Earlier today Jessica and I were on our way back from a weekend in San Antonio. It was a smooth flight with the sun streaming through our little window and illuminating the beautiful landscape below. As we neared Salt Lake City the captain informed us that the current weather was cloudy, rainy and 44 degrees. We made our descent through the clouds and the sunny blue sky began to disappear as darker and darker grey enshrouded us. Eventually rain began to pelt this windows, the plane began to bounce a bit and the temperature drop became more noticeable. It occurred to me that in the midst of thick clouds it can be hard to remember that the sun still shines. And even though we can’t see it in its full strength, the light is shining brightly.
The moral for life is one I was glad to remember. Don’t mistake a bit of cloud cover for total darkness. Hang on. There’s still light out there. And it will shine on you again.
Here in the Unites States on this day of reflection, I am reminded of opportunity. Whenever a nation, city, family or individual is confronted by sheer devastation, be it a massive terrorist attack, an overwhelming storm or an acute crisis, there’s shock, grief and then some still space and then action. That little bit of space can be and often is the hinge on which everything afterward swings. When reduced to our very lowest, completely vulnerable and no longer blanketed by safety and security what do we choose? So many of us choose compassion. So many of us choose to be patient with ourselves and our circumstances. So many of us choose to help and rescue and offer aid. It’s our nature and that’s what we do here. As individuals in nations and citizens of the world, if we can continue to root ourselves in solidarity and compassion we can rise from any ashes, overcome any struggle and build resilience no matter the circumstance. Here’s to hoping that when that small space of stillness opens up, we take note and choose to ground ourselves in goodness.
The other day we were hiking up in the mountains where the air is clear and the clouds are so close you want to touch them and we lost the trail. We'd stopped to take in some rest and sunshine in a clearing and when we got back up we didn't know which way to go. I don't know about you but I feel like that a lot in life. I'll have a clear direction and then there will be a distraction, a break or a roadblock and the way forward isn't as clear as it was moments before. In life, as I did in this instance, its helpful to take a step back, closely observe your surroundings, look at where you've come from with an eye toward where you want to go and then peer around closely for a way forward. In time a path will appear. Thank goodness because three extra granola bars will only get you so far.
Take Action: Already applied this post to your incredible life dear reader? Great, see you again soon!
If you need help to dive deep, think of a problem you're facing. Go ahead and challenge yourself, choose a tough one. Now think about 3 things you've done or overcome in your past that were hard. What qualities or attributes did you rely on or cultivate to make it through those situations? Write them down. If you can't think of any ask a friend or relative to help you. Were you dedicated, quick thinking? Creative? Faithful? Now figure out how those attributes serve you in this situation and trust that they'll come through for you again. Now building on that sturdy foundation of your own personal growth, look forward to where you want to go and assess what other qualities you need to make it through this specific stretch of life. Do you need patience, ideas, bravery? Whatever it is confidently cultivate it (you can do it!) and let it lead you onward. The path is there you just need to find it again.
Last week we hiked up another beautiful canyon to a place called Grizzly Gulch. Now if your imagination works like mine this name conjures up all sorts of images. The hike offered some spectacular views of the canyon on a winding switchback trail bordered with vibrant wildflowers. As we neared the gulch, the 8 year-olds threw their backpacks down and scampered down the slippery slope using an exposed tree root to steady themselves as the rocks and sand slid down ahead of them. As they half-slid, half-climbed down they excitedly chattered about the possibilities of this steep-sided ravine and all that they were noticing. After spending a little while exploring they began scaling the sides. As the responsible adult, I stayed at the top of the ravine and scanned the terrain above and below them as they struggled up the side of the 20 foot gulch. I may be new to these mountains but I’d seen enough rocks sliding around to know that the ground we were standing on wasn’t entirely stable and rock slides and little girls are not a good combination. In that moment, I wanted to teach them to respect nature and I also wanted to honor their curiosity, enthusiasm and sense of adventure without dampening it with fear. So we talked about being aware of our surroundings, testing our footing and choosing to take a different course if the one we were on felt unstable and wouldn’t bear our weight. As we talked it occurred to me that life is like that. When we have an invitation to try something new or stretch and grow it can be tempting to default to fear and avoidance while it can be rewarding to tune into our sense of adventure, while also balancing it with a need for stability and respecting the particulars of our ability and the circumstances we find ourselves in.
After playing in the ravine for half an hour the girls made their way back up to the trail with a new kind of confidence, testing different methods of ascent, gently grabbing onto a different root here and there to see if it would hold their weight and then setting their feet on firm paths that would take them where they wanted to go.
Take Action: If you feel the nudge of adventure today, tune into it. It could be something as small as telling someone how you feel or taking a walk to a new place or it could be bigger like planning a trip to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Be curious and see where adventure takes you all the while respecting your surroundings and your current limitations. When you’re done soak in the satisfaction that comes from choosing to try something new.
Compassion is the universal language of humanity. No matter what words you speak, acts of kindness and empathy resonate soul-deep. The more we each speak this language of compassion in thought, word and action, the more we’ll understand each other. The more we understand each other the more we can imbue our lives with peace.
Take Action: Today find a way to speak the language of compassion by reaching out to another person (family member, friend or stranger) and asking “What can I do to support you today?” And then if you’re able, do that thing.
The other day I attended a bridal shower where the honored guest asked everyone to offer a piece of marriage advice. It is always interesting to stop and consider marriage from the perspective of someone just diving into it. With every ounce of newlywed respect, it felt a little like trying to explain how to use, clean and care for one of the brightly wrapped gifts in front of her when her focus was, quite naturally, on the novelty of the item. I wanted to share wisdom and perspective about the work ahead, offer warnings about pitfalls and acknowledge the potential for deep and lasting joy. This is the jist of what I said:
With this marriage you are creating something that has never existed before. You each bring unique strengths and vulnerabilities to the relationship and your task is to combine those in a way that allows you to move through your days, weeks and years together. Life will invite you and this marriage of yours to many places. Some of those moments will be surprising and may break things that you thought were sure. Other moments will reveal that ties that seemed weak were actually very strong. It is important to remember that in all of this you have the ability to choose how you navigate those moments. The more times you are both able to turn to each other, communicate, draw on your inherent strengths, humbly accept and seek to move through your vulnerabilities the more your relationship can grow. And the more moments you can string together where all parties are growing and becoming something stronger, the more your marriage will thrive.
Take Action: Think of a relationship you value. It could be a marriage, partnership or friendship. Express gratitude to the other person in that relationship today. It could simply be for the existence of the relationship and how it enhances your life or for something specific like a kindness offered or a strength they possess.
Recently my family moved about 1,500 miles from the place we’d lived for the past 12 years. We’ve approached the experience with a mix of gratitude, sadness, joy and adventure. We are so grateful for the life we lived in San Antonio and the people we came to know and love. Because of the beauty of our life and our love for the people we feel sadness at leaving. At the same time we feel joy and excitement at the opportunity of living close to our family, trying new things, meeting new people and having new adventures.
Over the past few weeks as I’ve sought to settle into a new rhythm of life I’ve found myself missing certain people or experiences. Something will trigger a memory and I’ll feel a wave or twinge of longing. In those moments I’ve decided to honor that connection by drawing a part of that person close, whether it’s in practicing creativity in a way they’ve taught me or saying or doing something that reminds me of them and makes them feel near. It’s comforting.
After several of these experiences I began to think of heaven and how this life gives us the chance to live removed from the Divinity from which we came and sometimes we have moments where our soul remembers it’s part of something much bigger. In living, we are presented with a similar invitation to grasp these bits of divine that we recognize along our path and weave them into our being, giving increasing voice to that infinite part of us that has always existed and will always exist. Sometimes the distance, the longing helps us understand what we value the most and it gives us clues of what to seek.
Take Action: You receive daily communication from your body, mind and soul. Today open yourself up to the wisdom of your soul, notice the things that invite you to greater peace, greater love, greater awe. Those are the moments when your soul is speaking.
After reconciling himself to the actual ocean crossing and seeking ore to make tools, Nephi’s next step was to commence building the worthy vessel that would convey his entire family across the deep water to an entirely different life. In moments of uncertainty it is nice to fall back on the familiar but Nephi’s way forward would be anything but familiar. He says that as he began building the ship he did not build it “after the manner of men” but rather was instructed by the Lord on how it should be pieced together. I think this part of the story strikes at the heart of the living that we all do each day. When we realize that we are on the shores of an ocean we’d like some sort of blueprint for the boat that will take us safely across foreign waters but often God asks us to trust Him as He helps us to build our own curious ship. Like Nephi’s, your vessel may not look anything like ships you’ve see and you may not understand why certain things need be a part of it but oftentimes the wisdom of the form is revealed over time. As Nephi’s boat took shape he was ridiculed by his brothers for the unfamiliar design of his ship. In those moments where doubt was flung at him from many angles, he was invited to dive into deeper attunement with heaven and trust the revelation that he was receiving. Those, my friends, are the formative moments, where we own our own architecture with God. And the potential result of those brave moments, if we stick with the building, is a kind of soul-deep knowing that influences everything else we create with Him.
Take Action: If, in your occasions of forward progress, you have times where the deafening voices around you crowd out the whisperings of intuition and inspiration, take note and find a few quiet moments to re-align with Heaven and then tuck those moments of connection deep in your soul, stand tall and walk confidently forward knowing that you and God are building something that is strong and seaworthy to carry you purposefully across the oceans you face.