10 Years ago at this time I was in shock. I was in Miami, and had just finished a very successful early morning (7AM) workshop with a banking client and was headed up to the CEOs office for a debrief and discussion of the series of workshops we had created to get people excited about creating a deeper sense of loyalty with their customers.
On the way up to his office there was a commotion in the hallway and people pulled us into a break room with a TV and there we watched live as the second plane hit.
I was born and raised and lived more than half my life in NY. I’m a New Yorker. The sense of shock, of disbelief, of anger, of despair – all at the same moment – made my knees shake and my hand cover my mouth tightly as I watched helplessly as the terror of the morning unfolded.
Where were my family, my friends, my clients?
The terror spread far from ground zero into the hearts of people all over the world who were somehow connected to someone there or someone connected to someone there.
Good people, people who cared, regular people, people who were just going to work that day, or flying home to see friends, good people died that day – and so did a part of all of us.
The shock remained for me for a long time. The first time I remember even a little bit of hope was the night of the concert for New York City. It was broadcast on all stations with all kinds of artists coming together and millions of people were watching and listening and singing along to music of peace and love.
I was filled with hope that this tragedy had broken open the hearts of so many people that we would be transformed by the massive amount of heart energy released and that the world would be a better place because of it.
And I suppose that was true for the evening, and perhaps even in the next days and even for the next weeks as blood donations poured in and stranger reached out to stranger to help. And then the edict came down from on high: Go Shopping. Let’s get back to normal.
As if we ever could.
And so rather than the deep exploration into the hearts broken open and the riches that might lie there, we put our hands into our pockets and grabbed for our wallets and got some temporary solace in the newest shiny thing.
Too bad. We missed an opportunity.
Perhaps this decade we’re better prepared to take advantage of that opportunity. For it is becoming clear that without unity, without understanding and compassion, without a unified vision, we will lose our American dream and the only ones to blame will be ourselves.
What will you do to foster the open hearted understanding that will move us forward? What will you do to add to the positive energy on this planet – or in you workplace and your life?
I am recommitting my focus to listen deeper, to transform judgment into understanding, and fear into faith. I am recommitting myself to cleaning up my language and using the positive frame five times more than the negative one, to asking myself empowering and useful questions instead of berating myself for being human. I am stepping up in my life to spend more time in my heart and less in my head.
Ten years ago it took a week before I could get any thoughts at all on paper. And then I remembered that I had an obligation to share what I could, and I did. While I am not going to revisit the raw feelings expressed in the piece I wrote then, I am going to revisit the suggestions I made to get past the shock and the grief. As I read them today, I feel they are just as relevant and just as important to master so we can cope with the craziness of this world we live in now.
Here are the suggestions I offered 10 years ago:
Today, I’d like to offer a few suggestions for making some changes in your life to affirm good, to affirm peace, to affirm your determination to use the pain and the anger and the outrage to fuel a new and better vision for this planet.
May these suggestions help you whenever you need them; I invite you to consciously use them to disengage from despair, rage and negativity, and to keep up your strength and help you tap into hope, calm and purpose.
1. Pray and/or meditate. In whatever form you do it, do it more often. Calm yourself, connect with your higher power (or Divine Source or God or ancestors or Great Spirit…), remember you are not alone and pray. Pray in the morning, pray at night. Pray in the shower, while walking your dog or waiting to have your teeth cleaned. Pray for peace. Pray for relief of pain. Pray for courage. Pray for divine guidance, for yourself and for our leaders. Pray for healing of your wounds, and those of others and the Earth. Pray in your every thought, word and action for compassion and love to fill the gaping hole created whenever our hearts are broken.
2. Take good care of yourself in mind, body and emotions. Be gentle with yourself. Healing takes time. Care for yourself with loving kindness. Allow yourself to grieve. Be aware that shock resulting from catastrophes brings up unfinished grieving from past losses. Though you may have obligations to attend to while caring for yourself, it can help to make sure your schedule includes extreme self-care and spending time with loved ones and friends.
