Browsing the archives for the Active Being category

Nelson Mandela’s Leadership Legacy to Us

Nelson Mandela

This piece first appeared in Huffington Post, July 3, 2013

We have much to learn from Nelson Mandela’s leadership grounded in generosity of spirit, authenticity and moral authority that transcends human divisiveness. Two things stand out about his leadership legacy — his open mindset and the choice to make human calculations rather than political ones.

South Africans adulate his unique transformational leadership of their country. The human family celebrates that, in the particularities of the South African experience, Mandela offered courage and hope to a world too often accustomed to revenge, retaliation, partisan politics, personal gain and lack of vision. It is a vibrant enduring legacy.

During his 27 years of imprisonment for leading the anti-apartheid movement Nelson Mandela was vilified by the South African government as the embodiment of evil. In spite of the prison conditions of Robben Island, designed to crush his spirit, he continued to nurture and expand the vision of the Freedom Charter of the African National Congress which sought a country in which all races would live together in a democratic society.

The attempt to silence and diminish Mandela was an unmitigated failure — a truth acknowledged by F.W. De Klerk, the South African President, whose negotiations with Mandela led to his release from prison in 1990. De Klerk spoke of the moral failure of apartheid’s unjust and cruel divisions.

When Mandela reappeared on the world stage on February 11, 1990 he told the world, “Our long march to freedom is irreversible.” In that moment it was clear he had never left the world stage; he was re-entering it with even greater moral gravitas.

While Mandela’s leadership was marked by a lack of rancor, bitterness or revenge it is useful to think of two constant themes that guided him.

Open mindset leadership. A friend of mine had a private meeting with Mandela several years ago. He confessed his nervousness to me about what to ask Mandela that would not seem insignificant before settling on inquiring about what he had learned about leadership. He was surprised by the response.

Mandela said the most important thing he’d learned is that you have to have an open mindset. As my friend looked quizzical Mandela explained that most leaders rise up through the ranks of an organization and come to office with others expecting that they are owed something by the leader. This, he said, usually creates a closed mindset that leaves little room for progressive or transformational leadership.

In his first year as the democratically elected president of South Africa Mandela provided a clue as to how his open mindset approach would inform his actions. South Africa was scheduled to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the odds were that their own team stood little chance of winning. Citing the pressing problems facing the country, many of his top advisers tried to dissuade him from engaging the predominantly white home team. They were constrained by the closed mindset of the sports paradigm of apartheid in which soccer fans were primarily black while rugby fans were predominantly white.

Mandela chose to engage the rugby team by actively encouraging them to win the World Cup, which they did. His open mindset reinforced his transformational leadership, not by talking about systemic changes or poring over political strategies, but by engaging an entire nation. The entire country was mesmerized by his level of interest in the home team.

Mandela took the race based assumptions and divisions and used them to re-frame a vision of how things might be. He was not willing to be imprisoned in a stultified past. He refused to be confined and defined by the expectations of those who, under his presidency, were part of the new power structure. Courage and generosity of spirit joined together with his open thinking reminding the world of the possibilities of transformative leading.

Making Human Calculations. In the Clint Eastwood movie Invictus, which tells the story of Mandela’s role in inspiring the rugby team, there is a telling moment when one of his advisers warns him to make political calculations about the cost of supporting the team. He challenges that assumption by saying, “It is a human calculation.”

Unlike the dull and politically calculated leadership we have come to expect as the norm from so many leaders, Mandela’s human calculation inspired people to see beyond narrow confines and create a more expansive view of themselves and others.

The human calculation reflects more than just Mandela’s generous spirit; it serves to remind people of the oneness that his friend Desmond Tutu speaks of. It is leadership that refuses to cede decisions to fear and divisiveness, choosing instead to believe in the human goodness discovered in our commonality.

Nelson Mandela is honored to the degree that we embrace the transformative leadership marked by his open mindset and human calculations. Then we participate in the courageous and generous authentic leadership that is his vigorous legacy.

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Dad, Welcome As You Are!

Robert V. Taylor with his brother Paul and their Dad, Donald

This first appeared in June 14, 2013

I was shocked when my Dad reached over to cradle my head and kiss me. It was a rare moment of emotional intimacy from a man who was not raised to express his emotions. His tender action followed by the words “I love you” was a gift that I still treasure three decades later.  Even though he is not alive, I listen to the stories I tell of my father and the new appreciation those stories reveal with the passage of time.

