“Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.”
This Sunday is Father’s Day. The bond between a father and his children is a unique and important one. So what does this day mean? This day—which honors and celebrates all fathers—is a great opportunity to make dads of all kinds, everywhere, feel special. We can express our appreciation and love by offering the fathers and father figures in our lives our complete attention. This means putting away the electronic devices and being together, physically or in spirit, with your whole being.
In my own life, I had an up-and-down relationship with my dad. I felt close to him at times, but we didn’t have that “let me tell you everything, I feel protected by you” father-daughter bond. Often, we have this image of what a close relationship should look like, and we judge our experience on what is supposed to be “the norm.” Here I’m reminded of the old television show Father Knows Best. Robert Young was a great dad, but life is not like a TV show, is it? The media places enormous expectations on us—and yesteryear’s TV dads showed us only half the story. Father doesn’t always know best—and life is about making the best out of the situation we find ourselves in and living the most authentic, loving life we can. My dad was an alcoholic, and it took me decades to be okay with not wanting him to be the TV dad and realize that this was the life we had together, so how could I make the best of it?
As an adult, I lived many miles away from my family, so I didn’t see my dad often, but I loved him and I knew he loved me. I got the call three years ago that my dad had been rushed to the hospital. He had been diagnosed with ALS, and he was dying. I took a flight out right away and spent the last month of his life at his bedside in the hospital. We didn’t speak about any of the past (it just wasn’t my dad’s style), but we did share a remarkable experience. I had done all of the inner work necessary to forgive all of the things that had happened and release old desires. We were both able to just be in each other’s presence, knowing that, in this very moment, “all is well.”
My dad passed away while I was in the middle of writing my book The Practice, a chapter of which is all about letting go. Seeing my father in such a weakened state was a difficult experience for me, but through this experience, my dad taught me a great final lesson: how to let go. I had no choice but to say goodbye to this man I had known and loved all my life—despite all of our difficulties. I deeply felt my feelings of loss, and I am so very grateful for him, and I remember with a happy heart the good times. So, I always remember him with a smile, especially on Father’s Day.
This Sunday, pause to remember your father, or father figure, male or female with an open, loving heart. If you’re having a strained, difficult time with this person, breathe in love and breathe out the pain—and keep doing it. You may just start to feel a release, some freedom, an acceptance that life is unfolding in perfect order. If you have a fabulous relationship with your dad or other father figure, tell that person, with all of your being, how much they mean to you and be present in mind, body, and spirit.
Happy Father’s Day with all of my love and blessings.
“The true poem rests between the words.”
Poetry. Even the word has a nice ring to it. A rhythmic expression of feelings and ideas, poetry has the ability to speak to each of us on a very personal level, evoking all sorts of emotions, imagery, and memories that are uniquely our own.
This being National Poetry Month, I wanted to join in this celebration today and express my appreciation and love for this literary medium. My love for poetry came to me from my Irish mother. I can remember her reciting those beautiful Irish poems, and of course, Robert Frost was one of her favorites. Poetry is part of my being. My dear friend’s son, Scott Cunningham, a poet, actually realized his poetry dream and founded O’ Miami, a yearly month-long celebration of poetry with the desire for all residents of Miami and beyond to encounter a poem during the month of April. Really beautiful, right?
I love all sorts of poetry, and this one poem in particular changed my life the first time I read it. It is called “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. It appears in her book New and Selected Poems (Beacon Press, Boston, MA, 1992). The Library of Congress posted this poem in its entirety on their website if you would like to read it. Here is the link: https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/133.html.
The last two lines of Mary Oliver’s poem offer a thought-provoking question, one that each of us may wish to consider:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
This isn’t always an easy question to answer, is it? Contemplating how we would respond to this question, however, can bring us closer and closer to leading the life we wish to live.
When I sit in silence in the mornings, I tune in to my heart, where I can listen for the answer. The heart whispers to us its deepest desires, and when we give ourselves a chance to hear what it has to share with us, we can approach our day ahead with the intention to answer its calling. This leads us little by little, and day by day, along the path to living our “one wild and precious life” in the most magnificent way possible!
What poems speak to you? Please share one of your favorites in the comments below.
Oscar Wilde famously said in one of his plays, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” This heartwarming statement has such deep meaning and is so much truer than we may be aware. Loving ourselves and feeling excited by our own presence and the mystery of our lives—and ultimately being our own best friend—is the foundation from which we live our greatest lives!
