The Power of the Moment

I’VE BEEN THINKING

The other day, I was sitting at lunch with my kids as they started to discuss the Texas shooting. They wondered why the news had moved on from this story so quickly.

My son said, “Wow, that Texas story was wild. Why aren’t more people talking about that? Isn’t it weird that it just came and went?”

I thought about that. Stories used to stop us all cold in our tracks. Now, they just seem to come and go. Moments that used to bring a collective sense of grief—a collective sense of oneness—now seem to come and go without landing.

I told my children what it used to be like when a big story like Columbine would dominate the news and our national conversation for weeks. We would come together to converse, to wonder, to express outrage or pain. Now, it seems that when a tragedy like the one in Las Vegas happens, we move on. When a tragedy like the one in Texas happens, we scroll by. And so it goes.

The stories of those who lost their lives in Texas still sit in my mind. The young mother who gave her life to protect her kids. The young daughter of the pastor whose bright future was gone in a moment. The shock, the trauma, and the grief: it still exists for those who were in that church, or who were at that Vegas concert, or who lived in the path of the hurricanes and fires. For them, this news doesn’t just come and go. It stays.

As we roll towards the holidays, my hope is that we can somehow slow down our scrolling and swiping and focus our attention on these monumental moments that are happening all around us. I hope we can also take a moment to embrace the magnificent chance at life that each and every one of us gets. Remember, life isn’t a guarantee for any of us. If you are blessed to celebrate a new year of life, it behooves you to think about owning it and making it matter. Why? Because you are one of the lucky ones.

May we all slow down and reflect on how life is unfolding around us. May we take a moment to think and wonder about stories of tragedies and sadness. May we consider what they mean, who was affected, and how we can work to move forward and hopefully one day prevent these things from happening.

At the same time, may we also stop and celebrate the moments of inspiring change and acceptance that are happening all around us. May we stop and celebrate individuals who are seizing their moment and doing what they can to make a difference and move humanity forward. Individuals like Danica Roem, whose election to the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday made her the first openly transgender woman to take state office. Or, Vito Perillo, a 93-year-old World War 2 veteran who had never run for office before, but on Tuesday, became the mayor of Tinton Falls, NJ. “I like for people to see that as old as I am, you can still do and accomplish things,” Perillo told his local NBC affiliate. I mean, wow. How amazing is that?

Life really is just a series of moments. A day is made up of 1440 minutes, each a moment to make our own. How many moments are in a life? None of us know.

Today, take a moment. Take one of those 1440 minutes to remember the lives behind the numbers, as well as the life that is still yours to embrace. Doing so is not only good for your own soul. It’s also good for the foundation of our collective community.

Tick tock. What are you going to do with your day?

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via Maria’s Sunday Paper: The Power of the Moment

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The Power of Re-Evaluating Your Beliefs

I’VE BEEN THINKING

The news of the week, as it always does, got me thinking. It got me thinking about politics. Thinking about addiction. Thinking about success. Thinking about how to live one’s life.

Every new year, I usually do some kind of inventory of my own life. But I can’t wait until then. I just can’t. (Plus, my birthday is around the corner, so now is as good a time as any.)

And the truth is, it’s not just the news that has got me re-evaluating. My body has also been speaking to me to pay attention. My heart has been calling me out. My mind is telling me not to get caught up in the noise, but to instead step back and think about the effect that the noise has on my life, and on all of our lives. Plus, it’s all been giving me a complex migraine, complete with vertigo and vestibular damage (don’t ask).

As you can you see, it’s not just one thing that brought me to this moment again. It’s been a series of whispers and then a few 2x4s. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s to pay attention to the whispers and the 2x4s because they usually precede a knockout. (Speaking of knockouts, the voices of the Architects of Change featured in today’s Sunday Paper just blow me away. I love being in community with them and so many others that we have featured. They help me rise above the noise and inspire me to have hope and move forward.)

What also gives me hope is knowing that at any point in my life, I can change things that aren’t working. So here are a few things that the week’s headlines made me think about. I share them with you in hopes that they may give you something to think about in your own life as you move forward.

Success
I’ve made big misjudgments here. I used to think that if I were the anchor of a network news show that I would feel successful. Same with publishing a best-selling book. I was wrong. Success, I’ve learned, is an inside job. I didn’t grow up with that message, but I now know it to be true. The people who I now think are the most successful are the ones who have beautiful, loving families. They are the ones who love and are loved. Who toil quietly and patiently on the frontlines of life. Who recognize that a modest life is just as meaningful as one lived in the spotlight. (Boy, was I reminded of that this week when Albert Einstein’s notes on living a modest life sold for $1.6M. Check it out in the section below my essay.)