My Dad would be 84 if he was alive today, yet he continues to live in my heart and consciousness. He grew up in an era in which being a man meant that expressions of emotion were a “girl thing.” That was the work of tender, nurturing and gentle women.  Or so the theory went.

His mother, whom I adored, was a model of emotional frigidity married to a man who was more adept at expression emotions. It was an odd paradigm handed down to my dad on how to be a man. Adding to these murky waters was the rigid and oppressive climate of South Africa. Growing up in that country I assumed that manhood came with those proscribing conditions even though I yearned for something more.

After moving to New York in 1980 as a young adult I was stunned on my first Christmas to see my host kissing his sons and them responding with kisses in return. I’d never seen such a display before and felt at once uncomfortable and curious. This state of unsettlement kept occurring as I watched fathers and sons acting as if such displays of affection were normal. I wanted to be that kind of a man. I assumed that I could be, but not with my dad. At least not until the day of the kiss.

Two years after arriving in New York my parents came to visit me knowing that I could not return home because of my refusal to serve in the South African military. On the day of his return home my Dad stood awkwardly at the gate at JFK waiting to board his flight. In a surprising move he leaned in very close to me and said, “I don’t know when we’ll be together again.” There were tears in our eyes. And then he kissed me and cradled my head as he said, “I love you.” I assured him of the same.

It was a defining moment.  Perhaps the “girl thing” assumption about how my dad had been raised was not entirely true? Or was it an oppressive façade he had learned to live with for so many decades? And then the repeated boarding calls meant it was time for him to go. In my state of stunned shock and delight I felt the tears rolling down my face as he turned to wave.

Perhaps my Dad and I could forge some of that intimacy that I had discovered among American sons and fathers? But there was the physical barrier of being on two different continents. In the decade that followed, we only saw each other on two other visits he made to America. In the era before email, texting or social media my Dad was not much of a letter-writer preferring to leave that to my mother.

I was in a time of my life discovering that our individual stories are more than just a series of funny, embarrassing, cute or unexpected events.  I was learning that our individual stories reveal truth and wisdom in their familiarity.  Well, perhaps not as much wisdom in my twenties or thirties as I thought!  Beneath the familiar plot line of a particular story, the story points to the arc about our place in life that is larger than our own self.

So I turned to the stories of my life with my Dad in South Africa. I found willing listeners in some of my new American friends who like me were physically separated from their fathers because of their job or studies. I was beginning to discover that I can tell the same story line in different decades of my life but by paying attention to the story it presents new insights in each new season of my life.

When I was a young kid my Dad and I would take the train to the end of the line in Cape Town to a place called Simon’s Town. We’d carry our packed lunches and fishing gear and go clambering over rocks to find just the right spot to fish. At the end of these outings I’d express my exuberance about the day spent fishing with Dad. I was bragging about it!

In my teenager years I’d still go fishing with my Dad, although less often. I’d tell the same basic story line albeit with a much “cooler” adolescent level of enthusiasm. In those telling’s of the story I was much more aware of my refusal to ever kill a fish. And so my Dad would help me return the fish to the ocean or he would kill it while I looked away.

In telling the same story in my twenties, I would be aware that more than just being with my dad, the story revealed a kindness and non-judgmental love. He never demeaned or ridiculed me about my aversion to the kill. There was no name calling me as the dreaded “sissy” I thought I must have been.

In my late thirties and forties the story line offered new insight into my dad and our relationship. I understood that our fishing excursions were his way of expressing that he wanted to be present to and with me. He was doing what we all do, working with the tools he had available to him. And he did a great job at it.

In my fifties I tell that story and wonder what it must have felt like for my Dad to live with the assumed normalcy that expressing emotion and affection were not the way to be. I wonder what conversation we would have about that if he were alive to do so. I suspect he’d engage willingly.

The year that Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 was the year I was able to go back to visit South Africa and my family. They quickly became yearly visits in which I noticed a new tenderness about him reminding me of that unexpected kiss at JFK.

