Thursday, July 31, 2014

Does he love me? Does she?

And then 

there is this.

“For when you say “I fell in love” with him or her you are saying that he or she was the key that unlocked your heart—the place within yourself where you are love. When the experience is mutual, you can see that the psychic chemistry of the situation allows both partners to “fall in love” or to “awake into love” or to “come into the Spirit.” Since love is a state of being—and the Divine state at that—the state to which we all yearn to return, we wish to possess love. At best we can try to possess the key to our hearts—our beloved—but sooner or later we find that even that is impossible. To possess the key is to lose it.

"Just as with every other method of coming to the Light, if it works we get attached to the method, failing to realize that it is the goals and not the method which we crave. A relationship starting out as one that awakens love can only remain a living vehicle for love to the extent that it is continually made new or reconsecrated. That is, each partner in love must always strain to see through the veils of personality and body to see the Divine Essence within—within himself and his partner. And he must come to see the veils as veils . . . without getting trapped into thinking them real. Such ideas are reflected in the highest marriages, or for that matter in the highest form of any relationship. Play your role in the Divine Dance, but know it to be such and worship its divinity.”

Even at 53 I still think a lot about love. In some ways, it is the center from which I measure most every moment. I often question - Is this love? Is that? Does he love me? Does she? Why does my love feel different when I look deep into the eyes of my daughter or son? Why is love so intoxicatingly alive at some moments - and yet seems so very, very distant at others.

Doesn't life really come down to - love or fear? Do we live in love or fear? Further, what is fear, after all, if it is not unloved? It seems the greatest fear too often reveals itself when we consider otherwise successful people on their deathbed looking well beyond the veils and illusions they have created 
and reach for love...

To consider love as a state of being ... Unlocked by another ... And ourselves wanting to possess it. This rings true to my soul. And I wonder why I haven't heard this before? And yes, of course, of course, we get attached to the method - the person - and wonder why it all stops working, where love goes, when the method fails to work, especially in challenging times - when all we really, truly want is the goal. We really just want to experience Divine Love, to return to this organic state of unlocked love within our hearts - where no fear resides...

The author seems imploring in his words to see beyond the veils of personality to see the Divine within those we love - which, in one sense, should be everyone. In our more intimate relationships and friendships, it takes a more intentional work - because it is more difficult, more frightening to consider that what was once so Divine is no more.

May each of us see the veils as veils today -- and not get trapped into thinking they are real. 

Looking for the Divine Essence within...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 2 of friendlessness in the 21st century

The withdrawal from social media has me jonesing in odd ways. The reach to post or "catch up" on those constant streams of thought on Twitter and Facebook has been ridiculous - if not embarrassing. As if it somehow proves my existence to share my thoughts on that plane. Or worse, the worthiness of my existence. 

But get this. Dude, it's so much quieter in my brain!

And, of course, some would say my posts here are merely a substitute; and perhaps this blog is the step down drug of my detox. But detoxing I am... Not reaching for that Twitter feed of Flint Police Ops after hearing sirens at 3am - oh yeah, it takes courage and determination baby!

Now that I'm not cruising the Twitter feeds for news, I came upon this - believe me, I wasn't looking for it, but it certainly seemed timely. Research has winnowed out the negative symptoms of social media addicts (like me - there, I said it!) There is that same jittery feeling when you can't check the status or look at the feeds. But the piece went on further to describe the deeper issues such as seeing an ex on Facebook can restrict personal growth and emotional recovery; excessive usage can be a contributing factor in divorce; spending more time on Facebook can lead to increased feelings of unhappiness with your own life; and passively scrolling through your News Feed can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Who knew??

I also was struck by the human nature observation of a 25-year-old who had just been sentenced in a Grand Rapids court for his role in the murder of another man. As he was leaving the courtroom, the guy turns toward the prosecutor, police and the family of a murder victim and held up the middle finger on each of his cuffed hands and cussed at them.

