Tag Archives: joy

7 Quotes to Help You Find Hope After the Storm

April showers bring May flowers – so the idiom goes, but who talks about how hard those April showers can be to get through? There are weeks during the year when it feels like the flood tides are rising and all you can do is let go into the current. Sometimes those weeks turn into months or longer, and that kind of depression takes different shapes in every person. However, there’s hope. There is a crazy idea that no matter what storms we whether there will be sunshine on the other side, and if we can make it there we’ll be better people for it. There’s hope and optimism that hard times lead to better things. Hope that our trials and tribulations will pay out in positive dividends. We have to believe that to keep going. At Intent we encourage that hope because we believe it to be absolutely true. It turns out we aren’t the only ones – check out these hopeful quotes below and spread them to anyone that could use a little joy.

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Exercise for Joy, Energy, and Happiness

woman-and-scale-shutterstock1Every year I set the same resolutions – lose 15 pounds, cut out refined sugar, meditate daily, exercise 5 times a week – resolutions that seem like nostalgic wishes by mid February. This year I set the intent I am living with the intent to feel energetic, creative, joyful, centered and inspired

And, while I am making a commitment to work out more often and eat more mindfully, I am committing to physical activities that make me feel connected spiritually and full emotionally rather than torturing myself just to shed pounds.

I am discovering a love of yoga (believe it or not, I am not a yogi – read about it here!) through a group class I am doing with other mom friends.  Historically, yoga has been a struggle for me as I have felt like I am “bad” at it.  But this year I am approaching it differently – inspired, as I often am, by the guiding philosophy of my good friend Tara Stiles.

Tara and I recently hosted a SCLA event in San Francisco and as I watched Tara twist and turn in amazing ways to hip hop music during our event, I noticed the intention to find joy, creativity, and challenge by those in her class. Tara’s approach to yoga made it fun, rich and fulfilling for all those in the class, even if they couldn’t keep up with her!

In an interview I did with Tara last year, she talked about the joy she discovered in yoga:  “(As a dancer), everything has to be perfect or you’re not completing the movement. That’s what was so exciting about yoga. You’re going to your own limit and finding the ease in that moment.  From a mental, spiritual and emotional aspect it was definitely key. I was like, ‘I have to do this forever!’”

What I am enjoying about my own weekly yoga class is that I can do it at my own pace.  And its social!  I have as much fun chatting with the other mom friends as I do stretching and breathing. We’ve always been big supporters of yoga here on Intent and encourage all of you to give it a try if you’re looking for a practice that not only works you out but also helps you connect to your body through your mind and spirit.

I’ve also been on a few hikes on the lovely trails here in Santa Monica where I live, not checking my phone for emails, and walking in silence noticing the beauty of nature. 

And, this weekend I plan to start running on the beach again – one of the most emotionally healing things I have done in the past. For my 40th birthday, I ran a half marathon and found a love for running because of how it made me feel emotionally. Working out with an activity that makes you feel happy and better about yourself is much healthier than doing something you hate because it’ll trim fat.

Hopefully my strategy of living with intent this year will help me realize some of the changes I am seeking in my life more effortlessly and with lasting impact.  And more importantly, because I am having fun, feeling connected and inspired, I am anticipating my physical time, rather than feeling burdened by it. This will keep me motivated to stay on the path to healthier living!

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5 Steps to Handling Life When Things Get Rough

SadnessDo you secretly ache for something more? Do you celebrate the miracle that is your life or are you constantly running, frustrated by the never-ending to-do list at home and at work?

When life is not going our way, it can be hard to look on the bright side. And what about the people who tell you “It’s all good” when your life is in a state of overwhelm, collapse, or just plain sucks. What’s good about it?

The key is to realize that you are creating everything in your life, that it is all perfect, even though you might not recognize it at the time. Hold the faith – understanding will come. Rather than seeing yourself as a victim, ask yourself, for example: “Why am I creating this difficult, angry neighbor who refuses to discuss the parking situation with me?”

In this very question your freedom starts. By refusing to get angry back, which creates a power struggle, you step past the ego, which would love to be ‘right’ and ‘win’, and create a calm spaciousness, in which amazing outcomes can happen.