Politics
I used to think the Democratic Party had all of the answers. I was wrong. Both parties contribute to divisiveness, as we see each and every day in the news. Both parties have brought us to this mean-spirited, divided place. I left the Democratic Party a few years ago to register as an Independent. There lies my hope.

Work
I used to be so judgmental about people who weren’t working like maniacs. I was wrong. Working like a maniac makes you sick and is its an addiction. Put work in its proper place. Find balance. Your happiness depends on all parts of your life working together.

Rest (Mental and Physical)
In my home growing up, rest was a big no-no. My parents never rested, so neither did my brothers or I. Today, I know better. Rest is critical to your mental and physical well-being, so make time for it. No one else is going to give it to you.

Health
I used to think that I could eat whatever I wanted, for however long I wanted. I was wrong. Bad choices catch up to you. Before you know it, you could be that one that cancer decides to knockout. You could be the person that Alzheimer’s decides to take hold of. Make your health (especially your brain health) a priority. And, while you are at it, get to the bottom of your relationship with food. Cookies are not a substitute for real love. They don’t love you back. Trust me. Candy, cake and Swedish fish don’t either.

Fear
I used to view myself as fearless because I skied black diamond runs and jumped off cliffs. I spoke up and spoke out. But then I came face to face with how much fear I actually had deep down. Today, I work hard at pushing through the things that scare me emotionally, like sharing this list with you. Sometimes, I feel like I’m alone when I’m vulnerable or admitting that I’m scared. But, I now know that I’m not. (Speaking of fear, as I watched Sen. Jeff Flake give his speech this week on the Senate floor, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was feeling fear or afraid as he stood there so boldly making his public statement.)

Solitude
Speaking of fear, very few things scare me more than being in solitude. In order to not be alone, I often pack my life and my house full of people (I mean, lots of people). Because the truth is, I’m happiest when my house is filled with the people I love. But, I know that I’ve also done this because I’ve been afraid to look like I was alone or feel like I was alone. I’ve noticed, though, that the universe has a way of doing for you what you can’t or won’t do for yourself. Today, I spend quite a bit of time alone. (My son and niece who have been living with me for the last year are now both moving out.) I’m not saying that I love being alone, but I have realized that I’ve learned most of these truths that I’m sharing because I’ve spent time alone. I’ve spent time in silence. At the end, my takeaway is that we should all try and spend more time in solitude so that we’re comfortable with it when we have to be.

Loyalty
I grew up in a family where loyalty was king. I heard about it all the time. Loyalty to family. Loyalty to friends. Loyalty to a particular faith, political party, or person. But, what I never heard about was loyalty to one’s self. It didn’t dawn on me that one could crush the other. Today, loyalty to myself is more important than my loyalty to anyone or anything else. I’ve learned it’s not selfish to put yourself at the center of your own life. I’ve learned that you must honor that person looking back at you in the mirror because the cost of not doing so is high.

Celebrating Life
Life is short. I grew up knowing this to be true, but now it seems like I’m reminded of it all the time. Healthy friends call and tell me they have stage 4 cancer. Someone else whispers to me that they have early-onset Alzheimer’s. Another person tells me about a crippling depression that makes life unlivable. And then, of course, there is the news. We don’t celebrate life enough. We don’t tell our loved ones what they mean to us enough. I’m not writing this because of my age (and because my birthday is on the horizon). I’m writing this because of my first-hand experiences. Honor your life. Celebrate your life. Enjoy your life. Do it now.

Re-evaluating—whether it’s on your birthday, New Year’s, or any other day—can be painful. But, it can also be incredibly liberating.

Every time I take inventory, I discover things I’m wrong about. But, I also discover that I’ve been right about more than I realize. I’ve been right about certain friends. Right about the importance of family. Right about my faith in a God larger than me or any one building. And, I’ve been right that there was something in me—and in you—that’s always worth fighting for.

That’s something none of us should ever have to re-evaluate.

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P.S. I’ll be sharing more thoughts like the above in my upcoming book that’s inspired by these essays. “I’ve Been Thinking: Reflections, Prayers and Meditations” comes out February 27, 2018, and is available for pre-order now. I can’t wait for you to see it!

NEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
Amidst the constant blare of the 24-hour news cycle, so many interesting stories don’t rise to the surface for us to enjoy. Here are a few that caught my attention this week that I wanted to share with you.

