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Spend a few minutes enjoying inner peace. Notice what happens when you breathe in peace and beauty and breathe out worry. When you let go, you make space for more joy, more peace, more compassion, more wisdom, and more love to enter. Enjoy this five-minute meditation being with inner peace. This was filmed in the Catskills while at CampGLP – a summer camp for adults.
It’s a Thursday night in the Catskills. Almost 400 people have traveled from around the world for a summer camp for adults, known as Camp Good Life Project (Camp GLP). The evening gathering includes an all camp bonfire, full of s’mores and singing. While most of the campers are in a team-building activity, I am in my room sorting stuff, calling home, and getting my instruments ready. I bring my djembe from home in the hopes of playing at the sing-a-long.
I walk to the area where the campfire will be as it is right near my room. A small group of folks have gathered and are trying to keep the fire lit. It had rained earlier in the day and the ground is wet. Most of the flames are now just smoke. The camp staff who lit the fire have left along with all the supplies.
The small group scrambles to get the fire lit before the massive group of campers come to gather. I bend down and hold out my hands to hold space. Campfire and all, it is still a fire. It’s sacred. The bonfire is the big kickoff for the weekend. With hands open, I send my blessings to the fire. I look to my left and a woman is bent down blowing into the open space. She starts moving sticks and creating an opening for the fire to catch. Other folks are frantically looking for a lighter, matches, anything to help keep the small flame going. There is a sense of nervousness that the fire will go out. Some suggest we use lighter fluid. A few of us look up and ask that we wait to see if we can get it going by using nature, our intention, and the wood in front of us.
Smoke – more smoke. The fire is slowly going down and what seems to be a small ember is left. Again, the offer to get lighter fluid is suggested. I look now to see my new friend Pam circling around the fire and we both agree that we ought to wait and see if we can get it going ourselves. We realize we have some paper from the s’mores to use that to help get the fire going. I start a small low chant to bless the fire and I realize more people are circling around us.
Ember – one ember. Just as it seems the fire will be out altogether, there is one spark of light. Someone calls out in the dark that there is one ember still going. A few folks blow on the ember and we open the logs a little to give it more air. The ember takes and more glow begins to light up our campfire.
Fire – we have fire. The fire grows up and out and we begin to clap and hug and laugh. Most of the campers hadn’t realized the effort to get the fire going. All the fire starters gather closer to the flame knowing it was just smoke with one small ember.
Love – we are love. It took many hands. It took patience. It took our great will to not give into the easy solution (luckily, there was no lighter fluid nearby) and to just BE with the fire. It took time for everyone gathered to realize this was more than a camp fire – this was a sacred fire. And oh, how the fire danced for us.
The lessons of the fire are always right in front of us. Just when you think everything is at its most darkest, there is always an ember of light. The fire waits for us. Our breath holds great power. Lean on one another and bear witness. From nothing is everything. From one ember – fire.
Dedicated to Pamela Slim who shared in the sacred fire ceremony. Fuego.
I am sitting on a cabin step in upstate New York with a woman from Vermont who I met less than 48 hours ago. We are both participants in the Camp Good Life Project (Camp GLP). It’s my third year at this summer camp for creative souls, entrepreneurs, and change-makers. It’s a weekend of wisdom, deep learning, creating, playing (color wars + dance parties), meditation, yoga classes, and an outrageous talent show. More than that, it’s a weekend of deep connections, soulful humanness, and joyful play.
As we sit eating our veggie pizza, we laugh about our experiences from the weekend. We talk about how we have witnessed being vulnerable, feeling safe, being connected to our core values, playing our hearts out, and experiencing deep love without judgment. When asked what her biggest lesson of the weekend has been, she looks me in the eye and says she is leaving with the question, “Am I brave enough to be me?” I exhale. My eyes fill with tears. Her eyes fill with tears. We just sit together and listen to the question without rushing to any outcome or answer.
The question of being brave enough to be me has been part of my meditation since leaving camp. Am I brave enough to be me? For three days at camp, the answer was a resounding yes. I felt brave enough to hug friends and strangers, to (belly) laugh, to cry with people I met for the first time, to dance and sing, to drum publicly at a bonfire, to make my own mala (prayer beads), to nap under a tree, to take long quiet walks, to watch birds and share the joy of it with campers, to listen and bear witness to stories about longing or grief or dreams, and to share my deep passions and fears.
The world has too much fear spreading and camp is a reminder that something else works – bravery. The kind of bravery that asks people to be themselves, to show up fully, and to tune into their heart and live from that place.
It takes great bravery to:
Share about living each day petrified because you are waiting for a heart-transplant
Tear up as you tell the story of your spouse who has a chronic illness
Reveal about the infant you and your husband are waiting to adopt any day and the excitement you feel as a gay man becoming a father
Dance on stage for the first time in front of 380+ people
Design a company only to experience massive debt
Tell a room full of people that you had to rewrite your book from scratch three times before it was published
What all of these (and the many more) moments of bravery exemplified is the ability to fully show up – as is – just the way we are. It was the experience of being able to laugh and cry in the exact same breath. We can be brave and doing it afraid in the exact same moment. And we can do it together. This is what it means to connect deeply, live soulfully, and play joyfully.
