On Where to Go from Here

Seriously….

 

White men get it the least from the possible perspective of any kind of human that roams this planet.

 

Anyone who knows me or has been following my blogs knows that 2012 was a really transformational year for me. I won’t post my long story yet again, but a Franklin Covey class about the Steven Covey book “ 7 Habits” really transformed my thinking. I was just in a place in my life where it hit me at the perfect time. Then 4 years later I started Yoga Teacher training, and again I was hit with change. Change that this time I had to actually take steps to make. It caused anxiety to a point where I got a reasonable accommodation at work and was able to transform my whole life for the better. I couldn’t support the world as I knew it even unintentionally for a second longer.

 

Then in 2017 I took the CT state 50-hour mandated reporter training required to teach yoga at domestic violence shelters. Another training that rocked my world. My two greatest learning points were about white privilege and that I had PTSD.

 

I write this now because I’m not stupid. I have an MBA, but I didn’t know a thing about white privilege or that I had PTSD and was regularly triggered. How could I? It’s the same way a white man doesn’t understand and wouldn’t even comprehend until a woman told him about walking down the street with a key under the index finger – you know, just in case. Or how it feels when you are just going about your business and some man tells you to smile. Smile??? WTF. First of all, who walks around smiling? And secondly there is no good response to that. If I smile I am encouraging this stranger. If I don’t the stranger seems to just judge me as “Who does this bitch think she is?”

 

Most men that hear this are not those who tell women to smile and don’t get it. But I don’t know a woman who hasn’t heard that. Or “You look really nice today” (from someone you’ve never met). This is harassment because no matter what I do or say, I don’t feel comfortable – so how about um… you don’t say anything? I’m not going to feel better about myself because someone I don’t know tells me I look nice or to smile.

 

And why do I write this?

 

Because our world is dominated by white men for some reason. Most boss’ I have were white heterosexual men. Though I’ve had male boss’ that are not heterosexual or disabled, and they still might not get this blog. Most of the things I’ve had to put up with came from the perspective of a white man’s world. It’s not the norm and no one should put up with the insane perspective of “normal” any longer.

 

Perhaps I thought some things were normal. I grew up as the only female child in an immigrant Italian American household. Women were subpar. I didn’t believe it, but I was taught by my mother that it’s something women just put up with.

 

In a similar (thought NOOOOOooo comparison) way black people are taught about what is “normal” to put up with.

 

As I’m becoming older and more educated, I’m realizing how NOT normal it all is. How ‘un’ OK this is. It’s not OK that anyone male, female, black, white, red, yellow, gay, trans – whatever is not equal and should ‘put up with’ ANYTHING other than 100% respect for being a living being and having the privilege of life on earth with everyone else.

 

In the same way at 41 years old I suddenly learned and began to comprehend the term white privilege – it’s time for men, any non-minority and even women who don’t think for themselves to understand what they take for granted and are either purposefully or inadvertently supporting. I didn’t know. I also didn’t know how much sexual assault was prevalent until this training either. I took this in May 2017 when the budgets were just getting cut for such things and learned that they were using leftover funds for public awareness campaigns about these two things. #Me Too and the term white privilege came into play right around that time. It was the social justice funding that raised awareness and it needs to keep going. We need as a society to SUPPORT and not mock these things.

 

That is what these protests are trying to teach. I don’t support looting and shooting or any of that – but I CAN understand being FED the “EFF” up with so few understanding how poorly you’ve been treated. It’s not OK, but hate and wrong do not justify hate and wrong. Though – AGAIN, being a child abuse/domestic violence survivor – I understand (I really really really do) that at times the mind snaps and you are taken to a place where the only thing your body is doing is trying to survive something that may not even be real at the moment. I’ve been there. I’ve snapped… . I’ve dealt with the horrible consequences of it. But if the public is even more aware of how one could snap from being treated poorly due to these social justice issues (NOT to play down BLM at the moment) – perhaps folks like me wouldn’t snap and the public wouldn’t have to pay for the results of me being human and cracking under the pressure I’ve been put under. If I were black and experienced the same thing ON top of being black and what that must feel like every day… I can’t even tell you – I would have spun myself off the planet by now.

 

I know I can’t be the only person who understands this. I feel alive when I see similar stories and posts. But a piece of me dies inside EVERY time someone who is white, or male, or has never been raped or has never been abused in anyway replies in some way to tell me I’m crazy or that it’s BS. Once way back in the day when Facebook was new I wrote “I’m either an insane person living in a sane world, or a sane person living in an insane world”.

 

I didn’t have a platform or reason to point to why I felt like I did. But I know I felt like the world didn’t understand at the time. And I now know for sure that it’s the world that’s insane and not me. And even though I wrote that previous sentence and can erase it before I post it. I’m not going to. The humans in this world who were all born equal as the bible and all spiritual text tells us have been systematically trained to think in a certain way. And we can not only be systematically untrained, but we can then teach a new more loving and comprehensive norm to the younger generation – who will then do the same.

 

We have to invest in social issues. Invest in our youth. It’s the only way out of the mess we are in. We have to know at a cellular level that we are all equal. That we all want the same thing for ourselves and our kids and our pets no matter where we stand by the outer color of our skin, or genitals in our underwear, or political party that we check off at the DMV. We all want love and to be loved. It’s not a crime to understand that by accepting another viewpoint of getting there is a loving viewpoint and something those spiritual teachings we point to would want us to do. It’s ONLY by that example that the viewpoint of others who think there is only one way to get there would consider doing the same.

 

This blog might seem a bit all over the place – but the point is that we are not all equal right now. By acknowledging this FACT, changing the conditional way we’ve been taught to think, and by just letting go and accepting that as humans we all want the same things (and have an equal right to get them) BUT have learned by society different ways of getting there -we can make a difference.

 

Friends, we are in a strange time and have the ability to change history to make a difference. I want our kid’s kid’s kid’s…. to read about how in 2020 humans transformed rather than ‘effed’ up again. We have the power to do that! Are you in?

 

Please say you are… ❤

 

Because the light and humanity and all that is love in me, sees and honors the same you.