HAWKING’S THESIS: Shortly after the University of Cambridge put Stephen Hawking’s 1966 PhD thesis, “Properties of Expanding Universes,” on its open access repository Monday, the site crashed due to a high volume of demand. [READ MORE]

A NURSE’S HEARTBREAKING GOODBYE TO DYING PATIENT: A Nashville, Tennessee nurse was captured on video singing while holding the hands of her 63-year-old patient dying of cancer. [READ MORE]

GROOM EXCHANGES “VOWS” WITH BRIDE’S SISTER: On his wedding day, a young man not only married his wife, he also exchanged vows with her younger sister, who has Down syndrome. [READ MORE]

EINSTEIN’S NOTES: Two hand-written notes that Albert Einstein had given to a courier in 1922 fetched $1.6 million at auction. [READ MORE]

What People With Passion Have In Common

I’VE BEEN THINKING

This upcoming Saturday is National Make a Difference Day, but for me, every day is an opportunity to make a difference.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the people who are passionate about making a difference all have something in common: they have drive. They have a purpose. They have a goal.

I deeply believe that every one of us has a calling, a unique gift, and a specific reason for being here on this earth. I’ve spoken to so many people over the years who desperately want to find their passion, but can’t seem to land where they think they should. What I’ve learned, though, is that sometimes all you have to do is look within you, and around you.

Your purpose is usually in your own home or your own community. It’s usually connected to something that’s happened to you or something you’ve borne witness to and that you care passionately about. It usually starts small. My mother, in fact, started the Special Olympics as a camp in my backyard. Note to self: never be afraid of starting small.

I love to highlight the work of people who use their time here on earth to make a difference. It’s one of the many reasons I use my social platforms and The Sunday Paper, in particular, to highlight the work of people I call Architects of Change. Individuals like our Architect of Change of the Week Erin Schrode, whose voice we share with you here in The Sunday Paper today. It’s my hope that by sharing these individuals’ endeavors with you, it might inspire you to join in their effort, or to start something that speaks to you.

It’s also why I aim to share with you news stories that I feel rise “above the noise” of the everyday news cycle. Stories that you may have missed, like the one this week about Jacinda Ardern, who at 37, just became prime minister of Australia and the country’s youngest leader in more than 150 years. I mean, how cool is that?

Over the years, I’ve met so many people who have said to me, “I want to make a difference, but I just don’t know how to do it.” As I say to my children, just take the first step. Help one person and see where that leads you. (I was reminded of that just last week when I spoke to Architect of Change Treger Strasberg, who said her nonprofit Humble Designs grew out of helping just one friend.)

It’s also important to know that passion and purpose may change over the course of your lifetime. As a young girl, I believed my purpose was to be a great journalist. I believed I was here to tell stories that weren’t being told. Ones that were both informative and inspiring.

Then, my focus and my purpose shifted to being a mother. When I became First Lady of California, my passion and purpose broadened yet again, this time to being of service to my state, as well as to women and those living on the margins.

Now, my mind is focused on wiping out Alzheimer’s through The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and trying to figure how why two out of every three brains that are diagnosed with this mind-blowing disease belong to women. Focusing my mind on this question doesn’t wipe out the other things I’ve been passionate about throughout my life. In fact, it builds on them and brings all of my passions together. It just gives me a bigger mission. It gives me a bigger North Star.

Trying to make a difference requires patience and perseverance. It requires having a vision for oneself. I’ve found that having a vision for your future helps you stay fighting forward in the present.

And so, when I get down or feel discouraged, as we all do from time to time, I try to imagine myself 10 years into the future standing in what I call “The Open Field.” My children are all around me with their families. I feel at peace knowing they are loved, that they are happy and that my relationship with them and their significant others is loving and good.

I imagine that I’m calm. (Anyone who knows me knows that this is my imagination at work ☺ .) But, I know I will be because I believe that by that time, someone will have discovered a cure for Alzheimer’s. Millions of families are going to be spared from confronting this mind-blowing disease when this happens, and I believe that it can happen in our lifetime. I’ll be able to breathe because I’ll know that my voice and my work in this space, and in others, made a difference.

I also imagine myself healthy and happy. I pray that I’m surrounded by people who understand me and who accept me. People who believe in me and who aren’t scared to stand in this vision with me.

I have faith in this dream and I’m focused on making it a reality. You, too, can have your own vision of The Open Field. Close your eyes and allow yourself to imagine 10, 20 or 30 years in the future. Imagine how you want to feel. What difference would you have liked to have made in your life? Who will be standing there with you? Will you be able to take a deep breath and feel calm and proud of where you stand on that day?

Reflect on these questions and allow the answers to rise up from within. Then, open your eyes and go make your calling your reality.

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The Power of No

I’VE BEEN THINKING

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the word “no.”

