Are we there yet?

gray asphalt road between green grass field

Photo by Mudassir Ali on Pexels.com

“Are we there, yet?” The little girl voice in me whines.

An older, wiser voice answers, “No, my dear, this will be a very long journey.”

We’re all getting weary with this pandemic. The isolation, restrictions, unusual working and learning conditions, and upside-down way of life are taking their toll. If you’ve lost a loved one, been sick yourself, or lost your job, you are especially weary. The situation is settling into our bones; we’re realizing the magnitude of the changes and sacrifices that aren’t going away soon.

Living through this pandemic is a journey none of us chose. But each of us can choose how we want to live through it.

Last week, I had a healthy cry and an old-fashioned lament. If you haven’t done this, I highly recommend it. Something washed through me, opening space for a sorely needed inner shift. Breakdowns often lead to breakthroughs.

One of these breakthroughs involved revisiting a childhood memory of traveling with my family. Here’s the scene: I’m the eldest of four and we are all crammed into our big wood-paneled station wagon on a long trip. Trapped for countless hours, uncertain of where we are headed, and tired of being cooped up, we children are restless. “When are we gonna be there?” echoes through the car. Perhaps you can relate?

 I turned to a spiritual practice that helps me listen at a deeper level to what’s circling around my thoughts and emotions: journaling. When I journal I often carry on an inner dialogue with God- asking questions and seeing what emerges on paper. It’s not neat and tidy; it’s more like a stream of consciousness soul dump onto paper.

Somehow this messy process often leads to clarity, perspective, and wisdom. My eyes are opened to an inner knowing. It is the Source of Love (God) trying to convey something to me. It’s truly a gift of grace when it happens!

In my journaling, I got curious. Here’s the way it went:

What’s with the child-like voice?

You are not a child in the backseat. You are a grown-up in the front seat. It’s up to you to choose how you want to ride through this thing. Be intentional. I am always here with you. I will help, but you get to choose.

Well, there we go. Pretty wise stuff, right? That’s not the type of guidance that comes from my head. No, it comes from my soul—that deeper, loving, place where God lives.

In other words, I am empowered. I have choices. It’s time to shift my perspective, assume my power, and choose how I want to live through this.

As Viktor Frankl, a survivor a concentration camp, wrote: “Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” (Man’s Search for Meaning).

 As I continued journaling, this emerged: Make this journey a pilgrimage rather than a trip.

 Ha! Such wisdom— a pilgrimage is sooooo different from a trip! The difference is one of intention. In a pilgrimage, we are open, attentive, curious, and willing to be transformed by the journey. As Phil Cousineau writes in his book, The Art of Pilgrimage, pilgrimage marks “a move from mindless to mindful, soulless to soulful travel.” Pilgrimages never unfold as you expect; in fact, lessons learned along the way are part of the grace-filled experience. You discover the holy in new ways.

I’ve been on several pilgrimages, and they were characterized by a slower pace, ample time for reflection, and a willingness to be present to the moment. We looked for the divine in the people and places we encountered. Authentic, soul-connecting conversations helped us pay attention to what was around us and within us. I returned with new perspectives on life, a new awareness of God’s presence, and grateful for the experiences.

Although a pilgrimage generally involves a trip to a sacred site, any journey can be a pilgrimage when made with intention. The sacred is everywhere, and perhaps that’s one of the lessons of the pandemic. I’ve learned that even a trip to the grocery store can be one if it is approached with purpose, an open heart, and a willingness to be changed. Isn’t it intriguing to think that you can turn an errand into a pilgrimage?

So yes, I would say that we are all on a journey through this pandemic. It won’t be a quick trip. Don’t be a child in the backseat. Instead, consider how you want to journey and make choices. What is important to you? How will you be attentive? Curious? Willing to be open to and changed by the gifts (even the unwanted ones) that come your way?

Friends, join me in exploring this as a time of pilgrimage, a time to see with new eyes. I believe that this is a growing up time for all of us across the planet. I pray that we evolve into more loving people, aware of what’s truly important, and conscious of how deeply connected we are to the Source of Love, to one another, and to Earth.

