Thursday, January 30, 2014


Recently, I was listening to instruction on doing things for the benefit of others.  Lovingkindness.  Love in action.

In the Buddhist tradition, the practice of putting others ahead of oneself is strongly encouraged.   

This famous Buddhist verse says it all: “All the happiness the world has to offer comes from desiring wellbeing for others. And all the suffering the world has to offer comes from desiring happiness solely for oneself.”

Not a real epiphany but worth thinking about when you're outside and trying to ignore the weather:  selfishness causes pain, and caring for others brings happiness, which begets true joy.

If happiness is truly what we seek, we need to turn our attention toward the wellbeing of others.

I'm not saying that I'm good at this.  There's nothing I enjoy more than focusing on myself - than curling up alone in front of the fire with a bottle of Cab and my iPad.  But even in those indulgent moments, I know my instincts to draw inward are misguided.  I'm feeling comfortable, but it's not happiness!

I'm actually the most serene when I'm not spending too much time thinking about what I want - and don't want.  When I just accept the present moment, and give my energy to someone else.

The practice of extending love and kindness to others does not require that I give up all my earthly possessions...duh.  The same wishes I have for myself, the wishes reserved for those close to me - I just need to stretch that muscle!  Expand "me" and "mine" to include others, especially strangers.  That's where the possibility, the limitlessness, lives!

When I practice this, any sort of small loving gesture, especially when it's clear I have nothing to gain, it brightens me.  When I respond to a need, I get the joy I didn't know I wanted.

Happiness is a choice.

Love is a verb.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Give Diplomacy a Chance

Difficult conversations are just that - difficult!  I'm watching the reruns of the State of the Union 2014 address and I'm thinking about how difficult it must be, as POTUS, to reach people who feel and behave so differently than you do.  It must be difficult when some people resist you and you are working so hard for the common good, when you are working to promote understanding.

In my little corner, I, too, strive for consensus, at work with the team I lead, and at home, with the team I lead.  I want to support those who are working hard for a better future.

The important thing is this:  seek first to understand and then start from where you are, support efforts that show intention and goodwill, support those who stand up and show courage, participate, serve, keep trying, keep showing up, demonstrate impact, explain why you need this conversation.

Here are the most effective phrases I have to date to help with conflict:

From my perspective, I see it differently...
Tell me more...
Tell me, what's the hardest part?
Help me to understand...
I don't blame you but...
I'd feel the same way except...
What I hear you saying...
I appreciate this part...
Thank you for talking!

Friday, January 24, 2014

For the Benefit of Others

Dear Jo,

Tonight was Confirmation and I stood with your girl Anna as she became an adult in the Catholic church.  She took the name from Elizabeth Ann Seton because of her work in orphanages and Catholic schools; the saint lost her mother at age 3 you know.

It was such a huge honor to worship with your girls on either side of me and watch your widowed husband kneeling when prompted, unfamiliar with all the Catholic cadences and still devoted to your wish and his promise.

Our new Archbishop - Michael Jackels - (super cool, by the way) spoke to the confirmandi and challenged them in ways that make good parents smile.  He told them a happy life was promised to them if they resisted selfishness; if they worked for the benefit of others.  I thought of you, and your dedication to your family, to your friends, to your students, to those less fortunate.

For the benefit of others, we gathered tonight.  And we celebrated our faith.  And we talked of you.

Miss you.

xoxo Jen

Monday, January 20, 2014


This free day holds memories for me - I used to take the kids skiing on MLK day, or stay home and paint someone's bedroom.  It was always a day we spent together, the kids and me, usually doing something out of the ordinary, despite the cold.  Looking back, I wish I had steered them to honor the day, the man and his vision; I wish we had spent, even a few hours, in community service, in some way.

"It really boils down to this:  that all life is interrelated.  We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality."
     - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (from his "Christmas Season on Peace," Dec. 24, 1967)