Mary Marcdante

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.

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.

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.

"Inspiration lives in the possible." Mary Marcdante

Inspiration Lives in the Possible. Gnarly Trees, Dr. Seuss and Chainsaws

Gnarly Old TreeThe light on this twisted tree limb called to me from a distance. My first thought was what happened to it to cause such a crookedness in its growth. When I got close enough to really look at it, I had the strangest sensation of awareness run through me. Suddenly, just for a few seconds, it was as if I was looking at an gnarly old man crossing his legs while enjoying the view of the sky. Then it morphed into frog legs. And then I saw Dr. Seuss characters starting to appear.

And then, back to reality by the sound of a chainsaw across the street being started by the landscape team in the neighborhood.

Tree, Mary. Old tree. Branches. Blue Sky. Walk. Get going. You have work to do.

Right. Work. And then Dream Time. Maybe. If there’s time. And now yesterday’s moment is a memory and this morning I’m thinking again about that tree.

When an image is that strong for me, I’m always curious to revisit it to see if there’s a deeper meaning, message or metaphor for me. It’s a way for me to access ideas and insights and problem-solve.

Scanning through my iPhone photos this morning, there was that gnarly old man tree again standing with crossed leg and now he was smiling and reminding me to let go of preconceived notions, to enjoy the freedom of the moment, to see beyond appearances and truly feel the beauty, inspiration and creativity of the natural life that always surrounds us and lives within us…if we will only pause long enough to drop the judgment, open our minds and hearts and then take the risk to create from this space and share our creative expression with others so we can all feel more alive in this wild adventure called Life.

I flashed again on Dr. Seuss. One of the most creative minds and greatest teachers in my book. He lived just a few miles from me. The trees in his neighborhood are similar. What if the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch got their legs from Dr. Seuss pausing long enough to look up at his trees and let them talk to him? Wild. I know. But possible. Inspiration lives in the possible.

What possibility is calling for your presence today? It’s out there waiting for you to feel it.

And I’m here waiting to hear about it. Have a creative and beautiful day and let me know what you experience.

2,920 Days: The Power of Your Presence, Words, and Kindness

TOPS International Recognition Days with Keynote Speaker Mary Marcdante
TOPS International Recognition Days with Keynote Speaker Mary Marcdante

2,920 days. This weekend I had the privilege of speaking to 2000 TOPS members at their International Recognition Days on “Finding Your Genie Within.” So much energy and emotion moved through me – I felt anxious, excited, humbled, grateful… At the end of my speech, two women – mom and daughter – came up and asked if they could have their picture taken with me and then surprised me with a photo of the three of us from eight years ago when I spoke at another event. Eight years! 2,920 days of our lives had passed and it was important enough to them to stand in line for over an hour to remember and connect with me. What a gift they gave me.

If I’m really honest with myself and you, I share this selfishly and humbly to celebrate a personal milestone with you, but equally important, to remind you in your weaker moments that your presence and words are ALWAYS an opportunity for impact. Even if it doesn’t look like it on the outside, we all need each other’s kindness — and maybe even more for some us — our own kindness to ourselves.

If you don’t know me well you may not know that I suffer self-doubt and worthiness issues in my quiet moments, which is one of the reasons I speak on the topics I do – I need the positive reinforcement as much if not more than the audience. In my strong moments, I sense that I am a channel, catalyst, example, role model, and human post-it-note for others to experience the power, value, and beauty of their presence within themselves and their relationships, but oh how those weak moments can rise up out of nowhere and try to dim my light. And then out of the blue, Grace flies in through two beautiful human beings and says, “Thank you,” just like you do with your presence right now.

Thank you.

Happy Siblings Day. Love my sisters and brothers!

Happy Siblings Day


Happy Siblings Day. When I first heard the words today, I thought it was just another marketing effort and wished my three siblings well in my mind. Then I started to see all these photos and amazing and funny tributes on Facebook by friends about their siblings. It made me wonder who started this celebration and what their story might be.

Turns out there is a for-real National Sibling’s Day and Siblings Day Foundation started by Claudia Evart on her sister Lisette’s birthday April 10, 2012. Nice touch, I thought. And then I read their back story, the one the headlines leave out, which causes a lot of people to smirk, make smart-ass cracks about their less-than-perfect relationships with their brothers and sisters and move on to their next relationship-lite conversation to avoid “the feels” (um, guilty).

But wait, wait, I do need to tell you: National Siblings Day was started to honor Claudia’s siblings 40 years after Claudia’s older sister, 19 at the time, and their father, died in a horrific car crash and 26 years after her brother, a Vietnam Vet, died after falling in a freak accident at home.

I know. Take a breath. Horrible tragedies no one should have to experience. But some do. And turn those memories into something beautiful we can all celebrate with our less-than-perfect-but-still-here-so-try-to-make-the-most-of-it families. Thank you Claudia.

Nothing like perspective to remember what matters.

Whew. I think about losing my own siblings and feel this tender, teary wave of love go through me. God, I’d be lost without my sibs Eileen, Paul, and Jeanne. I don’t say that often enough. Have I ever said it — I mean really said it straight out — to myself or to them? I could write a book about all the ways they’ve inspired my life — but won’t, haha, because I’m blessed to have all of them still talking to me after my first book My Mother, My Friend was published.

However the short story must be told: Eileen, Paul, and Jeanne, thank you for keeping me real, staying connected even when it’s hard, and becoming adults who make me look better by association and make the world a more inspiring place to live. I love you. Happy Siblings Day.

What do you love about your sibling(s)? Please share your comments below.