 

 

Peace to Calm Your Soul

four rock formation

Photo by nicollazzi xiong on Pexels.com

Clenched jaw. Tossing and turning at 2 am. Distraction. Are you experiencing them, friends? I certainly am.

As our world confronts this constantly changing pandemic health crisis, I want to share an empowering practice that can bring calm, peace, and healing to you and to our world.

But first, it’s helpful to understand that most of us are experiencing fear, which is manifesting itself in a variety of ways. Fear is a natural and necessary part of our evolutionary make-up. It helps us survive. Fear tells us to run from a burning building or from predators we encounter. Like the coronavirus. When we sense danger, the body generates a fight or flight response  (also called a fight, flight, or freeze). Our hearts beat faster, our pupils become dilated, we breathe rapidly, our blood pulses, and sometimes our hands and faces tingle. These reactions are all natural responses to danger as our bodies prepare to meet the threat.

Our minds and bodies cannot maintain the continual state of fight or flight. Over time, this stress response impacts our entire well-being, leading to things like high blood pressure, changes in our brain, and weakened immunity. Not a healthy or sustainable way to live.

You can diffuse fear’s power by tending your soul.

Beneath the surface, your soul has a deep sense of calm and peace. Your soul is that divine aspect of you, your essence, that spark of God you are born with. It is the source of deep love. Your soul lives in a constant state of peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding. This loving, eternal part of yourself cannot be taken from you. It is always there.

This is why we all need spiritual practices—everyday tools to tend our souls.

So I want to share a practice that’s been quite meaningful for me. I have a hard time meditating in the classic sense, as many do. But this a relaxation prayer, an easy “go-to” — helps me find peace and calm. I hope it helps you.

Rest in love. Take a few moments to breathe, and repeat these words (slowly is best):

Rest in love…

Rest in love…

Rest in love…

This practice was inspired by one of my favorite books: Frank Ostaseski’s The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.

A wise and compassionate end-of-life leader, Frank Ostaseski tells the story of a man named Carl who was in hospice, struggling with intense pain. While battling his pain, these words rose up from some innate place within him: “Rest in love.” From then on, Carl repeated these words whenever he felt overwhelmed. He learned to draw from this inner resource. As Carl encountered pain, fear, or anxiety, he said, “Rest in love.” As he pushed his morphine pump, he repeated to himself, “Rest in love, rest in love.” As his wife fidgeted anxiously by his bedside, Carl reached through his bedrails, touched her lightly, and said, “Rest in love, my dear. Rest in love.”

Carl’s story moved me deeply. I sensed that resting in love was something I needed. It was. And it still is, especially in these times.

These words have become a practice that renews my mind, body, and spirit. When I rest in love, I’m no longer striving or stressing. As I relax into love and come to a place of rest, I imagine warm, loving light surrounding me. Sometimes I envision loving beings around me, including loved ones who have passed. Peace seems to bubble up from within. My jaw unclenches. The concerns that previously occupied my attention fade to the background. I am calmer. I am reminded that peace is here. Peace is always here.

Thank you, Carl, for your words that keep on giving.

So friends, in these times, I invite you to acknowledge and calm your fear with an internal strength you already possess. Tap into your inner resource of peace.

Rest in love. Rest in love, my dears. Rest in love.

With blessings and love for your wellbeing,

Mabeth

 

 

A Good Contagious

On a whole new scale, we are being reminded about the contagious nature of viruses and colds. It’s the perfect opportunity to remember that goodness is contagious too. You can spread kindness, generosity, peace, and love with every encounter.

As I was studying a map showing the outbreak and global spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), I wondered: What would it look like if we could see the “hot spots” of love and compassion? What if we could see how lives are transformed by simple acts of kindness? What if we could see how one generous act like letting go of a grudge or resentment could impact others?

con·ta·gious (adjective)

  1. (of a disease) spread from one person or organism to another by direct or indirect contact
  2. (of an emotion, feeling, or attitude) likely to spread to and affect others.

In my work as a spiritual wellness leader, I’ve learned that good stuff and bad stuff are contagious. We touch others on a daily basis and those interactions are impactful. It’s not surprising that fear is contagious. But here’s good news: research has shown that generosity, kindness, compassion, and courage are all contagious too!