By sending love, and compassion, to your antagonist, miraculous changes can occur.

In addition, you discover a rich well of creativity, strength, and wisdom inside you that you didn’t know you had.

What if we allowed ourselves to fully experience our challenges and grow and expand because of them?

Concerns and fears will still arise but we can learn to meet them from a place of spaciousness and calm. With these proven strategies below you will gain the understanding, and courage, to overcome challenges, and no longer run from your fears, but stand self-assured knowing you can navigate whatever comes your way.

1. Acknowledge Your Present Moment Reality

Accept what is. This doesn’t mean you have to like it, but you do have to accept it. Fighting reality only make things worse. In the very acceptance of what is happening, you relax, and a spaciousness opens up, that allows for a shift to happen. You are now entering the miracle zone, where all kinds of unexpected goodness can appear. Stay open to possibility.

2. Experience Your Moments Of Joy

This might sound obvious, but a lot of us have a pattern of expecting the other shoe to drop when life is going well. Become aware of this habit, and put your attention, energy and focus on really experiencing your moments of joy without assuming that disaster awaits around the corner. What if, around the corner, there is even more joy?

Love, joy and happiness are our natural state.

It is only our programming of fear, lack, and scarcity that tells us otherwise. The more you become aware of this negative programming, and ignore it, the more joy you will experience.

3. Allow Yourself To Experience Your Fears and Challenges

Instead of shutting down, and running from fear with all kinds of distractions, like obsessively checking your social media, too much TV/Internet, and so on, sit with yourself, and allow the feelings, however uncomfortable, they might be. In the very feeling lies the healing. In the very allowing, fears dissolve.

Don’t be afraid of fear: befriend, and embrace it. Open the door, look inside and realize that there is no skeleton in the closet. This will free you up to experience more joy, and less fear.

4. Let Go Of Desire

At the root of fear is desire: your agenda that things have to look a particular way. Let go of your attachment to the way you want things to look, relax, and see what happens. And I don’t mean that you fall into an apathetic, aimless state of passivity. Have your desires, but let go of your attachment that they have to manifest in a particular way.

When we insist that things have to be a certain way, we can miss what life is offering us.

5. Understand & Be Grateful For Your Fears

The key to dissolving fear is to understand it. This means that you have to drop all judgment, condemnation, and evaluation that fear is wrong. Fear is a reality in our lives, it is a part of being human. Once it is faced, and understood, it can be transformed. You experience more love and joy, and fear lessens. Your challenges become easier to navigate.

Managing the Chill Mindfully

Screen shot 2013-12-17 at 4.31.33 PMClose that door, it’s freezing out! has been the most often heard command in my house this week.  It has edged out, No candy canes before dinner!, Don’t throw ice at your sister!, and even the recurrent Put-on-your-snow-boots-we’re-gonna-be-late!!!!!

Welcome to winter in New England – five plus months of chattering teeth and cracked lips, drippy noses and numb fingertips.  The cold here is called biting for a good reason.  The wind has teeth and its nips can hurt.

This morning I took a quick drive downtown to run errands, nestled cozily in my car’s seat warmers.  I parallel parked and pushed the door open, gasping as a frigid shock of air flooded the driver’s seat.  Heaving myself carefully onto the slippery pavement, I skated to the curb, searching out salty spots to plant my feet.

Making my way to the bank, I skidded over the brick sidewalk, involuntarily tightening my lower back muscles with a shiver and tremble, reflexively recoiling from the cold, adjusting my balance to stay upright while defending a blast of wind.  I hustled into the bank and scuffed the salt off my boots, relishing a few minutes of warm reprieve before heading back into the bluster.

As I walked out the door and stiffened immediately, I realized I was fully engaged in an internal battle against the cold – clenching my body so much my back felt achy.  The discomfort triggered my mindfulness practice.  I don’t need this discomfort.  It’s only here to tell me something.  And I’m listening carefully to what it’s saying. 

I took a deep breath, inhaling frigid air into my warm lungs, releasing it as steam through my mouth.  Warm steam.  I could produce warmth.  I relaxed my tense muscles and took a few steps, continuing to walk that way until I noticed my lower back aching and mindfully melted the contraction again.  Thich Nhat Hanh would’ve been so proud of me.

