The joy of it all.

joy

Oh, to be a kid, before we’ve learned to wear masks and tamp down our emotions to keep from looking silly. We’ve mastered the art of staying calm when really we want to grab someone and spin them around in the air because we are so happy to see them, or to guffaw at a joke or funny thought, or to just break out in dance walking down the street.

We are so civilized.

But sometimes, maybe, it’s nice to be like this dog and just let someone know how you feel:

That’s wearing his heart on his sleeve, isn’t it? But life’s short; what’s the point of hiding our joy?

Leaving the world a bit better.

breatheeasier

We all want to succeed, but what is the metric for measuring whether we’ve been successful? There are so many. Money, status, power, bucket lists, fame, travel… but what of the little things? Are you successful if you have enough money to buy a small country but no one to love or trust? Is it success if you are famous but lonely? If you have power but wield it to cause pain and misfortune to others, how can that be considered success? If you’ve traveled the world but not been truly present anywhere, does that count?

Perhaps true success at this thing called life is as simple as Emerson’s thoughts above. To leave the world a bit better, to ease the burdens of others, to look for and bring out the best in others, to do no harm. These all matter, maybe not in measurable concrete ways, but in ways we can all feel and appreciate if not count. More important, these are all things we each can do. We have the ability to be successful beyond our wildest imaginings.

And don’t forget to laugh often and much. Finding the joy and not letting it slip right past you undetected is important, too.

Count your blessings instead of sheep.

presentblessings

When your weary head fills with all the things you need to do or all the things that have gone wrong and keeps you from sleep, consider instead your present blessings. Let the negative thoughts drift from your focus like clouds blowing across a starlit sky, and turn your attention to the things you are grateful for, right here, right now.

For inspiration, consider this poem, Three Gratitudes, by Carrie Newcomer:

Every night before I go to sleep
I say out loud
Three things that I’m grateful for,
All the significant, insignificant
Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.
It’s a small practice and humble,
And yet, I find I sleep better
Holding what lightens and softens my life
Ever so briefly at the end of the day.
Sunlight, and blueberries,
Good dogs and wool socks,
A fine rain,
A good friend,
Fresh basil and wild phlox,
My father’s good health,
My daughter’s new job,
The song that always makes me cry,
Always at the same part,
No matter how many times I hear it.
Decent coffee at the airport,
And your quiet breathing,
The stories you told me,
The frost patterns on the windows,
English horns and banjos,
Wood Thrush and June bugs,
The smooth glassy calm of the morning pond,
An old coat,
A new poem,
My library card,
And that my car keeps running
Despite all the miles.
And after three things,
More often than not,
I get on a roll and I just keep on going,
I keep naming and listing,

Until I lie grinning,
Blankets pulled up to my chin,
Awash with wonder
At the sweetness of it all.

 

Pleasant dreams.

Be the crane.

protect

Where would we be without people who passionately care about others, including those beyond their immediate circle? Who will protect the vulnerable, the voiceless, and the overlooked? Who will speak out on behalf of Earth herself?

We protect the things we love. When we see a hurting world and people, maybe we need to broaden our love.

Take a minute to watch this remarkable video of a father crane protecting his young from an alligator.

What a beautiful metaphor this father crane is for us: yes there are alligators in the world; they come in lots of shapes in sizes.

But let’s hear it for the cranes.

Create.

artist

How do you define success?

Is it in a purely monetary way or is it more nuanced and complex?

A creative life expands the heart and sharpens the senses. It opens the creator to insight and wisdom. It constantly pushes the creator to new levels. It is a fountain of youth and immortality all in one.

Mountain or molehill?

mad

We talk so much louder with our actions than our words. How we treat other people, what rankles us, what motivates us, who our heroes are–these speak volumes about who we are regardless of what’s on our resumes.

What gets you mad?

If you step back and look reasonably objectively at it, you can get glimpses into your inner self that may appall you. Maybe ego, pride, pettiness, and self-pity are more present than you would have ever guessed, and now’s the time to change that up and set your sites on bigger foes.

Pause.

jellyfish

We are caught in the steady, persistent, ruthless flow of time. And yet there are moments when we can step out of time to pause, focus, and gain perspective. The arts do that. As you admire a piece of art, whether photograph, painting, novel, poem, film, dance and so on, we are grounded in detail. We can observe intricacy. We pause in the captured emotion and can rest there awhile. We are transported.

When the cares of the world become too great, we can pause and admire the detail in a jelly fish, the sweetness in bird song, or read soothing words such as these by Wendell Barry:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

Take a moment to pause on something beautiful.

Wipe the dust off your soul.

soulwash

It is so easy to get discouraged when living a creative life. Your words are criticized; your paintings don’t sell. “They” don’t believe you have any promise. Sometimes the struggle to be commercially successful in a creative field can be so daunting that you abandon the art. But then you remember that art isn’t about “them” or “success” or “critical acclaim” at all. It’s about bringing your truths into the light, being creative, pushing yourself, being you.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the case of Henri Rousseau, a forty year old toll collector who wanted to paint. His work was derided, and yet he continued. He found joy in the painting. Not until the end of his life did anyone take his work seriously. As summarized by Maria Popova:

Long before history came to celebrate him as one of the greatest artists of his era, long before he was honored by major retrospectives by such iconic institutions as the MoMA and the Tate Museum, long before Sylvia Plath began weaving homages to him into her poetry, he spent a lifetime being not merely dismissed but ridiculed. And yet Rousseau — who was born into poverty, began working alongside his plumber father as a young boy, still worked as a toll collector by the age of forty, and was entirely self-taught in painting — withstood the unending barrage of harsh criticism with which his art was met during his entire life, and continued to paint from a deep place of creative conviction, with an irrepressible impulse to make art anyway…. [Rousseau’s life is] an emboldening real-life story, and a stunningly illustrated one, of remarkable resilience and optimism in the face of public criticism, of cultivating a center so solid and a creative vision so unflinching that no outside attack can demolish it and obstruct its transmutation into greatness.

The message from Rousseau’s life speaks to all of us: he was a success all along. He persevered with a remarkable resilience to produce work that spoke to him and pursued a passion that made him happy. That, the pursuit of great art, rather than the financial success was what gave his journey depth and meaning and lifted up his soul.

 

 

Going counter-culture.

dalai

Is kindness passé? Patience out of date? Love revolutionary? In today’s world, these virtues seem counter-culture. People are quick to be mean, impatient for their own way, and blinded by hate. The loudest rant dominates over the considered opinion.

In this commencement speech, Jake Tapper urges the graduates to be kind, to shy away from meanness, the easy and lazy option:

How can we go that extra distance to show up in this world as kind and patient, to refuse to meet meanness with meanness, but instead with the loving response?

The littlest heroes

burdens

There are the larger than life heroes who accomplish monumental things, and then there are the everyday unknown heroes who may be even more inspiring if only we knew their stories. They are just like us, regular folks, without a forum or bankroll, doing their best to make the world a better place for all people.

Consider 4 year old Austin Perine. He has made it his mission to feed the homeless. (And inspired Burger King to offer him $1000 to do it!) He does it because ‘It’s just the right thing to do.”

His motto is simple: Show Love.

 

That’s a mission we can all get behind: Show Love.