05/30/20

Fierce Compassion: Speaking Truth to Power

Fierce Compassion: Speaking Truth to Power | Photo of Agapanthus buds by Mary Marcdante

May we all speak truth to power with fierce compassion—for others and ourselves.

On several of my walks this week, I was captivated by this same lavender-colored Agapanthus pod of buds, all crowded together like its own little flower community getting ready to bloom something beautiful. Then I noticed one bud that was somehow forced out and laid deflated on top of the others. With the next breath of wind, it would soon fall to the ground and never get a chance to bloom like the others.

As I’ve been reviewing my photos from the past few days, I paused again at the image several times. I’ve never thought about flowers that way. “Why now?” I asked myself.

I closed my eyes and took a few breaths, sitting with the question. My answer surprised me:

Maybe because it’s easier to watch a flower die than a human?

I felt tears well up and let my heart keep talking. Between mounting COVID deaths—my Aunt Francie included, the horrific murder of George Floyd, and the riots in Minneapolis and protests around the country attempting to speak truth to power and be heard by people with that power, this heart aches—again.

“I can’t breathe.” George Floyd

I can only imagine and barely touch the grief family members are experiencing as they lose people they love through racism, agism, narcissism and every other “ism” that divides rather than encourages the gifts and answers that a diverse community and world offers humanity, nature and the earth. I know others who are feeling this, maybe you are too?

Every flower bud and every human being needs a safe home and community that protects, provides and motivates them to grow into their full potential: Agapanthus buds, Torrey Pine trees, George Floyd, Armaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, you, me—all of us, and the rest of the world.

What will it take to create that space for everyone?

I’m discovering one answer for myself through the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion: F I E R C E C O M P A S S I O N. Even when it’s scary, maybe especially when it’s scary, learning to use your anger at injustice to motivate you, your courage to protect yourself and others, and your voice to provide awareness, understanding, and connection within your community, your friends, your family, and most importantly, within yourself.

“It only takes one person
and a good idea to start a movement.
-Maren Johnson

What inside you is waiting to be listened to and compassionately acted on by you today? What in your world needs your voice to speak up with fierce compassion?

May we all find and use our courage and voices to help the world bloom into all the beauty, joy, and love that lives within us.

Agapanthus blooms by Mary Marcdante
“Riots are the language of the unheard.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
May we all listen to each other for
greater understanding and connection.

05/8/20

Bioluminescence and Mindful Self Compassion

Bioluminescence at Scripps Pier, La Jolla Shores on May 7, 2020. Unedited iPhone 11 Max Pro photo by Mary Marcdante.
Bioluminescence at Scripps Pier, La Jolla Shores on May 7, 2020. Unedited iPhone 11 Max Pro photo by Mary Marcdante.

Full moon bioluminescence at La Jolla Shores just before midnight—a welcome respite and reminder of nature’s gifts to inspire and renew in troubling times.

I took three walks today trying to shake off this sadness that’s been welling up. I find myself thinking more and more about how many people have died from COVID and all of the underlying manmade causes contrasted with the spin so many people are trying to put on the unbelievable suffering the world is experiencing—“But look how many people have survived and how many of us are still alive.” I understand it’s a way to assuage fear and stress but it’s not working for me right now. My healthy and privileged life for which I’m incredibly grateful also secretly feels shameful these days. I’m beginning to understand what survivor’s guilt might feel like and how important it is to acknowledge and feel the thoughts and feelings rather than dismiss them or spin them and then…

I’m learning, I hope, from my mindful self-compassion teacher training that when I notice struggle in myself to pause and name it; remember all people suffer in various ways, some like me and I’m not alone; and then do something kind for myself so that I can be more fully present for and kind to others.

So I went to see the bioluminescence. Do you know what that spectacle really is besides magic? I didn’t. I just knew that it sounded cool and I wanted to see it. So I went at 11 o’clock at night and for the moments the waves sparkled against the night sky, I felt my spirit leap and my heart connect with others who were wearing their masks and socially distancing along side me while we “wowed” in unison each time a blue wave crested.

