What's Your Excuse?

Whatever your excuse is, it's time to stop believing it.
~ Someone

My mom hates my to-do list.
I wish I hated my to-do-list as much as she does.
Maybe then, I would actually do something.

I am an excuse-maker.
There, I said it.

I write out these long, never-ending lists, and regularly chip away at mundane tasks instead of doing more important things. The things my heart really wants to do.

Like writing.
Like photographing.
Like growing a garden.
And cooking.
And singing.
And dancing.
And really living.

My list is full of so many dumb items, I should actually just call it what it is:
My Excuse List.

I will find any excuse not to do any of the things that are important to me, and will instead find every reason to do all of the little things that don't matter.

I will forego writing my next epic poem so that I can go to the store and "Run An Errand" that needs to be done absolutely immediately. I will skip out on writing my next great blog post so that I can scroll through facebook searching for the next Really-Important-Status-Update-I-Couldn't-Care-Less-About.

Basically, if there were a PhD in Avoidance and Procrastination, I wouldn't have it because it would involve doing something to get it!

Don't pretend like I'm alone in this.
You do it, too.

We all have this grand dream of The Things We Want To Do In Life. The things we don't need to write down on some endless list because we will never forget them. These are the things that are innate to us. They are our calling.

And they're calling.
But we have mastered the art of not listening.

I am a poet. And yet, in the past few years, I have cultivated an entire life of excuses as to why I'm not writing poetry anymore.

I don't have time.
I'm not inspired.
I have writer's block.
I don't have anything to write about.
I have to figure some stuff out before I start.  
I need to do [insert excuse here] first.

But the truth is, I just refuse to do it. I choose not to.
I refuse to commit to the most important thing in my life. 

And every day, every hour, every minute I choose not to do the thing I love is a day, hour, or minute that I fail myself.

And I am tired.

So this morning, I made a to-do list of things that will nourish me. Things that I want to do. Things that are calling out to me. And today, I'm making the choice to focus just on those.

And when that little voice started up with the list of reasons I shouldn't pursue my dream, I told her to shut up and write a poem about it. And then read it to someone who cares.

I'm done believing her excuses.

No, YOU change!

Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.
~ Jacob M. Braude

It was 11:15am, and we were sitting in our car in a much-longer-than-anticipated line at the border. My train was at 12:05pm. We hadn't factored border traffic into our travel time.

It was tense.

I was anxious, but silent. I tried to label my emotion and let it be and eventually move through me, but the longer we waited in that line, the more my stomach churned.

The two people in the car with me were also worried I would miss my train, and kept making comments about the whole affair. I was getting frustrated that they wouldn't stop talking about it, when my inner voice was complaining just as much as them. This was making my brain and mouth tell them things like, "It's ok. Whatever was meant to be will be. There's no point worrying about something we can't change." and all those logical and enlightening comments that were only adding to the noise (even though they were true!).

And though I was saying these things to them, I think I was also trying to say them to myself.

That's when I realized I was trying to change their reaction.

I was feeling just as nervous as everyone else in the car, but I was silent about it and trying to deal with it all internally. They were expressing their emotions and trying to deal with them externally.

There was no right or wrong way of handling the situation. But I became so focussed on their complaints, consumed by their comments, caught up in their moment, and trying to change them that I wasn't even paying a nudge of attention to me.

I think that happens to a lot of us in a lot of situations.  We try to change someone else's thoughts or actions instead of taking a good, hard look at our own. We look to others to adjust their ways, without even thinking to look at ourselves.

So I finally decided to let them deal with the event in their own way, and focus on contemplating my own feelings about it, instead.

And I had a nice long train ride to do just that.

I can do it if I twy

I can do it if I twy. I can do it if I twy. I can do it, do it, do it if I twyyyyy.
~ Reya Amel Davis


And so can you.

Believing In Magic Again

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
~ Albert Einstein

I recently watched an online video of a magician doing an amazing show with cards. It was great. One part of me was in awe the whole time - amazed by his skill and the wonder of it all. But there was another little part of me who kept saying, "It's all sleight of hand," and looking for the loopholes so I could uncover his secret.

I wanted to smack that part of me and tell her to shut up so I could enjoy the magic show.

Adults kind of suck.

We see magic, and we know we're being duped (albeit in an entertaining way), so our critical mind kicks in and we try to figure out how it all works, where the cards are coming from, and we search for the secret compartment.

Children, however, are awed by everything. You tell them it's magic and they think it's incredible. They don't feel the need to understand how or why. They're happy to be in awe. They watch the show and feel like there are mystical things in the world that they may never understand or be able to explain and that's the amazing part of life.

Because there are.
And that is.

As adults, we don't just let the magic happen anymore. We don't appreciate the awe.

I have watched my nieces and nephews grow up. I remember when they were younger and I would show them a trick and they would eat it up and believe that there was something called magic in this world and it was inexplicable and amazing.

Now, when I show them a trick, they look into my eyes with that desire to believe - with that "could it be?" glint in their eyes. But there is a difference. They have been taught that magic doesn't exist, but they still think it might. They still want to believe it does. Like maybe there is some secret community of magicians who know the truth about magic - and the fact that it is, indeed, real. And they look at me hoping  I will confirm what they truly believe: that magic and miracles are real. That beautiful, inexplicable, unbelievable things still do exist.

(Because they do.)

So I smile at them with that sly look that says, "You'll never know."

And a part of me hopes they don't - that they don't ever find that secret compartment, that they never figure out the sleight of hand, the flick of the wrist.

When I look at my older nieces and nephews, I don't see that shine in their eyes, that belief in something awe-inspiring anymore. And I don't know when the shift happened.

But it did.

I wish I could give them back their sense of disbelief. I wish I could make their awe last. I wish I could explain to them that there is so much time to be cynical. That they will spend the better part of their lives like that. But that there is such beauty in believing. And they should hold on to that for as long as they can.

When my husband and I travelled around the world last year, we rediscovered that awe. We started believing in magic and miracles and beauty and the universe again. Because the world is full of it. We have just trained our eyes to look past it all.

And sometimes, when I find that awe in myself again, I hope with all my might that it will stick around. Even if it's just in the background.


So I want to start living as if everything is a miracle again. Because if you think about it:

Everything is.

