(This is a guest post from Marianne Elliott).
I’ve seen you on your worst days, and I have to admit, it took the wind out of me a bit.
But you have a way of bringing me back around: with your sunrises and saltwater, with your drumbeats and dancing, with your tea and chocolate, with your laughing children and poetry.
You bring me back around to faith, to taking the next step and trusting that there is enough beauty, enough kindness in you to keep us all going another day.
When I think about what I wish for you, it is this: that you are kind.
Which is not the same as being good. Because I love you when you are a badass.
When you say what is true, even if it is not polite.
When you ask the questions no one else dared ask.
When you throw over the moneychangers’ tables in the temple.
When you point out that the Emperor has no clothes.
So be bold. Be brave. Be a badass, dear World.
But be a kind badass.
Trust me, you’ll take everyone by surprise.
The ones who believe you are all bad will be disarmed by your kindness. And, for a moment, they’ll remember what it feels like to let their tough outer shell soften a little, and to let that warm, melting feeling inside.
The ones who believe you must be good – who believe you are only acceptable when you are modest, obedient and polite – will be surprised by your courage. And, for a moment, they’ll remember what it feels like to care more about justice and about the truth, than about whether it is ugly or scary or shocking.
So be a kind badass, World.
Because when you get as close to the bone as possible – when you say what must be said even when it scares you and everyone around you – AND you do it with kindness, then we all remember, for a moment, what it feels like to be human, to be alive.
And for that, dear world, I am grateful.
Marianne Elliott is the author of the book Zen Under Fire: Finding Peace in the Midst of War (from Penguin NZ, coming in US June 2013), creator of the online programs 30 Days of Yoga and 30 Days of Courage and has been called “A powerful, soulful teacher of courage.” A change-maker, story-teller, yoga teacher, former UN peacekeeper and human rights lawyer, Marianne is the leader of Off the Mat, Into the World in New Zealand and Australia. Her website is Marianne-Elliott.com, and you can find her on Facebook and on Twitter @zenpeacekeeper
(This is a guest post from Laura Simms)
When is my heart the most full?
This question has a simple and obvious answer. Obvious to me and anyone who knows me well. Or has happened to walk past a PetSmart with me.
Animals crack my heart open. They make it wide, expanding what it can hold. They melt it, making it soft and vulnerable. They delight it, pushing water out my eyes and making every cell do jumping jacks. Sometimes in a quiet, tender way. Other times in a hysterical riot where my own breath competes with the joy that seizes my entire chest.
Do I have love for people? You bet; I’m not tradin’ in Mama for a mouse.
But this wild love, this unbridledbreathlessunspoken connection I hold with animals instructs me daily on how to love. More fully. More deeply. And with tail-wagging innocence and excitement.
And so I, who bear the scar of a raccoon bite, who has regularly accessorized with dog hair or cat hair or rabbit hair, who discovered I was allergic to hairless mice by rubbing them on my face in adoration, declare my love.
Henry, you are the handsomest rabbit on the block and you know it. You show me how easy it is to receive love: just hunker down and bask.
Ewok, you are scared of affection, but you show me how to practice trust when you let me pet your silken head, if only for a moment.
Lily, you show me that we are not meant for leashes. There is too much of this world to sniff out, and far too many curiosities to walk in a straight line.
Lizard of the window pane, I look for you everyday. I see you stalking for your supper, and resting on a leaf. You are lithe and quick and you survive. You show me to keep at it and do what it takes.
Roxie, beloved raccoon of my childhood: you showed me that just being there can be a tremendous gift. And that bananas are a terrific dessert.
To the nameless millions who are slaughtered for food in our twisted, industrialized agribruise, sometimes I cry for you. Not that you will end up between two buns with a pickle on the side, but for the diminished life you will lead until then. You teach me that behind the fight for every reform are real lives. Real stories, real families, real feelings.
Leroy, you showed me that you don’t need long arms to “hug.” A simple, heartfelt greeting always translates.
Sugar, in you I see that love does not sit in a lap that makes demands.
Harry and Lilly, you school me in play. It can be the same game with the same person over and over again and still be delightful each time.
Higgy, you are proof that just being who you are is reason enough to be loved. Adored, even.
Amigo, you showed me that sometimes we just haven’t be taught how to do what’s good for us and that we need someone to show us the way.
Ring, you taught me that you don’t have to understand, you just have to listen.
And Reba. My dearest Reba. My best dog friend. No one has ever greeted me like you with your gazelle jumps. No one has ever made me anticipate the opening of a door or walk around the block like you. A festival every time! You love so openly, so without fear, and with so much expectation.
We humans get told to release from expectations and not to burden ourselves or others with them. We’ll get hurt. Disappointed. And it will be our fault for having the expectation. But not in Reba’s world. In Reba’s world, you give love and get love. It’s a given exchange, like breathing or photosynthesis. Not taken for granted, but openly and gleefully expected.
Reba, you teach me to expect love. To greet the ones I love with the energy of a bounding hoofed beast, and to meet the ones I don’t know with an open heart and happy face. You teach me to give and give and give and that it will be returned, returned, returned.
You teach me to ask for what I want, and that the enthusiasm of the ask can be irresistible. That open-heartedness opens hearts. That wide eyes widens eyes. And that when you love without putting limits on it, it creates so much energy that you literally can’t stand still. You create more than your body can contain and the overflow is discharged in laughs and jumps and pets and nuzzles and yips and yelps.
And these are the reasons I lay nose to nose with rabbits, commune with dogs, and watch squirrels choose pecans. They are my teachers, and as they effortlessly live their lessons, I learn to love.
Career coach Laura Simms wants to give you the strategy, tools, and inspiration to thrive at the fulfilling work meant just for you. Work that feeds your purse and your pulse. Work that’s about purpose and profit. In other words: she wants you to get paid for being you. Learn more with this free training series at createasfolk.com.
A dear friend gave me the following poem, framed, as a wedding gift.
And–today’s the day I’m getting married to my one and only lovey-love.
The True Love by David Whyte
There’s a faith in loving fiercely the one who is rightfully yours
especially if you have waited years and especially if part of you never
believed you could deserve this loved and beckoning hand held
out to you this way.
I am thinking of faith now and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are worthy of in this world.
Years ago in the Hebrides I remember an old man
who would walk every morning on the gray stones
to the shore of baying seals, who would press his
hat to his chest in the blustering salt wind and say his
prayer to the turbulent Jesus hidden in the waters.
And I think of the story of the storm and the people
waking and seeing the distant, yet familiar figure,
far across the water calling to them.
And how we are all preparing for that abrupt waking
and that calling and that moment when we have to say yes!
Except it will not come so grandly, so biblically,
but more subtly, and intimately in the face
of the one you know you have to love.
So that when we finally step out of the boat
toward them we find, everything holds us,
and everything confirms our courage.
And if you wanted to drown, you could,
But you don’t, because finally, after all
this struggle and all these years,
you don’t want to, anymore.
You’ve simply had enough of drowning
and you want to live, and you want to love.
And you’ll walk across any territory,
and any darkness, however fluid,
and however dangerous to take the one
hand and the one life, you know belongs in yours.