For example, one study from Berkeley reveals that seeing someone perform an act of kindness gives you an uplifting, warm and fuzzy feeling. This “moral elevation” is something that we experience when in the presence of goodness. Moral elevation inspires acts of generosity, optimism, and altruism in and towards others. Additionally, it actually builds your physical immunity, helping your body repel nasty germs.

If you want to go deeper, check out this article about social networks.

How can you be contagious in a good way?

Yes, pay attention to the CDC’s advice to wash your hands and take other common-sense steps. Practice thoughtful response rather than fear-based reactions. Spread goodness through small gestures of kindness such as making eye contact, smiling at strangers, saying thank you often, and reaching out to someone who needs to be uplifted by calling them or sending a card.

Here are more practical ways to contribute to the healing of the world in a good contagious way:

  • As you are washing your hands for 20 seconds, offer a prayer for everyone who is sick (those you know and those you don’t know).
  • As you are listening to the news, offer a prayer for calm, peace, and healing.
  • Practice a Loving-Kindness meditation that sends light and love out to all the corners of our world. Grounded in the Buddhist tradition, there are many variations of this prayer that spreads compassion and healing. Below is one that we’ve practiced at Well for the Journey

What is one thing you can do to bring goodness and love to others today? Do that. Spread the good stuff.

Blessings and love,

Mabeth

 

 LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION

It’s best to take your time to practice this meditation, but you can go at your own pace. And if you only have a few minutes, that’s ok- a little light and love goes a long way!

Find a comfortable sitting position. Place your feet on the ground. Relax and settle your mind.

 Begin by focusing on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

 Find the place of tender, loving kindness inside your heart (it doesn’t matter what you call it: Love, Light, Divine, Spirit, etc.). Feel the warmth, light, tenderness, and affection within your heart. Bathe in this warm light. Give thanks.

 Drawing upon this source of love, bring to mind someone you deeply care about- a relative, friend, or even a pet. Send loving kindness toward this being. Send them warm light from the center of your heart.

 Now bring to mind a casual friend or colleague, someone just beyond your inner circle. Send loving kindness toward him/her. Send him/her warm light from the center of your heart.

 Continue drawing from your inner source of tender, loving kindness…that light and love.

 Bring to mind someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent, a stranger.

Send loving kindness toward them. Send them warm light from the center of your heart.  

Remember someone who has hurt you or someone you struggle to like. Bless them. Send them your love. Send them warm light from the center of your heart.

 Gather all these people and yourself into the stream of love and hold them here for a few moments.

Finally, let the flow of loving kindness widen to encompass all beings in the universe. Radiate your feelings of warmth, tenderness, love, and light out to the world and universe.

 Conclude with a simple thank you or Amen.

 

 

Confused? Uncertain? That’s OK!

Do you feel called to something new, but don’t know what? Confused about your next steps? Feeling uncertain about how to move forward?

You are not alone! I’ve learned through hard-won wisdom that confusion and uncertainty are key ingredients for growth. By opening to them, new life emerges.

It is definitely uncomfortable but giving birth always is.

For example, confusion led to the birth of Well for the Journey. Twenty years ago my life looked great from the outside. I was happily married, raising three healthy children, and practicing law with great colleagues. Yet, inside questions persisted: What is this discontent and yearning that’s gnawing at me? How do I best use my gifts and share my talents for the greater good? Where is God in the nitty-gritty of daily life? Are there others like me who wonder too?

My questions led me to develop practices such as journaling, making quiet time, and listening for Divine guidance. I sought out spiritual companions to help me listen, widen my perspective, and encourage my next steps. I leaned into curiosity and tried to trust that the “to-do’s” would unfold.

In due time, I connected with others and formed a new place, a new community, that made space for people to ask questions, tend their spiritual selves, build relationships, and live better lives. My confusion sparked curiosity. I learned how to lean on God’s guidance.

Confusion and uncertainty were necessary conditions for a new place to be born. It’s grown into a place that serves many and transforms lives in ways that I never could have imagined.

Our minds love certainty. It’s part of our human instinct. Our egos are wired to be in control of our own agendas. We make up our minds and plow ahead, often without seeking guidance from a power greater than our small self.