The Out-Thanking Game

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. 
~ Maya Angelou

Yesterday, I was on the train to Montreal, and this little old couple was sitting behind me. I couldn't help but hear their conversation from time to time, as the man pointed out the lily pads in the water as we passed by them, and the herr that was flying next to our train, and the yellow dock flowers he so loved that were growing wild on the way. The woman would softly respond and they would talk about whatever he was pointing out. It was very sweet. I intermittently fell asleep during their conversation, but I am so glad I was awake for what they did next.

It started slow. He thanked her for accompanying him on this trip. She thanked him for carrying a bag. He thanked her because he said he couldn't have done the journey without her. She thanked him for something else. He thanked her for something. And they just continued like this - thanking each other for each of the little things they could think of.

Out-thanking each other, over and over again.

And it wasn't a game. They were genuinely grateful for each thing they mentioned. You could feel it in their voice.

This made me think about how our lives could change if we engaged in gratitude like that all the time with the people we love. Instead of complaining about the little things, the annoyances, the everyday quibbles to everyone, what if we appreciated every little thing about those in our life?

I already told you the story about my gratitude journal and how it changed my perspective. And in my Awakening Joy course, one of the first main lessons was for us to try to cultivate gratitude daily. To just notice and give attention to the things we are thankful for. Gratitude seems to be an essential ingredient in so many uplifting and life-changing practices.

So when I was lugging my heavy suitcase up the subway steps - step by painful step - and two guys, on separate occasions, helped me take it to the top - I was so grateful for their help. And when the guy in the subway station stood up and gave my sister his seat instead, I was so appreciative of his kindness. And when the girl in the train gave me her seat because I couldn't fit my bag anywhere else, I was so thankful for her considerate gesture.

It's the little things.

And noticing them makes me smile.
And then remembering them later on makes me smile again.
And there can't be anything wrong with that. 

But it's not just the little things that strangers do - we should appreciate all the little things our family and friends do for us, too.

We often give our best face to the public. Scowling at home but then stepping out into the world and being particularly pleasant and nice to the people who cross our path. Yes, we are more comfortable at home and don't have to put up a facade, but if we try to be our best us with our favourite people, maybe our joyful facade would become truth. And then maybe we would no longer need a facade because we would be truly happy and grateful. And then, maybe we could change the world in our small little way. And then maybe the world would be at peace.

(Ok, ok, I'm getting ahead of myself.)
But you get the point.

So my goal is to start being happier and more grateful with those closest to me, not just to strangers. Because if I give my lone smile to the ones I love, I think I'll find I have a well of smiles to draw from for everyone else who crosses my path. Including myself. 

And hopefully, I can start a ripple effect of out-thankfulness in my own life.

So I'll start here:
Thank you. I really appreciate that you took time out of your day to read my words. It is humbling, and truly makes a difference to me.

Ok, your turn.

The Sky isn't Falling

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
~ Chicken Little

Yesterday, they were announcing major storms in our area. The kind of storms where they interrupt your favourite TV show to send three beeps that mute out the dialogue at the most critical moment, and then proceed to tell you that the world is going to end.

Or at least that there is a "severe thunderstorm warning in effect" for your area.

The weather-woman's diagrams were bright, scary red in the danger areas (where we live), and a deep, impending burgundy in the surrounding zones.

It was as if they were announcing the apocalypse.

So, we decided to fire up the barbeque and eat our dinner outside.

After all, if it was the last storm of our life, like so many before it, we might as well enjoy a nice home-cooked meal and the beautiful weather one last time before we were to become human toast.

After dinner, it came. The skies darkened like night, the mile-high trees thrashed and swayed with the apocalyptic winds, and then it began to rain.

This morning, I woke up to find I had survived. Outside my window were calm trees, a blue sky, and the glorious shining sun. I checked around, and everyone else in the house had survived, too. Our neighbours were cutting their lawn, driving off to work, or taking a walk. The world hadn't ended, after all.


The storm felt like a cliché metaphor for our life. So I obviously had to write about it.

When a seemingly catastrophic event arises in our life and we get thrown around, the warning signals are often more dramatic than the actual storm.

There is no doubt that we go through periods of immense sadness, torturous regret, or overwhelming anger in our life. We are, after all, only human. But before those moments happen, we tend to worry agonizingly over things that we think are to come. Often way more than is necessary. (Though we could get in to how none of it is necessary, but that's a whole other blog post.)

We fear the potential relationship breakup; we fear the doctor's potential diagnosis; we fear the inevitable loss of our loved ones. And we try to brace ourselves against the impending doom. And then, when the disaster comes, which it always does in some form, we fear we will never be whole again. We will never smile again. We will never know love, or light, or happiness again. And we get caught up in the spiral of "my world is over."

In the Awakening Joy course I am taking, and in the books I am reading right now, one constant lesson appears: This, too, shall pass; but while this is happening, we should pay attention.

One of the exercises in many of these books is to identify an emotion when it arises, instead of getting caught up in it and fighting it. We often get so confused about our tough-to-deal-with emotions that we lump them all into the "negative" basket. And then we try to shoo them away so they'll leave us alone.

But when we do that, we are not giving them a chance to process, so they get stuck. And we get stuck. And that's when things start spiraling into the danger zone.

But when we label our feelings, and then give ourselves the opportunity to actually feel them without calling them positive or negative, we realize that they are just a passing field of energy through our body.

Just like happiness is.

When we feel something uncomfortable, or that we label as "bad", our thinking brain, which is like the media of our body, tries to tell us: This is not a good feeling and I want it to stop, and what if it doesn't stop, and this may be how I feel forever and ever, and the world is going to end.

But if we would just sit quietly and listen to what our body is saying, the feeling - whether "good" or "bad" - would come, and then it would go.

And the world wouldn't end.

There may be some debris, but we would survive.

So the next time there is a severe storm warning in effect in your area (whether actual or in your own mind), turn off the media (external and internal), and remember:

The sky is not falling; it's just a little rain.

My Birthday

The fragrance always remains on the hand that gives the rose.
~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

Today is my birthday.
32 years ago today, I came into this world.

In most of the world, birthdays are a time of taking.
Receiving wishes, getting gifts, being treated like royalty.

But when I was in India, I learned that in many parts of the world, birthdays are actually a time of giving. The children at the school where I volunteered had the opportunity to be out of uniform for the day so they could  wear their best outfit, and they handed out candy or sweets to all of the students and teachers.

The most beautiful part was that, since this was a school for underprivileged children - from the streets, the slums, or orphanages - they had nothing, and yet, on their birthday, they still gave. Even though their families may not have enough to feed themselves some days, they gave.

