Expansion and contraction. The two often go hand in hand.

When we expand, we grow, we hold more, we feel great. But in nature when life expands, it does so organically, testing and pushing the limits of what works.

Inevitably, some piece of the expansion doesn’t work, and it dies off. That’s the contraction.

The contraction is necessary for life to learn where it makes sense to grow, and where it doesn’t. Contractions don’t feel so good, but they are necessary.

You may not be able to enjoy your contractions, but at least know that they are a natural part of life and contractions are often followed by periods of expansion.

Many people have come out against the idea that “it is better to give than to receive.” They put the emphasis on the idea that balance is needed, and we need to receive before we can give.

This is absolutely right. We need to fill up our own cup before we can give to anyone else. When we give from our lack, we cannot truly give what the person needs, and we drain ourselves.

When we give from our over-abundance, then we give with the joy and the energy that both uplifts and delights the receiver.
What we do not see discussed much is the idea of receiving in order to give. That the purpose of filling up our cup is so that we can share our gifts with the world.

It is a small difference in inflection, and one that makes a huge difference.

We can all feel good about receiving when we realize that we have to receive before we can give. If we stop there, then we focus just on the receiving, on filling ourselves up, and forget that the purpose of filling ourselves up is in order to give to others, then we become selfish and instead of living in flow we live in a vault.

How much better does it feel to you when you focus on receiving in order to give? Can you receive more in order to give more? What more would you share if you where receiving more?

Some say that experience is the best teacher. Others say it is the only one.

But what do we learn from our experiences?

Do we use them as lesson to learn how to improve ourselves, or do we use them as reasons why we should be fearful, angry and upset?

Better yet, do we use our experiences to learn more about ourselves and how we should up in the world?

What you have you learned lately about yourself?

What have you learned lately about your relationships with others?

And now that you’ve learned that, what will you do with it?

The world is waiting for you….

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.

How many days do we dedicate to shopping, giving, doing things for others?

How many days do we set aside just to be with ourselves?

When do we give ourselves the gift of reflection, peace, and rest?

If we allow ourselves, we can always find something to distract us from our internal life, whether it is politics, world events, or disasters.

As we approach the end of the calendar year in the western world, why don’t we take some time to pause and really look at our lives?

Are we happy? Can we find more joy in our lives?

Who do we want to be with more?

What does our heart tell us we should focus on more?

Simple questions. Will you take the time to sit with them and listen to the answers?

It has been said many times that life is filled with pain, but suffering is optional.

When we look around the world it is hard to believe that suffering is optional, yet when we look at suffering in our own lives, we can see that it is based on our response, not on our pain.

We all feel pain at different times. It could be from an injury, from a broken relationship, or from some disease in our bodies, but how we decide to respond to that pain tells the whole story.

Many professional athletes continue to play regardless of the physical pain they feel. Many people who have experienced broken hearts still go out and make new relationships. How do they do it?

It’s all about our relationship to pain, and whether we make it right or wrong. When we make it wrong, that’s where the suffering comes in. When we stop judging the pain and just allow it to be present, we avoid suffering.

Indeed, many times if we just give space to the pain, be present to it, and allow it to teach us whatever lesson it has for us, the pain subsides much faster than when we resist it.

So how do you respond to pain? Is it a lesson or a punishment?

The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock with her hair fashionably coiffed and makeup perfectly applied even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.

Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.

As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.

“I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. “Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room…just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged. It’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice: I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or I can get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away…just for this time in my life.”

According to legend, a young man while roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water.

The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher.

After a four-day journey he presented the water to the old man who took a deep drink, smiled warmly, and thanked his student lavishly for the sweet water.

The young man returned to his village with a happy heart. Later, the teacher let another student taste the water.

He spat it out, saying it was awful. It apparently had become stale because of the old leather container.

The student challenged his teacher: “Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?”

The teacher replied, “You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving-kindness and nothing could be sweeter.”

All of the major issues that we face in our lives seem huge to us. Many times they seem too big to solve.

In fact, what we really are dealing with is an issue of perspective. These issues seem so huge because we are so close to them that we do not have a good perspective with which to look at them.

The other aspect of it is that we are looking at the entirety of the issue, instead of breaking it down into the smaller components.

When we look at our finances, our careers, our environment, global political movements, wars, and other large scale issues, we often miss the opportunity to break them down in smaller, bite-sized pieces that we actually can do something about.

No individual may be able to solve the global climate change issue, but we can as individuals, use just a little less energy, throw out a little less garbage, recycle just a little more.

We may not be able to bring peace to entire world over night, but we can be more peaceful ourselves, support in some small ways, efforts to educate instead of fight, and spread our views to those few in our networks that will listen.

Ultimately, it’s not about changing everyone or everything in the world for the world to improve. We just have to change ourselves, in some small fashion, so we move in that direction.

There once was a circle that was missing a piece.

A large triangular wedge had been cut out of it.

The circle wanted to be whole with nothing missing, so it went around looking for its missing piece.

But because it was incomplete and therefore could roll only very slowly, it admired the flowers along the way.

It chatted with worms. It enjoyed the sunshine. It found lots of different pieces, but none of them fit. So it left them all by the side of the road and kept on searching. Then one day the circle found a piece that fit perfectly. It was so happy. Now it could be whole, with nothing missing.

It incorporated the missing piece into itself and began to roll. Now that it was a perfect circle, it could roll very fast, too fast to notice the flowers or talk to the worms.

When it realized how different the world seemed when it rolled so quickly, it stopped, left its found piece by the side of the road and rolled slowly away.

An eight-year-old boy approached an old man in front of a wishing well, looked up into his eyes and asked: “I understand you’re a very wise man. I’d like to know the secret of life.”

The old man looked down at the youngster and replied:

“I’ve thought about that a lot in my lifetime, and the secret can be summed up in four words: The first is to┬áThink. Think about the values you wish to live your life by.

The second is to Believe. Believe in yourself, based on the thinking you’ve done about the values you’re going to live your life by.

The third is to Dream. Dream about the things that can be, based on your belief in yourself and the values you’re going to live by.

The last is to Dare. Dare to make your dreams become reality, based on your belief in yourself and your values.” And with that, Walter E. Disney said to the little boy, “Think, Believe, Dream, and Dare.”
(- by unknown author)
“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin