Browsing the blog archives for December, 2012

Wake Up Call! – Choose a Word for the New Year


CHOOSE A WORD FOR THE NEW YEAR

Choose a word as your mantra and guide for a new way to be in the New Year.

I gave up on New Year resolutions when I realized that they were quickly consigned to a closet to gather dust. Yet the dawn of each New Year continued to present a persistent nagging invitation to embrace the year ahead with new intentionality.

I could have chosen to treat this with nostalgic wistfulness but instead chose to be open to a new ritual and possibility.

A conversation with a wise friend led me to wonder what it would be like to select a word as my companion, truth-bearer, friend, and mantra for the year ahead. A new practice for choosing a new way to be in the year ahead was begun.

The result is a yearlong journey infinitely more enlivening than the failed resolutions of the past! Among the words that I and others have chosen are creativity, awareness, imagination, love and friendship. Each day I reflect on the chosen word with openness to its insights. I approach 2013 with my chosen word of Awe filled with expectation.

Call-to-Action:

Embrace the New Year:

  • Select a word that will enliven your yearnings or take you to the edge of your fears

  • Place the word in a visible place so it becomes your companion

  • Reflect or think about it each day; allow it to percolate

  • Offer weekly thanks for the insights it offers

Notice how your chosen word shifts, molds and illuminates how you chose to be.

Share your story of embracing a New Year here.

Give a gift of A New Way to Be Human this holiday – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store. Free personalized inscribed cards for each gift at info@robertvtaylor.com

Click here to watch the book trailer for A New Way to Be Human

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©2012 Robert V. Taylor

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Wake Up Call! – Filling Empty Stockings?


FILLING EMPTY STOCKINGS?

What do empty Christmas stockings invite you to fill them with?

I’ve not stopped thinking about the 20 empty Christmas stockings of the children killed in Newtown. My tears of grief could easily join yours in overflowing those stockings. My reactions are bundled together with expectation about the holidays and the children who will be part of our celebration.

I could choose to be present only to my grief but I know that grief invites me to new insight and awareness beyond myself.

My appreciation for the children who are part of my life has a new liveliness to it. My thankfulness for their lives reveals how easily I can take people for granted.

The result is a shift in how I approach this holiday. A slaughter of the innocents is real but so is a richly textured thankful appreciation for others. They co-exist, inviting me to ask how the choices I make will fill the little stockings with gifts of being present, of love and of delighting in each moment that precariousness makes more precious.

Call-to-Action:

This holiday:

  • Imagine the gift of yourself that you will fill an empty stocking with

  • Allow the competing truths of grief and appreciative thankfulness to inform you

  • Be present with an open heart to those around you

Notice how the grainy texture of life invites you to be a life-bearer.

Share your story of filling an empty stocking here.

Give a gift of A New Way to Be Human this holiday – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store. Free personalized inscribed cards for each gift at info@robertvtaylor.com

Click here to watch the book trailer for A New Way to Be Human

Follow on Twitter and Facebook

©2012 Robert V. Taylor

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Beyond Holiday Stress: Steps to Reclaim the Holiday Spirit

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post December 17, 2012

If you’re feeling a growing low-level anxiety about holiday stress, you are not alone! The season of joy, peace and goodwill can be reclaimed for you and your family with five intentional choices. The holidays do not have to be endured. Instead, they can be reclaimed by the choices you make!

Rethink family obligations. Like many families, Emily and Carlos have spent many Christmases on an endless shuttle with their kids, going from one family gathering to another. With both sets of their parents divorced and remarried, they felt obligated to attend four different events. After addressing the dread of this stressful routine and the crankiness it produced in their three children, they realized they had a choice. They’ve since chosen to alternate spending the holidays with two sets of parents each year. They have noticed that their choice has already relieved anxiety and stress in thinking about the holidays.

Reclaim joy! Explore possibilities for less stressful holiday experiences by expanding the season. Think about gathering friends and family for a tree-trimming party that might include an activity for children to make decorations for the tree. If your extended circle of family is scattered over the holidays because of travel, consider a January holiday party that has child-friendly games or activities. The spirit of joy is often best experienced when we do not try to cram it into one or two days!

Make a goodwill choice. Talk with your children about what the goodwill of the season means. Listen to their ideas about an act of goodwill that you can make as a family. One family volunteered at an animal rescue shelter because their 6-year-old daughter wanted animals to celebrate the holidays. Another volunteered as a family on a local river cleanup project because their 10-year-old son thought it would be a Christmas gift to the earth. A goodwill choice can become both a family experience and a teaching moment about the spirit of the holidays.