It was humbling to be in an environment where, even in the midst of perceived nothingness, there was so much generosity. And here, we have so much, and in the midst of all this too-much-ness, we often still want more.

I read an article about a young guy who, instead of doing a "bar crawl" on his birthday - where you and your friends jump from bar to bar and drink yourselves silly - he invited his friends to do a "service crawl", instead. And they walked the streets of Manhattan doing good things for people.

What an inspiring idea.

To take your day and show the world exactly why it is better with you in it.

Definitely an idea I can ascribe to. 

So today, I ask you this:
Celebrate my birthday with me. Do something nice for someone else. And as a birthday gift, tell me about what you did.

Holding a door open, smiling at someone, or volunteering at a shelter. There will be no better birthday gift for me than receiving messages of random of acts of kindness around the world.

I hope this is my best birthday ever... for all of us, and for everyone we meet.

For it is in giving that we receive.
~ St. Francis of Assisi

Just in case it's my birthday

Just in case it's my birthday...
~ Reya Amel Davis

For months now, my little niece, Reya, has been obsessed with the idea of her birthday.

The other day, my sister and Reya were leaving the house for the day, and when they got to the car, my sister noticed Reya was carrying a dress in her hand. When asked why she was taking the dress along with her for the day, she scrunched her nose, nodded very seriously, and said, "Just in case it's my birthday."

Reya is two.

Clearly, she hasn't yet exactly grasped the concept of a birthday and the fact that it doesn't pop up unexpectedly when you were looking the other way.

But she's ready for it, just in case it does.

After my sister told me the story, I realized that as much as we think we know - Reya's actually got life all figured out. She's excited about the possibility that there may be something awesome right around the corner. What a way to live!

And I realized that the older we get, the more we get entangled in fear. Fear of the unknown, of the unexpected, of all the bad things that could happen if we're not paying attention. And we forget that it's not just bad things that can catch us off guard. Amazing things could be eagerly anticipating our arrival, too. Happy surprises could just as likely be waiting for us around the bend.

She taught me that life is not just about preparing for the worst all the time. It's about being prepared for the best, too. Like Reya, we could all use a little enthusiastic anticipation at the possibility of the great unknown. The fantastic unknown. The unknown that's going to knock us off our feet, laughing.

So the next time I head out for a day of unknowns, I'm going to carry a dress...

Just in case it's my birthday.

Towards the great unknown

The Rules of Defeat

We are not defeated when we lose:
we are defeated when we quit.
~ Paulo Coelho

I have a story I tell people about all the things I quit in my life.

Piano lessons after 12 years, right before I passed the exam to college-level.
Swimming lessons right before I got my final badge to go to lifeguard classes.
Bharat Natyam lessons because of my teacher.
Skating lessons.
And I can go on.

These are the things I choose to remember. 

I almost tell this story as if I should get a badge of honour for having lived it. And then I feel crappy about myself. Every day I carry this story around with me, it reminds me of all the things I failed at in my life. All the things I never completed. All the things that, when it came time for that final oomph to succeed, I dropped, as if success were a hot coal and I couldn't bear to carry it any longer.

There is a fine line between the fear of failure and the fear of success.
But if you let them, both fears end in defeat. 

There is a comfort in staying right where you are. A warmth in being surrounded by what you know. I know this place I'm in. And the places I could go scare me. So I stay here. In this place where I am comfortable, but not exactly happy and not exactly unhappy.

We all have a story. And we can change that story whenever we decide to. But we often choose to stay exactly where we are because it's what we know. And what we know is so much safer than what we don't know. Safer than all the things out there that could go wrong. What we know is the lesser of the two evils. Because what we don't know is a scary place full of the monsters we tell ourselves are out there. We're scared.

We're scared of being defeated, so we stop trying.
And when we stop trying, when we quit, when we let that fear win, we are already defeated...
by our own Self.

I think, in the back of my mind, I am scared of succeeding, of being completely happy, and then having it be taken away from me. I've had and I've lost. And I think I am scared that if I do have again, I may lose all over again, too. And I think that's a bigger torture than not having at all. So I stay here. In limbo. Where I neither have nor lose.

But the truth is, every day I stay here, I lose.

This is not a comfort zone, it's armour. A shield against the bad stuff. Be careful. Watch out. Don't get too successful or you won't be able to handle it. Don't love too much because you might get hurt. Don't get too happy because the universe might suddenly feel the need to balance things out.


But there is a little voice inside that says

I think I'm going to start listening to her.

Caution: Speed Bump

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
~ Jalal ud-Din Rumi

Every day for a few months, I would pass by a sign that said

The thing is, there was no speed bump there. It seems there used to be, but it must have been removed, and someone probably forgot to take down the sign.

This made me think of our own lives and how, when we are hurt - which we all are at some time - we begin to build speed bumps in our heart. These speed bumps remind us of what people have done to us, the ways in which we have been failed, the things that have gone wrong in our lives. These speed bumps tell us that we should be careful with love, that we should not trust easily, that we should be wary of the world.

But when these hurts pass and we learn to love and trust again, we keep that sign up.

Just in case.

We think it will help us to be more wary in the next situation. That we can learn from the mistakes of the past and tread more carefully throughout life so we don't get hurt again. But that's not the way it works.

Yes, getting hurt is not fun. But it is part of life. And it will happen again. Trust me, it will. There is no barrier against it. And if we want it to, it can make us stronger and better people. But what it shouldn't do is make us shut down. We should let love and friendship in, enjoy every part of it, and maybe even get hurt again.

Because we know we can heal.
If we choose to.

And I think that's the thing with love. We start building so many barriers in our heart against it, so many conditions that must be met, so many "rules of engagement" that we forget that love is something that is meant to be done freely, with an open heart, with no speed bumps and no signs to tell us to slow down.

So for those of us living every day with caution signs up, who slow down when we don't need to, remember:

The speed bump is gone.
Take down the sign.

The Old Man in the Box

Do not allow me to forget you.
~ Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

I have a picture of an old man whose name I never knew. He sits inside a cement opening covered by a tin sheet to stop the rain. Stuffed into a crease above him are a few rags. I pass by him and he looks at me and brings his hands together in Namaste. His eyes are so full, they are empty. They have seen too much. His folded hands look like a plea.


The cement opening is his home. The tin sheet, his roof.
He wears white. The colour of mourning. Because he knows I will forget.