On each visit each he enveloped me with a bear hug and kiss. This was not the way the Dad of my childhood had behaved! He was not to be pigeon-holed. As my partner and I visited we did what we often do – we held hands in the living room at my parents’ home.  On one visit my Mom pulled me aside and in a very hushed tone announced, “It really upsets your Dad to see the two of you holding hands.” Funny, but I had not noticed any lack of comfort on my Dad’s part.

A few days later Dad and I were on a walk to feed the ducks at a nearby pond and I said, “Dad, I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable with us holding hands.” Without missing a beat he said, “I’m not uncomfortable. I’m just happy for you and your love.”  There it was again, this generous, heartfelt and kind spirit.

In succeeding years I noticed a new level of emotional intimacy in my Dad’s close bond with a male friend that I could not have imagined in the previous decades of his life.  It was wonderful to watch. I felt glad and proud for him.

My parents were friendly with the couple who lived next door to them in their retirement community. Frank and my Dad began by looking out for another and performing simply niceties by delivering the mail or newspaper to one another.  As time progressed they would be found sitting on a porch together drinking beer and reminiscing about their lives or sharing their excitement for an upcoming rugby or cricket game on television.

On one visit my Dad expressed how glad he was for the choice he and my mother had made, albeit with obstinate resistance from him, to move into their retirement community. When I asked what made him happiest about the decision he said, “I wouldn’t have Frank as my friend if we weren’t here.”

Years later I sat in Frank’s living room with him and his wife drinking tea and discussing my Dad’s then recent death. Frank beamed as he said, “I miss your Dad every day. He was a true friend.” I was unprepared for the tenderness of what followed as Frank choked up with tears in his eyes and said, “You know Robert, I loved your Dad.” I received it as an elegant eulogy to my father and a blessing of the intimacy between Frank and Dad.

The quest for a more fulsome emotional relationship with Dad has come full circle. My yearning for a more authentic relationship with my father had led us to new ground.  But it wasn’t just about me. Dad had been a willing participant in his own story and search for what it meant to be a man.

I’m thankful for the journey we made together. We may not have fulfilled one another’s expectations to the fullest but we sure worked at it from a place of love, redefining our once limited perceptions of what it means to be a man. It would be nice to pull my dad in close, cradle his head, giving him a kiss and saying – “I’m not sure when we’ll see one another again. But I’m proud of you and love you Dad.”

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Reboot Your Life in 21 Days

Robert V. Taylor

This blog appeared in Huffington Post June 10, 2013 and The Mindful Word on June 7, 2013.

Rebooting your life is a gift to yourself. It reconnects you with your spirit, the wisdom and joy that lives in you and the truths that ground your choices. It is a personal anti-virus program for you to be free of what distracts, disorients and keeps you from your best and highest good.

Rebooting is most successful when you commit to creating time and space on each of the 21 days to breathe and be present to yourself. Begin with two or three minutes on the first few days. Then allow yourself a five minute breathing time on the remaining days. Find a quiet place to listen to the breath flowing though you. Be still and open to the thoughts that are present. You job is to keep listening to your breath as each thought appears.

Day 1: Your magnificence is cause for thanksgiving. Name at least one quality about you that is magnificent. Savor and appreciate it. How will you let that quality be radiant in your life today?
Day 2: Your story reveals wisdom and spiritual truth. What part of your story nags at you for attention? Choose to listen for the invitation it presents you.
Day 3: Forgiveness is a learned path to freedom. What do you need to forgive in yourself or another person? Forgiveness is a choice to be free. It releases life-giving energy to be present to today and the future.
Day 4: Love needs to be named. Stand in front of a mirror looking at yourself and speak out loud something loveable about you. Celebrate it by sharing your new appreciation with another.
Day 5: Delight affects how you participate in your own life and the world. Chose to allow yourself to be delighted by something or someone today. Tell another person about your delight.
Day 6: Detach from a toxic person. You do neither of you a favor by allowing toxicity to invade and muddle your life. Detach and entrust them to the goodness and care of the Universe. It is a life-giving gift to both of you!
Day 7: Create a new conversation. Instead of allowing old conversations and hurts to keep playing in your heart and mind, make a choice to create a new one in which you welcome positive energy.
Day 8: Playfulness is a vital to your well-being. Do something playful today that makes you smile. Notice how it affects your experience of the rest of the day’s activities.
Day 9: Frustration closes you off from yourself and others. Pay attention to what frustrates you. Letting go of it allows you to be more fully engaged with what brings you alive.
Day 10: Trust your intuition – it is part of your positioning system. Respond to an intuitive reaction or thought today.
Day 11: A teacher awaits in your greatest failures. Invite awareness of what your greatest failures teach you about your values, hopes, purpose and joy. Express gratitude for the teacher within.
Day 12: Feasting with others is soul food to your life. Experience time today with another person as a feast with each other. Unplug your technology and relish being present with another.
Day 13: Acknowledge the fears that resurface in your life. They are an invitation to move beyond them. In going to the edge of your fear you discover what centers you. In the naming of the fears their power over you is loosened.
Day 14: Awe shifts your perception of time and your place in the world. Reflect on the things, people or places that fill you with awe. How will you choose to live with an intentional openness to awe today?
Day 15: Stop clutching! When you stop clutching at what you think you know you create an open and appreciative way of living. The Universe then surprises you with new invitations to life.
Day 16: Preoccupations are best dealt with by setting them aside. Allow the beauty of those you love to interrupt your preoccupations. Express your gratitude for such love in your life.
Day 17: You are hardwired for compassion. What act of compassion will you participate in today? Notice how each such act enriches your sense of self and your connection to the lives of others.
Day 18: You are made in the imagination of the Universe. Be awake to imagination alive in you, allowing it to become a new lens for how you engage challenges, other people and yourself. Celebrate it!
Day 19: Love needs your voice and heart. Express your love to someone you love today. Tell them one of the reasons you love them. Notice how your heart space and theirs becomes more richly intertwined.
Day 20: Your goodness helps to polish the world. What will you do today to polish the world – perhaps an act of mercy, kindness, love or playful delight? The energy of your goodness is life-changing.
Day 21: Celebrate and express gratitude! For your well-being and the blessings given and received in your generosity of spirit and heart.

Notice the choices you have made in Rebooting Your Life in 21 Days. Be aware of how more fully enlivened and alive you are. Because your life is always about more than only you choose a trusted friend or mentor to share your new insights and learning’s with. Rebooting is your spiritual and wisdom gift to yourself.

What tools have you used to reboot your life? Post your responses below or on the Huffington Post site or

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Religious Crusade Against Boy Scouts?

Robert V. Taylor

This opinion piece was first published in Huffington Post, May 31, 2013

The controversy over the Boy Scouts welcoming gay youth is being fueled by religious purveyors of judgment and condemnation. Ironically it is the Boy Scout values of compassion and respect that reflect a more generous spirit of inclusion.

I am no fan of the decision to allow gay youth to be members of Boy Scout troops while disallowing the leadership and service of adults who happen to be gay. It is a disingenuous double standard. However, the decision of the Boy Scouts looks enlightened when compared to the religious and cultural war that some religious leaders and institutions are trying to wage on scouting and gay youth.

Earnest Easley, a Southern Baptist pastor and chair of his denomination’s executive committee, is one of these warriors according to USA Today. Claiming that homosexuality is a sin and using spurious cut and paste theology to support a prejudice against LGBT people, a self-righteous crusade has been launched to sever ties between faith based groups and the Scout troops that they sponsor.

Sadly this is a re-run of old scripts in which religious texts have been used to support slavery, the denigration of women, the denial of civil rights and anti-immigrant fervor. Whatever happened to the more robust core values of love and justice?

In fairness, the warriors like Earnest Easley, do not speak for all religious institutions or leaders. Mike Schuenemeyer of the United Church of Christ is quoted in the USA Today article saying that the new Boy Scout policy will lead his organization to more actively promote sponsorship of scouting troops across the country.

The new assaults on the Boy Scouts and gay youth are at best mean-spirited and reveal a stunning lack of love and compassion. At worst they trifle with the lives of young people and their families as they struggle with questions of sexual identity.

As a young Scout I lived with the fear of anyone discovering that I was struggling with what it meant to be gay. My love of Scouting and my own worth as a human being seemed destined to be in conflict. While I survived those struggles far too many gay youth choose to commit suicide. The messages of condemnation and hatred being reinforced by religious warriors have an impact on those young people and fuel the bullying and violence directed toward them.

Data from the Pew Research Center reveals that 70 percent of Millennial’s (those between eighteen and thirty-two years old) support same-gender marriage. They reject the rationale of the battles being played out over the Boy Scouts’ policy shift.

Pew data also reveals that 25 percent of Millennial’s reject any formal religious affiliation. Among the reasons given are religion’s perceived obsession with judgmental orthodoxies and exclusion.

Those waging war on the Boy Scouts and gay youth may appeal to their own narrow base but their chosen battle is designed to reinforce the views of a significant number of young people who choose a more generous and inclusive way of life for all.

Ironically the core values of the Boy Scouts offer a more humane and spiritual approach to the storm in a teacup over gay scouts.

Those values are about compassion and respect. The Boy Scouts shine a light on being kind and considerate to others and working for the well-being of all. They emphasize showing regard for the worth of something or someone. Those core values offer respect and compassion without qualification.

I’d support those values and the decision of the Boy Scouts over the religious warriors — any day!

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Cultivate Compassion Every Day!

Mesmerized by the audience at Stanford - Robert V. Taylro with James Doty of CCAREWe are hard wired for compassion.

Aware and awake to cultivating compassion in our daily lives is a choice.

The compassion choice shifts the energy of how we experience each day.

The Universe longs for our acts and words of compassion

Watch Robert on YouTube at Stanford University sharing his insights on expanding compassion every day – Conversations on Compassion with Robert V. Taylor

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What choices will you make?

What choices will you make to live your life fully?  How will your choices expand your heart of love and celebrate your voice?

How you choose will affect how you are a participant in your own life!

Listen to Robert talk about these questions at The Forum at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco – click here for the podcast

Robert V. Taylor, The Forum at grace cathedral April 28, 2013

Post your thoughts, questions and responses below!

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Made in the Imagination of Love

What does it mean to be made in the imagination of love?

Talk at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral available as a Podcast – click here

With friends at my San Francisco talk!

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“Tell me who you are” – 3 reasons to share your story

Desmond Tutu and Robert V. Taylor

This article first appeared on the opinion page of FoxNews, April 14, 2013

It was a life-shifting question from South African social rights activist and Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu inviting me to tell him about my life – “Not what you’ve done, but who you are.”

No one had ever asked me such a question before.

Most of us expect the inevitable question of “What do you do?” from strangers. When you can respond to “Tell me who you are” a dramatic shift happens in your engagement with others and your experience of life.

It was 1980 and I was in my first one-on-one meeting with Tutu. I had decided that instead of serving in the South African military — which enforced apartheid — I would go to jail. I didn’t know if I could survive prison so I went seeking Tutu’s advice.

I was a 22-year-old privileged white kid in the presence of a 49-year-old internationally known human rights activist who was an iconic figure to me. I was honored to be in his presence and my nervousness quickly gave way to being floored by his unexpected question.

As I told him about the physical pain that had transformed my life during two spinal surgeries as a teenager I wondered why I was intuitively telling him these details. I spoke about the loneliness and fears while hospitalized for six weeks at a time.

I related how a book I read and re-read in the hospital by Trevor Huddleston had upended my life.

Huddleston described the vibrant multi-ethnic, multi-cultural community he had served outside of Johannesburg that had been bulldozed by the apartheid government because of those defining qualities.

I described Huddleston’s book as my first conscious awakening to the realities of my own country and an invitation to be involved in the anti-apartheid movement.

When I told Tutu that Huddleston had been like a visitor to me in the hospital he burst out laughing!

Desmond Tutu & Robert V. Taylor speaking at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

I wondered what I had said to evoke such a reaction.

After settling down Tutu told me of the loneliness and fears he had experienced as a teenager hospitalized with tuberculosis. Then he said, “Trevor Huddleston was my priest. He used to visit and read stories to me.”

In that moment I realized how profound Tutu’s simple question was. “Tell me who you are” is an invitation to discover who we are in oneness with others revealed through unexpected connecting stories. It is why the question matters for the sake of our well-being and that of the world.

On the surface anyone might have assumed that there not much of a common thread to our lives. Yet his question revealed shared transformation, decades apart.

On this new common ground he said that there would be a time for young men like me to go to jail for refusing to serve but that time was not now. He arranged for me to leave the country and within ten days I was on a flight to New York City.

So how do you respond to the question of “Tell me who you are” and what does it mean for your life?