Now that I’m back home sitting with the magic of the blue waves and the COVID news reports, and having looked up what bioluminescence is, the inner darkness has lifted a bit. I realize there is a link for me between nature’s bioluminescence and all the healthcare and “essential” workers showing up day after day in service to saving lives through this COVID crisis and actually, every day of our lives.

The definition of bioluminescence is “the production of light by living organisms.” All these frontline healthcare and essential workers–and you, and me–are human bioluminescence producing light. And what is light but love made visible?

You are light. Live the bioluminescence you already are.

05/4/20

Inspired Action: The Power of Savoring

S A V O R . . .

What did you savor today? What could you savor now?

Since quarantine started over a month ago, I have been aching to stand on the sand at sunset at Torrey Pines beach. Tonight was no different. I felt the familiar disappointment as I walked out my door for a walk in my neighborhood at sunset. As I reached a canyon overlook where a tree had recently been cut down, I felt sad for the loss of this beautiful tree and then happened to glance over my right shoulder and saw the sky melting into shades of butter that reminded me of the butterscotch oatmeal cookies I’d baked earlier in the afternoon that called for two sticks of butter—haha, with half the batch already eaten and savored.

I paused to drink in the sky and felt tears well up. I took a deep breath and inhaled the scent of eucalyptus, one of my mother’s favorite fragrances. I heard the wind rustle through the canyon and felt it brush my cheeks. I could still taste the butterscotch and oatmeal cookies in my mouth. I also noticed I was smiling without trying and felt a warmth flow into my heart. To paraphrase a prayer from childhood, “Blessed be life. Blessed be nature. Blessed be me.”

We double our pleasure when present moments and past enjoyable memories meet. Triple delight when we pause long enough to allow the thoughts and memories to flow from our mind into our body and practice savoring through sensory awareness.

One of the key elements of mindful self-compassion to lessen feeling bad and increase feeling good is using our senses to savor a beautiful moment or anything that we find lovely, inspiring or touching. So often we don’t even notice the exquisiteness around us because we’re caught in a negative thought loop us or we move on so quickly and forget to feel the good feelings moving through our senses. Yet, savoring is one the great gifts of being alive.

Next time you notice something that makes you smile or feel good, slow down and let yourself enjoy it a little longer. In your mind walk through your senses—What am I seeing? What am I hearing? What am I smelling? What am I tasting? What am I touching? What am I feeling emotionally? Where am I feeling that emotion in my body? Or…you can just pause and smile and bring your hand to to your heart and say thank you.

It’s all good.

“If the only prayer you ever said was thank you, it would be enough.” ~ Meister Eckhart

What did you savor today? What could you savor now? Please share your thoughts in the comments below—I’d love to hear from you.

04/25/20

COVID-19: Please Wear a Mask

“In short: Staying safe is half a head game.”
Arianne Cohen, Fast Company on COVID-19 behavior.

It wasn’t lost on me when I watched from my metal railing balcony as my little 5-old-year neighbor wandered to the edge of the canyon in our community backyard for his daily “let-off-some-steam” time that the bars between us had many layers of meaning for me. Paying closer attention to him after I returned from an unsettling interaction out in public earlier in the day, I noticed this little guy was wearing a mask.

If he can wear his mask to play games outside, surely the 20ish male runner without a mask coming toward me as I stepped onto the grass more than six feet to the right on a short walk to avoid his heaving breath can too, right? And what about while I was waiting to pick up takeout today to support a local restaurant, the unmasked man with his masked wife in front of me and the three young unmasked men standing behind me who brushed right past me? Why no masks? Rhetorical question, sort of. But not really.