We all do.

Day in and day out of my life, I won't think of his face. I won't remember his poverty. Instead, I will get caught up in my own poverty. A poverty of my own making. I will count pennies and lament rising prices. I will think of all the things I do not have. And I will forget that he lives in a cement enclave that might already be bulldozed through because the government decided it was illegal for some people to have a place to call home. I will forget that he has to pay a fee to use the latrine so he goes by the train tracks instead. I will forget that some days, most days, he does not eat.

And I will forget that he folded his hands in prayer to me. In thanks. For taking his picture and giving him a story. For looking at him in the eyes and reminding him he is still a person.

He had forgotten.

And even though I forget him most of the time, sometimes, I remember. And when I remember, I want to fall to his feet. I want to beg him to stop looking at me. To unfold his hands. I am not worthy of his respect. I forget him. All the time.

I forget him when I look through my house and feel bored by the vastness of what I own. I forget him when I take too much food and throw away what I cannot eat. I forget him when I sleep in my warm bed. I forget him when I cry.

I forget.

But I have a picture of an old man whose name I never knew. Sitting inside a cement opening. His hands folded in thanks. So I fold my own. And I remember.

Even if only for a moment.
I remember.

And I am grateful.

The Dawn

Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.
~ Rabindranath Tagore

Today is the birthday of my uncle, who passed away suddenly this past September. A day that has always been celebrated with laughter is being brought in with tears today.

The shock of his passing may have been muted with time, but it is not forgotten. And yet, in some weird twist of logic and insanity, life goes on. We all think the world will stop turning. And yet, somewhere within us, we find the strength to keep moving. To keep turning.

And that's kind of how the world works. It just keeps turning. And we keep turning along with it.

Although his body is not here to be celebrated, the essence of his character - his joy, his love, his patience - remains in our heart, and we can still carry the memory of a beautiful person we had the privilege of loving (and being loved by).

No words can really do this grief justice. But for those of us who struggle, remember what Henry James once said:

Sorrow passes and we remain.

We know the dawn has come; we just wish the lamp didn't have to go out.
Your light will burn within us, always.

We miss you, Ramesh Uncle.

Amor Fati

Love Your Fate, which is, in fact, your life.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

My husband and I travelled around the world for three months last year, and in the last week of our travels, I got into a severe bicycle accident. I damaged my knee so badly that I couldn't walk for months and still have the bruise - over 10 months later. I hit my wrist so hard in the fall that I still don't have full functionality of it to this day.

When I got into the accident, the first thought I had, after acknowledging the searing pain, was Thank God it wasn't worse. I was immediately reminded of a friend who passed away from just such a bicycle accident. It could have been much worse for me. But it wasn't. And I was thankful.

Things happen to all of us.

And as they are happening or after they happen, we label those things as "good" or "bad". But looking back on my life and at all those things, I have a hard time labelling anything as truly bad.

There is a Latin phrase: Amor Fati, which loosely translates to "love of one's fate" or "love of fate". It is the belief that everything that happens is good.

And when I sit down to think back on my life, I realize I subscribe to that philosophy. When I look back, I wouldn't change a thing. Not the challenges, not the obstacles, not the outcomes. Even if they didn't work in my favour at the time.

Because yes, things have happened to me, but all of those things, "good" or "bad", made me the person I am today. And I kinda like me. These things I have gone through have been blessings, even if I didn't feel that way as they were happening.

That fight, that failure, that disappointment - it was all good stuff, because here I am - still standing strong.

So when something happens that seems unfavourable, I've started to think:
Maybe the universe has something even better in store for me.

Since I started to "love my fate", I've also started to believe that the best awaits me. If it hurts now, it is because this experience is going to make me a better me. If I don't get something I desperately wanted, yes I may be disappointed in the short term, but that just means something bigger is out there trying to find me.

It has even changed the way I hope. Instead of praying and asking the universe for things, all I say now is, "Please let this happen if it's meant to." It's amazing how such a small change in thought can make such a big difference.

It's almost magical.

Try it.
Love your fate.
Love your life. 

To the Left...

To the left... to the left...
~ Beyoncé

Every morning, I go downstairs for breakfast. Sometimes, I carry it upstairs to eat it by the computer, scrolling mindlessly through some website or another. Other times, I stay downstairs and eat at the table facing the family room where, often, someone has the TV on and I end up mindlessly staring at it.

But the other day, I sat down at the table with my bowl of cereal and the TV blaring in front of me, and something made me turn to my left.

And there it was - a bay window looking out onto the backyard. It was always there, but I guess I just hadn't paid much attention to it before. And as I looked out at the trees, the flowers, the squirrels, the blue sky, it was so beautiful, so peaceful, so revitalizing. So I turned my chair towards the window, sat my cereal bowl on my lap, and just enjoyed the calm view of the world.

That is a morning that has stuck in my memory, unlike the mindless other mornings I have spent being entertained by the emptiness of an electronic device. 

That morning, I realized that sometimes, it's as simple as that - turning your head, looking a different way, seeing something new, changing where you look. 

We have a tendency toward routine. Toward what we know. We often get stuck in one way of thinking, one way of being. Almost as if we live our life with horse blinders on. Doing things as we always did. Seeing things as we always do.

But there is another way. Another viewpoint. If only we would only take off our blinders and see.

Sometimes, it's not about searching elsewhere for things. Sometimes, it's as simple as opening our eyes and seeing what's right in front of us.

Or what's to our left.

While I was away...

I know, I know, I've been missing for a while. But (this time), I wasn't being lazy about posting!

I was revitalizing my writing energy at a Spoken Word Residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Banff, Alberta, and subsequently at the Calgary Spoken Word Festival in Calgary, Alberta.

I hope this will work as my apology for not posting for so long.

I'll be back with more thoughts soon! 

The High-Way Perspective

He who saves one life saves the whole world.
~ Jewish Proverb

A few days ago, I ran out of gas.

I don’t mean figuratively, I mean literally. Two miles from home, right before my exit, my car buckled, slowed down, and gave up in the middle of two lanes on a two-lane highway. It was my fault. I forgot to get gas in the car and halfway home, when I realized I had forgotten, I thought I could make it. But my car had other plans. It was done.

So, in the middle of rush hour, there I was. Stuck in the middle of the highway. And since my cell phone was stolen a few weeks ago, I had no way out on my own.

So I tapped into my faith in people.