Wow! I had to read it a couple times. I thought I missed something. Here was this adult male who had destroyed the lives of a family - and he was angry at them? He was facing the consequences of his actions - and he was angry - and made the entire situation even more deplorable. 

There is so much I do not understand about life - about people. So much that is utterly confusing as we try to find logic in a very illogical world. 

It seems the greatest hope we can have is to be a faithful person - to have faith in something greater than ourselves. To be known as a faithful person who can be counted on to help make the world a better place. To be the real deal to everyone we encounter.

But what makes a person truly genuine?

Apparently, researchers have figured this out too!

1. You have high self-esteem.

Genuine people, by definition, have a good sense of self-esteem, says clinical psychologist Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts.

"Really, with self-esteem, it’s the ‘Goldilocks’ range: Too much is not good because that’s the narcissism range, that’s the arrogant, prideful range," Winch tells The Huffington Post. "Too little is not good; you want something solid in the middle. So genuine people are those who have solid self-esteem -- it’s solid, it’s consistent, it’s not brittle. And people who have solid self-esteem are much less defensive about things usually. They can feel authentic, they can be authentic, because they’re far less worried about the implications of exposing who they are, because they feel OK about who they are."

Research backs this up: In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, U.K.-based researchers explored the "authentic personality" and how other traits correlate with a person's sense of living genuinely. They found that people who expressed a high sense of authenticity also maintained higher levels of self-esteem.

2. You embrace vulnerability.

The psychological idea and societal construct of inner strength vary dramatically. Many cultures place great importance on maintaining defensive walls that hide or minimize personal weaknesses and imperfections, as a means of protecting oneself from harmful or unpleasant experiences. Science, on the other hand, supports using flexible coping mechanisms to face moments of discomfort -- opening oneself up to fears and failures in an attempt to learn and grow from them, rather than shut them out altogether. And it takes an authentic person with a solid foundation of self-esteem to be able to accomplish the latter.

"The stronger your self-esteem, the more able you are to admit that you’re failing, to receive criticism, to be able to receive negative feedback without it making you crumble," Winch says about the importance of maintaining such flexibility. "You can actually take on criticism, negative feedback, something not great about you, something that you don’t love about yourself, and it doesn’t really devastate you. It’s something you can admit, you can hope to work on or just take in, but it doesn’t affect your whole way of thinking about yourself."

3. You share your true thoughts, beliefs and opinions with the world.

Authentic people not only take the time to ponder their perspective on life and the experiences that led them there, but they easily share this "true self" with others around them. This outward expression is consistently characterized as an extroverted behavior in authenticity research. However, in a 2010 study published in the Journal of Personality, Wake Forest University psychologist William Fleeson established that both genuine introverts and extroverts alike feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, opinions and beliefs with the outside world.

“Authenticity is consistently associated with acting highly extraverted [sic], even for those who characterize themselves as introverts,” said Fleeson in a statement. “Being flexible with who you are is okay. It is not denying or disrespecting who you are. People are often too rigid about how they are and stick with the comfortable and familiar. Adapting to a situation can make you more true to yourself in some circumstances.”

His research also revealed that being genuine consistently goes hand-in-hand with being emotionally stable and intellectual.

4. You openly give and receive compliments.

Gratitude clearly flows in two directions: sometimes you give, and sometimes you receive. When it comes to the latter, Winch explains in his book Emotional First Aid that people with low self-esteem can sometimes struggle with accepting compliments. That's because they believe those compliments come attached to higher expectations from others, which results in feelings of stress. Those who are authentic and maintain a solid sense of self-esteem, on the other hand, don't view compliments with strings attached.

"You have to be able to see a compliment as just a compliment, and it takes a certain level of authenticity to receive that," Winch explains. "It’s about being able to take in and also give back in a way that’s unfiltered by all these kinds of other agendas."

When it comes to expressing gratitude to others, genuine people follow a similar path of not overthinking it.