This time I envisioned warm blood flowing freely through my body, heating up my skin and keeping my muscles loose.  Cold isn’t bad.  It’s just another way of being.  Be comfortable, I thought over and over.  I considered my young children who dive into the snow hatless and spend hours digging out forts from the plowed white heaps along the driveway.  Why is it they don’t seem to battle the freezing cold like adults do?  Maybe it’s because joy trumps discomfort.  They’re not surviving the storm; they’re reveling in it.

I walked with this thought for a block or so, doing my best to fill up on joy, when another blast of wind surged, stopping me in my tracks.  My head lowered, my watery eyes squeezed shut, my hands plunged deeper into my coat pockets.  Be one with cold, be joyful in the cold, I urged myself, this time out loud.  I looked up and caught the eye of another soul braving the single digit temps.  “Brace yourself,” he warned.  “The Almanac calls for a harsh winter.”  I smiled and tried to feel thankful for all of the opportunities I’ll have to practice mindful freezing this year.

I climbed back into my car, the radio tuned to Christmas music.  “I really can’t stay…  Baby, it’s cold outside.”  You can say that again.

Gift to the Soul: The Space of Presence

Photo Credit: Kalliope Kokolis
Photo Credit: Kalliope Kokolis

For many of us this is a season when it feels that we are going faster and faster. Everything’s racing, through school semesters, wrapping up work commitments, entering the holidays; the currents of life are in full tilt.

Given the time of year, one student fell into a period of intense stress resulting from a cycle of classes, studying, working and little sleep. He didn’t realize how long he had neglected to write home until he received the following note:

 Dear Son,
Your mother and I enjoyed your last letter.
Of course, we were much younger then and more impressionable.
Love,
Dad

As you know, it’s not just students. Some months ago a friend described getting caught in this state busy-ness while trying to get her daughter to school. She was busy getting things ready while her daughter was trying to show her something. Every time her daughter would call her over she would say, “Just hang on a moment. I’ll be there in a second.” After several rounds of this, the little four-year old came out of her room tired of waiting. She said to her mother, hands on hips:

“Why are you always so busy? What’s your name? Is it President O’mama or something?”

Along with the speediness we have the sense that there is not enough time. It’s interesting to observe how often we are living with that perception. It is usually accompanied by a squeeze of anxiety:

“I’m not going to be prepared,” and a chain of insecurities. “There’s something around the corner that is going to be too much,” “I’m going to fall short,” “I won’t get something critical done.” There’s this sense that we’re on our way somewhere else and that what’s right here is not the time that matters. We’re trying to get to the point in the future when we’ve finally checked everything off our to-do list and we can rest. As long as this is our habit, we are racing toward the end of our life. We are skimming the surface, and unable to arrive in our life.

Thomas Merton describes the rush and pressure of modern life as a form of contemporary violence. He says:

“…to be surrendering to too many demands, too many concerns, is to succumb to the violence.”

When we’re speeding along, we violate our own natural rhythms in a way that prevents us from listening to our inner life and being in a resonant field with others. We get tight. We get small. We override our capacity to appreciate beauty, to celebrate, to serve from the heart.

Our mindfulness practice offers us the opportunity to pause and rediscover the space of presence. When we stop charging forward and open to what’s here, there’s a radical shift in our experience of being alive. As we touch into this space of Hereness, we access a wisdom, a love and a creativity that are not available when we’re on our way somewhere else.  We are home, in our aliveness and our spirit.

 © Tara Brach
Enjoy this video on: The Space of Presence

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Teach Your Children to be Grateful with a Family Gratitude Journal

gratitude journal pic monkeyBy Ali Katz

I feel lucky every day. There are the obvious reasons like my two healthy, beautiful boys, my supportive and loving husband, and my cozy, comfortable house that I adore every time I walk in the door.

Then there are the less obvious things like having exact change in my wallet at a cash register, finding boyfriend jeans that are so soft they feel like pajamas, and a great morning run.

The list goes on and on, some big items and some more insignificant: my wonderful family and friends, losing myself in a great book, and getting that perfect family picture where everyone is smiling and looking at the camera. Rich dark chocolate, dates with my husband, and a long phone call with my best friend. Seeing my kids’ faces in carpool and knowing that I will be hugging them momentarily, homemade pasta and an amazing blowout that lasts for days.

