Walk Away From The Spectacle

blog pic1-1The Tao Te Ching is rich with wisdom on many topics, including peace. For instance, there is a verse in the ancient Chinese classic that offers advice for peace seekers. Loosely translated it goes something like this: Walk away from the spectacle.

This can be interpreted to mean walk away from the drama—choose peace.

It’s profound advice and one of the many reasons I love the jewels of wisdom buried within the Tao’s pages. But finding pearls is very different from actually wearing them,  or so it is in my experience.

In other words, it’s not always so easy to walk the talk.

Relationships at work, at home, with family, friends, are fertile soil for conflict. How often do we get sucked into a vortex of drama in our daily lives?  How often do we choose to “say our piece,” how often do we righteously cling to our version of truth, be it political or faith-based–no matter what the cost?

It takes great discipline to disengage or walk away from spectacles. Sometimes spectacles come up unexpectedly, like a summer storm they rain down particles of anger and other emotional debris. It can happen in conversations without warning and in every day human interactions because, well, we’re human.

But, we can chose peace. We can choose to set grace in motion and walk away from spectacles.

It’s not always easy. I work hard not to be baited into political discussions that I know will end up south of nowhere. So I typically walk away from the spectacle to guard my peacefulness.

In personal relationships, it is even harder. The truth is, sometimes our wounds get triggered. But sometimes, the spectacle or drama that is inches away from vaporizing a relationship can be avoided, if we consciously choose peace.

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.

I recently walked away from a spectacle. And I mean this figuratively and literally. It had all of the makings of a Class A Spectacle triggering issues of family wounding, pride and pain. The brittle branches of a painful part of my family history were being rubbed together and sparks of anger and disappointment were creating a combustible mix.

Without sharing the particulars, at a recent gathering I heard people I care about discussing a situation that had caused them hurt. They felt wronged by a careless and seemingly cruel comment that had been made by another person not present at the gathering. Someone in the group told me I should also be angry at the person, baiting me into the circle of hurt.

And as they continued to share their anger, I took a step back. Literally.  I acknowledged the group pain (including my own because I certainly felt it)  and then said, “I’m going to choose peace.”

In that moment when old wounds momentarily came unstitched, I chose grace as an ointment.

I didn’t pull out a match or add gasoline to a fire, I chose peace. I didn’t fan the flames, I didn’t heighten the drama, I stepped away from the spectacle.

And on this day, feeling equal part hurt and proud, I was in sync with myself. On this day, at least, I was congruent with my values. And if felt really good.

These moments, these tests of grace, await us on a daily basis. And we always, always get to choose: peace or spectacle.

Peace or spectacle? This is my latest mantra for dealing with difficult situations or frustrations. Just asking the question slows me down long enough to consider the choice.

Affirmation: In times of frustration, I choose peacefulness over righteousness. I choose to walk away from the spectacle.

 If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.


No, The Room Should Not Feel Empty When You’re In It

The_Butler_poster“THE ROOM SHOULD FEEL EMPTY WHEN YOU’RE IN IT,” said Vanessa Redgrave’s character to the young African American boy in the movie, “The Butler.” Redgrave was the mistress of the home and was training the young boy to become her house servant, and to excel in the “art” of invisible service.

Those words…the room should feel empty when you’re in it …tore like a knife through my heart. So much so that I took out my pen in the middle of the movie and scratched out those words in the dark.

To me, that one sentence summed up what the Civil Rights movement was really all about. Being seen.

This is not a movie review but I could write one with great passion. I recently wrote a post in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 50th anniversary of his I Have A Dream speech. I think it aligns perfectly with my sentiments about the movie and about that period in history:

It wasn’t our finest moment

and though we’ve come far on the moral arc,

we have far, far to go.

Those words….the room should feel empty when you’re in it, keep coming back to mind. Being invisible, unseen, can extend beyond racial discrimination and boundaries. It can spill over into so many areas of life.

As humans, I believe we have a need to be seen. In the workplace. At home. In society. Yet, being seen, being visible, is not the same as seeking validation or approval. That can only come from within.