It takes practice (lots of it!) to relax. To be OK in our uncertainty. To seek guidance. To patiently wait. Oh, that patience part is ridiculously hard!

Now uncertainty and confusion have returned as I explore a new sense of call. I desire to help people live with peace, empowerment, and even joy as they live out the final chapters of life. Blending my legal and spiritual care expertise, I imagine facilitating meaningful and necessary conversations about end of life matters so that people can choose what matters to them. Then advocating for them as needed. I wish to alleviate unnecessary suffering that often occurs because people don’t have the courage to face death and articulate their desires and plans.

I’ve had exploratory conversations with key people, led workshops, assisted loved ones, and taken small steps to shake out what this might look like. How do I move forward with this? What does this look like? What’s next?

In quiet, while seeking guidance, I came across this passage: “She wasn’t sure what to do next, and she was in the uncomfortable phase of gestation that requires awaiting further instructions.” (Lisa Rankin, Anatomy of a Calling).

Yes! Perfect description! Gestation is the developmental period between conception and birth. Looking back at my literal and metaphorical pregnancies, there was discomfort, uncertainty, waiting. Birthing takes time.

Confused? Uncertain? That’s OK! You are not alone. Lean into it. Be curious. Keep listening. Keep looking for guidance that will make itself known to you.

 

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I am praying for you.”

There are many people on my mind and in my heart who are dealing with all sorts of life challenges. You might be one of them.

One way that I support them is to pray for them. But what do I mean when I say, “I am praying for you”? After all, there are as many ways to pray as there are people in the world.

When I say, “I am praying for you,” this is what I intend to convey to you:

You are not alone.

You are being held in Love and Light.

One Larger and Wiser is with you.

God knows what you need better than I do.

I love you.

Prayer is hard to talk about. It is intimate. It is personal. It is beyond words. Yet, I’m convinced we do it more than we know.

Some set aside a block of time and sit with their prayer lists, patiently going down the names and needs. I sometimes do that, but more often I pray for others through the course of my day—in the car, at my desk, in the shower, walking outside, at a meeting, cooking at the stove, or sitting at an airport. People pop into my thoughts and I send one or more of the above messages to them.

When I say, “I am praying for you,” it is acknowledging that I am with you. That I carry you in my heart, that your concerns are my concerns, that you are not alone. This is a connection we all desire. It is the power of prayer. We are all held and connected, linked together through a power, an energy, a love that is greater than any one of us.

I carry people in my heart, just as you carry people in your heart. That is prayer, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Give Your Presence this Season

At this time of year, isn’t it hard to give our full attention to the present moment? Many of us jump ahead to our lengthy to-do lists. Worry, anxiety, and stress can consume us. There’s so, so much to be done!

If however, we can stay in the present, attentive to the moment in which we find ourselves, we will become a gift to those around us and a gift to ourselves.

This doesn’t come easily to me. Nope. Without confusing the holiday, I’m like a bunny that will hop, hop, hop, particularly when I’m stressed. I try to squeeze in as much as I can. There are plenty of us hopping right now, friends.

Let’s turn to an appropriate image for the season: the Christmas manger. This scene is an invitation. Animals gathered around the baby in wonder, awe, and adoration. They gave exquisite attention to what was right in front of them. Even the bunny!

Here’s what I’ve found to be helpful in my efforts to stay in the present moment:

  1. Pace: Go slower. Less hopping!
  2. Pause: Take time to rest and allow your soul to catch up…even for a few seconds in the midst of the busyness.
  3. Breathe: Get in touch with your breath. It is always there to center you in the now. Focus on three breaths right now.

These steps open a gracious space in our mind and heart to be present to others and ourselves.

December is a tender time for many, with happy and sad memories and loved ones who aren’t with us. Sorrow mixes with joy. We never know what lies beneath the surface of people’s lives. Just being present to others is a way we can give. Generous listening, saying “thank you,” looking someone in the eye, a warm smile, or a gentle touch can be just the gift that someone needs. Don’t underestimate the power of connection.

The gift of presence is sorely needed. Let’s slow our hopping. Be present. Be a present.