Celebrate peace. The holidays provide an opportunity to talk over the kitchen table about how you and your children think about the holiday theme of “peace on Earth.” The Hebrew understanding of peace — meaning the well-being of all — offers an entry point to conversation.

One 13-year-old expressed his concern about a classmate who was being bullied. He was looking for guidance on how to stop the bullying.

A 7-year-old said she wanted to ask her friends to bring cans of food to their Christmas party because people needed to be fed.

Inviting your family to think about peace and well-being offers the opportunity for unexpected answers from your children and the forging of a family commitment that lasts well beyond the holidays.

Expand your thinking about gifts. In this economy, many families are stressed about how to afford the multitude of gifts that they have been accustomed to buying in the past. For others, the sheer volume of gifts seems overwhelming and stress-producing. One couple has asked their family to join them in only having one wrapped gift for each child. Another has invited their family to buy gifts for only the children in the family. Others have created a holiday ritual of family gift-making, from cookies and jams to artwork. Instead of allowing gift pressure to derail and stress your holiday, creatively rethink how gift-giving can be appreciated and celebrated in new ways.

Any combination of these five steps can become part of a conscious, mindful choice to lower the stress level of the holidays for you, your children and your extended family. Instead of being a victim to holiday stress, choose a proactive path that allows you to enter their spirit and enjoyment!

Post your comments on the Huffington Post link or below

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4 way to embrce and understand your spiritual-but-not-religious family members

This opinion piece first appeared on the FOX News website December 16, 2012

Across the country, parents and grandparents constantly ask me, “How do I deal with family members who don’t share my faith yet tell me that they’re spiritual (just not religious)?” I respond by telling them that holiday gatherings present an opportunity to engage and embrace them.

I often hear “My religious faith is so important to me that I don’t understand how people talk about being ‘spiritual.’” Or else they dismiss their kids or grandkids with, “Spiritual-but-not-religious just sounds like a cop-out; it’s wishy-washy to me.” Beneath such responses lie a gulf of misunderstanding that can be bridged.

The Pew Research Organization reveals that the “Nones” – those who self-identify as having no religious affiliation – now represent twenty percent of the population. For those under 30, it is thirty percent. Pew data consistently shows an upward curve in the number of people in the United States who are None. It is time to engage with them.

Among these 46 million Americans, two-thirds believe in God or a Higher Power, and half report that their spirituality is affected by a connection to nature and the earth. The Nones are shaped by their rejection of organized religion’s focus on what they describe as money, power, rules, and an over abundance of politics.

Engage and embrace them with simple steps that require two things of you: the capacity to listen attentively and remaining compassionate in your conversation. Rigid posturing or anything perceived as proselytizing will serve to only deepen the divide. Your authentic curiosity offers the possibility of new connection between you. Here are four practical steps to engage and embrace your family members:

1. Ask about a spiritual experience that has shaped their life. You are likely to hear about the importance of yoga or meditation, the experience of awe revealed in nature, or the search for leading a life in which spirituality and authenticity co-exist. The responses will reveal a life that has been expanded and transformed by participating in something bigger than them. Be willing to reflect on an experience from your own life that speaks to similar truth or revelation about your experiences of awe or a surprising experience that placed your life in the context of the sacred.

2. Engage in conversation about the importance of love and compassion. Avoid the language of religious dogma or rules unless you wish to end the conversation.

Many of the Nones view religious organizations as sidelining the central importance of compassion and love, ceding it to doctrinal purity or judgment. They place great importance on aligning acts and words about love and compassion. Most None’ are not looking for institutional based experiences but those that reveal a capacity to be generous, forgiving and responsiveness. As you talk with one another, allow yourself to be present to the conversation; in your attentiveness be willing to share your own stories of experiencing love and compassion.

3. Express your own doubts or questions about religion. Not because you intend to abandon your religion or faith but because doubt is a common shared human experience. Talking about your doubt reveals your authenticity and invites conversation. As you describe the new insights and faith practices that doubt has led you to a new landscape of connection becomes possible. Be prepared for your spiritual—but not religious — family member to draw on spiritual wisdom and practices from a variety of traditions. Be aware of how they might connect with a practice from your own religious faith.

4. Invite a conversation about how spiritual values shape your respective lives. Defensive rigidity will not enhance the conversation! The spiritual-but-not-religious, and particularly those under 35, tend to have close non-sexual friendships with persons of the opposite gender, friends from diverse religious, racial and cultural heritages and those of sexual orientations that differ from theirs.

