Reward the Special

 Photo by Larisa Birta

Photo by Larisa Birta

"Every time I see you pumping gas you're smiling! Why is that?" asks the elderly gentleman coming out from behind the register at the gas station down the street from where I live. "Why do you smile so much?"

The answer is obvious. "It's the music!" I look up toward the dreamy classical music pumping from the speakers, and take a deep breath to appreciate the roses scattered in pots around the station.

A warm grin forms on his face. "Thank you. Thank you for noticing."

I quickly learn he's the owner and has turned down all the traditional paid advertising music to create a special experience. "Why shouldn't pumping gas be pleasurable?" he says. "Or have beauty? My wife gets so much joy planting these roses for customers." Seems logical to me.

I can tell he's of Middle Eastern descent so I mention my father is from Pakistan. We connect right away, chatting about the world. When the clicking sound tells me that my tank is full, I refocus to see my two children through the car window with puzzled gazes, obviously wondering how their mother has turned from a stressed mama to a happy human again.

Finally we say goodbye, "Thank you for enjoying the music with me."  he remarks. When I get back into my mini cooper, my daughter asks who that was. "A very nice man doing something special."  

Filling my tank is now my classical music retreat. If he's there, he comes out to chat, often offering me lollipops to give the kids (yes, I now have two backseat drivers reminding me when my tank is low). I plan to ask if he'll be adding a charging station soon so when I trade in my car for an electric vehicle I can still come by to get my car battery - and my personal one - recharged.

The point is this. We have the power to reward what we want in this world. Our time, money and compassion is how we do it. We can give it to things that align with our values or those that don't.

Reward the special when you see it. And always, yes always, enjoy the music.

So how do you reward the special in your life? Read this and you'll see. It all starts with your values...

Hold a Hand

 Photo by Elizabeth Tsung

Photo by Elizabeth Tsung

We humans are so fortunate. We can walk and hold hands! 

Such a simple thing. But look around. You may notice fewer and fewer people holding hands. It's like we've traded human hands for smart phones. Yet this one act can lower stress and bring joy to all the cells in our body. 

I recommend starting with your spouse or partner. If you haven't held hands in a while - all of us busy parents know too well that hands are often needed for dishes, laundry, catching baseballs - the thought alone might feel awkward.

Let humor help. Try telling your spouse, "OK I have a HUGE life changing question I need to ask you?"  With their attention peaked, ask "Do you mind if I hold your hand?"  I have a feeling you might get a smile and a hand.

Another option is the plunge technique. Take a deep breath, smile, and visualize yourself being courageous and powerful. Then grab their hand. This one experience might put marriage therapists out of business.

You can also grab a child's hand to get going. Be ready though, kids like swinging hands. Practice it with a child, then apply the swinging technique with your spouse. You will exude so much happy, romantic energy, couples who see you may also start holding hands on the spot (similar to what happens when you see someone yawn). Congrats! You have now started a hand holding revolution.

If you don't have any hands to hold in your immediate circle, no worries my friend. Do you shake hands with people at work? If so, put your second hand on top and hold for 1 extra second. I love doing this as the energy between both people shifts. It pulls us into the present moment where we notice one another with eye contact, turning the transaction of shaking a hand into a meaningful exchange.

Or offer your hand to an elderly person. Especially good if you want to release lots of stress in one go and ignite your compassion.

Join me in holding a few hands this week!
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Spring Clean Your Mind

 Photo by Filip Mroz

Photo by Filip Mroz

Living in our modern, high-tech world often leaves our minds feeling cluttered and overwhelmed. Good news, spring is here! Just like the benefits of spring cleaning our homes, we need to first spring clean our minds.

I call this process finding "white space". To me, white space is magical and I can't live without it. It's when all the information cluttering my mind is filed away and I'm able to see life clearly again. Creative ideas come easy, decisions are faster and I live more compassionately. 

I have three tips to finding white space.

First, leave ALL electronics behind (this includes listening to music). Second, go outdoors. This season is calling us outside - birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, sun-rays glistening on water. It's like being part of a natural symphony of light and joy, perfect for white spacing. And lastly, do it alone. While taking a long walk chatting with a girlfriend is great, it's the time spent with ourselves in nature that allows us to hear our own voice again and see creative ideas clearly.

So if you live by the water, maybe get up early one morning and kayak. Take an early evening hike while the sun sets. Surf some waves. Bike into work. Daydream in a meadow. It doesn't have to be a huge commitment, one hour is enough time to fall peacefully into white space.

Refreshing your mind will leave you happy, creative and productive - ready to take on your week. 

I talk more about white spacing your home and life here if you are interested in learning more. Also, please share any comments with others below. I love reading your ideas!  

You Are Enough

 Photo by Roberto Nickson

Photo by Roberto Nickson

Do you believe it?  

If you want to know for sure, try telling yourself, "I am enough. I have enough."  Now listen to what happens in your mind.

Do you start to hear "Yeah, I'm enough, but I still need to get through all those emails/save for retirement/declutter the pantry... then, I'll feel good and can enjoy life more"?

If so, then you might be believing a myth.

You see, we are all born believing we are good enough. It's inside every baby and a thread that connects us as human beings. But at some point something else kicks in - maybe our consumerism culture - and tries to convince us that being good enough is not inside us, it's actually out there in the external world. Our job is to go get it. But hurry, because there isn't enough for everyone. Go, go, go!

This current flows through messaging everywhere. It often motivates us at a very young age to keep achieving, keep producing, keep wanting more, keep searching. Endless. Exhausting. Never enough.

It's a myth, and it's time to challenge it head on. 

No matter what our external life circumstances are -- whether we are poor or rich financially speaking -- all of us are good enough.

Start from that knowing - picture that "good enough" feeling inside of you. I am a visual learner, so I picture it as a powerful white light inside me. I tell my kids they have a white light inside them. That it's not "out there". Its inside and no person or life experience can turn it off.  Eject the "You are not enough" tape running on continual loop in our minds. Insert the "I am enough, I have enough" tape.

For example, when you wake up, rather than say, "I'm so tired. If I only had a few more hours of sleep I'd feel good." say "I have enough." You can always try to go to bed early another day, but this morning, you have enough. The old tape makes you feel more tired. The new one makes you feel lighter, more energetic.

Then if you want to change or strive for something in your life, go for it! It's a good thing. But you will enjoy the journey because you are motivated from a healthy place.  A place where you know you are good enough, that you matter. And your inside light will glow.

We all want to create a more compassionate world. To make it happen, we must question cultural myths and shed light on truth. I believed this myth for decades. It sent me climbing up mountains, always searching. Here's my story. Feel free to tell yours or share any comments here.

If you think this YMoment will help others debunk the myth, please share it with link below!


Sit on Common Ground

 Photo by Ethan Robertson

Photo by Ethan Robertson

Are you frustrated with the growing division in our country? Are you avoiding talking to an old friend or family member because you can't comprehend how they can see an issue so differently? 

Last Friday, while in San Francisco listening to Van Jones speak, I found inspiration.

If you don't know Van, he's a CNN contributor and host of The Messy Truth. What I admire most about him is how he can juggle two things at once. Hold strong to his values (a self-proclaimed liberal) while searching for the smallest slivers of common ground with people who think completely different.

A good example was when he and Newt Gingrich, two people who passionately disagree on almost everything, formed a powerful partnership on criminal justice reform. They stood together on this one issue and made change.  

As I listened to Van speak, I couldn't help wonder, "How did he get past all the bloody differences?"

I found the answer in his next remarks. "What will get us out of this polarization is humanization. We need to have real human moments with one another to see past the differences. To see the commonality."

It got real when a woman in the audience asked, "Van, so many of us feel depressed and powerless about the division across our country and what's happening around the world. What can you tell us to feel better?"  Rather than a lofty response, he kept it simple (my kind of guy!).

"Look in the mirror." he offered, "Think of one thing you can do that can create a moment of empathy."

Chuckling, he reflected on a story from his own life, "My two sons. They love soccer. But if they lose their game, oh boy, watch out! They get in the car and complain all the way home about the other team, the name it, nothing is spared." So he turns to them and says, "OK. I hear you're upset and everyone else is to blame. I get it. But what is one thing, just one thing, WE could have done different?"  

A simple question that turns the table and gives us vision to see past the bloody differences. Gives us our power back. Lowers the anxiety to see the other as a human being again.

Maybe Van's story can inspire us. When you wake up tomorrow, look in the mirror. Ask yourself, what is ONE thing I can do to create compassion today? Let go of the big questions like whether our world is spinning off its axis or not. Focus on the opportunity right in front of you.

A coworker, a family member...someone you disagree with on almost everything. Find one thing you have in common. Focus only on that. Or when your child is angry, ask them a simply question like Van did with his boys to give them back their power.