When traffic let up a bit, I got out of my car. Most people looked straight at me and kept driving around the obstacle I had created. Others honked. But one lady slowed down. She used her cell phone to call for help and then went on her way. Then, a young guy rolled down his window and asked if I needed help. He stopped on the side of the road, and came to push my car to the shoulder, out of harm’s way. Then, he searched online for the AAA number, which was nowhere to be found, so he let me call my husband to bring a can of gas for me.

Needless to say, it was an adventure. But not one I would like to replicate again.

The whole affair made me think of the nature of people. Most people on the road that day just flew on by me, when I was clearly in distress. Some even honked at me, as if I was choosing to block the highway. And if I wanted to, I could focus on those people and what the world has come to that they couldn’t even stop to help out a fellow human.

Or, I could think about those two people who did stop. I could focus on how wonderful people can be if given the opportunity. Neither of them had to stop. They could have passed right by me just like everyone else, but they did. They tapped into their humanity. They helped out a stranger in need.

And so it’s really about where you choose to look. You can change your life just by shifting your perspective. The truth is, if you look for negativity, you’ll find it in every corner. But if you instead make the choice to see good, you’ll find it everywhere too. And you’ll see that people can be good.

That people are good.

The guy who pushed my car out of the highway wasn’t a saint. He was just a regular guy. But he made the choice to be kind. And I am making the choice to remember his kindness.

So thank you, random highway guy. In a small way, you saved my life. And in saving me, you saved my perspective of the world.

Truth or Spare (Some Change?)

First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms.
~ Kristin Hunter

The other evening, my husband and I were at a strip mall in the suburbs picking up some groceries when we stepped out of the store to a man sitting anxiously on a bench. He stood up and came towards us to ask us for help. Apparently, his car was parked in the lot with no gas, he had left his wallet at work, and his wife wasn't going to be able to come get him for a couple of hours. He said he was completely embarrassed by the situation, but asked us for a couple of dollars so he could get a small can of gas.

His story was pretty elaborate, and we were a bit skeptical, but deep down, I really wanted to believe him. After all, we were in the suburbs. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I only had a few dollars in my wallet, but I handed him what I had, and he was very thankful. He grabbed his jacket and started towards the gas station, and we parted ways.

As we walked into another store, his story stuck with me, and I wondered if it was really true. I am an eternal believer in the goodness and honesty of people. I want to believe that people are truthful, kind, and honest. I struggle with this, but somewhere deep down, I hope that, given the opportunity, people will choose the side of good. I figured I would never know the truth behind the story, but I still wondered.

When we stepped out of the store and walked to our car, there he was, back at the bench, head in his hands, looking just as dejected as before. I felt duped. But I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought maybe the money I had given him wasn't enough. But then again, maybe he had lied. That's when it dawned on me:

It didn't matter.
I didn't care.

If he was lying, I thought of what a bad place he must be in to have to lie.

In the end, his story didn't matter. Because if we judge the story, we decide whose struggle is worthy of our help, when in fact, our opinion is inconsequential. So what if he got a couple of dollars off me. I am so lucky to have a couple of dollars to spare. So what if the homeless person grabs a beer over a meal with the money I give him. What he does with his money is his business.

We should provide help because we want to, and be thankful that we can. 

We didn't approach the man again. If he had come to this place with this story, he must be in a trying place. He must have really needed the money. And it didn't matter what for.

As we drove away, I felt thankful. For all that I have in my life. For having faith in people. For being able to help someone in a hard time. I know I had done the right thing. I had helped my fellow human.

I am thankful I'm on my two feet.

And the best thing I did that day was to reach out my arms.

Ticky Tacky Boxes

My sister is in the process of applying to preschools for her daughter in New York City. In a city where the average income is 30,337 and the average daycare rate is 32,344, how this actually adds up remains a mystery to me.

When I was young (which, relatively, wasn't that long ago), we didn't go to preschool. We didn't even go to pre-K. We either had a family member or a neighbour or a babysitter take care of us until we were 5 or 6, when we headed off to regular local schools to which we didn't have to apply because it just depended on which one was closest to your house.

And I have to say: I didn't turn out so bad. I still managed to get through high school and college quite successfully, and ended up with a pretty decent career. I have thus far lived a fantastic life. I’ve travelled around the world. I’ve volunteered in another country. I’ve established myself as a poet. I’ve started my own businesses. I’ve reached out to my fellow human. I’ve been a good person.

So what is it about the competitive culture we have created that makes us think our children will turn out better than us if we spend more money on them? And what, exactly, does "better" entail? Does it involve just dishing out cash for things? Tons of toys, anti-social electronics, an education that doesn't even show up on your resume (imagine all the job-seekers out there name-dropping what preschool they went to)? What is it that makes us so vulnerable to the perceived academic achievement of our 2-year olds? Why do we feel the need to spend like the Joneses?

I think it comes back to the notion of perfection.

We want our kids to have "the best". But what is the best? And what does it mean to be the best? To have the best?

I’m reminded of a song/poem that was taught to me in elementary school called Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds (I went to a mediocre, non-ivy league school in the burbs of the south shore of Montreal, so that might explain my exposure to said poetry). The chorus of the song goes like this: And they're all made out of ticky tacky / And they all look just the same. (I’ve included the poem below for anyone interested in reading it before you continue.)

And that's how I feel a lot of the time. Like the ones who believe in ivy league and money-buys-happiness end up essentially buying a box of a life. We’ve all heard the saying "think outside the box". Well, it might just be because we've been convinced to be confined to live inside a box our whole life. Not only do we live in a box (apartment, house), we stare at a box (TV, computer), and we mainly communicate through a box (computer, cell phone). Maybe it’s those with "unconventional" upbringings - the home-schooled, the not-ivy-league-pre-schooled, the local-college-educated kids - that make something greater of themselves. That don't rely on money and status to achieve greatness. Do we really want kids that are just like all the other kids? Do we really believe so strongly in homogeneity? Is fitting in all that matters anymore? Is the packaging greater than the gift?

But if most of us don't believe in conformity, why do we insist on perpetuating the status quo? What if we all stopped competing towards someone else's idea of what constitutes "the best", and instead started striving toward our own? How would life change? How would your life change?

A friend once reminded me that in 150 years, no one alive today will exist.

So who are you competing against? And will it even matter? 

Today, try to step away from preconceived notions, from the things that make you uncomfortable, from the things that stress you out just so you can keep up with the Joneses. Step outside the ticky tacky box. There’s a whole world out there living on their own terms.