Memories are treasures, even the horribly embarrassing ones that I can’t even bring myself to write about yet. My life is comprised of the laughter and fun I have had in my first 37 years, and the hard times that have made me into the person I am today. I wouldn’t be as resilient and strong without learning how to navigate some really difficult situations and still hold my head up high.

I am constantly striving to create opportunities where my kids feel gratitude. Of course they have learned to say “thank you” when they receive a gift, but what I am going for is from the heart thanks for just the little things. I know that children are egocentric, and I don’t begrudge them those precious years where it is all about them. However, as they grow I pray that every year brings them a deeper understanding of the world around them, how they fit into it, and how they can make it a better place. As a mom I can only hope that they do become aware of all the insignificant wonders of the world that make life so sweet. You can look for problems, or find joy, and I hope with all my heart that their outlooks on life steer them in the direction of joy at every turn. And of course they will face hardships. I wish I could shield them from every heartache, but I wouldn’t be doing them any favors. My goal is for them to learn that difficult situations can teach you lessons without hardening you.

As a parent I think that we have to lead by example, take responsibility, and help our children form certain habits. Being grateful may take some practice for the little ones in our families. With this belief in mind, I started a Family Gratitude Journal. This small notebook  sits on our kitchen table with a pen. Every night at dinner we all write a quick note in it marking something we are grateful for that day. It could be a fun playdate, liking the meal, or not having any homework. It could be gratitude for a lovely family walk (that would be mine!) or scoring a goal at practice.

Getting started is super easy, and I know you will feel great about encouraging your family to notice the little pleasures of every day life. This is also something you can keep private, or do with a spouse. Keep it next to your bed if that works for you, and jot down one tidbit at the end of the day.

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Ali Katz, a native of Philadelphia, has lived in Houston for fifteen years. She enjoys reading, cooking, running and yoga, in addition to spending as much time as possible with her husband and two young sons. Ali started the website Daughter-in-Law Diaries with the intention of sharing her personal journey, and to help other daughters-in-law strengthen the bond and improve the relationship they have with their own 
mother-in-law. Please visit Ali online at www.daughterinlawdiaries.com

9 Keys For A Joyful (Stress Free) Holiday Season

holidaycookiesThe holiday season can be any way you want it: full of stress, or full of joy. It can be a time to dread, or anticipate with excitement. It’s your choice, yes, it really is. I’ve experienced both of these scenarios, and, believe me, full of joy, is the way to go.

Here are 9 Keys to make your holiday season the best one ever!

1. MAKE A DECISION that this year is going to be different, that you are going to ENJOY this Holiday Season. It all starts here, with the DECISION.

2. SET THE INTENTION for how you want this time of year to look. For example, fun, relaxing, and enjoyable; camaraderie with neighbors, work colleagues, and people you meet on a casual basis in stores, restaurants, the subway. Festive celebrations at home with your near and dear ones; hot apple cider, holly and mistletoe, red candles, festive lights, singing songs; whatever turns you on and means joy to YOU.

3. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE. Keep your attention, energy and focus on all the good things that are happening, on times that are going well and you are enjoying yourself. Laugh more. What we focus on expands. Forget about trying to “combat” stress (sounds like a battle, doesn’t it?) Keep your attention on the positives, and stress naturally drops away.

4. BE MORE LOVING. Start with yourself. You can’t give what you don’t have. Drop self-judgment, self-criticism, and giving yourself a hard time for not being perfect. Have compassion for yourself. We are all human, and it’s your imperfections that make you so adorable. You are unique.Trust that you are deeply loved, simply because you exist – you are a valuable part of our world. The more you love yourself, and I mean ALL aspects of yourself, the more love, and compassion, you have for others.

5.  DO YOUR BEST. You can’t do better than your best, right? We are all different and have different skills, knowledge, talents, personalities, tolerances. Are you a person who over-gives and forgets about yourself? If so, you create an undercurrent of resentment, tension and fear, that doesn’t serve YOU, let alone anyone else. Remember that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, just some of the people, some of the time. When you do your best, YOU know you have offered the best of yourself, and that has to be enough.

6.  ENLIVEN YOUR SURROUNDINGS with the color red. The color of the sun is energizing, and symbolic of love, courage, warmth, fire. Wear red sweaters, scarves and hats, light red candles, bring in red flowering plants(if you have access to red poinsettias, they are a joy!). Any creative idea you have for including the color red has a powerful effect in the darkest days of the year to lighten your mood and create a festive, heartening atmosphere.

7. CONTRIBUTE TO THE WELL-BEING OF OUR PLANET. Donate food and clothing to the poor in your area. Volunteer time at a social service agency. Put up bird feeders and keep them filled throughout the winter to supplement the diets of wild birds. Donate funds and items to non-profit groups, such as churches and environmental organizations. Make a pledge to do some form of good works in the new year. Helping others can take your mind off your own problems and inspire feelings of gratitude for what you do have.(As long as you don’t over-give and forget about yourself!see #5)

8. PRAY Take time for self-reflection, contemplation, meditation. The darkness of the winter time supports going within to give thanks, receive spiritual guidance, and set intentions for the upcoming year. This is one of my favorite prayers:

In my busy-ness, I sometimes forget to stop and give thanks for all the blessings in my life. I am truly fortunate to experience abundance, health and aliveness. I am grateful for the simple joys of laughter, for the ability to love and be loved, for the opportunity to witness everyday miracles.

9. CELEBRATE. However big or small the occasion, look for excuses to be in a state of celebration. You can celebrate failures too. They open doorways for something new to come in. Your positive attitude will activate the Law of Attraction and bring you even more positivity and goodness.

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Enjoy this Season. I look forward to your comments.

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Lessons from kayaking: Finding a Way to Be With Fear

Leaving the Marina with Morro Rock in the background and the MorMost of us spend a lot of our lives tensed up in fear, or pushing against fear.
The fear might be fear of:
  • Something going wrong
  • Not being good enough
  • Not being loved
  • Losing something or someone we hold dear
What fears do you live with?
The key to being with fear is in contacting what is here now, rather than trying to push it away. Here’s a story from the river that helps us understand that.  In kayaking, you learn about what is called a keeper hole. It’s a swirl in the river that catches a boat or a body and pulls it down under the water.  You can drown because you get stuck in that swirling current and you can’t get out of it.  If you get caught in a keeper hole, the only way out is actually to dive right into the center, down as far and deep as you can, toward the bottom, because if you get to the bottom you can swim out the side of the swirl.
So you do the opposite of what your instincts tell you to do.  Your instinct, of course, is to fight your way to the surface.  But it won’t work; you’ll keep getting pulled into the hole.  No, you have to dive down into the hole.
It’s like that with fear.  Our instincts are to pull away, to ignore the fear, or to distract ourselves.  We naturally want to escape the pull, the uncomfortable sensation, of fear.  But the skillful way of dealing with fear, just like the keeper hole, is to go into the center of it.
The training in facing fear is to directly contact it…to lean right in.  This is not something to do if your fear is from trauma.  It could be too overwhelming.  If you are dealing with trauma, you might need someone to work with you on that fear.  So you might try finding a thought that brings up fear,  a mild or moderate fear, and letting yourself feel the sensation.  Breathe right into the place you feel the fear, really letting yourself experience it for a moment.  On the out breath, let the fear disperse into the vastness of space around you, or the ocean you are part of.  See and feel the fear moving out into that larger space.
When you are kayaking on the ocean, or on a large lake, you can sense yourself as part of that spaciousness.  Allow the fear to disperse into the spaciousness.  You might find that it is possible to be with the fear, rather than push it away, when you are aware of your oceanness.
© Tara Brach
Enjoy this talk on Finding the Juice in Fear

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photos by: mikebaird & mikebaird

Absolute Cooperation with the Inevitable

Mystic Poppies.The modern-day mystic and Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello once said: “Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.” This statement struck a deep chord within me. It seems to me that what he meant was to be absolutely open to life as it is.

Think about the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean that flows from the tip of Florida up along the eastern seaboard. If you were to put a straw in the water, aligned with the Gulf Stream, it would move with the flow of water. The water moves through it and carries it along on the current. Everything is aligned; it’s total grace. Now, if it’s misaligned, and it’s not moving with the flow of water, it gets spun around and moves off course.