No is a word that has great power in our lives and in our society. And yet, it’s one of the most challenging words in our vocabulary.

Every time I’ve heard “no” in my professional life, I’ve challenged myself to defy it. To go around it. I’ve used it as fuel to keep fighting—whether it’s in chasing a hard-to-get interview, or in proving to doctors and researchers that Alzheimer’s does indeed discriminate against women, even when they told me it doesn’t.

In fact, all of the Architects of Change we feature in this week’s Sunday Paper have heard the word “no” at some point. Some have heard it from others, who told them that what they wanted to achieve could not be done. Others have said it themselves, declaring that one thing or another in our society is unacceptable and that they won’t rest until they’ve done something to change it.

Jane Goodall pushed back when she was told, “No, silly girl. Chimps don’t have feelings.” Treger Strasberg said, “No, this woman is not going to be homeless and live in a shelter. I’m going to create a welcoming home for her and now hundreds of others.” My friend Devon Franklin has used the word “no” to stay focused on his personal path to success and also preaches how saying “no” can lead you to the right yes. I love that.

No is a word that, if you push past it, can propel you forward. It’s also a word that can empower you to take ownership over your life and define it by your own terms.

When I went to a retreat earlier this year, one of the lines that stuck with me the most was this: “For your yes to mean something, so must your no.”

Bam.

No has power. No can mean something isn’t right for you. It can mean, “I have a boundary and don’t you dare cross it.” Or, “Don’t talk to me like that.” “No, I don’t deserve that.” “No, I’m not going to stand for that.” “No, I can’t make that event this evening. I need time for myself.”

You have to be strong and confident to use your no. You have to be brave, just as so many women were this week when speaking out against a Hollywood power player. You have to believe in yourself against all odds, just as those who have come up against climate change naysayers and politics-as-usual have done. You have to never give up, even if you hear the word again and again. I was reminded of that this week when the women of Saudi Arabia earned the right to drive. They started fighting for that right in 1990 and were shunned for nearly three decades. Now, this month, they finally get to celebrate that the ban has ended.

No is a word that does not come easily to most people. I know it’s been hard for me at different times in my life. I’ve struggled to put my foot down in situations where I knew I should have. I’ve struggled to say no to my children. I’ve struggled to say no to worthy causes that have asked for my time. I’ve struggled to say no when I just didn’t want to go to a party or an event, but I did it anyway because I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. 

But, over the years, I’ve come to realize how empowering the word “no” can be. It is a way to speak up. It is a way to speak out. We may feel vulnerable when we say it, but in doing so, we will feel liberated by speaking our truth. Thanks to various experiences and wise teachers, I’ve learned that embracing “no” makes my “yes” all the more meaningful.

So, if you are struggling with your no, allow yourself to be inspired by these Architects of Change. Allow yourself to use the word in small ways. (No, you can’t talk to me like that… No, that’s not what I said… No, unfortunately, I can’t make that…) Doing so will help you when you really have to put your foot down.

And, if you hear that two letter word from someone else, remember to use it as fuel to change the world.

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The Power of One

I’VE BEEN THINKING

I’ve been thinking all week about the power of one. One moment. One person. One action. Any of these can change your life forever.

It takes one person to fall in love with you to change your whole world around for the better. It also takes just one person with violent intentions to turn your world upside down.

All week long, we have listened and read stories of heartbreak, anguish, and pain about beautiful lives that were cut short. Lives forever altered. Families forever changed. Love stories that will never get their happy endings.

All week long, we have also listened and read stories about individuals who stepped into the line of fire to save someone. Often, these were total strangers who risked their own lives to save another. Individuals like concertgoer Jonathan Smith, who raced to rescue at least 30 people from the scene in Las Vegas. He was struck by two bullets in the process, then had his own life saved by another brave individual, off-duty officer Tom McGrath.

We’ve seen so many stories like this one come out of the tragedy in Las Vegas this week. We’ve also seen so many stories about individuals in the hurricane-ravaged areas of our world who have stepped up to help. We’ve seen stories of everyday people rising to the occasion, just because they care. We’ve seen stories of doctors, nurses and law enforcement officials who have served and protected because that’s who they are, at their core. We’ve even seen our five living ex-presidents unite to plan a hurricane relief benefit set for October 21. (This has given me great hope. Maybe they’ll continue to work together and do something to help out with our nation’s other great challenges, like health care.)

In the last few months, we have been inundated with stories about everything that is wrong with this great country. Yes, as I wrote last week, we do have a lot of work to do. We need to do a better job when it comes to racism and police brutality. We need to do a better job when it comes to our health care. This week, we are reminded that we also need to do a way better job addressing senseless violence and gun control.