 

Namaste

Despair at 3 months into this Pandemic

11:30am

I log off my work laptop and stare at my personal one. I’m unsure what to do. I start typing. I don’t know how this blog will turn out, but I do feel the need for catharsis.

 

The world seems to be going down in flames. Our country literally is.

 

Each morning I wake up and feel compelled to open one of many news apps before I even get out of bed. The last few days have been another round of evening lootings, protests and fires. I feel safe in my home in my little neighborhood, but I want to help – don’t know how and feel helpless, depressed and anxious most of the days as a result.

 

I take a few deep breaths and get up oh so very slowly. Since not having to physically go into the office the mornings have been so much less rushed. It’s a welcome change to feeling harried from trying to get out the door. But it came at a price of lives, justice and the perceived feeling of safety and peace. Maybe it’s a good thing to expose what wasn’t really there as a safety net.

 

COVID-19 seems to have split an already divided society. I literally unfriended quite a bit of friends and family members from social media after reading such a barrage of insulting things about stereotypes of people. Yes, perhaps it could be seen as funny; but in a time like this and with working in healthcare – it’s not something to joke about, question or start putting up hoax flags about. I felt it to be utterly disturbing.

 

The past week since George Floyd has been even more disturbing. My husband has taken to looking up how to be a good leader during these times. He is prefacing each meeting he hosts by saying that silence is it’s own terrible statement, and then provides meeting members a platform to voice what is on their mind. After almost every meeting whether I’m working or not, he has been coming over to me and talking about feeling the need to connect. It’s kind of what is missing from society – connection. Not just because of COVID, but because people have all seemed to put “others” in a box and through the power of the Internet and social media have been able to only view what they’d like to in their own “special” box. Instead of all this advanced communication bringing us closer and able to understand one other as a human race, it’s driven us apart.

 

The riots and looting are not too much of a surprise. I’m white but I cannot express how much I feel for my fellow human black souls. While I don’t agree with destruction of property, I empathize but never understand the overwhelming feeling of being silenced for so long. How can they NOT be angry about the injustices that are all around us? It’s not as if it went away with the abolition of slavery or the 60’s movement for civil rights. Has it gotten better? Yes. But we are far from any place that is really equal. How long should anyone stand by quietly and accept a crappy reality?

 

I never even heard of white privilege until I was mandated to attend a class in 2017 to be able to volunteer to teach yoga at domestic violence shelters. It came as a shock. Not because I am ignorant, but because it has never been brought up to me in any format. In a way I feel guilty that I never understood the societal safety and validation I feel. It makes me want to cry for others that don’t feel that. We are all just so human in the same way dogs are just dogs and they have different fur colors. What does it matter? And why did humans along the way somewhere decide that it did?

 

COVID has exposed so much of what is wrong. Back in early March I wrote a blog about how Social Justice is not Socialism. What is wrong with national healthcare? Was our system working? Did it ever? I was seeing too much of this meme on Facebook and thinking that my friends were losing their minds.

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Little did I know that a week or so later our entire system would be put to the test. It just exposed how much it wasn’t. And instead of coming together as humans to determine what seems to be a fact that it sucks that people can lose their jobs (hence healthcare) in a heartbeat, that our black communities were more at risk because of their access to dependable news/sources/jobs, and that the country was not exactly booming when after two weeks into a pandemic many individuals and families alike had any savings to count on – we as a country DIVIDED! I’m still scratching my head about how. I know we all agree it sucks, but how did we turn that into a division of beliefs and political ones at that yet again?

 

Then throw in Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd…

 

I’m sorry, at no time and ESPECIALLY during these times should any leader be promoting violence, egging on protestors for a valid international health initiative (masks) and scorning peaceful protests for justice. It’s disgusting and I’m embarrassed to be considered a human with equal rights to some of our leaders. Not all opinions should count if they are hurtful to anyone else. Leaders do not have the right to say or do hurtful things because of their position.

 

I want to help but I don’t know how. I’ve been wanting to. For today I’m going to just put my despair out there via this blog; and perhaps weed the garden before it rains. And think. Think about how little ol’ me can help my fellow humans, because the light in me sees and honors the light in each and every one of them. Namaste.

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Was COVID-19 Inevitable?

Was something of this magnitude such as COVID-19 inevitable?

 

The current rate of change has risen exponentially in the 20th century. Because of the scale and how close recent time could show on a graph, it’s nearly impossible to see the impact of the rate of change since the industrial revolution because it is nearly vertical.

 

Recently something crazy happened on here….

 

After the Internet and Genome Project we became mobile. There isn’t even a place to put Mobile because it has changed the world so quickly that it’s almost as if they curve needs to go backwards to show the rate of change with population growth. It’s scientifically impossible for time to go backwards. On a flat graph it is a mathematical impossibility if the Y axis literally cannot go anywhere but up (so change can’t move) but the X axis must go on (time). Perhaps that is where we are in time – coming back to a state of being able to keep up.

 

As a society it’s imperative that we do more with less and back off from the expectation of instant gratification. Is any layperson suffering without Amazon packages arriving the next day? Does it hurt to plan grocery deliveries a few days ahead? Far more quickly than our ancestors who harvested and planted months ahead of time had to plan!

 

Societally our expectations are unrealistic.

 

These expectations are raping the earth and our resources at a rate that we cannot keep up with. Furthermore, the disbursement of resources over the human population is implausibly skewed. We are living unsustainably.

 

Yesterday I watched an interview from 1957 with Carl Jung. Over 60 years ago Jung stated that man is his own greatest enemy. Our minds, our fears, and the pursuit of more is a danger to the world. All we need to do is change our minds, our attitudes, and our expectations. If we live in gratitude with what we have, we would cease to take more than we need, and we would be part of the tipping point to bring the planet back into balance.

 

Humans couldn’t do anything about it, so maybe nature did. Let’s work with nature and give more than we receive for the greater good. Something will prevail. Let it be nature – because if man does, there might be nothing left.

Demystifying Yoga: Movement over Exercise

When I meet anyone and they first learn I either do or teach yoga, for some reason they feel compelled to tell me about their own experience with it. They tried it in the past and it was awful, they love it now, they have a friend or relative who likes it or teaches it… and/or more famously something along the lines of “I’m not flexible” “I had some sort of injury/surgery/etc” “It’s not for me”. One of my favorite funny lines is from the owner of the studio where I used to teach who said something to the effect of Saying you are not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a shower. 

 

If you’ve never done yoga or are a newbie to it, how can you already know it’s not for you? It’s kind of an everybody thing. AND it’s probably not what you think it is.

 

Myth buster:

You don’t have to be flexible or even “in shape” at all. I wouldn’t sign up for anything called “Power Yoga” or the hot yoga classes if you’ve never done it. If you read the description of the class and it says all levels are welcome, they mean it. If it says experience needed (which most don’t) those would be the ones to initially stay away from.

 

So what happens there?

You bend yourself into a pretzel of course… OH I CAN’T EXPRESS HOW MUCH I’M KIDDING. But I do feel like that is what people think when I tell them I do yoga.

 

You stretch and move. Often slowly and mindfully. You breath in a way that you control the breath and can notice and appreciate it. Nearly anyone can keep up. Most of the classes I’ve ever taught were to an older, less flexible population who tends to come back regularly because they start to feel a positive shift within themselves. Micro changes in their body, minds and spirits that become macro changes over time.

 

Folks with all kinds of injuries or past surgeries often attend. In fact, many a student finds yoga after surgery because their surgeon recommended it as helpful and one of the initial few activities the patient can engage in. Unless you are a well-practiced yogi I wouldn’t attend if you are pregnant, have osteopenia or osteoporosis. There are special classes for those students. If you are worried about a medical condition, don’t hesitate to call ahead of time or let the instructor know before class begins. He/she has heard it all before and may often some advice to modify. However the bottom line is always, if it hurts don’t do it.

 

It’s Movement rather than Exercise.

 

Yoga is not really exercise as we know it. It will not be as if you are in a group gym class spinning on a bike or doing aerobics, and if you lose pace you have to work to keep up. The teacher is not going to yell at you to keep it moving (high tail it out of there if they do). Most students in yoga classes understand that everyone is at a different level and will not become frustrated if someone is falling behind – if there was even a way to ‘fall behind’. It’s not that type of thing.

 

Yoga is about listening to your own body. The instructor is providing direction, but you ultimately decide how far you want to go in a pose or stretch. Yoga should never hurt, burn, or pinch in any way. If it does it’s vital to pull back from whatever just created that feeling and either ease into it another way or stay where you were a moment ago. A good teacher will create a space where students are not looking at one another or judging anyone else. Once you understand how the practice works, you will learn there is almost no reason to look past the bounds of your mat (except occasionally to view the teacher). The practice is about you, in your own space, on your own mat – connecting movement and breath.

 

That’s all you need to do. Move and breath. Then magic happens. Just from doing that somehow all types of benefits begin to occur.

 

From The American Osteopathic Association and Yoga Journal some benefits include

 

Physical:

  • increased flexibility
  • increased muscle strength and tone
  • improved respiration, energy and vitality
  • maintaining a balanced metabolism
  • weight reduction
  • cardio and circulatory health
  • improved athletic performance
  • protection from injury
  • improved posture
  • prevention against cartilage and joint break down
  • better bone health
  • increased blood flow
  • enhanced balance
  • decreased blood pressure
  • regulates adrenal glands
  • boosts immunity
  • eases pain
  • supports connective tissue

 

Mental

  • manage stress
  • maintains the nervous system
  • releases tension
  • improves sleep
  • increase body awareness
  • sharpens concentration
  • helps to center attention
  • provides peace of mind
  • gives you inner strength

 

If you already engage it in you likely know this. And if you don’t – give it a try!

On Being in the Dark

A light breeze blew in from across the street when I opened my blinds and cracked my bedroom window while it was still dark this morning. The noise of the roaring Long Island Sound across the street filled my ears, as the semi-salty draft infiltrated the space in which I was standing. A bell buoy chimed in the distance. A nearby bird sang a melodic tune. The feeling of the cool, damp air felt refreshing in the otherwise still sleepy space and my skin. I took a deep breath to let it all in; to appreciate this moment in the dark.

 

I went about the morning routine and onto my morning meditation practice. Since we changed the clocks last week it is now dark again in the morning, and for a few weeks more we get to watch the sunrise on the horizon a bit earlier.

 

It rained last night. The world felt just a bit more crisp… renewed. I opted to practice in a different space this morning. I turned off the lights and opened all the curtains to allow the darkness in while it turned to fresh morning light.

 

I stumbled around the dark to find my meditation pillow while carrying lemon water. My animals staggered around me, a bit confused and excited about my unanticipated movements. I felt around for the door stopper to prop open the front door. I was having difficulty finding it. I had to put down my pillow and water to crawl around to find the doorstop.

 

Yikes… was that sound of my cup just knocked over? Is that the dog walking through it? Did the water wet the nearby pillow?

 

I sat down on the floor, slightly defeated. I chuckled as I felt wet paws on my legs and then doggie kisses on my cheeks. My mood lifted. Was there a lesson here? Yes – there is a lesson everywhere if we look for it.

 

We can’t see in the dark. We can feel around for what we know, but we cannot use that sense of sight very well. We don’t really know what is there. We only know what we saw when it was light.

 

Nature ensures we are in the dark half of the time. Depending on your location on this beautiful planet; that half could be an even 12/12 hour split daily, or anywhere to 24/0 split as the time of the year changes. Either way we can be assured we will be in the dark exactly half of the time.

 

Everything that happens in nature is mirrored in the non-material world. Or should I say our physical world that manifests to what we see with our visual sense and “know” is born from the non-physical world that created it, and what we experience is actual a mirror of our creator. Another way to put it is something one of my favorite yoga teachers (Crystal) likes to say “As above, so below”. Half the time it is dark.

 

Our minds and the non-material world work similarly to nature. It is not possible to know everything there is to know. When we don’t know something, we are in the dark. We don’t even know what it is we don’t know.

 

However, the humbling part is that to navigate better – we have to accept that we are often in the dark. That we will not be able to see or know everything we need to in any given moment. When we think we know something, but it is unfamiliar; it may be best to proceed with caution and understand we are in the dark.