If we want to create a more compassionate country, let's all start today by being explorers in search of common ground.

Laugh in Flowers

 Photo by Allef Vinicius

Photo by Allef Vinicius

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "The earth laughs in flowers." Did just reading that make you smile? I hope so, it always makes me happy.

Spring is here! Inviting us to slow down and enjoy its blossoms. Part of creating a world fueled by compassion is extending gratitude to all living things, including our planet. Every season, our earth brings us new colors, perfumes, pleasures. All it wants us to do is connect to it and enjoy.

Here are some ideas. Take a hike in nature, breathing in clean air from the fresh green leaves. Stop and smell a flower. Take a nap under a tree this Sunday (yes, its OK to still take naps). Get your garden books out and plan what you want to add this spring, even if it's just a few seedlings in a window box. Roll down a hill in a meadow like a kid again, letting stress roll off you. Help out in your community or school gardens. Wear a fun flowery dress or tie to work!  

Any intention that takes pleasure in our blooming planet. That way the season won't slip by before we look up from our busy lives to notice.

Now if you want a good springtime read, try The Language of Flowers: a novel by American author Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This story really touched me, and hope it does you too. Plus, the flower dictionary makes giving blooms so much fun. While reading - or really anytime you want to relax - try pouring yourself a cup of edible flower tea. Here's my go-to recipe. You'll laugh (in flowers, I hope) at how simple it is!
If we all extend little moments of compassion toward our beautiful earth, we take one big collective step forward to creating a world fueled by compassion

Paint Your Change

 Photo by Tjasa Owen

Photo by Tjasa Owen

Ever wonder why you may want something so badly but end up in the same place year after year?

You may want to feel more energetic, but wake up tired. You want a career you love, but feel trapped in your job decades later. Or want to be in a romantic relationship, or have close friends, but even after endless list making, planning, self-help end up in the same place. 

Paint your change! Get it out of your head and on paper.

Here's why it works. Last week I met a friend, Tjasa Owen (pronounced Tee-asha) for coffee. Like many of us she is trying to balance the fast pace of life while in her case honoring her gift as an artist. Sipping our caffè lattes chatting about life, she opened her moleskine calendar and my heart skipped. There amid scheduled meetings and events, were tiny colorful paint sketches everywhere! It was like seeing inside someone's mind. Felt so real, raw, vulnerable.

I wanted to know everything about it. As she goes about her week, she paints whatever is bouncing around in her head to get the feeling on paper and see it clearly. She doesn't worry about it being perfect or complete, it's the emotional, creative process that matters.

As I listened I wondered: why don't we all use a similar process to paint the change we want. Rather than have our minds use practical strategies, why not let our hearts tap into the powerful feeling living inside the change and transfer it on paper.

Try it. Grab a paintbrush, paint and piece of paper (you can also do this with your kids' colored pencils and sketchbook). Identify something you struggle with. Career change, being healthy, meeting your soulmate, wanting to live in a new part of the world....
Now imagine the change you want. Then visualize it has actually happened!  You have overcome. Good job!  Feel the emotion - the energy - this change gives you. Then paint THAT FEELING.

For example, if you want to get in shape, perhaps the feeling you desire is lightness. You may paint a feather floating in the wind. If you crave more down time, perhaps you really want to feel carefree again so your hand paints you running down a beach at sunrise with a big smile, light beaming onto your flowing hair. If you want to meet your soulmate, maybe you crave connection so an intimate moment of two people laughing at a cafe on a lazy Sunday morning is it.

Whatever captures the feeling inside the change. Paint THAT. Don't make it perfect. Don't let your brain overthink it. Let your heart move the brush. Real, raw, emotional. That's our goal.

Then take your little painting and post it where you'll see it daily. Fridge, bathroom mirror, photographed as a screensaver on your smart phone. Each time you see it, that "feeling" will speak to your heart. You'll radiate the feeling outward, helping you to naturally make decisions that propel you closer to your change. Before you realize, you are living the change.

Want to see inside Tjasa's calendar? Take a peak!

Create Your Community

 Photo by Cristina Cerda

Photo by Cristina Cerda

We all want to belong. To have a community - a tribe - of people that "gets us". It feels awesome! A girlfriend to call when the most embarrassing moment of our lives happens, knowing she will hang onto every word. Couples you can text to pop over for an easy Friday night supper without you feeling stressed that your kids toys are scattered all over the floor, spinning you into full house redecorating mode.