This Sunday, February 15, I am thrilled to be hosting the “I Love Me Workshop: Fall In Love with Yourself, Mind, Body, & Spirit” at The W Hotel Union Square in New York City, from 1–6 p.m. Joining me is an incredible lineup of women who really embody self-love and are living their magnificent lives to the fullest: Kathryn Budig, Michele Promaulayko, Keri Glassman, Veronica Bosgraaf, and Tara Stiles.
If you are joining us, I am looking forward to seeing you and sharing an amazing day of meditation, thought-provoking discussions, yoga sessions, and music. If you are unable to attend, sign up for the live stream and join us for this day devoted to practicing self-love.
As a preview, with this Valentine’s Day 2015 upon us tomorrow, I propose that we all make a conscious effort to love ourselves unconditionally, the way we would someone who is very precious to us. After all, from the beginning to the end, no one is closer to us than we are to ourselves! Here are a few ways to remind us of how incredibly special we are:
- Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers. Flowers brighten a room, warm a heart, and bring a smile to our face. Go to your local florist or market and spend some time smelling and appreciating the present moment with the beautiful bouquets before choosing one that speaks to your heart.
- Create a Sacred Mantra Heart. Download and print out this line drawing of a Valentine’s heart, and then get out your colored markers or pencils, and begin to write your Sacred Mantra in the image over and over again until all the white space is filled in. While you write your mantra, focus on self-love and self-appreciation. Display your finished Sacred Mantra artwork as a reminder of your love.
- Write yourself a love note. If you have some nice stationery or a card or even a blank piece of paper, write yourself a love note. In this letter, write about all the things that are wonderful about you. Be creative and honest; don’t hold back. This is about appreciating and deeply loving the beautiful person you are. This is not about ego; it’s about true love. When you’re finished, place it in a book you open often as a beautiful reminder for years to come.
- Do something nice for yourself. This can really be anything! Maybe you buy yourself a little gift or treat yourself to a spa service. Maybe you just spend some time in the garden, take a bath, or have your favorite meal. Whatever you choose, make sure you plan to be in the moment, truly being with you and take the time to make this experience special. You truly deserve it!
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe,
deserve your love and affection.”
“When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.”
―Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Our human heart beats an average of about 100,000 times a day. This definitely gives each of us plenty of opportunity every day to be present to the moments that make up our lives! The heart is an incredible organ, and it is a wonderful, metaphorical home for our source of love and spirit. February is American Heart Month, so let’s take a look at how we can return the love and keep our heart healthy—spiritually and physically:
- Breathe fresh air. We all know that the heart pumps blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen, as well as nutrients, where it’s needed. When we breathe in fresh, clean air, we are supporting our heart in its life-giving task by making sure it has a good source of this essential element. We don’t think of this often enough, so remember to guard yourself (and your heart!) against exposure to toxins in the air, like cigarette smoke, aerosol sprays, and other pollution, which make it more difficult for your heart to get the oxygen it needs.
- Have a “heart to heart” talk with your heart. Try to make it a habit to sit in silence every morning and listen to the “whisperings” of your heart. When you are quiet and you are allowing some space between your thoughts through meditation and Sacred Mantra repetition, you are better able to hear what your heart wants to tell you. It has important messages to share.
- Feel the love. Try to approach people in your life with an open heart by being receptive and in the moment. Having a spiritual practice helps keep you in the present moment where your heart naturally opens, and you begin to see the people you know in a more accepting light, allowing the love to flow more freely between you.
- Laugh often. Open your heart by enjoying some hearty laughter. When we see the humorous side of things, we are less upset if something goes wrong, which allows room for a loving response. Some research suggests that laughter is good for our cardiovascular health. For instance, in 2006, Scientific American posted an eye-opening article called “Laughter Proves Good Medicine for Heart.” So look for the lighter side of life and don’t take things personally.
- Reduce your stress levels. Have you ever been under such stress that you’ve said something like, “My blood was boiling” or “My heart was racing”? Most of us can probably recognize the connection between stress and our personal heart health. How do we keep our stress levels in check? We prioritize, stop, and take some deep breaths to get ourselves back on track during the day. My most important advice is to begin your day with a five-minute meditation practice to connect to your heart—your inner voice—so that you can go into the day centered and strong.
- Stay active. The American Heart Association (AHA) website says, “The simplest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking.” When we take a nice long walk, not only are we doing our body a great service, we are giving ourselves a chance to stop, connect with nature, and nourish our mind and heart. For more recommendations from AHA, visit www.heart.org.