 

How does this translate to the world?

 

Perhaps accepting that to feel, say, or move about in a world with absolute certainty about your opinion/religion/etc is a set up for failure. We should accept that what we believe and the paradigm we operate in is not always what we think it is. We should stay open to other opinions, even if (or I might even say especially if) those opinions ignite something inside us that resists. There is a reason you feel so strongly about a topic – be it gun control, womens rights, or just something a friend said that rubbed you the wrong way. Why? Because the other opinions are from equal humans too, and they have a paradigm that is just as real as ours is to us. We are in the dark half of the time, and it’s a misassumption to believe that we know everything we need to know.

 

More real world….

 

Apple News has woken me from a deep sleep twice this week. The first was to inform me about who won the Democratic Primary Tuesday night, and then again to relay that Trump declared a travel ban.

 

Did I need to be woken for news I didn’t ask for? No. It could have waited. Side note: the alerts are now turned off. The point is, someone else decided what is important I know in a given moment. But more importantly, these are topics that are clearly split between the masses in current events. Political party divides and jokes about how COVID-19 is overblown vs. preparing to not leave our homes for a few weeks.  Who is right?

 

No one. We all have valid points. Every opinion matters. The best way to move forward is to accept that we do not know everything. We may have shut down to other opinions by only watching or reading one-sided news. Even you! The one who thinks their ‘News’ is the Right one and the ‘Others’ are idiots for reading/watching/streaming (insert name of media here).

 

If we didn’t listen to the other side how could we really know or understand their paradigm? When we don’t accept someone else’s humanity and paradigm we create walls (tangible and intangible) and de-humanize one another. This not only goes for the other guy to understand you, it goes for you too. Maybe the other guy is that way because of similar treatment from paradigms like yours.

Not only may we not know how the other half thinks, we should understand that even if we do and stay open to all opinions; we will still not know everything we could possibly know about any given topic.

 

There are too many studies, media outlets and channels, people/universities/groups/countries who know something very important and cannot get the word out to the masses efficiently or fast enough. There are individuals blocking content from themselves and governments blocking such from their people. We have to accept that we operate in the dark as often as we operate in what we think we know in the light.

 

I did get up from the floor and navigate (in the dark) to find a towel. Knowing I was in the dark was comforting because I knew I’d stumble and probably not get all the water off the floor. It was more important to me at the moment to accept that I can’t do what I want in the way that I want when I can’t see properly. Metaphorically, since I can’t know all there is to know – it would be a misnomer to traverse through life with absolute certainty based on my limited paradigm. It’s freeing to accept that I may be missing the mark at any given moment, but it’s ok because I’m doing the best I can.

 

I made my way over to where I intended to mediate. My 3 cats and dog sprawled sleepily around me. I had a slider cracked and continued to feel the cool air on my skin.

 

I listened to the seagulls. The birds. The Long Island Sound. The buoys. A car in the distance. My dog breathing.

 

I couldn’t see well, which heightened my other senses to appreciate and grasp what is normally missed. Unless my intention was to purposely look for them, in the light I would have overlooked the feel of the air on my skin and the music of nature in my ears. These ‘other’ things are so beautiful and have the power to help me to understand my surroundings more completely. My eyes are important; but in a way, they create blindness.

 

The rain began again. A new sound emerged as the water hit the earth and the various objects between the sky and ground. The darkness began to turn to light.

 

As the grey sky filled my home with a grayish tint, my other senses began to take a back seat to my eyes. Unless I closed my eyes, it became more difficult to appreciate noise and the sense of touch. If I solely listened to my loudest sense (sight), I would continually miss out on so much other beauty.

 

My cats and dog were excited when the routine changed up this morning. Spilled water was fun. They accept the world just how it is and enjoy it. They accept they cannot understand it all and just try to work with me when I talk to them. They understand the nature of life better than we do.

 

Why not take a message from nature? Accept what is and enjoy it for what it is. Recognize that we can’t know possible everything, hence we cannot possibly think we are right with absolution. Once we are comfortable with not knowing, other senses will come into play in order to compensate and reveal to us things we would have otherwise missed.

 

The only way to do that is to let go and acknowledge that it will always be dark half of the time.

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Social Justice is not Socialism

As I sit for a six month mammogram follow-up, I’m just told that I also need an extra ultrasound today. On the long drive from Branford to Meriden this morning I saw so many ads for early detection of cancers. One that tugged at my heart a little more than the others is a new screening for Lung Cancer detection. It makes me a little sad because my mom my diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer very late and passed away at the age of 49.

But I had to ask myself, how sad can it make me? My mother never had health insurance, as I never did before growing up and taking a job that provided it. My mother would have not gotten an early detection screening. She never had a mammo. She never even went to the dentist and started wearing dentures when she was 38.

All these years later, healthcare in the U.S. is still something for people who have money or jobs that provide it for a reasonable cost. I feel lucky I can get a mammo, let alone all the follow-up tests and diagnostics.
Not everyone is so “lucky”. Capitalism and social justice are not mutually exclusive. Did I earn this right?
Social Justice is not the same thing as socialism.

This isn’t a socially just society. How can we walk past the homeless or drive through minority filled inner cities with poor public schools, run down stores and bars on the windows and say “these people didn’t earn their way”???

I get wanting to keep what you have earned. I really do.

I get that there are people who do not work very hard and feel they should have more than they do. 

I also get that many of us haven’t completely earned what we do have.
Have you ever done a privilege walk? If not I would suggest looking it up to see what it is. During a robust discussion brought up during a Hygge game a few weeks ago, my husband and brother/sister in-law pulled up one on google and did it together. My results were nearly 20 points behind the highest one in the room. For some reason it upset me. My ACE score is another that upsets me. I should be dead with my ACE number. But I’m not.

I’m in a good place now. I did work for it. And hard. And I still struggle. I get triggered. I’m on meds (partly because I have healthcare). But do I deserve what I have? Do people with early life privilege 20 points above mine deserve what they have? For me it’s an astounding NO to both.
The roads I traveled today, with the banners I saw for early detection screenings are not things I built or had anything to do with. I did not earn the car I drove here in, it’s borrowed money on a loan.

I didn’t create the military I joined at 18 which gave me the money, healthcare, structure and education I needed to be more successful. Those things were there for me, built by society.

Not everyone has these opportunities. If you can even call the military an opportunity. Too many young people I know wouldn’t even consider it, but again they’ve never even really had a shirt or video game they didn’t want. Too many have no idea what hard times are. And another too many have too much of an idea of what hard times are. That is not fair.
How many inner city kids can even read/write to the level it takes to pass the ASVAB to get into the military. How many can’t because they are nursing a sick parent at home or the only source of daycare for a younger sibling? How many are walking around with untreated trauma and don’t have the healthcare “privileges” to get treated?

Never mind the non-material things like love and encouragement. A trauma free household and neighborhood. Hope.

Do I deserve even the work I did to get to where I am more so than them? I don’t think so.

The only way to even the playing field is to realize the privilege you have been given and give some back so others can come up to the same level. Or the government can help do it through taxes. That is not socialism. It’s social justice.

I don’t want anyone cleaning my toilets or serving me coffee who can’t put food on their table, house their children or get a good night sleep. I don’t want them to feel less than me. We are equals. We all came onto this planet as humans and should be treated as such.

Will it cost me more money? Of course, but so what?

What is life if we aren’t going to lift up others?

When will we as a global society learn that there is little happiness in accumulating more than you need?
In my humble opinion if you really think that then you are a slave to money. And if you think you having money and prestige is more important than someone else eating…. I just can’t…

No freedom til we’re equal – Macklemore – Same Love

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It’s Through the Heart

It’s through the heart where our light comes from.

Our heart is in the middle, between our head and the ground.

It’s the connection between our body and mind.

It’s the way to the middle path.

Through the middle is where liberation lies.

Liberation is pure love.

 

This morning while practicing sadhana (a spiritual routine) I had an inspiring thought. While engaging the 3 bandhas during some breathwork, I thought about keeping my heart open and full of light. These three bandhas are energetic locks at the perineum, naval area, and throat area. The heart is automatically not locked. It’s open.

 

It’s Valentines Day so I thought a bit more about the heart as I moved through my practice and into meditation. Suddenly so many random ideas I’ve had, spoken about, and written about began bubbling to the surface.

 

What is the right thing to do? How can the heart lead us?

 

Society puts us on a confusing path by teaching us from a young age that there is good and bad. Our brain learns how to navigate this world through comparison and opposites. It would stand to reason, as many of us do, that good and bad are opposites. If they are opposites that means if you are not good, you must be bad. Growing up Catholic, I also took that to mean if I am not good, I am a sinner. Then guilt and shame rise up. A quick road to a slippery slope.

 

The first time I felt an absolute true spiritual connection through words, quotes and teachings was surprisingly in a two-day work seminar I took in March 2012. It was the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The instructor went through a spiral notebook we all received as we learned about the habits working from the inside of ourselves outward. Never [to me] were such true words spoken. I felt connected with myself in a way I never had before. I realized I have paradigms, the inner power to change my thoughts, and can root to my true self so deeply that my values and morals will guide my decision making. I walked away from that training a different person.

 

Several weeks later I was on work trip in Maine. We were on a mandatory outside walking break. Since I didn’t read the memo, I was trotting around in my stilettos along a scenic mountainous path in Portland ME. Since the 7 Habits training I started to change my life. I was walking alongside a colleague who had also been at that training with me a few weeks back, so I asked her if she enjoyed it. She replied that she absolutely did! And not only did she enjoy it; she wasn’t sure why, but she and her husband started going to yoga on Saturday mornings since then. Additionally she is a physician, so the email list that generated from the class targeted her to learn more about the heart.

 

The heart, here it is again.

 

She was involved in a series of live online classes that focused on physical and spiritual heart health, and how to work with patients on things they connect to in order to motivate them toward better health. She explained to me that she’d never thought about it before, but the heart is the only thing in our body with an electrical impulse. Where does that electricity come from? It’s the link between our inner and outer worlds. Interesting right?

 

Electricity is light. Light comes from our heart from the netherworlds.

 

I’ve also been reading and re-reading Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul”. Chapter 6 is all about the heart. What it is. How our life ends when it stops. How when we keep it open, we experience life fully. Why we close it and how we can choose not to. It’s fascinating.

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

On a slightly different (yet related) tangent, several years ago I took a Yin Yoga Teacher training. At one point our instructor drew a Yin Yang on the white board and explained the dark and light side in a way I had never before considered.

 

Most of us have the understanding that the white side is Yang. Lots of energy. Pure light. The sun. Male. Loud. The dark side is Yin. Stillness. Darkness. The moon. Female. Quiet. Knowing this I’ve always considered one side good and one side bad. Yet it semi-bothered me that what I considered the “good” side or the Yin side, was the dark part of this circle.

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I copied the white board drawing with fascination. Yang represents the warrior. Yin the healer. We need both. But we cannot just be one or the other. The warrior will destroy everything in his sight if left alone. The healer will never move and be destroyed if left to her own devices. The balance is in the middle. We need to be activated with Yang power when needed. Getting lit by your inner fire in order to make change and do our work in the world (the visionary). But also knowing when to step back and be in the place of love, peace and acceptance of what is (the teacher). Balancing the Teacher and Visionary is the middle path. A little of both as needed. Not too much, not too little. Neither side being “good” or “bad”.

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The “right” path is through the middle. The “wrong” path would bring you around and around the circle. The true way is right in the middle in the path between both. In the Yin Yoga world it’s the Tao (the way).

 

 

The middle way. Buddha said that!

Unknown

 

How do we get to the middle? It’s up to us. We can do it with our own energetic light if we keep our heart open.

 

Why the heart?

 

Because it’s the middle. It’s the 4th chakra right down the middle.

 

Our brain, heart and gut all have neurons that are in constant communication to keep our autonomic functions running smoothly. We have 3 parts of ourselves that govern decisions and how to be in the world. In the physical body these parts reside in the upper, middle and lower parts respectively. We also have 3 levels of brain function. The reptilian brain, the limbic brain and the neocortex. The neural connection between the three is well developed. Our psychic apparatus consists of the id, ego and superego.