Being seen is about basic human connection and about our contribution to the whole. It’s about knowing that we’re all in “this” together and that we all matter.  When people are “not seen” they are in a sense, actually being de-humanized. And to say to another human being …”the room should feel empty when you’re in it,” is to me, the height of degradation and de-humanization.

Visibility, in the form of approval, is a completely different matter. When we start chasing validation from outside sources, bosses, lovers, critics, (ex, how many comments, likes I get on my blog), we inevitably end up in a sinkhole we can’t climb out of it. (I know this one.)

One day, depending upon your approval level,  you feel good. The next day, without positive feedback, your self-esteem plummets like the Dow and you’re left emotionally bankrupt. That’s because you’re investing your energy, your stock, in circumstances and people outside of yourself to be seen.

True visibility, true power, comes from standing in one’s own light. In one’s truth.

In “The Butler,” Forest Whitaker, who goes from humble house servant to butler for eight American presidents, was the master of his own power. His quiet dignity helped to reflect back truth….to those who held “the power.”  And by standing in his own integrous light, he was able to be seen, to be visible….and to light the way for others. 

Ironically, he was the lighthouse that called in the wayward ship captains, and that helped to righten what had gone so terribly askew during that dark and stormy period in history. lighthouse small

In particular, we women must too remember our power comes from our own internal source. And from mastering our own integrity. By standing in our light, without approval, without permission, without apology, we can light the way for ourselves, and for others.

We can be the silent sirens that call the hearts home to safety, to love, to those higher places that reside within us all…and are easily recognizable, if not always by the human eye, the human heart.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

Beauty is Truth

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,–that is all

Ye need to know on earth, and all ye need to know.” John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn

IMG_5721THERE IS BEAUTY IN TRUTH. Even when the truth is harsh and grey and I’d like to color it another way, I still see its beauty.

As I mature, I appreciate the truth and those who speak it with a native tongue. I’d prefer the truth to be served with civility and compassion…it is much prettier that way and easier to digest. I don’t care so much for the ranting and raving of those who profess to know the truth and walk away from their soap boxes convinced they’re treading on higher ground.

You know these people. But even in their self-righteousness, the ugly truth of divisiveness is reflected and revealed. And that in itself is a beautiful thing.

The truth is, as I see it anyway, often grey matter. My truth is mine and I can embrace it, hold it near, and know what it feels like, what it looks like, to me. Sometimes my truth appears in the form of goose bumps on my arms, and when it does, I know it’s a sign that what I’m feeling, seeing, sensing, is a message from my higher guidance; and what I’m hearing in that moment, is a whisper of truth. I listen closely to it.

I’ve told many a friend how I live and love in the grey….this is where my truth resides. And I’m comfortable there. But it can be a lonely place at times, especially when so many live in the black or the white.

Truth: Your truth might be different from mine.

But when we live in truth, we live in integrity, and we live in beauty. I believe truthfulness to one’s convictions, to one’s self, is beauty personified.

Beauty is truth, truth beauty. No truer words were ever spoken.

In my book Tao Flashes, I talk about how truth is strength, power. Take responsibility for your truth. Share it and guard it and know always, truth is the equivalent of integrity. It is your authentic self in dialogue with yourself.

Yes, beauty is truth, truth beauty.

Affirmation: I live in truth and take responsibility for my power.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on compassion and grace, particularly at midlife,  read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

Confessions of a Helicopter Mom…An Ode to Motherhood

file000848552872I became a mother by accident. At least that’s what I thought at the time. Now, with hindsight, I understand that my son was a gift from an all-knowing and loving Universe, God, a mystical force and arranger of fates.  I have no argument with the timing.

When my son Alex was placed on my chest after a difficult labor ending in an emergency casearean section, I remember eyeing him up and wondering…what now? As is the case for most mothers, there was no way for me to know what blessings and lessons ( read challenges) would come from my new role.

Mama. Mom. Mother.