Now, before you shake your head at the mere mention of gun control, please pause for one minute. No one wants to live next door to a neighbor who has dozens of assault weapons in their home. No one needs to own a silencer. And, for God’s sake, no one certainly needs to own a bump stock.

That’s not gun control. Those are gun rights out of control. 

So, let’s lay down our arms in this debate for a moment and think. We haven’t made any progress, and our neighbors are dying at the hands of people who have no business having a gun. Do we really want to stand witness to one more tragedy like the one we just watched unfold in Las Vegas?

I know the good men and women of this country don’t want to see this happen again. I also know that the number of Americans who want to put an end to this type of tragedy far outweigh those who are okay with things the way they are. So, think about your voice in this space. Take a moment to think sensibly about what’s going on, and to ask yourself what each of us can be doing to make a difference.

As we work to solve these great challenges of our time, I know that I want to use my voice to keep writing about the overwhelming good that exists in our country. We certainly need to focus more on that.

Today, I won’t mention the name of the man who brought about pain, grief, and unimaginable horror to so many innocent lives. Instead, I will call out the miraculous human beings who stepped up to save others. Those who stood with others so they wouldn’t die alone. Those who are still working around the clock to make sure that the number of fatalities doesn’t increase from 59 to 60, and beyond.

On this day, at this moment, let’s devote ourselves to focusing on the powerful good that is out there showing itself to us day in and day out.

We can each do what we can to keep the light on. Otherwise, we will surely lose hope.

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Now This Is an Idea Worth Fighting For

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A man kneels with a folded U.S. flag as the POTUS motorcade
passes him in Indianapolis. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

I’VE BEEN THINKING

“America is an idea. America is the greatest idea that the world ever came up with.” — Bono

I just love that quote from Bono because it’s so true. America is definitely the greatest idea that the world has ever come up with.

Now, that doesn’t mean our nation is perfect. It doesn’t mean we don’t have problems. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep striving to do better. It just means that the idea that defines the bedrock of this great nation is still the greatest idea ever. May we not lose sight of that.

America was founded upon an idea. We were also founded by people who took a stand. That’s our heritage, and it’s part of what makes the idea of this nation so great.

This week, there has been a lot of discussion about taking a knee and locking arms. There has been a lot of discussion about how to respect our flag and our “National Anthem,” about how to acknowledge and address racism, and about how to define what it really means to be an American.

There have been people taking stands everywhere—from Capitol Hill, to sports fields, to TV screens (thank you, Jimmy Kimmel, for using your platform to take a stand on health care).

I’ve been asked countless times, “What’s going on? Why is this happening? What would you do?” I’ve been thinking about it all week, and I don’t have all of the answers, but here is what I know for sure: I am proud to be an American. I respect our flag and those who fought for our great country. I also believe that when it comes to race relations, we can and must do better.

I understand why so many athletes took a knee. Personally, I preferred the way the Dallas Cowboys’ managed the situation—by locking arms, kneeling, and then standing for the “National Anthem.” To me, that was an acknowledgment of what is, as well as a sign of respect for who we are as a country. I also appreciated how the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears handled it Thursday night—by locking arms and then encouraging fans of both teams to do the same. It’s an example of inclusivity that’s worth recognizing.

Personally, I don’t believe that people who take a knee don’t love their country. I think you can both love your country and take a knee to acknowledge what is, while committing to doing better.

What would I have done? I would have taken a knee. Actually, I would have knelt on both my knees because I believe that if we want to fulfill the idea of us, then we have got to get humble. We have got to get real. And, we have got to stop segregating ourselves from one another. Nothing good or productive ever came from inciting our neighbors or calling them names.

I want people who have the pulpit to use it for good. I want them to use it to calm fears, not incite them. I want them to lead us forward with intelligence of the mind and heart, not continue to divide us and tear away at the idea of us.

Words matter. Tone matters. Awareness matters.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve become older (and hopefully wiser), is that life is a lot more gray than we are led to believe. You can protest and still be patriotic. You can be a good Catholic and take birth control. You can be smart, even if you didn’t do well in school. You can be divorced and still believe in marriage. You can be married, and still feel lonely. You can be old in numbers and young in spirit.

I’d much prefer to see someone vote and protest, then see someone not vote at all and still stand for the flag. So, let’s get above the noise and allow our fellow Americans to use their voices, without judgment.

Change is often messy, but if we are going to seek change, then we must first seek to better understand. We don’t have to trash talk our way to change. We don’t have to denigrate others to change. We don’t have to divide.