 

If we listened to our lower selves only where our gut, bowels and reproductive organs live; we would live in a world where it’s all about food, sex and waste. It’s the primitive side of us. The lower brain that all creatures with a brain on this planet have. It is the basis of evolution. To do what it takes to survive. The reptilian brain. It would be the id in our psychic apparatus. It would be the Yang in our Yin Yang.

 

If we listened only to our mind on the other side of the body, the part we consider in our heads we might get nothing done. For one it’s noisy in there. The mind never stops talking! It contradicts itself constantly. It’s all about learning, growth, creativity and is never happy just where it is. It seeks more. It’s calculating. Only humans have this part of the brain. It would be the superego or the neocortex. We take what we learned from others as right and wrong, and operate from there in a confused state of mind about what actually is right from wrong. This part seems to believe that loving one another, helping others, and giving is how to make the world a better place.  But using that alone, we would never be activated by the fire in the belly to get up and do something when we see the world in a state of injustice and disrepair.

 

The heart balances these two out. It’s the emotional center. The limbic system as mammals all have. The part of the brain that if left alone dwells in balance with nature and the cycles of life. Values and morals come from this part. This parr’s decisions are based on the greater good without taking more than needed. Animals do not hoard. They don’t kill if they aren’t going to eat. They live in and with nature as one.

 

Since we are human, we will always have the metaphorical devil and angel on our opposing shoulders. The mind and gut are both very loud and seem to have (no pun intended) “minds of their own”. Our bodies are built that way. Perhaps our heart, right there in the middle hearing both and having a subtle intelligence of its own, is where the answers to our inner and outer dilemmas reside. We just need to quiet the other two and listen.

 

I’ve tried to follow the advice in The Untethered Soul and purposefully keep my heart open. It’s hard! It’s a habit we all have to protect ourselves. But if we trusted our hearts to listen to our lower selves when we sense danger or our higher selves when we sense creative energy, we wouldn’t need to protect it. We would use the heart’s intelligence to put the other two to work when they are most needed.

 

The heart is special. It is the only part of us that generates it’s own electricity. I ask again, where does that electricity come from?

 

It comes from a place we cannot identify. A place that gives life. A place that the path we seek would lead to. In sadhana this morning while energetically holding the bandhas at the throat, gut and base; with my heart open I realized it’s the part of me that I want open and to be my guide through this world. I want to take care of it, love it, and listen to it.

 

It’s through the heart where our light comes from.

Our heart is in the middle, between our head and the ground.

It’s the connection between our body and mind.

It’s the way to the middle path.

Through the middle is where liberation lies.

Liberation is pure love without attachment.

Unknown

Namaste

 

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On Grace

I am inspired by a yoga teacher training today that I was part of. During a conversation about mantra, the topic of Grace came up. On my way home I listened to U2’s song “Grace” and couldn’t help but walk in the door to my computer and write.

 

The topic of Grace was only a small part of an amazing day and didn’t last long. But it did leave an impression on me. We were reading the book “Healing Mantras” by Thomas Ashley-Farrand and discussing the topic of karma. On page 39, someone read a paragraph that I have read before but never quite understood.

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One of my teachers that was leading that section stopped a bit to talk about a few things. The one of which that sticks out most is the equation of Effort + Grace = Results.

 

Hmmmm….. interesting.

 

One of my classmates asked her to repeat it so she could write it down.

 

Either before or after the equation, my teacher (Shelley) was talking about how escaping karma means leaving little to no ‘wake’. The same classmate asked her to define wake. Wake was meant in the context of how a boat makes a wake in the water.

Hmmm… Did it make sense? Yes, to me; but in some way I wasn’t sure and noted it was something to sort out mentally later.

 

Then another classmate shared how she understands what Grace is, but would struggle to define it. The question was left open to the floor. Lots of ideas circulated. As the group talked, U2’s song “Grace” played in my head. Particularly the part where Bono sings: “She travels outside of karma”.

 

That line is stimulating, and along the lines of the text in our book. I mentioned the U2 song. Then someone else mentioned the song “Amazing Grace” and precisely the line “How sweet the sound”. Earlier in the day we had an Ayurvedic lesson and looked at a chart of the journey of consciousness in conjunction with an extensive conversation about how the material world and the non-material trickle into our own selves. It’s the concept of prakriti and purusha mixed with some prana. But not to bore anyone to tears with this yogic speak, one of the basics that may or may not have been in that particular conversation but is scientifically proven is that we are all but a vibration. One of my teachers pointed that out.

How sweet the sound”.

 

That is deep but we took it a breath deeper to discuss that the old testament many of us are familiar with, is that one of the first lines is In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

A classmate makes a little sound of an exploding head. Yes, this is a head exploding part. But the Word was God. Sound over light as the classmate who brought it up expressed it. Vibration itself as possibly a higher vibration that light?

 

Wow, where did the question of “Grace” go? And what did it have to do with this conversation.

 

Another classmate took it down a few notches to say that her concept is of Grace is the following:

  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You yell.
  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You tell them you understand and it’s ok.

The latter is Grace.

 

Suddenly the Jesus analogy made sense. There is something you aren’t proud of, and someone else takes it on and forgives you. I said this during class. My other teacher said, yes – it’s as if they take the shame.

 

Great conversation, but we had to wrap it up and straighten up because a community mantra class about going to start soon. Mantra conversation to be continued at a further time.

 

Fast forward about two hours later and I’m driving home listening to music. I’m inspired and excited, but what I’m listening to is sort of dragging me down. I ask Siri to play U2’s song “Grace”. The earlier conversation started to take a lot more shape for me and inspired me to write.

 

I don’t think I can fully grasp the depth of this beautiful word, but I feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” [me shamelessly stealing another song title from U2].

 

If I had to describe my understanding of Grace at this moment, I would explain that it’s a person’s ability to realize that we are just a piece of all consciousness experiencing itself through a pointed view of ourselves. Or in simpler terms, a soul watching events unfold. Nothing matters.