Aligning ourselves with the flow of aliveness is an essential part of our mindfulness practice. Like the straw, if we move out of alignment, we’re moving away, spinning about, in reaction…in some way unable to be one with the flow of grace. So we seek to stay aligned, letting the flow of life move through us.

What are some ways that we remove ourselves from the channel through which our life flows?

I noticed this happening the other day when I was driving home. I have my own accustomed speed, and the person in front of me was going much, much, much slower. You know what that is like, don’t you? Now, I wasn’t in a rush to get somewhere. I wasn’t on my way to the airport to catch a plane, but it didn’t matter. I was driving at a speed that felt really different from my preferred speed. I was experiencing impatience and anxiety, and it was building. Everything in me was leaning forward. I felt like I couldn’t be okay unless the situation changed.

So I paused, mentally. I recognized that I had a demand that something be different than it was at the moment, and I tried to let go of it. This example is a small thing, but this happens in many ways, some small and some much larger, in our human experience. We get caught in feeling that happiness is not possible unless things change. Consequently, we cause ourselves tremendous unhappiness, because we’re demanding that things be different.

It’s interesting to notice how this happens. I think it arises from our social conditioning about what brings happiness. We are led to believe that we need certain things to be happy: “If I can get this job,” “If I can earn this much money,” “If I can buy a house in that neighborhood,” then I will be happy. Or we might think, if only I were healthier, or thinner, or if my boss quit so I could have a different boss, or if I had a different spouse…and on and on.

We wait for things to be different in order to feel okay with life. As long as we keep attaching our happiness to the external events of our lives, which are ever changing, we’ll always be left waiting for it.

What if we were to pause and align ourselves with the current?
What if we moved with the flow of what is?
What would that mean for you in your life, right now?

Aligning with what is here is a way of practicing presence. It allows us to respond to our world with creativity and compassion.

What is actually happening is that we’re opening to the universal intelligence, the universal love that can flow through us when we’re aligned. When the straw is aligned with the current, the Gulf Stream flows through it. When we’re aligned with the flow of our lives, there’s a universal wisdom and love that flows through us, which is our true nature.

© Tara Brach

Adapted from Radical Acceptance  (2003)

Enjoy this talk on: Absolute Cooperation with the Inevitable

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photos by: hipea & h.koppdelaney

Lift Yourself Up with a Gesture of Kindness

almost mayThe next time you find yourself in a bad mood, take a moment to pause and ask yourself, “What is my attitude toward myself right now? Am I relating to myself with judgment … or with mindfulness, warmth, and respect?”

Typically, you’ll find that when you’re anxious, lonely, or depressed, you’re also down on yourself in some way, and that undercurrent of feeling deficient or unworthy is what’s keeping you cut off from your own aliveness, as well as your feeling of connection with others.

The way of healing and homecoming begins with what I call “a gesture of kindness.” You might for instance put your hand on your heart—letting the touch be tender—and send a message inwardly. It might be “It’s okay, sweetheart.” Or  “I care about this suffering.” Or, “I’m sorry and I love you.”  Often, it’s simply,  “This, too.”

Sometimes, this gesture of kindness includes saying “yes” to whatever’s going on—the yes meaning, “This is what’s happening, it’s how life is right now … it’s okay.”

If you’re really down on yourself, you can also say “Forgiven, forgiven.” Not because there’s something wrong to forgive, but because there’s some judgment to let go of.

As you offer yourself this gesture of kindness, take some moments to stay with yourself, to keep yourself company. Allow whatever most wants attention to surface, and sense that you are the loving presence that can include and embrace whatever’s arising.

Then, see if you can widen your attention, and notice what or who else is floating in your heart space. Perhaps you’ll intentionally offer a gesture of kindness to a friend who’s struggling with disappointment, a family member dealing with illness, or a teen caught in self-doubt.

As you continue to practice offering yourself and others this gesture of kindness, you will discover that this response to life becomes increasingly spontaneous and natural.  In time, you’ll recognize it as the most authentic expression of who you are.

—Tara Brach,  Labor Day Weekend, 2013

Enjoy this short talk on Dedicating to Kindness

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