Live on your own terms.


Little boxes, by Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.

There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,

And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,

And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

The Obstacle in the Fast Lane

This morning, I was driving in to work when I got caught behind a slowpoke in the fast lane. Since I was already late, I found this frustrating, so I gently tried to "encourage" him to move over to the slow lane.

Ok, I tailed him.

This went on for a bit, but he didn't move. Maybe he didn't notice. Maybe he didn't care. Either way, I started simmering in my frustration and getting caught up in the story of how wrong he was. And so I refused to budge on my stance, staying stuck behind him to make a point.

It was a standoff and I was holding my ground.

But when I looked into my rear view mirror, I saw the cars behind me getting over into the slow lane, passing by me and the slowpoke, and moving on. And that's when I realized that in my attempt to stick to a principle, I was the one losing out. If this was a game, I was the only player. The only character in this story was me.

The slowpoke was going at his own speed, and the cars behind me were moving around this obstacle, but I was holding myself hostage to a principle. All I could see was the problem, and my stubbornness wouldn't let me get around it.

This made me think about how our anger slows us down.
And how we let it.

And I wondered how different things would be if, instead of forcing others to conform to our ideals, we just let them be and moved around them. If, like a river flowing around the rocks on its path, we just flowed on by our own obstacles, instead of being held up by them.

So I decided to slow down.

Nothing much changed with that decision. The slow guy kept going slow. The faster cars kept going fast. But something essential shifted inside of me. The tension in my body dissipated, my frustration subsided, and when I looked around, there was no storyline, no principle to uphold, no game. And that's when I realized that the obstacle was never the slowpoke in front of me.

The obstacle was me.

Life Behind These Bars

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
~ Lewis Smede

A few weeks ago, my father-in-law had a heart attack. A piece of plaque that had plastered itself against his heart became dislodged and blocked the free flow of blood to his body. He felt uncomfortable, his chest constricted, he became short of breath. Thankfully, he noticed what was happening, sought treatment, and was saved. It could have been worse.

Much worse.

This is a man with no previous risk factors, and his condition was a surprise to anyone who found out. But for most people who face this in their life, there are red flags, whether they pay attention to them or not. And as with everything, change is possible. Tragedy is avoidable.

Many years ago, someone in my life hurt me. You know what I'm talking about. It's happened to you, too. Right when I said that, it's the first person you thought of in your own life that hurt you. That one situation you just cannot let go of, no matter how much you think you have, or how much you try.

It just sits there.

For me, this thing that they did has been sitting inside my heart, like a little stone, around which the entire rest of my body has learned to function. And since then, all of the joy that I have felt with that person still flows through my body, but always passes by that little hard spot, nudging it gently, reminding me of what they did to me. So that all of my happiness with them is tainted just a teeny bit by that one hurt.

There are warning signs.
The occasional smart remark I slip into the conversation.
The opportunistic jab at them.
The odd irrational outburst.
Risk factors.
Red flags.

This thing they did to me is like that little plaque that glued itself to my father-in-law's artery. And every time I pretend not to notice what is happening, my heart constricts, I am short of breath, and it continues to block the free flow of love through my body. And I bring myself this much closer to a potential tragedy. To my heart closing down a little bit more.

My anger at this person is like a cage. And I foolishly look through the bars of this cage and think that I am free and everyone else is caged in. But it's me who is locked inside of it.

I am the prisoner.

But, in this prison of my own making, I am also the warden. I hold the key. And I can decide to open the door and let myself out at any time. But I haven't made that choice.

What I've chosen is to imprison everyone else in my anger. To look at the world and live my life from behind these bars. To let that little stone sit there. To let every good thing flow past that little plaque in my heart. To harden up. To let my heart close up a little more every day. Every day I choose to hold on, I do an injustice to our bond.

We all do this. We carry around a hurt in our heart and we lock ourselves inside of it. We let a wrong attach itself to us and decide our fate. We let it harden us just a little bit. We ignore the red flags. We do not change. And for every day that we decide not to make a change, we walk a few steps closer to tragedy.

And it's not just that one hurt. We do it with all our hurts. With all our wrongs. And they stack up inside of our heart, and slowly, we close up. And this affects how we are. It affects who we are.

For me, it has tainted my perception of the world. It has affected the bond between myself and that person. It has affected the bond between myself and other people.

But most of all, it has affected the bond between myself and my self.

So today, I am going to stop ignoring the red flags. I am deciding to make a change.

Today, I am making the choice to walk the path of forgiveness.
To dislodge this little plaque on my own, before it can do me any more harm.
I am unlocking this cage and setting this prisoner free.

I am going to free me from me.

Think of one situation in which you were hurt. Can you make the choice to set yourself free from it? 

The Silence of Madame

Do not speak unless it improves on silence.
~ Buddha

I am a woman of words.

Which means I know how to use them well - to heal - and I know how to use them poorly - to hurt. And I do both.

But for a long time now, I have been wanting to be in silence. I guess, since words are so important to me, it seemed apt that I would want to take a vow of silence to explore wordlessness. Every year, as I transfer my life's to-do list to a new page, I have kept this 10-day silent meditation retreat on the list. I've never known why I have wanted to do it, but I've always known that I have wanted to do it. This year, instead of waiting to get it together and sign up for the retreat, I thought maybe even just one day of silence could work. And maybe after one day, I could try two, and then three, and who knows... maybe one day make it out to that retreat for ten.

So when the new year rolled around and I was writing down the things I hoped to undertake this year, I kept Silence on the list. And one day last month, I decided January 31st would be my first attempt at a day of silence. So much happened in the two weeks prior to my Silent Day that I almost thought I wouldn't go through with it. But it seemed apt that in all the fuss, I would take this time to be in silence with myself.

I looked at it as an opportunity to reflect on the past month; to realign myself with my goals for the next month; to take some time away from the everyday bombardment of communication; and to hopefully learn something.

The night before the big day, I wrote myself a little note that said "Today, I am in silence." and carried that little piece of paper in my pocket throughout the day.

I can't say being in silence was hard, but it was different. For one, people still tried to communicate with me, which made it a bit frustrating since I couldn't communicate back. And within the first few hours, I began wondering why I was doing this. Somehow, I felt I was missing the point.