"You want to reinforce people," he said. "It’s really merit-based. You’re doing it just because it's merited, and that comes across when you do it in a pure way, when you’re simply delighted that somebody did well and you compliment them."

5. You really listen -- and prefer deep conversations.

Genuine people find it easier to let go of distractions and focus intently in a conversation simply because they are truly interested in what the other person has to say. They aren't constantly checking their smartphone for text messages or letting their mind wander off to the day's to-do list. Everything else falls by the wayside.

According to a 2013 study conducted by psychological scientist Erin Heerey at Bangor University in Wales, others can tell when you are being genuine. The observational study paired strangers getting to know one another and monitored their reactions to any smile that was exchanged -- both genuine and polite. It found that the subjects responded much more quickly to genuine smiles than polite smiles, and viewed the genuine smiles a social reward to be valued.

"When we are authentic people and our self-esteem is strong, we are just much less burdened by agendas and baggage, and we can actually have a conversation that’s about the content of the conversation in a much purer way," adds Winch. "When people are authentic, there’s a certain purity to their interactions and conversations, and the conversations tend to be more interesting in terms of the content. You can get further, you can explore more, and you can discover more because it’s a much richer conversation."

6. You're driven by an inner voice rather than your surroundings.

One of the key components of authenticity is simply (or not so simply) knowing who you are and being comfortable with yourself. It requires taking the time to develop informed ideas about the things you care about, and not blindly adopting them from others around you. It is with this foundation that you are able to live those values -- stand behind them, represent them and feel strongly about them.

"When you have thought through what you think, what you feel, what’s important to you and why it’s important to you, that determines a certain sense of purpose and directive," says Winch. "We all have these operational directives -- we just don’t necessarily articulate them to ourselves. But if we look back on our behavior and examine what we do, why we do it , what we think, why we think it, we can figure out the principles that are driving us."

People who have really looked within to understand why they think and act the way they do are clearer about the principles -- and purposes -- that drive their lives, Winch adds. "It makes them proactive rather than reactive."

Let's do this! Day 2 of friendlessness in the 21st century!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Friendless in the 21st century

So I hit the button to deactivate my Facebook, and turned off my Twitter, deleted my Instagram and searched frantically to determine if I had any other lingering open accounts of social media. 

I've decided I don't like a world where the number of friends listed on any of these "social" accounts belies the truth that people are desperately alone in the 21st century. And while I have long believed that social media can be largely helpful, I think far more challenges lie in their wake. The generation of words and not presence has created a discordant anxiety with face to face communication at any level. We hide behind all of these social media masks that make us sound more than we are, stronger than we are, more self assured than we are. And for those who dare be authentic, it is so much easier to be "honest" in our reactions that seek to confront rather than listen. 

A friend of mine attended the Cannabis Cup this past weekend, billed as a two-day marijuana celebration at Auto City Speedway. He/she said some 400 people attended a concert Saturday night by Wyclef Jean, wandered through all sorts of vendors selling drug paraphernalia, and entered a "Medicinal Tent" where they were able to freely experience the "medicinal" effect of pot. High Times Magazine sponsored the event - and I forgot to ask if my friend saw a single doctor.

So my friend tells me they need an id to enter the medicinal tent "where the real action is." Of course, he/she didn't have an id, but their much older friend did. Forget the fact they look nothing alike! The old friend is granted access after the attendant checked the id. The old friend manages to slip the id back to my friend, poignantly reminding me of those days when fake ids granted access to every bar on college campuses. My friend flashes the id to the attendant who looks at it, looks at he/she, looks at id, looks at he/she - squints, then somewhat exasperated, says, "Whatever. Go ahead. Have fun." Entrance to the Medicinal Tent at the High Times Magazine Cannabis Cup is granted. No one even seemed the least bit concerned for the illness my friend was experiencing. In fact, my friend said they didn't see a lot of sick people attending the event. 

WHAT?? This wasn't a modern day Bethesda with a multitude of sick, blind and withered, waiting for the moving of the water? (Scripture - look it up - John 5:2&3!)

It's all in the billing of this stuff, how we market it. The words on every social media program seems to promise all that we longed for in high school - popularity. Just how many friends do we have? Do they like us? Did they accept my friend request? Oh my gosh, what about that feeling when we discover we have "friends" who have "unfriended" us?

It is hard for me not to hear the echoing words of a Flint teacher when I am considering all this. At the time, I was struck by his progressive stance that social media is actually nothing more than the 21st century playground - kids do the same things online as they did when they were outside and beyond the reach and glance of teachers who would correct anti-social behavior. On both playgrounds, there were bullies, false friends, words were said that stuck for a lifetime. Sometimes they get caught. Lots of times they don't. 

Truth be told, we don't really have as many friends as Facebook boasts. In a crisis, very few, if any, of my Twitter followers would be willing to drop everything to help me through the terror. And I have bemoaned the fact that hardly anyone ever likes my photos on Instagram - and I think they are great shots, darn it! 

And there may have been a few sick folks in the Medicinal Tent, but I am thinking the great majority were not. They were in there trying to feel better about life, sliding in under a false identity, but hoping the subterfuge wouldn't be discovered. 

This post represents my first day of not relying on words and truly seeking presence in friendships the old fashioned way. No false identities. No subterfuge.

It also represents not having any friends as defined by the 21st century... 

Monday, February 13, 2012

A rare treasure, dazzling in delicate beauty

I started to read out loud Sarah Young's entry this morning in "Jesus Calling," but was truly overcome with tears. As much as I paused to choke back the tears, they came anyway and I handed the book over to my husband to read to our two children and me. I tripped on the words "those who yearn for me." They got stuck in my throat. And while I am somewhat embarrassed to tell you why, I think I must this morning because it has so profoundly impacted me today. 

Before getting out of bed this morning, I watched and re-watched a struggling, desperate woman who hugged her friend in that way that says more than I missed you, more than I'm glad your here. She hugged her long, and hard and I imagined that in that moment something about the desperation of life was exchanged... because one of them did not want to let go ... And then in front of a club full of people, the desperate one took the microphone and began singing quietly at first, "Yes, Jesus loves me... Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes Jesus loves me - the bible" - and she more loudly repeated while looking deep in her friend's eyes, "the bible ... the bible tells me so." And in that club somewhere in Hollywood, the crowd went crazy. And I believe that woman was hanging on, you see, hanging on with all that she had to the only truth that remained in her life - when all was said and done, when all the fame came and went, when all the drugs stole everything from her, she rose to her feet and sang the only thing that brought any sense of stability in her life, "Yes, Jesus loves me." Confidently, hopefully, soul-strongfully ... fearfully.

And that less-than-two minute, unfinished song was all as she left that stage and humbly waved off the cheering crowd because her voice was not what it once was. And she knew it. And she knew the crowd knew it. But she had to sing it that night, the night before she died. The very next day we would learn of her untimely death and the world would stop and think of all that she had been through. And our hearts would break because it seemed the demons won.

Sarah's words this morning, "It is a rare treasure, dazzling in delicate beauty yet strong enough to withstand all onslaughts. Wear My Peace with regal dignity. It will keep your heart and mind close to Mine." And I thought of the regal dignity of Whitney the night before her death singing that childlike song, "Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible - the bible - tells me so." And I thought of my own times of quiet desperation when all I could do was repeat that thought, hoping that what the bible said was true - and putting everything I had on that one single belief. And while others may describe Whitney's last public performance differently, I saw desperation - and I get desperation. I know what it feels like to be that desperate, where the only thing you have is, "Yes, Jesus love me." And clinging to friends that care.

"A rare treasure, dazzling in delicate beauty yet strong enough to withstand all onslaughts." 