Their spiritual values are typically inclusive and expansive. It is an enlivening way of being human to them. While they don’t necessarily expect you to fully embrace their spiritual values they will be drawn to your authentic stories of how you integrate your spiritual values with the choices you make.

In each of these four steps, be willing to engage in stories that have shaped or changed you; those that have presented an invitation to see beyond an assumed belief or view. In your stories and those of your family member a shared connecting ground will be discovered. Approach each conversation with curiosity and a willing to engage.

These four steps are usually not reserved for just one conversation, but are an opening to understanding and embracing one another. Beyond dismissing, judging or writing off the spiritual-but-not-religious each conversation will reveal a new appreciation for the depth and joy of your respective experiences of spirituality and religious faith.

In the spirit of the four steps a new tenderness, compassion and love will be discovered in your embrace of one another.

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A Broken Heart

My eyes well with tears as I write this, early Sunday morning. I have two grandkids in grade one, and the thought of this massacre to come into my life is unfathomable. Your words spoke so eloquently that I dare to take them as my own, as I ponder anew the mystery of life. As Leonard Cohen recently penned, we “deserve neither the cruelty or the grace.” The cruelty, though, is always the most difficult to comprehend and accept, and the healing a monumental endeavour. Emily Dickenson, the quintessential American poet, wrote: “Unto a broken heart / No other one may go / Without the high prerogative / Itself hath suffered too.” In her words we are not simply given encouragement, but more significantly, compassion through the sharing of feelings of loss and grief.

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Wake Up Call! – A Broken Heart?


A BROKEN HEART?

My heart is like a bowl of broken shards after the Connecticut massacre.

Watching or reading news about this tragedy I cry. For the children and adults killed; for the families; for the random madness of it all; for the cumulative loss of lives in gun rampages this year; for ourselves.

I could choose to be overwhelmed by the shards of a shattered heart but instead I cradle them wondering what they reveal.

Like many, loss and tragedy is not foreign to me or people I’ve worked with over the decades. Each shard seems to have the insistent question embossed on it, “How much more of this will we allow?”

I’m not sure what the result of this will mean for me and others. I know I’m inspired by the hero teachers and community gathering as one. There is new urgency and awareness about our inter-connectedness. As each broken shard of my heart heals the lesions invite me to ask with new eyes what love in action means. How will I allow my heart to lead me to be a partner in new life for all?

Call-to-Action:

With a broken heart:

  • Allow yourself to be present to the shards

  • In breathing exercises or meditation be aware of oneness with others

  • Invite the broken shards to reveal new expressions of love

Notice how your authenticity about a broken heart invites new tenderness and compassion to be revealed in the scars.

Share your story of responding to a broken heart here.

Give a gift of A New Way to Be Human this holiday – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store. Free personalized inscribed cards for each gift at info@robertvtaylor.com

Click here to watch the book trailer for A New Way to Be Human

Follow on Twitter and Facebook

©2012 Robert V. Taylor

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Missing

Difficult this Holiday as was last year missing my grandson, Nicholas. If only is one of my best phrases…If only I had noticed the signs of suicide. It is sometimes impossible, but I now see the signs he gave. I pray and pray and keep busy.

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Wake Up Call! – Holiday Memories Interrupting


HOLIDAY MEMORIES INTERRUPTING

When holiday memories interrupt you be awake to what they reveal.

This is the first Christmas without my Mom alive. I walked into a friend’s house this week and noticed the wine coasters my Mom had given them for Christmas last year. Pistachios so loved by her were in a bowl. The coasters and nuts interrupted the rhythm and grounding of my day.

I could have left it at that but instead invited awareness to what these simple items pointed to.

Memories of my Mom are fraught with complexity. Instead of creating a sainted plastic nite light out of them I prefer to allow their ambiguous truths to roam about reflecting the fullness of her life. Since that evening I’ve had a cavalcade of memories of her love of the holidays and family feasts.

The result is a daily invitation to me to be aware of decades of memories of holidays spent and not spent with my mother. I miss her childlike joy in the simple pleasures of watching the Rockefeller Center tree or opening a card. Her stressed approached to the holidays is my GPS to be organized! I’m grateful to be interrupted by memories about her haunted, happy and complex life. As the memories roam I linger with my own ambiguities.

Call-to-Action:

When holiday memories interrupt:

  • Be awake to what they reveal

  • Be present to their ambiguities

  • Expect the interruption to be matched by surprise.

Notice how the interruption of memories is a gift to your journey.