Own the fullness of your story! When we are mindfully aware of the arc of our story it becomes an invitation to see the many threads woven together. Instead of banishing the painful or fearful experiences to a closet, choose a trusted guide or mentor to be authentic with.

Tell your stories in a safe environment and listen to yourself with expectancy about what they reveal or point to. Your own courage will become a mirror to loving yourself.

The fear, loneliness and physical boundaries of the spinal surgeries could have handicapped my view of myself.  I could have chosen to live with anger, resentment or pity.

Instead it offered me the gift of compassion and empathy towards others. Instead of youthful invincibility my awareness of the frailty of human life became an invitation to live life fully in every moment.

Most of us prefer the joyous, happy and wonderful experiences of our journey. Yet it is usually the challenging parts of our story that shed new light on how we choose to live with gratitude and delight.

When you own the fullness of your story, the superficiality of “tell me what you do,” becomes a poor substitute for “tell me who you are” that reveals your richly textured life egging you on to live fully alive.

Listen with curiosity. Like the ever-expanding Universe, the arc of your story reveals new insights and wisdom in each new season of your life.

Instead of living with regret, shame or embarrassment about some part of your story those defining experiences invite you to develop new tenderness and compassion toward yourself.

That combination of attentiveness and self-love takes you beyond self-absorption to a life that is enlivened by curiosity. You intuitively become engaged with others because you want to know what their story reveals. Like the unexpected connecting story that Tutu and I shared, you discover surprising connection with others. Like mine, your life is changed by those encounters.

Cultivate Awe. Studies reveal that our capacity for awe expands our sense of fulfillment, meaning and satisfaction. When I experience awe in nature, music or a soaring architectural space I am awake to being part of the grandeur of life beyond any confines of my story.  Similarly, I am awed by the stories of those who know who they are.

Lives of courage and love filled with simple and seemingly small actions of hope leave me breathless!

If I’m tempted to view my life as a series of obligations or something whose course is set, the stories of those who know who they are pull me back from that life-draining path.

Instead my awe finds expression in gratitude for the abundant generosity their lives point to. Awe becomes a pathway of celebrating our oneness.

In owning the fullness of your story with the companions of curiosity and awe your life is seen through a new lense. Instead of what you do, the knowledge of who you are transforms what it means to be human and fully alive.

How will you choose?

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Jilt Your Lover!

This blog was first published on Huffington Post, February 13, 2013

I remember the days of waiting for the Valentine card that never arrived. I had not learned the secret that loving myself unconditionally was the most attractive way to find a lover! If you live with conditional love of yourself do not obsess about waiting for a Valentine charm to arrive. Instead jilt that conditional lover who lives inside you.

My Buddhist friends remind me that the near enemy of love is conditional love.  That’s because conditional love is a transactional relationship – I will “love” you if you do what I want, demand or expect. Our lives are filled with transactional relationships that are necessary for navigating everyday work and life. Confusing these with love is toxic to your well-being and your health.

Many of us have learned to equate love with “making nice.”  So we make excuses by saying that a lover or friend “means well” or has your welfare at heart. It is a formula for frustration, anger, disappointment and becoming a bystander to your own life.

Conditional love should never be confused with the real thing. In the love compromises we make – consciously or not – it is all too easy to assume that conditional love is “normal.” You may choose to endure it but there is another choice. The lover inside of you who thinks this is normal must be jilted to make room for unconditional love.

My life coach once gave me a homework assignment that at first I thought was trite. I stood in front of a full size mirror every day and looked at myself while verbalizing out loud something magnificent, lovely, generous, kind, loving, lively, spirited or funny about myself.  At first I was terrified. It brought back memories of being teased as an adolescent for being chunky and my dislike of my self-image of being fat.

This simple exercise was far from trite! With each utterance I began to develop new empathy, compassion and love towards myself. Unless I knew what the mirror reflected back to me about the magnificent qualities of my own life I would always be looking into someone else’s mirror for love, approval and acceptance. I was moving from conditional to unconditional love.

Robert V. Taylor

As a result of this discovery I began to surround myself with those who love unconditionally. This is not the same as selecting people in our lives who will be uncritical.  Instead it is choosing a path on which the fullness of your magnificence and shadow side are acknowledged, creating new tenderness toward your own self.  When you do that you intuitively connect with those who have no desire to spend their lives living conditionally because they have also done the work that allows them to love others in their fullness.