Lord, may it be.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Ron Paul and me at Flint's Tim Hortons

Hey, I'm trying to steer clear of politics these days! I have decided there are too many people I love who claim to be from one party or the other. It's hard to keep my thoughts pure when I discover just who they are supporting for President -- and we're a long, long way from the finish line, folks! 

Truthfully, I consider myself apolitical. And I have publicly declared to several different groups of people that my intention is to never again have a discussion about politics. I have privately been thrilled with the idea that I never again have to have such discussions - and that all judgments are off when I discover a person's loyalties. And I'm never going to again say for whom I am going to vote. The thought feels so amazing. So peaceful. 

But I ran into Ron Paul this morning at the Tim Hortons at the corner of Ballenger and Flushing roads. Go figure. 
Well, truth be told, a friend has been urging me to read his book Liberty Defined. The book has moved from room to room in my house - and finally out the door with me today as I determined I better take a look at the guy behind this third-place groundswell of Iowa Caucus support, an objective look into what makes this guy interesting - at minimum to my neighbor who proudly has a sign posted in his yard.
Because I am determined this year to write more often about the ideas that otherwise rattle around in my brain, here is my apolitical, objective reaction to Ron Paul's book. For what it is worth. This is what I have determined this book reveals about a guy who could maybe be the next President of the United States. I may or may not vote for him. But I wouldn't tell you now would I?
By the way, it's hard to get past the subtitle, 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom? 50?? And I did find it interesting - or strange - that envy is listed as an issue but none of other seven deadly sins!
The issues, by the way, are in alphabetical order. I skimmed abortion not wanting to talk about it because it is far too difficult to discuss without getting emotional. It's an issue that drives the vote of too many people on both sides of the aisle. I have friendships that have nearly been destroyed based on this one topic. Not going there.
I do agree with Paul's position on bipartisanship: Too few things the two parties agree on that would be good for country.

And tax-payer financed elections; financing goes underground. Yup I agree with Paul on this one too. Campaign laws won't solve the problems.

And I do like Paul's stand against capital punishment and empire building and aggressive wars. Abortion position? Not so much. (See?? I'm weak! Why must I even comment on abortion??)

Paul's CIA position - I have to say, "Preach it brother." We would probably all be safer without it and every other clandestine operation. How can anything be successful if it thrives on secrecy and lies?
Gheesh! I actually agree with Paul's thoughts on civil disobedience. We both think it is legitimate and an effective way to resist violence perpetuated by state. 
OK, I'm now thinking Paul is not in the right party. He is SO Independent. Why would Ron Paul choose to align himself with the GOP? It seems inconsistent with his independent thoughts. 
But I'm still reading.

Oops! Paul & I disagree on discrimination. And education! Local control by school boards? The thought is bone-chilling to me! Maybe good in Malibu but Flint, MI?? C'mon!

Oooo, I DO like his thought that the American Empire is an enemy of American freedom. Yup I'm with him on that one. He says it is every bit an enemy of American citizens as it is to the victims of world. Let us be reminded that leadership is so critical!
And so I ask, why would this person align himself with the Republicans when their system only seems to dilute his arguments. He seems to stand against necessary evils. Yet, why do what he must to get attention or elected? And yes, the system IS against him! I'm just confused about him injecting himself into that system. They don't like him there. It would seem more fitting for him to play at a different playground.

I like Paul's stance on the deadly sin of envy: In a true free market economy, gain does not come at any one's expense. I just wish we could trust one another!
Paul's argument regarding evolution vs creation seems opposing to his argument regarding education. Again he talks about local power deciding but admits it might cause problems. Ya think?? How does a blue collar, largely high school educated-only town even stand a chance in competing with the academic giants of Ann Arbor's school board? It wouldn't. It couldn't. Local power dictating the future? Gotta say, that sounds frightening - even as I am trying to relax as I sip my Tim Hortons coffee!