We cannot and should not let one person decide what it means to be an American. We should not let one person decide what’s right and wrong. No one person or party owns the American flag or our country.

You can, in fact, take a knee and still respect your country. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are part of the big idea.

 

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The Power of the Mind

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I’VE BEEN THINKING

The other day, my daughter said to me: “Mom, do you ever stop thinking? Does your mind ever turn off?”

Trust me, this was not a compliment.

I laughed and explained that, yes, my mind does turn off when I meditate in the morning (or, at least, I try to turn it off). But the rest of the day, I’ve gotta say… it’s thinking. Like, a lot.

This week, I found myself thinking about the tragic earthquake in Mexico City. As I read story after story, they broke my heart and reminded me yet again how fragile our lives can be. (Learn how to help here). So, if you have an outstanding beef with someone—a person you once loved, or who was once your friend—try to resolve it now. Time is precious, and our world is fragile. 

I also found myself thinking about Hurricane Maria and its devastating path, as well as all those who are still picking up the pieces after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. I thought about the stories that reported that we are facing an antibiotic crisis. The stories about our health care debate and John McCain (talk about courage in action). I thought about North Korea, the threat of war, and about how our president is in yet another war of words—this week with Kim Jong-un, and now, with top athletes and the NFL. (If you had told me a year ago that the president of the United States would be engaged in this kind of social media back-and-forth, I would have bet against you, for sure.) But, when I’m able to put that noise aside and really quiet my mind, I keep coming back again and again to the story about the people who died in a Florida nursing home after Hurricane Irma. In fact, I read a recent report that said less than 6 percent of all nonprofits in this country focus on the elderly. With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day, I think we can and must do better. 

Which brings me back to thinking. I love the quote in the graphic above from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. It’s always made me laugh, ‘cause I often feel the same way.

The mind—my own and that of others—has always fascinated me. Trying to better understand the mind underlies my work in the Alzheimer’s space, and it’s the focus of this week’s Sunday Paper.

Do you ever feel like Anne Lamott? Do you find it hard to give your mind a break? Does it frustrate you? Do you know how to keep it moving in a way that is beneficial to you, and to those that you love? Do you empathize with those who suffer from mental health challenges? Do you feed your own mind what it needs to thrive? Do you understand it?

My son spoke to me this week about a video that was going around of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington just days before he took his own life. It’s a video of him laughing with his kids, and his wife shared it as a way to remind us that depression doesn’t always look the way we think it does.

My son was moved by the video, as well as curious about what actually happens in the mind of someone suffering from that kind of depression. It prompted a conversation between us about what happens in the mind. The mind is indeed a fascinating, complex, and beautiful thing. 

Understanding the mind—our own and that of others—will lead us to all be better to those with mental health challenges. It will also lead us to be better and kinder to ourselves. Open minds and open hearts are what our world needs more of now. We need healthy, curious minds if we are to solve our most pressing problems: Alzheimer’s, climate change, health care, nuclear proliferation and more.

We need new ways of thinking. New ways of approaching challenges. Every day that the news gives us something to think about, the world also gives us something to do to help our fellow human beings.

May we all focus our minds and dedicate our ourselves to Moving Humanity Forward, before the earth erupts yet again.

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Maria’s Sunday Paper: This Is What’s Possible When You Open Your Eyes

I’VE BEEN THINKING

Yep, he’s at it again.

Pope Francis that is. That man has a way of getting above the noise and it’s not just because he’s the Pope. Pope Benedict rarely got my attention, but this guy… well, he’s different.

This week, Pope Francis spoke up about climate change. He directed his message at all of us and sounded an alarm that if we don’t review the choices we’re making about Mother Earth, then there will be hell to pay.

Okay, he didn’t actually say “hell,” but that was the gist. He warned that “history will judge us for our decisions” and that we “will go down” if humans fail to curb climate change. But, it was this line from his speech that really stopped me in my tracks: “When you don’t want to see … you don’t see.”

Bam. Think about that.

What do you not want to see right now? Is there something in your relationship you refuse to acknowledge? Is there something in our political world that you refuse to see? Is there something inside you that is holding you back? Are you scared or angry about something that is gnawing at you, yet you refuse to believe it?

Think about it.

All of us, at different times in our lives, have been blind to something around us or within us. I know I have been. I’ve been blind to things I should have seen and didn’t.

But today, I find myself more attuned and more aware. I see things today that I might not have seen in the past—mainly because I’ve worked to become more self-aware. I’ve worked at getting out of my head and into my heart.

When you open your heart—like, really open it—then your eyes will magically follow, and you will begin to see your whole wide world in a whole new way.

When you’re out of your head and in your heart, you can’t deny stuff. You can’t not feel. You can’t not see. Sure, when you open your heart, you might feel some painful stuff, but you can also feel moved. You can also feel inspired.

The images and stories I’ve seen and heard this week—stories of generosity, compassion and service—have been inspiring. I’ve seen stories of human triumph and perseverance. I’ve seen, heard and listened to individuals who have stepped forward to make our world better for all of us.

Now, I know this has also been a devastating week for many of our fellow citizens. That goes for those affected by the hurricanes, as well those living through the wildfires in the west. I can’t imagine being displaced from my home and losing everything. I see what people are going through and—to the best of my ability—I feel it, and I feel for them. I’ve been so shaken this week by the stories of the elderly who were left stranded after Hurricane Irma, as well as the news that eight residents of one nursing home died in the aftermath. This just exposes how much this population needs our love and attention. It’s a reminder to society that we have to prioritize their care, particularly in times of need.

Throughout all of this, I must say that I have been moved by all of the stories of people who are stepping up to help. Who are putting their own needs aside and rising to the occasion to help their fellow neighbors. The people I spoke to Tuesday night as I worked the phones for the telethon “Hand-in-Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief” were a touching reminder that love is all around us and people are eager to help. In fact, I fielded so many calls from Canadians who wanted to give, even though this didn’t happen in their country. It’s amazing, and I’m grateful to them for their generosity. (The telethon raised more than $44 million and counting. You can still give here.)

Maybe those who are stepping up to help are doing so because they know that we’re all one step away from being in our neighbor’s shoes. Or at least, I hope that’s the case. My friend Jan, who lives with her husband and four small children in Florida, told me how humbling it was to be in the midst of the hurricane and how it changed the way she sees just about everything. Like Jan, I see how fragile life can be. How meaningless all of our “stuff” is. How important it is to open our eyes to our fellow neighbors, to our individual choices, and to our common home.

Thank you, Pope Francis, for the poke, the slap, and the nudge. If you’re still one of those people who doesn’t want to see… get out of your head and into your heart. You will be amazed at what you might see.

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Source: Maria’s Sunday Paper: This Is What’s Possible When You Open Your Eyes

Maria’s Sunday Paper is back after her spiritual break

I’VE BEEN THINKING

Good Sunday morning to you!

I’m writing this as I would write a note to a friend who I haven’t spoken to in awhile. I’m back from my self-imposed spiritual break and wanted to check in. How are you? How is your world? How are you feeling on this day about our larger world?

I know I don’t have to ask that question of Mother Earth. She feels as angry as she’s ever been. But, I hope those living directly in her path feel supported by the outpouring of love, unity and assistance that is coming their way.

At a time like this, it almost feels mundane for me to talk about my time away this past month. But, The Sunday Paper is dedicated to trying to provide a sanctuary and a moment of reprieve from the storms that surround us — be they climate-related, political, or otherwise. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll bring you up to date on my last few weeks.

My time away in August was wonderful and productive. Before I left, I wrote down a list of intentions for my break. I wanted to step back from the noise of our world so that I could reflect, reconnect and approach my life and work with a renewed sense of passion and purpose.

There were so many times along the way that I wanted to jump back into the world of social media to comment on this or that (North Korea, Charlottesville, Heather Heyer and her inspiring mom, Houston and Hurricane Harvey, etc…) So many times that I wanted to drive my car back into the office so that I could feel plugged in, connected and purposeful. But, I didn’t.

I had challenged myself to take time. Time away from the virtual world. Time to focus on my family—immediate and extended. I challenged myself to have at least one deep meaningful conversation with each of my four brothers. (Gotta give me credit: Trying to get grown men to have deep, meaningful conversations is no easy task. I did it with all four, and then we had a group conversation.) I also did the same with each of my four children. (The conversation I had with my son as I moved him back to college and into a frat house was eye-opening.)

I challenged myself to begin each day in silence—which allowed me to focus more on the love in my life…not the lack of love in my life. That enabled me to focus more on the joy in my life and less on the struggles. It also helped me focus on my good health (fretting less about small issues like my frozen shoulder and instead feeling grateful that I don’t have a debilitating disease!). It also helped me focus more on my relationship with God and my faith in myself.

Since I had already applied the lessons of Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” to clearing out my physical space, I figured I would apply it to my internal space as well. I looked within and asked myself if the feelings I was holding inside were really bringing me joy.

What did I learn? Well, during this period of reflection, I realized that I was carrying some beliefs that no longer served me and, for sure, weren’t bringing me joy. I also looked hard at some opinions that I came to discover weren’t my own. Then, in Kondo style, I trashed them. Yup, I put those beliefs and/or opinions in a folder and got them out of my mental space.