3. Go to your own “heart space” often. Frequently throughout the day, allow yourself to vividly recall situations that gave you joy and filled your heart with love. For example, envision a close moment with a loved one, the celebration of a child’s birthday, an intimate and loving dinner with a friend. Relive the moment really feeling the joy and love you felt then. When I do this I close my eyes and put my hands over my heart to keep my focus. Take a few deep, deep breaths and fill your body with love flowing from your heart. Follow Deepak Chopra’s advice and actually envision your heart smiling. Heart-smiles can’t help but drift to our lips; this really works! Practice staying in that space and revisit it as often as necessary.
4. Use positive language. Language structures our reality. Listen to your own language and become aware of when you’re using words like “hate” or war-like language such as, “front lines, combat, etc.” Become aware of when you cross the line into spreading gossip or rumors. Start to choose your words more carefully and to speak with greater integrity and kindness. Use the power of your words to spread truth, love, caring and compassion.
5. Ask yourself empowering questions. In every difficult situation you encounter, ask yourself, “Where is the good in this moment?” If none is apparent, ask, “Where can I create some good and contribute to a silver lining?” This can be challenging, but keep at it. Think of how people around the world came together as a global community after 9/11. Look at the outpouring of love and compassion that even children provide after natural disasters as they arrange fundraisers, book and clothing drives, and other healing, rebuilding activities. Inspiration for creating goodness is all around us.
6. Be a hero. Remember the vast numbers of everyday people who became heroes on 9/11 and in the wake of that day? These brave, self-sacrificing folks never take credit for their heroics; instead they say things like, “I did what anyone else would have done.” Look around at what needs to be done around you, be the hero and DO it now, from your heart, for your soul.
7. Ponder the deeper questions in life. Think less about what you want to GET or HAVE and more about WHO you intend to BE. Ask yourself what your higher purpose is. Ask how you can make this a more caring world. Ask how you can make a difference in the triumph of love over fear and hate. Then think about everyday acts you can DO in alignment with who you want to be. Can you facilitate peace in an ongoing family issue? Act locally to prevent violence and spread good? Help out a friend who’s having a tough time?
8. Remember that miracles happen every day. Look for and focus on miracles every day, no matter how small they are. Build a body of evidence that they exist by recording all the miracles and blessings you experience each day in a journal you keep near your bed; it’s a comforting way to end any day. Feel deeply grateful for the miracles you experience. Einstein said “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Choose miracles.
9. Take the high road. Rise above hatred, rise above intolerance, rise above anger, rage, petty differences, divisive actions and language. Rise above that which separates us and focus on that which connects us. Search for common ground and ways to create common good.
10. Remember to tend to our children. After a tragedy make time to soothe their fears, dry their tears, give them opportunities to ask questions and talk, or to just play as children do to escape from stress for awhile. By example and through guidance, teach them well how they can be empowered to create peace, understanding and compassion.
11. Love one another. “The Golden Rule” is one of humankind’s oldest directives. Put it into action by looking into the eyes of a stranger not with fear, but with love and respect. Be aware of the tenderness of every human being, the tenuousness of life. Reach out to others with comfort and understanding. Hug people when they need it. Remember we really all are one.
12. Be open to receive all the good available to and directed toward you. Somewhere someone is praying for you or sending good energy your way. Whether it’s the everlasting vibration of prayers spoken by your ancestors at your birth, a chant for humankind from monks nestled on a lush plot of land in Europe, the intentions of a religious leader or of an old friend, someone is sending you love and light. In the physical world, someone is getting ready to open a door for you, ask you a question that will change your life for the better, or share good news. Be open to the abundant goodness that continues to exist even in the midst of tragedy. With that in mind…
…wherever your mind and heart are on this day, wherever you may be going forward from here, I wish you many blessings.
PS -Every one of these suggestions will work to help you build a life based on positivity not negativity. When we focus on what’s right and when we look for the good and things to acknowledge and celebrate, people feel valued. They feel good and they spread positive emotion (which makes us smarter, healthier and more creative.)
My Positive Leaders know this. They practice building positivity every day in most every interaction. I congratulate and acknowledge all of you who are out there spreading positivity in this sometimes negative world – Bravo!