But then, in the afternoon, as someone was speaking to me and I was listening, they said something incorrect. I wanted to correct them, but not being able to talk, I couldn't. The conversation went on without a hitch, and that's when it dawned on me:

It didn't matter if I corrected them. It didn't matter if I had the right answer. In the grand scheme of inconsequential things, what I said or didn't say right then didn't actually matter. And I realized that most of the things we think we need to say - we don't.

But more importantly, most of the things that actually matter, we never even say.

And worse yet are the meaningful things left unsaid that we can no longer say.

Further into the day, I found myself noticing the sarcastic remarks I might have said but that remained muted on my tongue, and realized that it was better to not have said anything at all.

Benjamin Franklin said: "Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."

I sure hadn't been doing that in my life.

There is a French saying along the same lines that goes: "tourner sept fois la langue dans la bouche," which translates to "turn your tongue seven times in your mouth before speaking." 

What I found was that in my life, I wasn't turning my tongue even once. I was giving in to temptation and saying anything that came to mind - sometimes even things I didn't really want or need to say. I wasn't thinking before I spoke - I was just reacting. I realized that there have been a lot of words I wish I had never said, and so many more I wish I had.

And I think that's an affliction most of us face. We just say what comes to us. We say things that don't matter. We say things we wish we could take back. We even make it a point to say things we know we shouldn't. We don't think before we speak.

And we also don't focus our energy on saying the things that do matter, the things that make a difference, the things that lift us and others up.

And who knows when we won't be able to say those things any longer.

In my life, I don't want to regret the things I said or the things I didn't say. But I want to be aware of both before I decide. And so I realized that I would like to cultivate silence in my life, and take a moment before I speak. 

I cut short my day of silence in the evening. I felt I had learned what I needed to for that day. And after it was done, I wanted to make sure that when I spoke again, I would be improving on the silence.

And so for the rest of the night, I didn't have much to say.

Can you hold your tongue at a tempting moment? 
Let me know how you felt afterwards.

Awakening Joy

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.
~ James Openheim

At one time in my life, when I was working really hard at changing my perspective, I decided to write a journal. This was not an ordinary Dear Diary type of journal. I decided that before I went to bed every night, I would write down a minimum of five things that made me happy that day.

Let me tell you, it was hard at the beginning. When I started off this project, I would sit in my bed and have to painfully eke out good things from my day. It was like pulling teeth, and at the beginning, I dreaded it.

But then a strange thing happened. Slowly, when good things happened throughout my day, I started paying attention to them. I started thinking, "Oh, maybe I could add this to my list. And this." And soon, I started noticing so many good things that I had to write them down during the day so I wouldn't forget all of them.

It was amazing.
I had actually managed to shift my perspective.

Suddenly, even the littlest things started being noteworthy. The crisp breath of fresh air when I stepped outside. The guy who let me merge into the lane. The woman holding the door for me. A smile. A conversation. My mother's lap. My father's laugh. I was inundated with goodness. Everything was a blessing. It was so wonderful. Life was so beautiful. I was soaked in joy.

After the year was over, I kept my journal. But I didn't start a new one. It had fulfilled its purpose. I had found gratitude and appreciation for everything, and I even managed to maintain this feeling of thankfulness long into the coming years.

A few years later, I did the exercise again, when I felt I needed it in my life. It was wonderful again to find the good things in my day. Even on the bad days, I would force myself to see how much I had in my life that others didn't. Even if I had to write down things like "good food" or "warm blanket", it just made me realize how much I had. And once again, I managed to shift my perspective toward joy.

Things changed over the years, and I admit now that my gratitude has waned. But since this year is my year - the end of my trying 7 years - I was so happy when my sister suggested we take a course called "Awakening Joy".

I needed it.

The first session of the course began this week, and one thing it suggested was that we start noticing the joyful moments in our life and spend even just five seconds soaking it in when it happens.

Let me tell you: it's not easy. When you've programmed yourself to have a general negative sentiment override, you forget how to notice the good things. You forget how to appreciate them. You even forget (sometimes) that they exist. You forget what true joy actually feels like. But I guess that's the shift. That's why I wrote those journals years ago. And that's why I am trying to shift my perspective once more.

I have spent enough time focusing on the negative. The blur that I sometimes feel my true self is stuck in is fading and I am getting back into focus. And like when I started my journal long ago, I am ready to reawaken my joy.

And I think it will be as simple as that. Deciding to do it.

Because when we put our genuine intention out into the world, we get what we need. It may not be in the form we hoped or expected, but it comes. And we have to notice it right when it happens, and then revel in it.

So I am done seeing happiness as a goal that exists somewhere in the distance. Instead, I am going to plant its seed under my feet.

And I know that I will grow.

Can you name one thing that made you happy today?

The Murderer and Me

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
~ Buddha

A little over a year ago, my sister and I witnessed a murder.

We didn't see the shooter's or the victim's face closely, but we saw the shots fired (at close range) and the victim gasping for breath and then falling to the ground. It was such an unbelievable scenario that we actually didn't believe what we had seen. It couldn't have been real. My sister was convinced it was just some kids playing with a BB Gun. I wanted to believe her. I mean, that kind of stuff only happens on Law & Order, right?


We called the cops, went into the precinct the next day, and even looked at pages and pages of mugshots before conceding defeat. We hadn't seen much.

But we had seen enough.

When we found out it was a real shooting, at first, I felt shocked: I can't believe that happened. I can't believe I saw it happen. I hope the person is ok.
Then, I felt angry: Why aren't guns illegal. What kind of world do we live in. How can someone actually do something like that. 
Then, I felt disconnected: I'm fine with it. 

I completely disassociated myself from the event. I became apathetic and began feeling rather indifferent towards the situation since I couldn't logically or intellectually process it. But it happened. And ignoring it certainly wasn't going to get me anywhere.

So one day I sat down to write out some thoughts about it. I needed to address the issue in a way that would allow me to comprehend and process it. As someone who believes everything happens for a reason, I needed to understand why I was there at that exact moment to witness such a horrible crime.

After sitting with it for some time, I came to the conclusion that I witnessed this event so that I would take the opportunity to visit my anger center. To understand what separates the shooter from myself. Yes, he took a life and I would never do that, but what was the root of his actions? An imbalance? A disconnect? Whether he did it for money, revenge, or just for kicks, he was disconnected from the good place inside of him. I know it sounds crazy - I mean, how can someone who did something so horrible have a good place inside of them? Well, the truth is we all do.

Murderers aren't born, they're made.