But sometimes we find ourselves lost without a tribe. We might have moved away. Or evolved spiritually in a different direction. But we still yearn for community.

So how do we create a tribe that "gets us"?

It may be simpler than we think. Rather than admire people from afar hoping to be friends (recipe for anxiety, trust me) or think our community is made up of all the "likes" on a social media site, we focus our attention inward and express our REAL SELF. We let go of the facade and bring our real-special-crazy-self forward, putting others at ease to share themselves too.  

How do we know if we are expressing our real self?  A few questions might help. Do you naturally share your creative passions with people? If you love to dress in flowery skirts over jeans with cowgirl boots do you do it or keep that dream stuck in your closet? When you feel sad, do you smile and pretend life is perfect or can you share your vulnerability with someone you trust? Can you easily invite a few people over for dinner when you are feeling overworked and disconnected without anxiety bubbling up that your house is a mess (resulting in you on your hands and knees cleaning baseboards)? 

If you aren't fully there yet, be compassionate with yourself. Commit to taking one little step every day to sharing YOU with others. In no time, the real you will be out and you'll have your community - the people that love and accept you - sitting next to you enjoying life.  

If we start living our real self, moment by moment, we will create a world fueled by authenticity and compassion.

Overcoming Decision Fatigue

 Photo by 

Are you feeling exhausted at the end of the day?

It could be decision fatigue. I recently learned this is real for many of us. Human minds were not created to be walking computers taking in rapid fire information and spitting out decisions from sunrise to sunset. It uses incredible amounts of creative energy and willpower, leaving us living on the edge of life, some days barely able to remember our name!  

One solution is, where possible, to structure routine decisions in advance. Identify things you do each day or each week that are repetitive: deciding what to make for dinner, exercising, calling mom, organizing kids play dates, bathing times...Then make as many of these decisions all at one time, and schedule them on your calendar. That way, your mind is wiped of the need to think about them, opening up white space to enjoy life.

Another key is to make BIG decisions - those things that need your creativity or willpower - early in the day. The French can inspire us here. After work each day, many Parisians flock to cafes. You don't see them staring at their laptops while sipping their coffee or wine. They are laughing and chatting with one another. They have figured out that most good decisions are made early in the day, and that few good decisions are made after this transition time. Instead they refuel their reserves with pleasurable activities in order to make smart decisions the next day.

Try it yourself. Avoid making big decision after "cocktail hour". I know many American employers expect us to work in the evenings. Hopefully, one day more companies will realize it's counterproductive, using up creative reserves needed to innovate. But for now, if you have to work after hours, maybe getting up earlier instead can work. The hour before the sun rises can be an amazing time for the human mind to make decisions.

If we want to create a more compassionate world, we must first start by living like human beings not human doers. Overcome decision fatigue and notice how alive you feel. (Read this story if you want to see one thing our family did to address it).

Believing in Peace

 Photo by Ian Schneider

Photo by Ian Schneider

Wonder why our country can't stop bickering and be a more peaceful place to live?

If we looked in the hearts of many Americans, I believe we would see something similar. A collective yearning for peace. Most people want it so badly we could scream!  

But don't scream, create!  Create space for peace to grow.

This Wednesday is International Women's Day, a time to celebrate respect, appreciation and love toward women around the world. Whether you are a man or women, we can use this moment to express the powerful feminine energy rooted in this day to begin to transform our world.

Forget the pressure of doing something big. Often transformative shifts happen when lots of people take small steps in their own lives. They are easy and sustainable, so we repeat them.

Here are a few ideas. Listen to someone speaking without interrupting or looking down at your phone. A peaceful world needs active listeners. Offer someone waiting in line that seems in a hurry to go in front of you. A peaceful world calls for natural acts of kindness without judgement. Create your own "peace march" by taking a walk outdoors, then use this time to think of ways you want to express compassion all year.

Let's act on our collective yearning for peace. Small, sustainable acts ignite similar reactions in others. Soon many of the important policy issues we are all fighting for start finding creative solutions because the barriers to collaboration are lower and we innovate as one country striving for a more peaceful, compassionate world. 

Fall Into Winter Reading

 Photo by Ben White

Photo by Ben White

Is your mind drained by the incessant flood of information these days? Want to escape from that constant onslaught and return happier and refreshed?

Winter is a great time to reboot our minds ...with a good book. I know, it seems odd to add more information when we already feel overloaded, but here's the thing - it works.

Think about it. In ancient times, winter was often when people stayed in by a crackling fire with their books, as snowflakes fell outside. There were no texts pulling them away from the pages. No television playing in the background to distract them. They had uninterrupted time to escape to a far off land with a great novel or to float while reading poetry.

So in these last few weeks of winter, take a few moments to enjoy that experience.

Want to know how I truly immerse myself in a book?  Read here
Winter reading is a compassionate gift we give our minds. Allow yourself to fall like a snowflake from the sky onto the pages of a good book. You deserve it.

Thank Yous That Sparkle

Want to feel more energetic?
Here’s a trick – try saying “thank you” differently. About a year ago I started trying it. It was a little shift, but the happy energy I got back was incredible.
As you go about your week, notice when a person does something nice for you. Everyday things. Like a server refilling your water. A stranger opening a door and motioning for you to go first. The trash collector emptying your bins. The barista creating a heart on your café latte.
Normally we might nod, say thanks, or from time to time not even notice. It's OK, we all do it. But this week, try saying your Thank Yous differently.
Look the person in the eyes. Smile. Then say something original. Some of my Go To’s are, "Thank you sooo much!" (emphasis on a long sooo). Or "Wow, that was so kind of you!" Or “This heart on my coffee is so inspiring, you’re an artist!”  
The key is in the eye contact. Sparks can’t ignite when staring at a smart phone. Also, say something that feels natural. Then say it a little sloooower. The spark happens because you are literally pulling yourself, and the other person, into the present moment. Igniting a connection between two humans. Very empowering.
Have fun with it! Watch how the server’s eyes light up from being noticed. Maybe they smile back. You might start getting compliments or connecting with people you never would have. I can’t tell you how many doors have been opened from my new Thank Yous. It’s double rewarding if you’re a parent. You’ll do less reminding your kids to look up and say Thank You because over time they begin modeling your behavior naturally.
Our culture moves fast these days. Take a moment to forge some compassionate connections that will fuel you. Hopefully, one day, compassion will fuel our world.
Read more about this vision and get more YMoments on our new website! 

Please share Your YMoment about how YOU say thank you with a sparkle and what happened afterwards in our comments section below. You can also post questions if you need help.

Let's do it!  If we inspire each other, moment by moment, we create a world fueled by compassion.

Follow Your Curiosity

Do you feel like life is so fast paced, your passion fell out of your bag along the way? Do you find yourself chatting about daily routines yearning to say something interesting but nothing comes to mind?

No worries. You may simply need to reconnect to your passion. The key is to follow your curiosity. It knows the path to your passion. Here’s how I do it:  

Look at your calendar. Find a few hours of uninterrupted, carefree time. Turn off your phone (yes, off). Then go to a bookstore by yourself, open the door, and STOP. Take a deep breath to leave stress and To Dos behind. This is Your YMoment.  It’s just you and your curiosity walking in that door.

Smile (believe me, smiling signals to your curiosity that it’s OK to come out and play!)  Now browse, flip through books, look at pictures.  Whatever you desire!  You might start feeling lighter, relaxed. Forget where you are or the time. These are signs that your curiosity is waking.

Start making a few mental notes – do you find yourself, for example, flipping through baking books? Maybe you could bake a cake for a neighbor? Why not! Don’t try to figure it out, this can diffuse curiosity. But do think about something fun you can DO around that new interest. With your curiosity awake, more doors will open.

Bookstores are great environments for stimulating curiosity. They’re quiet (so we can hear our curiosity speak). We can roam without interruption, and thus reach the carefree, creative zone where curiosity thrives. And they’re filled with boundless options, so YOUR curiosity can grab the wheel and navigate.   

When we are living life bursting with curiosity and passion, we are naturally more compassionate with others.

Want more inspiration?  Read this real life YStory how I used books to turn a passion into a business.

Make Eye Contact

Our lives have become very connected. But many of those connections are spent with a piece of technology. It's important to balance this type of connection with powerful moments of human connection. Here's how.

When you stop at your local coffee shop, grocery store or while picking up the kids at school, leave your smart phone in your car at least one time this week when you normally would bring it. Smile and make eye contact with people. Listen to what people are saying. Compliment at least one person on something they say that you find interesting or inspiring. This will create an instant moment of connection. Feel the happy energy you get back. 

Looking each other in the eyes helps us see and be seen. This is key to understanding and accepting one another's differences, which leads to living more compassionately.