What is it with men?! With young people? Sorry, men friends and millennials I love who are wearing masks, for lumping all of you together; I know it’s not all men or just men, or young people but it is so unsettling to see the number of people who seem to have so much entitlement for themselves or so little regard for themselves or others and all the incredible life-saving going in by medical professionals and family caregivers or so little social-emotional intelligence that they won’t comply with what we know helps prevent COVID from spreading and killing people! What will it take? Do they need a personal reason like their own intubation or someone they love suffering, or worse, dying—and alone, like my aunt and the loved ones of two friends or the 202,272 other people who have died of COVID-19 as of today!? https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-toll/

I am not normally publicly vocal about these kinds of issues, but a quote by Rabbi Hillel that I’ve theoretically spouted as a speaker for years keeps playing in my head: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? If not now, when.” And the community version of it, “If not us, who?”

Are you wearing a mask when you’re out? If so. thank you. (If you live in San Diego, they’ll be mandatory May 1.)

If you aren’t wearing a mask yet, please do. And adapt the premise, “If you see something, say something.” And for those you see wearing masks, thank them.

What would you say to someone not wearing a mask to help them comply without shaming them? Let’s create a list of responses in the comments because I could use them. I didn’t do so well today. To the older man in the takeout line four feet away from me as I continued to back up, I said under my mask and pointing to it, “Where is your mask?” He said, “I don’t need one.” I said, “Yes you do! For yourself, for your wife, and for me and everyone in this room. Please wear a mask.” He shook his head no, his wife shrugged her shoulders and they turned around and walked away.

Outside of neighborhood walks, I’ve been out in public to grocery shop four times in five weeks when very few people are out. Today was different with so many people outside. I get it. No one likes wearing a mask or being cooped up as long as we have, especially on a beautiful day, but, please—pretty please with f-ing sugar on top…PLEASE WEAR A MASK.

I really had to work to shift my fear and anger to compassion. But as I’m learning from my mindful self-compassion teacher training, there are two types of compassion—yin/gentle and yang/fierce. Gentle compassion comforts and fierce compassion protects. We need both and sometimes, like today, we need to use our courage to call in fierce compassion.

What are you doing to protect yourself and your family, co-workers and community? Please wear a mask.And consider reading this article from Fast Company: “6 Reasons Why You Engage in Risky COVID-19 Behaviors and How to Avoid Them. (Thank you, Arianne Cohen) bit.ly/3570ZFQ

03/24/20

Mindful Self-Compassion Breathing Meditation

Clouds above Pacific Ocean at La Jolla Shores photo by Mary Marcdante
“One for me and one for you.”

As you read that, what did you think? Did you question what I meant? Did you judge it as selfish because I put myself first? Did you feel included? Did you worry about others who might not feel included or just start scrolling?

In my #mindfulselfcompassion teacher training practicum through the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion (an awesome community), one of the core meditations we are practicing is “Giving and Receiving Compassion” using the breath. Any breath you take can become a wish for yourself and another.

If you’re someone who always puts others first, and then feels exhausted, resentful, disappointed or any negative feeling that depletes your energy, research has shown that self-compassionate people tend to be more caring, supportive and compassionate with others, less jealous, and better compromisers. The challenge is giving yourself the same care you give others.

Drawing on the Creative Life Force and breathing in good wishes first for yourself gives you the energy to send it to others.

On your inhale, if it feels right, say “Breathing in for me” and on the exhale, “Breathing out for you.” Or actually, any words that conjure up a feeling of care for yourself and another person or group, country, pet, or the earth. “One for me, one for you.” Or “In for me, out for you,” or even as simple as “Me” on the inhale and “You” on the exhale repeated for as long as you like in a slower-than-normal breathing rhythm while savoring the feelings in your body. Adding a smile can help connect your mind and body and shift your energy from stressed to blessed.