At moments in my own life, when I let anger control me, I was disconnected, too. And just because I didn't pull an actual trigger, that doesn't mean I didn't pull a metaphoric one. Haven't I ever said something mean to someone in my life, lost my temper, acted in a way I later wished I hadn't? Hadn't those words or actions acted like a weapon and injured the other person?

What I realized was that the murderer and I are the same.

After all, what differentiates his anger from mine? He just has different boundaries than me. I could never think of killing someone, but that's my boundary. Perhaps he could never imagine writing a blog about his emotions - but that's him. We approach our emotions differently.

From him, I learned that when I feel anger, it is ok for me to feel angry, but it is not ok for me to use my anger as a weapon against others. From this event, I realized that I needed to become more aware of my emotions.

What I also realized is that I hadn't yet allowed myself to feel sadness. Sad for the victim, sad for the shooter, sad for what the world has come to, sad for myself to have witnessed this. I was repressing my emotions and in letting them sit inside of me without addressing them, I was muting all of my emotions. Because my body hadn't been allowed to process sadness, my body also didn't feel allowed to engage fully in happiness or joy either.

This was a serious problem.

They say your body stores your emotions, whether or not your mind processes them. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each organ of your body is associated with a certain emotion. Kidneys with fear, liver with anger, lungs with grief, stomach with worry, heart with joy, and so on. So in not feeling an emotion, your body just stores it and becomes congested. People throw their back when they get stressed; have stomach ulcers when they are anxious; children pee when they get scared. It is all connected.

So in the spirit of growing and learning this year, I have decided to engage in Rasa Sadhana once a month. Rasa Sadhana is a practice of emotional fasting or focusing in which a person puts aside any period of time (day, week, month) to focus individually on each of the nine principal emotions (love, joy, wonder, peace, anger, courage, sadness, fear, disgust) in order to become more attuned to their presence and as a result, master them.

This is not a practice of denying emotions when they arise, of not feeling "bad" emotions or only feeling the emotions we label as "good". We are, after all, human, and all emotions are a natural part of who we are. This is rather about feeling everything fully, observing emotions in an active instead of reactive way, and getting to the root of why we are feeling a certain way. An emotion is a symptom, not a problem. So it is important to understand where our emotions are coming from. If you figure out the problem, the symptom will dissipate. In this way, we can gain mastery over our emotions.

It is important and necessary to address and honour what we feel in order to process it both physically and psychologically, and equally important to enable ourselves to let go. And after bearing witness to someone else's disconnect, I am ready to reconnect and let go.

I am putting down this hot coal. 

I am done getting burned.

What emotions are clogged in your system? 


P.S. If you would like to do Rasa Sadhana with me this year, reach out to me and maybe I can create a little workshop for us to go through together. 

Scribblie Perfection

When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.
~ Buddha

I've got this little two-year-old in my life.

No, this is not one of those posts about the little two-year-old me who lives inside of me; this little girl is real and in the flesh. Her name is Reya.


When they're this small, they're little sponges soaking up everything you say and do and all the things you didn't realize you said and did (eep)! But although she learns a million things from me, I am always surprised at how much I learn from her.

Take this drawing of hers:

Yes, to the untrained eye it looks like pencil scratches, circles, and general two-year-old scribblies, but after she ran proudly and excitedly to me and said "Look!", I contemplated it for a minute and then asked her what it was. Without a moment's hesitation, she said,


She knew exactly what it was. And when I looked again, I saw it too. Right there, in the middle of the scribbles and the lines and the circles, there He was. The Buddha. Staring straight back at me, wondering how I hadn't seen Him there in the first place.

I guess I wasn't really paying attention.

Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment and transcended this physical existence. So Buddha isn't something specific. He doesn't look a certain way. He is a concept. He is the idea that you can break free from this physical box and see the world differently if you choose to. He is transcendence, stillness, or whatever you make Him out to be.

With her drawing of the Buddha, Reya made me realize that even in the chaos, there is order, there is meaning. In her drawing there was nothing, and yet, there was everything. And she showed me that whatever enlightenment and perfection mean to you - that is what it is, and no one can argue with that. (Anyway, try arguing with a two-year-old!)

So I kept her scribble, and I will post it on my wall to remind me that it's all secretly perfect.

And every time I look at it, I will tilt my head back and laugh at the sky.

Can you find perfection in your chaos? 

The Tears of Last Year

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
~ Henry David Thoreau

A few years ago, I spent New Year's Eve in India with some new friends I had made while volunteering there. At midnight, my friend pulled out glasses of water and handed one to each of us. We were to think of the sadness and negativity of the past year, and then pour the water out. This simple gesture was meant to symbolize throwing out the tears of last year. Emptying one's cup of the accumulated negative energy in order for it to be filled again with whatever we choose to focus on in the coming year. This little ritual stuck with me since then and now, eight years later, I still take pleasure in emptying my cup at the beginning of every new year.

Wherever I am in all the hullaballoo surrounding the new year, I always try to take a moment at midnight to think about the negative energies of the past year that I would like to let go of. This year, I spent midnight with my husband and some friends, and after the customary champagne toast, I offered them all a glass of water, hoping to pay forward this little tradition that had inspired me so many years ago.

We all stepped outside into the crisp winter air for a moment, each with our own glass of water, and took a moment to think of the things we wanted to let go of. As I was thinking of the tears I wanted to leave behind in 2011, I stopped for a moment.

There it was: a permeating silence. The kind of beautiful silence that accompanies a moment of sincere reflection. It was a personal experience for each one of us, and although we were all standing there together, I knew we had each entered into our own universe for a moment. 

It was a beautiful thing.

After we poured our glasses out and went back into the house, a pervading peace surrounded us for a few moments. Everyone thanked me for introducing them to this ritual, and my heart soared a teeny bit. In a fast-paced world full of noise and action, I had managed to engage stillness and reflection in myself and also provide it to others, if just for one brief moment before we resumed the party.

Secretly, I think everyone needed it. In the rush of life, with the constant connectivity of technology, we so rarely take the time to be in silence. And months pass while we hold on to so many things and let them fester inside of us, even if we think we have let them go. But taking a moment to pay homage to our past and then to let it go is such a powerful practice - one that need not only be performed once a year.

What a wonderful way to start off the new year: with silence, surrender, and gratitude.
And an empty cup.

I feel rich beyond measure.

What negative energies do you want to leave behind in 2011?