I like Paul on this though: Any disagreement with government is considered unshared love of freedom. He says, "And that is exactly how fear works." Word! WORD!
Paul quotes CS Lewis in his section on Insurance. Interesting.
Ok, now I get it. Ron Paul likes liberty and/or freedom. He really REALLY thinks it is foundational to our government - and I cannot argue that it isn't indeed a constitutional right but, BUT his steely-gazed focus on liberty raises some red flags for me. It's like one of those airhorns that people obnoxiously blare at an indoor sporting event - and they have the freedom to do that! But for me, and this is my rub with Ron Paul when all is said and done (I may or may not vote for him remember), one man's liberty can and I gotta say, DOES infringe on my other constitutional and unalienable rights of life and the pursuit of happiness endowed by the Creator. And while I do LOVE Ron Paul's position on war, America's empire building, and Executive Power, some of his other ideas seem a bit idealistic for a 21st century America. I do not share his confidence in the goodness of people or corporations or government to step up and do the right thing.

I hear more and more people say they are supporting Ron Paul. He and his thoughts are compelling no doubt!! I WISH many of Paul's ideas would work, but the American political system seems too far gone to me. He carries with him ideas that would seem much more effective for rebuilding after a collapse!
There is no doubt, however, no doubt at all that Ron Paul makes this race far more interesting!
But hey, what do I know? I'm apolitical!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Living lawlessly in Flint, MI

So get this: the folks in my neighborhood have started writing about the infidels in the neighborhood that drive too fast. They are beginning to flood the listserve with alt means of stopping the "growing problem." The first post I ignored, though a little sheepishly.

You see, they are talking about me.

Some have even written about those who do not stop at stop signs or blow through red lights. And while that is not EXACTLY me, I HAVE joked that all laws have been suspended in Flint due to the budget cutting our enforcers. The truth is, I rarely see a police car any more. When I do, I automatically think it is serious trouble in this wild-western town, that they are chasing after some cattle-rustlers or bank robbers.

It could happen!

What has the listserve jumping is a pretty serious accident occurred yesterday along the main drag. In fact, it was an entrapment that involved kids that were apparently just picked up from the neighborhood school. I saw the two little ones who looked a bit confused. I took the liberty to fill in the gaps on information and assumed that their mom was in the ambulance. That had to be confusing for those two kids...

Life can change so quickly.

Good Lord, now they are talking about installing speed bumps on the listserve!

So my guilt is getting the best of me here. The funny thing is I thought no one noticed how I drive! It's not like I have a memorable car - or do I? Could it truly be that as these folks are posting their passionate thoughts on this listserve they are envisioning ME nearly missing them as I pulled out of the neighborhood?

Dear God!

And so I am thinking about this principle I have long held with a fair amount of self-righteous pride. If left to their own accord, will people do the right thing? If suddenly there were no laws, would the goodness of people instead reign civilly and therefore create a safe, hospitable environment? After all, the law of our hearts is stronger than any law of the land! I mean, right?


Oh great, now I'm thinking about that Edmund Burke line, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.’

I think I've been playing for the wrong team...

And so how in the world do we apply this concept to the greater problems of Flint, MI? Can we? Is this now tested and failed personal principle indicative of an impending collapse as our hired enforcers become fewer and fewer? Do we even stand a chance with civility?

I'm turning myself in to the listserve! We may not be needing those speed bumps after all...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


There was a time in my life when I did not experience emotion. A person never would have known it by looking at me. I am sure that I seemed "happy." I smiled, chatted, could hold a fairly reasonable conversation, but honestly, I didn't feel anything.

I didn't realize it until one day, after removing myself from that which robbed me of my emotions, I suddenly felt something - in my heart - and I was struck by the power of the emotion that was suddenly there. It almost took my breath away.

I recall being in a church service some years later, after my emotions returned to me, when a beautiful woman stood to her feet and shared with the 50-some people there that she was grateful because that day she had experienced her own thought. She told the crowd that it had been quite some time that she actually had her own thought.