This meditation can be done silently when you’re in a stressful conversation with someone, worried about someone, or just thinking of them. You can do it for one cycle of inhale/exhale that takes just a few seconds or 15 minutes in formal sitting practice, or for a minute when you wake up before you get out of bed, just before sleep, while walking or even sitting on the toilet while you are rationing toilet paper. “One for me. One for you.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist a little levity given how serious everything is with #coronavirusprotocol and #coronavirusstress.

“One for me and one for you. One for All Beings and one for the Earth.”

 

PS. If you like this or have other topics you’d like to learn more about, please leave a comment or share your favorite meditation. I love hearing from you.

10/7/17
San Diego International Film Festival 2107 Global Consciousness Films

4 Global Consciousness Insights from San Diego Film Fest Filmmakers

San Diego International Film Festival 2017 Global Consciousness #sdiff

“What is one practical action you would want audience members to take after seeing your film?”

After a long work day and hearing my inner voice tell me I needed to step out of my way-too-comfortable comfort zone, instead of going to a comedy screening, I attended “Global Consciousness,” a series of six riveting films in 62 minutes. Kudos to the San Diego International Film Festival for a socially impactful, relevant and soul-searching evening.

At the Q&A with the filmmakers following the screening, when I asked that question about a practical step, here’s what they said:

“Awareness. Be aware of what’s going on around the world and share it.” said the writer of the film “Citizen,” about an American born Hispanic female border patrol agent whose pregnant Mexican born younger sister is deported and tries to cross the border so her child will be American. The agent has to decide between protecting her livelihood and young son’s safety and helping her sister who goes into labor as she is detained by another border agent at a desert crossing.

“Read and when you find injustice, speak your truth. Don’t turn away,” from the director of “Ravage,” about China’s illegal organ harvesting and torture of Falun Gong practitioners and political prisoners. Horrific and still going on.

“Compassion. Imagine yourself in the situation of others who are different from you. Look people in the eyes.” This from the director of “The Fare,” about a young Ecuadorian man who works in a sex-trafficking ring and has to decide between saving the life of a teen girl from his home city or saving face and ultimately his own life. Heart-wrenching.

“Love. It really is that simple. See the Oneness in humanity. Everyone goes through hard times. Don’t knock people down, lift people up.” Encouraging words from the directors of “Shine,” an animated film about helping to end homelessness.

Powerful films and powerful words to put into action. My first action post-film: share their words with you and live them best I can. Be aware, speak the truth, turn toward rather than away, look people in the eyes, love on others and lift them up.

Two more days of incredible films and live interviews. You can check out the films and events at http://sdiff.org/ #sdiff

08/5/17

Opening to Nature’s Wisdom Through Mindful Photography

In the Heart of the Agave -- Mary Marcdante, Mindful Photography
While walking in the hills of Del Mar just before sunset last night I came upon this spectacular Agave plant more than five feet in diameter growing beside a sandstone cliff two stories high. The sunlight illuminating the plant’s leaves beckoned me closer for a photo. As I held up my camera, I had the most wonderful and ephemeral moment of watching my shadow move into an alignment that merged my head with the plant’s core, which holds its newest growth and under that, what growers actually refer to as its “heart.”

I stood there for a few seconds awestruck and rooted by a feeling that I can only now describe as a falling away of the illusion of separation and equally a knowing of the Oneness that lives and breathes through me, this plant, the wind, you, and everything.

And then in an instant everything was back to normal. A car drove by, my phone chimed a message had arrived, and my shadow self stepped back into my body.

As I glance at that photo again, trying to recapture the feeling and make sense of the insight to apply to my daily life, it looks as if a new plant shoot is about to burst open on the top of the left side of my head. Maybe nature’s gift of new ideas for my next book? Funny what a hair clip in shadow can create in one’s imagination. Or maybe not.

One of my favorite Zen proverbs pops into my mind: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

Yes, and…through it all, keep looking, keep asking, keep photographing and writing, or creating through whatever your chosen path is, and remember to align head and heart — your’s and nature’s.

You never know where enlightenment is waiting for you.