Empathy is something we could all use a lot more of. Enjoy the audio on The Empathy Habit. To listen, click on the link, and you should automatically be able to hear it. If not, right click the link, then save to your desktop to listen on your own audio software.

The papers in my office must copulate at night because I swear to you I have recycled, tossed and filed for weeks and it keeps on coming.

The Grand Canyon

In yet another vigorous act of purging, I recently threw out reams of grade school notebooks that my children will never glance at again. In doing so I came across an archived document of my own that brought me to my knees. It was an old book proposal for a kindness project I so firmly believed in that I even contacted the Dalai Lama to see if he wanted in on it.

He politely declined.

But what moved me more than my unexpressed passion on those pages in that moment was the inner knowing that we can all move the world with our special kind of awesome, even if things, such as my book project on kindness, don’t work out as you’d like.

In the wise words of singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, sometimes your life turns out better than you can even imagine.

If you read my post on the pretty pictures in our heads, you will know that what we envision and what really happens are often two separate events. The arc of our suffering is determined by the level of our attachment to the outcome of our expressed desires. With the law of attraction, we are led to believe we can fully manifest our destiny. And to some degree I believe that is true. We have more influence over our lives than we care to admit. We can consciously engage in the universal energy force field that pulls in whatever we call out to. That is what happens anyway, whether we do it consciously or not. We bring in the lessons we need to learn time and again until we have really learned them.

If we take full personal responsibility for our lives, we would no longer look around at others to blame for our unhappiness. Do you want to be happy? Guess who you’ve got to love first?

Yup. That’s right. You.

If you spend your time trying to please others, you will be left depleted. I continue to learn that lesson and recognize my own conditioning in that area. If you raise others up while doing the same for yourself, you are on a path to joy. And your awesome will grow in kind.

Maybe one day that kindness book will get written and His Holiness will decide to play with me after all. In truth, it doesn’t matter either way. If I live the principles set out in that untold work, all the effort I put into writing it will have been worth it just the same.

How will you move the world with your awesome today?

The kingdom of God resides within us all. Whatever your belief system is, know this: you can change the world. In fact, you do every day, with every action, with every encounter. All that you need already lies within you. The question is how will you change the world today?

Here’s Charlie Chaplin’s suggestion. I agree. Do you?

The Busy Monster

If you’ve ever uttered the words “I’m too busy,” what you are really saying is “X,Y,Z is more important than you at the moment.” We all set priorities, even if we deny that is what we are doing. We feel victimized by our lives, when in truth, we had a strong hand in creating that life in the first place. Work takes precedence over our social lives, family, even ourselves. We race from one thing to the next, attempting to keep it all in line.

As a result, we have become less spontaneous because there is no room for it. We creep farther and farther away from our true selves because, quite frankly, we haven’t a spare moment to even consider what that is. In our overcommitted, overscheduled lives, we have no time for each other. No time to say thank you for kind gestures because we barely even notice them. Gratitude and connection land in the pile of obligations that we will get to “someday”.

The busy monster feeds on our stress. He needs it to survive. Busy comes at the expense of relationships, not only with others, but also with ourselves.

Slow can remedy that.

In an interesting exchange with a friend who had just spent a week’s retreat in Bali getting massages and enjoying true suspension of thought, she admitted to me that she is committed to a less stressful life. But she could only come to that conclusion by slowing down and realizing how much better she felt doing so. Her new commitment might mean saying “no” more often, but less because she is too busy and more because she doesn’t want to be.

Imagine a world in which we say “no” to busy? What deeper connections could we foster with each other with that kind of commitment?

Terror has no place here

September 11, 2011

If you have a living memory of this day ten years ago, it is a day you will never forget. The atrocities, the suffering, the heroism and the long-lasting impact of September 11th have forever marked our world’s landscape.

It was also the day that air travel changed. Forever.

For anyone who has had to nearly disrobe at security, suffer the scrutinizing scorn of a guard who thinks your ten-year-old might be hiding something under his hat or feel the pervasive insecurity of being airborne for, you hope, the entire flight, the wave of terror still rings in our ears.

You may have watched the tributes, read the decade-later stories or even attended a commemorative service today. But one thing I would like to mention is that humanity lives on — even in the face of such inhumane events.

When my son boarded a United Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Chicago recently, he proudly wore his pilot’s hat. The stewardess suggested we meet the captain at the end of the flight. I thought perhaps he would come out of the cockpit and meet us in the safety of the jetway. But no, he invited us into the cockpit itself. I got to take a picture of my son sitting in the co-pilot’s seat. I even was allowed to flip a few switches to which the pilot mock-yelled “Don’t touch that one!” after I had. I jumped a foot in the air (which is hard to do in the confines of a cockpit). He was as kind as could be and even though we had under sixty minutes to meet our connection to Munich, I took the time because I wasn’t sure if my son would ever get to live in a world that allowed this again.

The kindness of the United Airlines folks goes further. Because a gate crew member reminded my husband that his frequent flyer miles had not yet been recorded, Husband asked for the crew to record his miles at the gate in Chicago. And from that request came another offer, this time from Lufthansa (our connecting airline): a free upgrade to Business Class, which Husband graciously offered to me.

Kindness goes around and around, from the ground crew to the air crew to the next one at O’Hare.

There is humanity in this world, even at airports and on airplanes. Terror has no place where love can grow so beautifully. And it can grow anywhere. Even in a cockpit four feet wide.

Every once in a while, my dad sends me some really great tips. Here’s a feel good three-minute award-winning short to start your week.

Bottom line: It’s never too late to be kind.

Life is not a plan. It’s a journey.

This is something my mom knows well. So it was fitting that, as we journeyed NYC-bound on the Acela Express, we would soon learn not only people can travel, but things can, too.

