ stories and their common anguish.
I only learned about rap because of my youngest son, a big fan. I wanted to understand what he was enjoying so much in his earphones, and why (my curiosity has been a great lamentation for my children). When it comes to music, I am all about the words, so rap lyric scrutiny undid me. I was judgy: my son had been bombarding his ears with “hoes” and “maggots” and “pumps.” But then, because my child was adamant about talent’s presence being smack dab in the middle of the singers and their songs, I “put on my listening ears,” and invited my listening heart. Together and separately, my rap-loving son and I read and watched videos of the rappers’ histories and lyrics, most of whom were not so different from the incarcerated YOPs I love and deeply admire.
It’s one thing when Kendrick Lamar sings about “dark,” “evil,” and “rot” inside his DNA. Or when Drake broods, “I pop bottles because I bottle my emotions.” Those lines don’t exactly sound happy or mindful, but these are not people I know. They seem to be living lives very, very distant from my own. Yet when the YOPs, girls who never had a childhood, stood in front of me revealing their aches, their souls, and their greatest yearnings in that familiar rap throb, something inside my heart erupted. A new level of “understanding” broke open in me. Suddenly, the odes to racks and ’raris seemed more a sacred call for connection than profanity set to a good beat. Pcht, pcht, pcht.
I’d say I teach mindfulness in prison, but that would be an impossible lie.