To say that I fell in love with my child does little justice to the depth and overwhelm of love I felt for this little blue-eyed creature. I still remember driving with one hand on the steering wheel and the other arm bent behind me so I could reach into the back seat and hold his tiny index finger while I drove. Like most moms I checked his bed  every night to make sure he was still breathing.  Unlike most moms, I did this through high school (unbeknown to him, I hope).

I joke now that I invented the term helicopter mom. I hovered over him like a fighter pilot ready to battle any sign of danger, a fall, a scraped knee, a schoolyard bully.

As he got a little older (let’s say six), I would play catch with him in the backyard of our Maryland home. His dad often worked late so I was the sports mom, except for the fact that I hated sports and didn’t know a thing about baseball.

But we did okay, Alex and me. I’d toss the ball to him and sneak in a few life lessons along the way. I’d start off with a few “gimmees”, balls he could easily catch. Then, I’d toss it hard to the right, a little further out of his reach, so he had to work for it. The next ball would be a little further away and a little further, barely getable…unless he dived hard to catch it.  All of the while I’d coach him, saying,

“Alex, life is a lot like baseball. You can’t just expect the ball to land in your glove.  You’ve got to work for it, go for it, streeeeeeeetch……….reach…………”

Sometimes I find myself still quoting this line to him, and he’s 28.  You can imagine the reaction I get now. LOL.

I’ll spare you too many more stories. Like how I followed his school bus when it picked him up for his first day of school. How I made him wear a specially-ordered swat-like vest, other wise known as a chest/heart protecter, when he pitched baseball games  until he turned 11 (and pitched a fit). Sadly, I had seen a 60 Minutes report on TV about how a young pitcher had been hit in the chest by a fast ball and died of a heart attack.

I knew I couldn’t bare the thought of his heart stopping, of mine stopping, so I made him wear it under the guise he looked “cool,” like a member of a swat team. He bought it the first year. Not the next season.

Oh gosh, how did he survive me? Fast forward… time for college. It was no surprise that he begged to attend an out of state college.  I finally relented, filled with guilt over all of my hovering. I knew my helicopter days had to end, and it was best for both of us, that he be away from me.

The morning he left Louisiana to drive to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, I woke up early. I went outside and placed yard signs by the entrance of the subdivision that read:

Good luck at college, Alex. Don’t forget to write!

For real.

I knew when he left I could no longer protect him from life’s hurts. A broken heart. Friends who might disappoint. And all of the other things that life can teach us on our road to adulthood. It was his to discover now and I had to turn in the keys to the chopper.

I grieved when he left, and even told friends later that empty nest can feel like a loss, a death of sorts, EXCEPT NO ONE BRINGS YOU LASAGNA.  I struggled with the grief for a while.

College turned out fine, for the most part, and he was happy. And that made me happy. After college, he moved back to our state, and then later, moved 1,200 miles away. Again.

It’s been a road to independence—mine, not his. This mothering thing…all of the second guessing, all of the do overs I wish I had, all of the needless worrying and controlling and attempts to shape him into someone I thought he needed to be, was , is, still a source of guilt, sometimes regret. I realize now, Monday morning quarterbacking, that it was more about controlling my fears, my worries. (It’s times like these that self-awareness really stinks.)

I wish I had known then, what I know now.  He would have had it so much easier. I would have helped to fill his head with philosophy, not useless stats and multiplication tables. He would have learned the Tao.  We would have played more. Lots more. And I would have worried less.

Yet, somehow, in spite of me,  he turned into a beautiful man.  Kind. Compassionate. Soulful. A person of integrity. Even without learning the Tao. And yes, gainifully employed, even if he’s still not sure of his passion. Props to him, to his dad, and maybe a little to me, too.

Too bad that baseball thing didn’t work out.  But I think he remembers the lessons. And I hope he remembers his mom was right there, night after night, tossing the ball to him after a long day at work, coaching him, loving him, and cheering him on to victory.  

I still am.

If you’re interested in reading more of my work, check out my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes.