Surround yourselves with what is whole and good and loving and you will be well.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Sit quietly. Be.
Two weeks ago, we traveled to New York City to celebrate grandson Nolan's naming ceremony. It took place at mom Leah's synagogue where she had been named as a baby and had also celebrated her Bat Mitzvah.
Nolan was given the Hebrew name of Mendel Yitzchok. Mendel after his late great grandfather Manny who was a very sociable guy, making friends wherever he went, and Yitzchok after his late great grandmother Yitta who was known to be a very strong woman who persevered through hard times. Mendel Yitzchok. I looked up the Hebrew meanings of these names. Mendel from Menachem - comforter and consoler. Yitzchok from Isaac - he who laughs. What a great story for Nolan - blessed to be the comforter who also laughs. Laughs with joy, I would predict. He already spreads joy.
On his naming day, Nolan was surrounded by people who loved him. His parents, Michael and Leah, were also surrounded by love. How much strength and vitality and meaning we take in when we surround ourselves with people we love and who care about us.
And yet, we live in a world where we are constantly bumping up against people who we find unloving... or unlovable. People who are different from us in ways that really push our buttons. People that we wished would, you know, just change and be different, be more like us.
How messy, how tense it can be to live in this complicated world.
Today I had the privilege of doing a webinar with a Chatham colleague, Katie Cruger, focusing on the topic of "Promoting Behavior Change through Effective Communication." What fun it was! Katie brought in from the beginning her passion for the Ethos ideas of Aristotle, the belief that effective communication and persuasion arises from the credibility of the speaker - the audience's perceptions about the speaker's good sense, good moral character, and good will toward the audience.
The coolest thing about the whole discussion was the idea of "persuasion" as a collaborative joint enterprise. You cannot be a good persuader or an effective change agent if you do not have empathy for your audience, if you do not take the time to actually try to connect with the other person, to really really hear and learn what is important to them, and integrate that into your own thinking - seriously consider it from the other's perspective, even when your knee-jerk reaction is to be dismissive.
I think about this alot during this current election cycle. Look for signs of respect, empathy, good will toward each other and toward the larger citizenry. Let these people know that you expect that at the very least.
I think about this when I read or hear the news - another shooting or massacre, increased conflict across the globe, signs of institutional racism or class-ism or or sexism or homophobia or religious divides, the hostility toward refugees. What damage happens when we treat each other as The Other, who is different and therefore just a little bit (or a whole lot) wrong? Nothing good.
Any good ideas?
Shinrin-Yoku? Bathe yourself in life and love.
I have had the good fortune over the last several months to bathe in the wisdom and commitment of some amazing people who are involved in Pittsburgh 350.org. The larger 350.org was one of the drivers of the People's Climate March in NYC on September 21, 2014 - over 400,000 people marched through the city to communicate their fervent desire that the decision-makers take the concerns about climate change and other environmental crises seriously.
Take a look at these folks who showed up in NYC last September. Do you think they all thought the same? Had the same ideas about the roots of the problems, or the best solutions? Held the same priorities about who needs the most help when? Of course not. Yet they were able to come together with a common focus -- with good sense, good moral character, and good will toward one another -- and the action had positive consequences, the ripple effects of which we are still feeling.
Locally, yesterday, people from Pittsburgh 350.org, Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby, and other groups showed up at Rep. Rothfus' office on McKnight Road to encourage him to stop denying climate change, to act in the best interests of the health and well-being of his constituents. Below - just one of Mark Dixon's pictures of people coming together with love and commitment to the betterment of all. Mark is heading to Paris (as is Mayor Peduto) for the COP21 climate talks - he will be witnessing and speaking about the urgency of this issue, and come home with stories to tell.
Take a few minutes to experience Shinrin-Yoku, virtually - then go outside to experience it for real. More later.