I cried. I cried maybe because I remembered my own joy when the ability to feel emotion returned to me - and I didn't have the courage to stand up and tell anyone - in fact I told no one - yet this woman rose to her feet and told a large group of people that she had her own thought that day. There were plenty of people who looked confused; I went and hugged her.

And I don't know why I am thinking of this today, right now. Maybe because it has been a particularly emotional week and I have had many emotional conversations - and I have cried more than I normally do over hard things - and good things.

This world can feel so overwhelming, so confusing, filling us with many emotions and thoughts. We can wake up and our circumstances seem exactly the same as they did yesterday - or our days are radically and painfully the opposite. And we rise to try and stand in the face of it all, without falling back ... or down. There are days this week when merely rising was a victory.

And I wrestled. 
And I tossed and turned. 
And I paced. 
What is it that was churning in my soul??

And then I read this: "A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick." 

We numb? Do we pace? Do we toss and turn when we should be sleeping?

And then I read this: "The root of the word courage is cor -- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." 

The words of Brene Brown suddenly spoke to my churning soul. Brene is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past 10 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Brene spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Whole-heartedness.



Brene writes that the word courage today is more synonymous with being heroic ... And heroics are often about putting our life on the line. "Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. If we want to live and love with our whole hearts ... our first step is practicing the courage it takes to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are. It doesn't get braver than that."

When I read those words I thought of the woman who shared with the congregation that she experienced her own thought - and the courage it must have taken - and her bravery... 

And I thought of my own unwillingness to be vulnerable yet this strong, pounding desire to live whole-heartedly. Her words pierced my heart as I considered one of the latest books I read on connectedness and my failures to live out the principles. 

Brene writes: "... Connection is why we're here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it's all about. It doesn't matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice and mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is -- neurobiologically that's how we're wired -- it's why we're here."
Brene said through her measured research of collecting data, she began wrestling with how they, the whole-hearted, were making choices in their lives - and what they did with vulnerability. And why do those of the rest of us struggle with it so much.

"So this is what I learned," she writes (check out her blog "We numb vulnerability ... And we live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability."

Honestly, my heart sank as her words whispered to my soul because I KNOW numbness and what it means to shut off emotions and to be afraid -- and to want connection more than anything else on any given day.

"We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history," she writes. "The problem is -- and I learned this from the research -- that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can't say, here's the bad stuff. Here's vulnerability, here's grief, here's shame, here's fear, here's disappointment, I don't want to feel these. I'm going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. I don't want to feel these.

"You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing the affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle."

But then, THEN, Brene starts meddling.

"One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn't just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is we make everything that's uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. I'm right, you're wrong. Shut up. That's it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today. There's no discourse anymore. There's no conversation. There's just blame. You know how blame is described in the research? A way to discharge pain and discomfort."

I read those words over and over again. And over and over again.

Her 10 years of research found that whole-hearted people, very simply, experienced connection as a result of authenticity - they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were.

And her research found that whole-hearted people fully embraced vulnerability. "They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating ... They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say 'I love you' first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They're willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental."

The impact her research had on her own life was life altering - and how could it not be? "And you know how there are people that, when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they surrender and walk into it? A: that's not me," she said. "And B: I don't even hang out with people like that. For me, it was a yearlong street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.
"We pretend that what we do doesn't have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate -- whether it's a bailout, an oil spill, a recall -- we pretend like what we're doing doesn't have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say, "We're sorry. We'll fix it. 
Brene points to the data, the 10 years of research that just might be a key to life: "We need to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- and that's really hard ... to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, 'Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?' just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, 'I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive.' " 

I sat down and wrote to my new friend Brene Brown with gratitude overflowing, with a thawing numbness, and a growing amount of courage to live whole-heartedly, against the odds that there will be some great payoff - a payoff any greater than living life as it was meant to be. 

Whole-hearted ...  

Whole-heartedly ...