With love, M

people sitting beside table

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

 

 

What Kind of Season Do You Want? Set Your Intention!

Congrats, my friends for making it through Cyber Monday! Whew! What a whirlwind of a week!

Those gazillion emails that cluttered our mailboxes (and our minds!) seeking our urgent attention can serve a valuable purpose, other than saving us money. They remind us to be intentional about the season ahead. 

We can get swept up in chaos. Or not. It’s our choice. Our soul muscles help us to create the season we want.

What’s on your to-do list? Sift through the pressing “demands,” reflect on what’s truly important, and let that be your compass. Set your intention to guide you for a meaningful season.

Here’s my intention for today and the weeks ahead, God help me:

Be present. Pay attention. Share love. Cultivate joy.

 I plan to look at it in the morning to frame my day, as I make my to-do list. Then at the end of the day, I will look at it again with the eyes of gentleness, knowing things won’t go as I hope.

What is important for you? What would you like this season to look like? Take time to reflect and set an intention. It will be a gift to you and those you love.

postit scrabble to do todo

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

 

Make Way for Your Blessings

Right now, there are blessings circling over you, trying to find a place to land into your life. Yes, friends, goodness and love are trying to break into this very moment! Isn’t that good news?!

Consider these intriguing thoughts from an inspirational healer, teacher, and best-selling author:

“Most of us have been given many more blessings than we have received. We do not take time to be blessed or make the space for it. We may have filled our lives so full of other things that we have no room to receive our blessings.”

– Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings

Dr. Remen goes on to paint this picture: imagine all of us being circled by blessings, like airplanes in a holding pattern at an airport. These blessings are stacked up, sometimes for years, with no place to land. They are waiting for a moment of our time and attention. Such a powerful image, right?

Last week I experienced a situation filled with emotional angst. Yet, within that struggle, I sensed a blessing circling overhead trying to land in the middle of the turmoil. Something good was trying to be noticed. The image was reassuring. It guided me.

Wanting new eyes to see this unknown blessing, I made time to reflect and pray. Help me to see the goodness in here. Shine light and love on the others involved. Give me a new perspective. If you are trying to send a blessing, help me receive it.

Sure enough, a few days later, some of the fog lifted, allowing me to see goodness at work. A blessing had landed into the center of this challenge! It wasn’t a large, clear runway, but it was an opening. I gained newfound insight, acceptance, and peace. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Is there a situation in your life where you need a blessing?  Be an air traffic controller and guide your blessings in! Create a landing strip- or at least an opening. Make time to look and listen. Open your heart to new possibilities, new perspectives. Ask for goodness and love to break through.

Blessings abound, even in the midst of the most challenging situations. Often it takes time, attention, and grace to find them. Stick with it, and you will discover blessings that impact you and those around you. Goodness and love are at work!

*** Note: I highly recommend Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen’s My Grandfather’s Blessings. It is a collection of inspirational stories that remind us of the power of connection, kindness, healing, and blessings. We just finished an enriching series at Well for the Journey called “Hidden Blessings” based on this book’s wisdom. Consider a workshop or series for your organization, business, or group of friends or colleagues.

Lessons from Laryngitis

Sometimes silence is all that we can offer and is exactly what is needed.

A recent bout of laryngitis became my teacher when a nasty cold landed in my throat, holding my voice captive. For several days, only squeaky, crackling utterances or raspy, strained whispers emerged from my mouth. It was not a bit sexy. When with others, I had to choose whether to use my frail voice or rest it and be silent.

Paying attention to my imposed silence, I realized that there is quite a lot of babble that comes out of my mouth daily.  Yes, sadly it’s true. By “babble,” I’m referring to unnecessary words that don’t enhance the situation—things that can be left unsaid. I don’t always need to contribute something to the conversation, even though I am a bubbly extrovert. It was a humbling experience in self-awareness. It’s so easy to add to the noise of this world.

An ancient saying out of the mystical tradition of Islam, known as Sufism, is wonderfully instructive, regardless of our health:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?”

When my voice box was ailing there were only a handful of times that it was truly necessary to speak. One was the day that my dear friend’s mother was dying. Becky’s mother had been in ICU for 10 days with pneumonia. When I got her text that the situation was grim and death was imminent, I knew I needed to talk with my friend, if I was able.

 Please let me be a conduit of solace, encouragement, and love, I silently prayed. With a deep breath, I called Becky’s cell phone and greeted her with gentle words that were somehow audible. But mostly I listened.

Real listening is immersed in silence and is a precious form of presence. Quiet tears flowed down my face. Before saying good-bye, I wanted to offer a prayer aloud over the phone, as that’s what we do for each other when one of us is facing a crisis. It was a mini-miracle that she was able to hear my prayer for her sweet mama and the family.

I’ve since recovered, and the only thing Becky remembers about our call was my presence, not my ailing, squeaky voice. “Were you really sick?” she asked. Amazing grace!

Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Can you imagine our world if we paused and allowed our words to pass through those three gates? What false, needless, and unkind words would remain unspoken?

Ahhhhhh, sweet, precious silence often serves others in ways that words cannot.

Calm in the Chaos

Water rained through the ceiling, causing a small lake on the kitchen floor.

The guest room toilet broke.

My car battery died.

A key workshop leader canceled due to illness.

Yikes!!! Chaos!!! All within 24 hours, JUST as I prepared to welcome, host, and lead 27 women for a spiritual renewal weekend in Cape May, New Jersey. The weekend theme was timely: “Balance for the Autumn Equinox Through Mind, Body, and Spirit.” Balance needed, please!

The most important thing about being a leader of people, families, and organizations, I’ve learned, is being inwardly prepared. If you can stay calm, you can respond thoughtfully rather than react erratically. Calm and chaos are both contagious. I wanted calm. Read on to discover tools for you to remain calm and balanced in the face of stress.

Back to the turmoil that threatened to overwhelm me.

Breathing in, I said these words: Beneath the chaos, there is a calm, loving center. Breathing out, I repeated them…again, again, again.

Gradually, I relaxed. It was going to be okay.

Going into the weekend, I had felt off my game. My foot was still painful from a nasty sprain a few weeks earlier, and I was wearing a clunky walking boot that slowed me down, especially as I navigated the many stairs. Let’s add that to the above list of stressors. With all there was to do, it was excruciating to move so slowly.

The forced slowness turned into a blessing, however. Needing to pace myself and take breaks, I spent more time in quiet meditation and prayer than is typical. I sought to tap into the loving, calm core that exists within me, and indeed, exists in each of us. I wrote these words in my journal: Beneath the chaos, there is a calm, loving center.

When the barrage of tiny disasters occurred, I felt bombarded. But at the same time, I remained calm and centered, and I sensed a loving presence sustaining me. It was quite remarkable! I was smiling and joyful too!

Every day, the chaos of unexpected events threatens to overwhelm us. It doesn’t need to win. We have choices.

Science reveals a practice that can bring us calm in the storm: the relaxation response. In his now-famous studies at Harvard Medical School in the early 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson demonstrated that you can reduce stress throughout your body by breathing slowly and repeating a word, phrase, or prayer that gives you a sense of comfort. His landmark findings have been expanded and incorporated into medicine, business, psychotherapy, and thankfully, every day living. Practiced over time, this simple practice can produce healing of mind, body, and spirit. Check out Dr. Benson’s findings in his classic book, The Relaxation Response, or his more recent one, Relaxation Revolution, or do a five-minute exercise https://www.mass.gov/video/relaxation-response-dr-herbert-benson-teaches-you-the-basics

Through breathing slowly and centering on a key phrase, I was able to stay in the present moment, think clearly, and calmly navigate each challenge. A talented, compassionate leader replaced our ill colleague. Gerry, the handyman, swiftly repaired the plumbing. Jerry, the auto mechanic, replaced my car battery within the hour. The retreat went beautifully; women were renewed and uplifted. All was well!

Filled with gratitude, I wonder why I don’t use these tools all the time! Note to self.

When you struggle with unfortunate events overwhelming you, try some simple but powerful steps:

  1. Breathe slowly.
  2. Choose a word or phrase that is of comfort to you (Peace, Calm, God, om, All is well, etc.).
  3. Repeat it again and again.

And remember: Beneath the chaos, there is a calm, loving center.