In jilting the conditional lover inside I’ve discovered that the arc of our stories reveal wisdom and truth. The stories that shape and form us are a reminder that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. It is the consciousness that loving with abandonment is the marker of how fully alive you choose to be.

It starts within each of us. Your story and mine each contain elements of wonder, shame, regret, joy and more. Many of us have learned to compartmentalize these elements resulting in living with a half-script about ourselves. When you embrace the many elements of your story into one integrated narrative several things happen. You develop compassion toward yourself. You identify those in your story who have been wisdom, truth and love bearers. You develop gratitude for the love in which you hold your story. When you embrace your story, it complements what the mirror exercise reveals.

This is crucial to your ability to jilt the conditional lover who desperately tries to avoid eviction from your heart and head spaces. In owning and claiming your story you cease to search for the “dream lover” who will fulfill your needs. You are no longer a conditional person willing to accept the crumbs of conditional love as “normalcy.”  Your energy and being start to radiate the unconditional love that grounds who you are.

In this new consciousness of loving with abandonment you no longer hope for that Valentine card that never arrives. Instead Valentine’s Day is everyday – it is the energy that draws you to the lover who loves unconditionally as you do.  It is a way of being fully alive. A way of loving love!

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Tips to Claim Your Authentic Voice

Robert V. Taylor

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post, January 23, 2013

I once believed that my voice was insignificant. Surely no one was that interested in my story or the way it shaped my views. It was a way of living with a half-script of my life. The Universe needs the fullness of your voice and the human family thrives when we each claim our voice.

Choose to be a participant rather than a victim. Victim-hood is not pretty or life-giving. It feeds on dullard choices and creates a cycle of spiritual, emotional and intellectual poverty. We become bystanders to our own lives. Instead of nursing victim-hood, life invites us to be full, active participants.

It begins with knowing that in the many elements of your story – the wonder, shame, regret and joy – ancient wisdom and Universal spiritual truths are revealed. Over many years I discovered that holding all the aspects of my story together allows new light to be shone on their interwoven circle of truth.

Instead of allowing others to define or diminish me I discovered that my story and voice are a gift. They connect me with unexpected people because our authentic stories offer a meeting ground. When I claim my voice the connecting stories reveal that my story is never just about me. It is about our need of one another.

What will you give your heart to each day? It’s all too easy to allow the day and its demands to define you. Choose instead to be expectant about the day. I begin each day with a simple reminder of the word I’ve chosen to be my guide for the year. This year that word is Awe.

I remind myself and the Universe that I am aware and open to awe in the day ahead. It may be in the dancing light of sunrise the beauty of a small park I pass by or the sight of a flock of birds. Or awe might be discovered in the wisdom a stranger, the kindness of a colleague or the playfulness of my Labrador.

Awe is present at the end of the day when I take a few moments to name the awe that I have experienced, marveling at it and giving thanks. The awe of life that I give and open my heart to becomes a blessing on the day that is ending.

How will you greet and embrace the day? In my work I’ve discovered that my own voice is shaped by making a mindful intention each day. Years ago I woke up on one of those numbingly grey and wet Seattle days and a torrent of complaints spewed out of my mouth. This was not like my usual enthusiasm for the day. My spouse calmly said, “Wow! Perhaps you can create your own sunshine today?”

It’s all too easy to allow negative thoughts, anxiety or even fear of the day to be overwhelming. On those days we become strangers to ourselves and others. As I remind myself each day of my word for the year I offer an intention to be awake, aware and open to the goodness of others and the day.

Celebrate time! I may have no ultimate control over the flow of time but how I view time is life-shifting. Time is a companion to be celebrated.

Having coffee with a friend or talking on the phone to a cherished person in my life is something I view as a feast in my day. Choosing to let go of looking at my smart phone or tablet is a choice to be present to the moment in those feasts. I’m able to enjoy or luxuriate in the feast at hand.

Celebrating time as a companion is a choice about letting your authentic voice enter the flow of life. My gratitude is expressed each day for time serving others or being with friends, family or colleagues. It might also include celebrating time for creativity or time alone. Each becomes an expression of celebrating the rhythm of the Universe.

In each of these four ways I am reminded of how essential my authentic voice, along with that of others, is to being alive and human. How will you live a full-scripted life by claiming your authentic voice?

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