When you get this from a core/soul level you do realize that nothing matters in the end. If you take on the shame or sins of others and free them from their suffering, you can release it from yourself because you understand that what happens ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s the highest form of vibration. It’s the stillness between the good and bad.

We are here to learn and it is all welcome. Once you can take the hurt away from others, onto yourself and release it – you move past the karma cycle. It’s the famous Christ analogy I never understood nor could anyone in my Catholic upbringing explain it to me. I still don’t propose to know it, but I do feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” 

Lyrics below with my thoughts in blue.

Namaste,

Esterina

Grace

U2

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name 

Christ analogy

Grace
It’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that
Changed the world

And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings (sound/vibration)
Grace finds goodness
In everything 

Grace
She’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk

She travels outside
Of karma, karma
She travels outside
Of karma

Once you master this and do it, you understand how both good & bad are both part of the physical world and welcome. You can move past the circle of karma

When she goes to work
You can hear her strings the vibration again
Grace finds beauty
In everything

Everything is beautiful because it’s a part of life so it belongs

Grace
She carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips

She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings

Grace takes that shame without strings. Just removes it and leaves no wake. Not a good or bad wake. Just working through life and bringing things back into balance where everything is as it has always been – in perfect condition. 

Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty
In everything

Grace finds goodness in everything

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On Holidays, Divorce & Surrender

The holidays are a tough time for so many. Freshly divorced or uncoupled individuals are no exception. There are many others who suffer too – those who lost loved ones or have a loved one in a dangerous situation are two that come to mind. There are so many ways to not feel merry and bright this season, but for this blog I’m going to focus on divorcees. This is my 10th holiday season as a divorcee and I only wish I understood some of this a little sooner.

 

I would like to begin by stating that the holiday season does not have to be difficult for those who have recently split or are still reeling from a separation 10, 20 or 30 years later. Accepting what is, and your part is one of the key components helping yourself, your ex-partner and any children or loved ones enjoy what everyone once did.

 

Good marriages go bad. Why? Because they are not great marriages. Great marriages do not go bad.

 

The loss of prior hopes, dreams, and shared traditions leaves a hole that cannot be easily filled. If there are children involved, regardless of their ages, it is a change that makes things all the more difficult and all the more painful for a long time to come.

 

Most of the pain is caused by one or both of the previous spouses not being able to let go of their negative feelings toward the other and not accepting the changed circumstances.

 

This month the theme of my yoga classes has been Surrender. Surrender meaning

 

Giving up what we think should be happening

For What is Actually Happening

 

This is simple advice but often difficult to follow. But surrendering heals. We must accept what is and even take it a step further to realize there is shared blame. When we let go and accept responsibility, we can go as far as getting along with our exes. Once that happens, the situation isn’t as new.

When we get along, cooperate and are even perhaps evolved enough share the holidays with our prior spouse; our family, children, friends and loved ones all reap the benefits as well.

 

Daren and I are watching the Netflix series Versailles. We just finished Season 2 on Sunday night. This is an excerpt from that show:

 

“I made you who you are. I made you complete and I cannot live without you.

You cannot live without me”.

“That was true once. But not now, without you I am myself”.

~Season 2, Episode 10 of Versailles

 

This happens. Couples end up together for a myriad of reasons, sometimes for what they believe is love, sometimes lust, sometimes insecurity and wanting to be in a couple, and sometimes the feeling that  time is running out and being in a couple is the next step in life. Sometimes it’s prearranged. And yes – many times it is actually love and compatibility.

 

The fate of a marriage may not be as mysterious as it initially seems –

  • When you and your spouse no longer connect something is wrong.
  • If you and your spouse never really connected, even before marriage or your living arrangement – something is wrong.
  • When one person realizes this and recognizes there is a better life either inside or outside the marriage waiting for them, great marriages go from great to good. Good marriages go from good to poor. Often times someone leaves. True fact.

 

Does that mean something is wrong with the person who left??? No.

Does that mean something is wrong with the person left behind??? No.

Does that mean the person who left “gave up”?? Maybe, but probably not.

 

The person who left probably tried to re-connect, or talk, or reach out in some way. If their partner knew them well enough, their partner in theory would have recognized this. If there was an affair or another person involved, the one who stepped out was not getting some sort of need met. The one who was betrayed may have had their head in the sand.

 

I was betrayed. Not by another woman but by substance abuse that went on under my nose for at least two years, and then at least another 1-2 after the first time it came to my attention. I felt betrayed, angry, and hurt. My spouse wanted to leave at times because I didn’t understand him. I blamed him for turning to something else besides me. It’s very hard to accept, but in hindsight now 12 years plus later – I was not listening to him. There were signs but I was purposely blind to them. I was absorbed with kids, work, the condo, getting to church on Sunday, my schoolwork (MBA) and didn’t notice him struggling. We were supposed to be together for better or worse. I put everything but my husband ahead of him. I thought there was time. I thought we could deal with whatever ails him later. We stayed together for 2-3 more years after the first time I found out. When we worked on the ‘betrayal’ we worked on fixing only the surface issue of having him quit substances. And moved on…. But that didn’t fix a thing. Almost 3 years later both our problems were still there. Obviously I had some too, only I had no idea at the time. You don’t know what you don’t know. When I learned about subsequent substance abuse I shut down and lost hope. I blamed him. Around the same time I started to connect with another person outside of the marriage. A person who I felt I could be me around. It was only then that I felt I was also to blame.

 

In most cases divorce is not one person or the other’s fault. There is often no “real story”. How could there be when both parties feel like a victim?

 

When two people no longer connect and at least one person doesn’t get anything out of the marriage it starts to decay. If neither partner notices or cares, those couples will often stay together. That’s a marriage where both people get their needs met. It’s a “Good marriage”.

 

If one person notices and addresses it, and their partner is receptive – they grow stronger. That is a GREAT marriage.

 

If one person notices that they are no longer happy and their partner is not receptive, that is where things often fall apart. That is a bad marriage. It is here where there should really be no surprise when a partner walks out the door.