Am I brave enough to be me? I take another exhale. I share with my new friend, “I needed a detox from snarkiness and cynicism.” It’s easy to be a critic; the real work is showing up and doing it afraid. Brave enough to me means fully living my values of generosity, connection, vulnerability, creativity, and spirituality.
And you? What comes up when you hear the question: Am I brave enough to be me?
Sitting with compassion for others and myself led me to write this meditation:
Fill yourself up with compassion with each breath. What do you look like when you are living with compassion? Show yourself some compassion right now. Allow yourself to breathe compassion into your whole body.
Notice your body and breathe even more compassion.
Let compassion move your hands to your heart.
How are you transmitting compassion to yourself?
What is your message of compassion today?
Listen to compassion.
Take a deeper breath in and out.
Breathe compassion. Again. And again.
When you see the world with compassion, what’s possible?
And take a nice big breath.
Be compassionate to youself, always.
Beam compassion with every interaction.
And so it is.
As Pema Chödrön writes, “Just as nurturing our ability to love is a way of awakening bodhichitta, so also is nurturing our ability to feel compassion. Compassion, however, is more emotionally challenging than loving-kindness because it involves the willingness to feel pain. It definitely requires the training of a warrior.
When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience our fear of pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”
Stay with your breath. Stay with yourself. Stay with compassion.
Let’s take a few moments to sit in and meditate on the heart center. Place one hand on your heart. Soft gaze or close your eyes. Breathe in gently and exhale slowly. Feel your palm melt in your heart and your heart melt into your hand. Feel whatever feelings arise. As you breathe, feel your heart.
This is a direct way to meditate on your heart. You can feel and just allow the feelings to show you your heart. You can be in your heart center. Relate your mind and heart. Notice your rhythm and thoughts. Feel your mind and body connection. This is your refuge. Your heart center is where peace resides. Go for refuge in the peace that is always available.
When you are ready, take another breath and ease into your day ─ with a peaceful mind.
As I work with coaching (and healing) clients, I am often asked how to create powerful visions for work and life. Over the years, I have used the following steps to help me move from vision to action. I have put a lot of my work out into the world. Some of it has landed with success and some of it has flopped. I always learn from each experience.
Isn’t it better to look back years from now and not have regret for what we didn’t do? There will always be an excuse of why we didn’t start something. There will always be an excuse: the lack of time, the lack of experience, and the lack of money. Even if we had all of these, there is still no guarantee that our idea/dream will work. How liberating to just go ahead and live out our idea.
Here is how I move from imagining, to designing, into living my dreams:
1. Visualize the dream as already happening (i.e. creating your business, making art, writing a book, having a loving partner or whatever the goal is)
2. Name any thoughts or beliefs that might be getting in the way (These are the old stories/tapes we carry around with us)
3. Reframe any thoughts or beliefs by writing your intention in the positive with a timeline (i.e. I see myself having my paintings in 2-3 galleries by July, drafting my book in 2014, and being with a loving kind person this month)
4. Ask for support. Seek out people for ideas. Bounce your thoughts with those you trust and ask for any specific support to help keep you focused
5. Take 1 action daily towards your goal. Do one thing every day. As I like to say, “Do it afraid. Make change despite yourself.”
6. And finally, celebrate yourself! Treat yourself to a cup of tea, buy flowers, or something sweet. And celebrations can happen at every step along the way.
Meditation is the space deep in the ocean. When we meditate, we can experience the beauty of the bottom of the sea, where everything is calm and tranquil. On the surface there may be a strong current or many large waves, but the sea is not affected below. In its deepest depths, the sea is profound silence. When we start meditating, we try to reach our own the inner silence by staying on top of the water with our thoughts as a lifeline. However, if we can drop in a little deeper (into our heart center), we will notice that when the waves come from the outside world, we are not affected. Fear, doubt, worry and all the turmoil will just wash away, because inside us is absolute peace. Thoughts cannot trouble us, because our mind is all peace, all silence, and all oneness. Like fish in the sea, our thoughts jump and swim and go with the current of the water. So when we meditate, we can feel like the sea ─ going beneath the surface of agitation and into the place of tranquility. We are that tranquility. Our mind is the top layer of the water and our heart is the infinite sea. Take a deep dive into the ocean of your mind.
My Buddhist teacher often says, “If we can feel a little bit of peace, then we can feel a lot of peace.” He invites us to hang out with peace. “When you feel a little bit of peace, hang out there.” Peace arises naturally in our own mind. When we are quiet and pause, peace arises.
It is finding the still point within. The still point resides within and is always available. The question I have come ask myself daily is, “Am I listening to peace or am I listening to agitation?”
Ask yourself, are you hanging out with peace or agitation?
Take a moment and notice ─ at the still point, there is peace.