You see my mom lives in the belief that life is a God trip; God only knows where you’ll end up. As we zipped up the East Coast toward Manhattan, I helped her set up her blog, aptly named Life is a God Trip to celebrate her philosophy in an online space. Snapping a photo of her, I wanted to capture her joy. But little did I know that that photo would be the key to the camera itself.

We got settled in our hotel room, had a nice meal and retired early as we knew the next day would be long. Up at dawn, we breakfasted, then took a taxi to the harbor for a boat tour of Lower Manhattan. It was then that I realized my beloved camera, the holder of so many memories during my mammoth five-state five-week trip, was gone.

I should have known the camera had its own ideas. It had slipped from my lap and into my bag on the train. Little did I know it was practicing its escape!

Later that day, I half-heartedly asked the hotel security if they had seen the camera. They had not. Saddened, but steeped in my God trip knowledge, I sensed the camera had decided to take its own journey.

And so it had.

Yesterday a woman left a comment on my mom’s blog, explaining she lived in Venezuela and that her mother had found a hot pink camera in a NYC taxi. She scanned the pictures to find a clue as to the owner’s identity. That’s when she came upon my mom’s photo of joy in front of her newly birthed blog. She must have read the URL, then matched her picture to the one on the camera. She was writing to ask for the address so that she may return it on her trip to Florida, where my own God trip in April began.

No, my friends. Life is not a plan. It is indeed a journey, one of joy and grace and miracles.

For this I am forever grateful. Thank you, Alexandra, of Venezuela. Your kindness will live on in all that I do.

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The Power of Words

March 9, 2011

The pen is mightier than the sword. That’s a saying that struck a chord in my young mind so many years ago. Words can kill. Words can heal. Words are beauty and grace and love. Words are ugliness and dishonor and hatred. Words can move mountains or slay you with a single utterance.

BeliefNet just published a series of inspirational quotes from some amazing women who have found profound words to express their own experience. This one particular quote rang so true for me that I’m sharing it with you.

“Your own words are the bricks and mortar of the dreams you want to realize. Your words are the greatest power you have. The words you choose and their use establish the life you experience.”  ~ Sonia Croquette

So if you say “I am out of time,” you are right. If you say “I have more than enough,” you are right again.

If you live within the abundance of the moment, even the most painful, darkest ones, you will know that you are living full out and that you are the creator of that moment by the mere choice you make in how you wish to interpret it.

Today’s slow action: Take a moment to say something kind to someone. It could make all the difference in the world.


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Time to Be Kind

November 3, 2009

As Halloween decorations get whisked off front lawns, we enter the season of gratitude. Numerous studies have shown that being thankful can contribute to longevity. Gratitude also fosters kindness, something the world can use more of today.

As we bustle about, stressed about the economy and our futures, let us remember all that we have in the here and now. It is most certainly easier to look at what we do not have; after all, human beings are designed to reach beyond their limits. While stretching our hands to the sky, may we remember also to ‘reach back’ and offer a helping hand to those who need it.

Practice  a random act of kindness today. Then let me know how it was for you. Chances are the gift of your time will garner more goodness than you ever thought imaginable.

After all, time, like kindness, is one of those things you can share and still keep in the very same moment.

I have been to New York City at least five times in as many years. Something has changed in the City. It is softer, kinder, more humane. After spending five days there, I experienced nothing but kindness wherever I went.

Someone once told me you see the world through a mirror, not a lens. That which you project is what you see. But there was something more than friendliness returned. There was a deeper level of authenticity I had never known New Yorkers were capable of before.

We attended the very last performance of Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera. Right before intermission, the general manager came on stage with the entire cast to honor one of the lead singers for his twenty-five years of service. The award was swathed in a piece of the old Met’s curtain. That they all spoke English, not Italian, pulled me from my reverie. I suddenly realized where I was again (their performance was that convincing ~ the second act was equally so). By doing so, they created a new connection with the audience. These were real people up there doing what they love for us. I felt myself steeped in profound gratitude.

Consider my fabulous hotel, Portland Square Hotel, whose unbelievably accommodating staff matches its equally cool location just off Time Square. It had a different feel than I remember it. They cared. And they showed it.

Perhaps there’s something in the water on 47th. I don’t know.  Cheryl Huse, new-york-040the hotel front desk staff member remembered my name, cheerfully reminded me of package pick-up as they arrived, and even hugged me at the end. Or Lee, the manager, who skillfully handled an upset taxi driver negotiate another $4 from some British guests who unwillingly stiffed him of some toll money.

starbucksOr what about the Starbucks next store at the 47th and 6th NHL store location? You’d think Starbucks is the same wherever you go. Not so. These people stood for making a difference.

Ted took orders while the baristas carried out our orders. In his loving style, Ted asked us what we preferred, then asked us our names. The best part was he remembered them. With a swarm of caffeine-craving people, he remain undaunted. In fact, his laughter and bright eyes were infectious.

It wasn’t only the convenient location that prompted me to go there again. It was the feeling I had while in the store. On the morning of my departure (Sunday) Adam and Andy cheerfully helped a Spanish couple who was struggling with their English.

“Hablo Espangol?” Andy asked.  Visibly relieved, they ordered in their native tongue.

“I know you, but I don’t know your sister,” Adam said to me as I ordered a tall coffee with room for milk. I smiled, then introduced my mom who was celebrating her 68th birthday. He gave her her chai latte for free.

So listen up, Jerrel, the store’s manager at the NHL location. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it well. We walked away feeling warm on the inside, not only for the hot coffee I eagerly poured into my jet-lagged system, but for the feeling of humanity that has entered New York.

Kindness rules no matter where you are in the world. I am inspired by the people I have met. It makes me ask: what kindness can I bring to this day?