 

You can bury your head in sand like I did and hope your partner is ok with the status quo too, but the odds are not in your favor. If you really care and notice you or your partner’s unhappiness, it’s time to do something. It’s not easy, but no marriage or great partnership is. There are no shortcuts to get to any place worth going. Marriage included. If you want it to last you have to make it the first priority. There is no family, house, shared income which both people benefit from when there is no married/couple life. Putting the kids, house or a job first just doesn’t work.

 

I’ve heard the argument and made it myself that shouldn’t the unhappy person understand your struggles too? That the kids, house and job are taking too much of your time and we are supposed to stick it through for better or worse, so get over it and stick with me?

 

It took me a while, but no…. No one should delay happiness. Wanting or expecting your partner to do so is no exception if you cannot do it yourself. Our lives are the only experiences we have. We can’t live them for other people. If we committed to our partner for better or worse and one partner or both partners are unhappy; time or no time – the commitment, the pact was to the relationship first. When it’s not first and you don’t commit to it being first and one person wants that – it cannot last happily ever after.

 

I would have never learned this and find it unlikely that after facing my own part in the downfall of my own marriage – that the myriad of other things I’ve since learned about myself would have ever taken place. I very well may have been the same person with the same limited beliefs for the rest of my life. Perhaps it was the only way either of us could have grown.

 

There is no magic. No secrets. If you want a partnership to work, it takes work. If you both don’t care it may also work. However, if one person has an unmet need and the other doesn’t work with them to get that need met – it might last, but you cannot expect it to.

 

Stop the blame and start to love and accept that we are all imperfect. Yes – even you! The holidays can already be stressful for those blissfully in committed partnerships. It’s added stress for divorcees and their children when there is tension. It doesn’t have to be, so why let it be?

 

If both previous partners understand that they own a part of what happened in their life and they take the experience as one to learn from and do… it becomes impossible to be angry or bitter. When you live without the baggage of bitterness and anger your body is lighter. Your attitude is brighter. You are a better parent, employee, member of the community and partner for your next relationship. Give yourself and loved ones the best gift you can give and let any negativity go.

 

The holidays do not need to be difficult for those who have split from a relationship. There are plenty of other things that may make it so. Don’t let this be one of them.

 

Surrender. Trust me on this one. Once I did everything changed in a heartbeat.

 

Surrender is the inner transition from resistance to acceptance

~ Eckhart Tolle

 

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You are the MOST important person on your gift list

  • You are the most important person to worry about. Give your time and attention to yourself first.
  • Giving to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
  • Giving to those who are not in gratitude is a waste of the world’s resources – including your own unique gifts and energy.

 

When I was in elementary school and learned to write; then later in life when I learned how to facilitate meetings I learned: 1) Tell them what you are going to tell them. 2) Tell them. 3) Tell them what you told them.

 

There is a body of literature about whether or not mention what you don’t want in your life. I mostly agree that we shouldn’t picture what we would like to avoid, but in the case of this blog, I’m going to stick with how the Yamas and Niyamas are explained. In yogic traditions, the Yamas and Niyamas are what govern ethical parameters. The yamas start out with the don’ts.

 

 

You are the most important person to worry about. Give your time and attention to yourself first.

 

This doesn’t mean buy yourself presents. This is not a justification to be selfish. This is no reason not to keep promises, let others down, ignore how you’ve hurt people, or be mean. I can go on.

 

What this means is akin to your car not running if you do not put gas in it. Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Fuel up on nourishment that makes you your best. Nourishment not just in the way of food, but of things that fill your heart – like spending time with friends or loved ones, being in nature, taking a bath, meditating or praying.

 

The specifics are different for each of us. It’s not monetary. Items outside of ourselves can never provide lasting inner joy the way taking care of ourselves can. What fills your heart and soul? Do that. Make sure you are filled so you can fill others.

 

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare ~Audre Lorde

 

 

Giving to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

 

Giving to others can be the most selfish form of feeling good. This is a way in which its ok to be selfish, because you are spreading your gifts, your love and the things that were given to you. There is oodles and oodles of evidence, both scientific and purely experience-based confirming that giving is selfish and feels far better that expecting or receiving anything from anyone. This is non-debatable. If you disagree you likely did not give properly from your heart at any point.

 

This doesn’t mean birthday and holiday presents. It’s not the obligatory presence at some party or event for a relative you don’t know. It’s giving because you know someone needs or wants something and you do it from the heart.

 

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle ~James Keller.

 

 

Giving to those who are not in gratitude is a waste of the world’s resources – including your own unique gifts and energy.

 

Whether or not you are Christian most of us can agree that a very enlightened man who we know today as Jesus Christ walked the earth and made a lasting impact on future generations.

 

Jesus did not give to the rich. He didn’t even associate with the well-to-do or spread his knowledge to them. Why? Well the obvious is that they didn’t need anything material from him, but why did he spend most of his time preaching amongst the poor?

 

Perhaps because he was able to discern that it would not be appreciated or accepted by people of means and he used his limited energy on those who could understand the messages about taking care of one another. He didn’t bother to waste his own unique gifts and words on those not in gratitude to receive his gifts.

 

I’ve learned this the hard way. I’ve spent way too much time trying to give and please family members, old friends, extended family, in-law family, teachers, bosses… you name it; on individuals who in no way recognized, cared for or were in gratitude for efforts that I did not have to make. It was draining. I felt used. But to be honest it wasn’t anything they asked for – it was only me trying to make people I cared about happy.

 

There is a difference between thanks and gratitude. It is wasted if it’s not received with pleasure. Thank you is just consciousness of the benefit received, perhaps a fleeting excitement. Gratitude is deep appreciation and the willingness to want to do something in return either for the giver or the world, knowing that we shouldn’t expect anything, and when we do it’s a gift to be shared. It’s almost a way of life.

 

Don’t drain yourself. Give to those who appreciate and will be in gratitude. Live in gratitude yourself so you can recognize it. Again – so much literature about how even being in gratitude can make you happy. Evidence and experienced based literature.

 

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” – Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

  • You are the most important person to worry about. Give your time and attention to yourself first.
  • Giving to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
  • Giving to those who are not in gratitude is a waste of the world’s resources – including your own unique gifts and energy.

 

And this is why you are the MOST important person on your gift list.

 

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