I cleared out the self-defeating language, negative beliefs and harsh judgments that had been my companions for too long. They pushed me for a long time, but they no longer served me. Lo and behold, when I cleared them all away, I found my joy. I also strengthened my relationship with my faith and with my God. I threw out old beliefs that made me think of God as a punishing, mean, and shaming power. I replaced them with the image and belief of a non-judgmental, forgiving, caring, and loving God—one who accepts me and others as we are and who guides us to a better place.

I also challenged myself to go through my days with a different perspective about work and its larger-than-life role in my life. These intentions may not have brought about any dramatic changes that are visible to someone else’s eye, but they did bring about small ones that I can feel, and that’s big to me. I learned that I could step away from social media for awhile and, lo and behold, it would keep going on without me. That’s important to remember the next time you think you have to stop whatever you’re doing and comment online. You don’t.

As I watched the news in our world unfold (OMG), there were so many moments that reminded me how blessed I am. That, in turn, reminded me of the importance of reaching out to be of service. It also reiterated to me that small acts done privately can often bring more joy than the larger, more public moves.

I know that in the past if I had three weeks off, I would have planned some big trip. But going nowhere allowed me to go everywhere that my mind and my thoughts wanted to take me. Now that I’m back, I feel I have a better and more hopeful perspective.

I know I’m here (as I believe we all are) to be of service. For me, that’s in the women and Alzheimer’s space through the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. It’s also wherever else I can be of assistance, like now with the hurricane relief efforts. (Please join me Tuesday night for Hand In Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief. I’ll be answering phones, along with others, for the telethon that’s airing at 8pm ET on multiple networks, including NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, HBO and Bravo.)

I also believe that I am here to be a light in the world, as I believe we all are. I also believe that we’re here to use our voices, our hearts and our minds to Move Humanity Forward—personally professionally, and politically. That’s exactly what I intend to do, and I hope you’ll join me.

I also invite you to share with me what you’ve been up to lately. To paraphrase my friend Mary Oliver, I ask you: What have you been doing with your one wild and precious life?

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The Power of Boredom, Breaks and Creativity-Maria Shriver

Illustration by Julie Paschkis

I’VE BEEN THINKING

Let’s face it. Boredom has a bad rap.

Or, at least it had a bad rap with me for the longest time. I grew up thinking that there was almost nothing worse than being bored. So, I worked, and I worked, and I busied myself, and I did everything I could to try and stay two steps ahead of the old boredom curse.

“Nothing worse than being bored,” I’d tell myself and my children.

But lately, I’ve found myself challenging my beliefs about boredom. And, I’ve actually found myself craving it. I’ve found myself longing for some silence. Some time away. Some time to turn off and give myself the space to think, create, and daydream.

I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. Why? Because I see too many of us running through life with no time to think. No time to reflect. No time to be creative. No time to check ourselves. No time to get to know our evolving selves. No time to ask, “Am I doing what I want to do? Am I living aligned with who I am? Or, am I living in fear? Am I just running around because I’m too afraid to slow down and take a break?”

Funny enough, as soon as I started contemplating boredom and my own desire for it, I started seeing books about its benefits everywhere. I started reading articles warning us that we lose boredom at our own peril—as individuals, and as a culture. I started reading essays written by wise people who took the time to be bored, and discovered that they learned a lot about life, love and themselves in the process.

As I was contemplating the concept of boredom this week and reading more about it, my colleagues at The Sunday Paper informed me that July is actually labeled “Anti-Boredom Month.” Really? Isn’t summer the perfect time to catch an opportunity for a break?

So, this week’s edition of The Sunday Paper is dedicated to the benefits of boredom. Today, we share insights from Architects of Change who can educate you on the value of taking a break from the norm, and how doing so will allow you to tap into your creativity and find your voice to dream.

I’m going to go out and try boredom today, and I hope you will be brave enough to join me. Take time away from the screaming and hollering of the nonstop news cycle. Put down your phone and all of those other screens that keep you so connected to other people’s voices that you can’t recognize your own. Spend some time with you.

Yes, you. Spend some time alone in the quiet. Twiddle your thumbs. Look up at the sky. Notice your surroundings. Listen for your voice. It’s there that you will find your mission. I’ve learned that the latter can only truly be accessed by allowing myself to access the quiet and the stillness that’s just within my reach.

I’m going to finally start embracing boredom so that I can see if I can tap back into my truest voice: my own. Take a moment to do this yourself, and let me know what you learn.

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