Share your story of holiday memories here.

Give a gift of A New Way to Be Human this holiday – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store. Receive free personalized inscribed cards for each gift at info@robertvtaylor.com

Click here to watch the book trailer for A New Way to Be Human

Follow on Twitter and Facebook

©2012 Robert V. Taylor

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This blog first appeared in the Huffington Post, December 3, 2012

Imagine Rachel Crow’s Mean Girls meeting the political bullies of American politics. The corrosive polarization and resulting disengagement that exists in America begs for leadership that rebuilds a civil civic conversation. Mean Girls offers some pointers for a path through the existing morass of the bully culture.

Bullies employ a variety of techniques to achieve their objective of getting what they want with scant regard for others. Spreading rumors or innuendo, diminishing another person or excluding another person are as common techniques of bullies as the more publicized physical and cyber-attacks on another.

Many reality shows create a psycho-social context in which bullying thrives. These bully shows that are part of our cultural landscape elevate bullying to an acceptable norm of behavior. When political, religious or other leaders engage in bully tactics the expected outcry is muted because bullying has become, according to experts, the most common form of violence in the United States.

Rachel Crow’s video Mean Girls has gone viral with 5 million views on YouTube for a reason. The video names the bullying culture experienced and promoted by young girls and offers some advice to end it. Our political leaders might each watch it for inspiration. It offers the wisdom that any hope of ending the bully culture lies in our hands through the choices that we make.

These lyrics from “Mean Girls” are a basic primer for anyone who wants political discourse and decision making to be elevated to a state of higher regard than it is now.

Do you want to know what I think? Our political discourse has scant regard for differing perspectives other than trying to eviscerate them. The aggressive bullying behavior of achieving your own ends for short term gain might win pyrrhic victories but it is no way to sustain a civil society.

Dignifying difference and attentive listening are useful counterpoints. The unprecedented levels of polarization in American life will shift only to the degree that we embrace the reality that a policy position we disagree with is not heinous because it is at odds with our own. It is in the bazaar of ideas that robust, opinionated discussion improves your thinking and argument.

Curiosity — whether intellectual, emotional or spiritual — and the capacity to listen attentively convey something at odds with the bully’s scant regard of another person. It is the awareness that we need one another in order to be human. When we are genuinely curious to know what others think the capacity for civil engagement expands exponentially.

I can’t believe I let it go so far. The girls in Rachel Crow’s video have a moment of realization. Instead of remaining silent, averting their eyes, ignoring the bullying or being passive they have a choice. Not unlike those who have been in an abusive or co-dependent relationship they have a realization that bullying is not and never should be the acceptable norm.

They choose a different normal. Embracing a new normal dethrones the bully from her or his self-created seat of power. The bully culture in our politics survives because we have chosen to allow their idolatrous thrones of shimmering glass to delude us. We have the choice to admit that we have let the bullies go too far.

Robert V. Taylor and USF Tampa students

Be Kind. Pairing political discourse with kindness might be an oxymoron to many. In Mean Girls young women hold their palms up into the air with the words “Be Kind” written on them as if offering a prayerful intention.

While many yearn for the political culture of bullying to be replaced with constructive engagement and legislative policy achievements surely it is not unrealistic to expect that a civility of kindness or goodness permeate the work? Beyond the demonizing, most leaders in public service entered their work with a desire to do good. Creating such a norm of behavior would be an exercise in leadership.

“Mean Girls” you no longer run my world. It is a declaration of taking responsibility and not ceding power to the bullies. Those who make their living by fomenting a culture of bullying may not appreciate this claiming of personal power and expectations about our civic life. The girls in the video do not care about ruffling the feathers of bullies. They have imagined a new normal and chosen a different path. We could do much worse than try to emulate them.

Mean Girls has gone viral because it identifies and names the bullying that we have allowed to upend our discourse and view of one another as Americans. A different future is possible in which leaders lead and the common good is celebrated in the midst of vibrant, fulsome debate. Mean Girls offers some pointers. The choice is in our hands.

How do you respond to bullying? Post your thoughts, comments and ideas below or directly on the Huffington Post link to this blog!

 

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Kindness can happen when you share the things you know and love

I am a teacher.
Not very conventional ,however I teach the things I know and love.
I teach Art from a point of intuition and coming from the Heart.
Because that is where everything happens for me
So I share my stories and I teach how to see as an artist and a spiritual being.
My life is blessed because I chose to listen to my heart
I am a believer in coming from the Heart and was very happy to meet you in Vero and purchase your book.

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