“Ubuntu”

While visiting an Xhosa tribe in south-eastern Africa and studying its children, an American anthropologist placed a basket full of local fruits near the bottom of a tree. He explained to the children, as he walked away from the tree, that whichever child was able to reach the basket first would win the entire lot of fruit.

The anthropologist then instructed the children to line up, in preparation for their race. The words “Ready, set, GO!” barely crossed his lips before the children took off toward the tree. To his surprise, however, the children were not running separately. Instead, they had grabbed one another’s hands and ran in unison toward their goal. Upon reaching the fruits, the children each helped themselves, and sat together in a circle enjoying their treats.

The anthropologist asked the children why they had run as they did, when one child could have had all the fruits to himself. The children simply replied, “Ubuntu.” “How can one of us be happy if the others are sad?” they asked the anthropologist.

Ubunto in the Xhosa culture, the anthropologist learned, means “I am because we are”.

…I have come across this message a handful of times recently, and each time, its beauty brings a smile to my heart. I love the idea of a such a cohesive group of children. I love their sense of unity and together. And I love that they were able to teach the anthropologist something about “Ubunto” that day.

I also love this message because I think it serves as a beautiful reminder to everyone that we really are all in this thing called life together. It reminds us that no man is an island. That both our differences and our similarities are to be celebrated and embraced, and that we can be for one another and for ourselves at the very same time.

Today, I would like to encourage you to incorporate the Xhosa word “Ubunto” into your lives. As you make your way through the world today, notice the people that you are surrounded by. As you become aware of the similarities and the differences among us, embrace and celebrate them, rather than making a judgment or an appraisal. Ask yourself, “How can one of us be happy if the others are sad?” and then consider what small acts you can do for strangers and loved ones alike in the name of “Ubunto”. And, finally, as you consider how you fit into this world with the people around you, reflect on the lesson you personally have to learn from the Xhosa children, their approach to togetherness, and their belief that “I am because we are”.

Ask Yourself This:

We have all heard the saying, “All that we are is a result of what we have thought”, and in my experience, this statement seems to be true. And, on a similar vein, so does the quote, “Change your thoughts, and you change your world.”

Whether this is true for everyone or not, I do like the idea that we have control over our thoughts, and therefore our lives. That at any given moment, we can change how we relate to our circumstances, the world around us, and perhaps most importantly, ourselves, by changing the way that we think.

The following list was taken from an article I recently read that challenged readers to change the way they reflect upon their experiences. Parajumpers Long Bear Jakke The article asserts that the questions we ask ourselves each day greatly influences the type of people we are. So, rather than asking such questions as, How can I earn more money? What’s wrong with me? or Am I good enough?, the article suggests the following inquiries:

What did I learn? Each and every day, we are presented with numerous opportunities to learn. Embrace them for what they are and be grateful for the resulting growth.

Who did I love? Love brings out the best in who we are as well as in those we love. As such, it is the greatest gift as well as the greatest reward that we will ever give or receive.

How was I vulnerable? While being vulnerable is certainly uncomfortable, it is truly transformative. It is about being authentic, allowing yourself to be deeply seen, and taking risks that have invaluable rewards.

What am I grateful for? The attitude of gratitude reminds us that we have enough, and, just as importantly, that we are enough.

Who did I listen to? As you well know, we all just need an ear sometimes. No fixing. No advice. No anything besides opening up to share our stories, whatever they may be. Give this gift to someone else and lend an ear.

How was I challenged? Be careful not to equate challenge with struggle, and bear in mind that challenging experiences are often ripe with valuable life lessons.

What made me laugh? Embrace humor. Be tickled. And, lighten up, for laughter is important.

Who did I connect with? Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel understood and valued. Connection is important, as it provides us with a sense of a belonging, and it serves as a reminder that we are never alone.

How did I grow? Each and every day provides us with opportunities for growth. Appreciate these moments for what they are, and be content with your progress, no matter how big or how small.

What did I share? Never underestimate your ability to make a difference. Know that you have gifts to offer the world, and do not be afraid to let your light shine.

Stop. Just, stop.

I often come across To-Do Lists that enumerate the things that I must do in, or add to my already very-full life. And while these lists often shine light upon areas of life that are thirsting for attention, I find that incorporating more into my life is not what I need. Rather, what I need is less. The following is a list to things to start

Stop spending time with the wrong people. Life is far too short to spend time with the people that drain your energy. Re-evaluate those that do not fulfill or replenish you in some way.

Stop running from your problems. Know that you cannot change what you do not confront, and know that this is not easy nor instantaneous. But the delayed gratification is indeed worth the effort and the wait.

Stop lying to yourself. Let’s be honest. We aren’t really fooling ourselves anyway, are we?

Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. Know the difference between selflessness and self-neglect.

Stop trying to be someone you’re not. Be authentic, or the you that feels most like yourself. And know that this this good

Stop trying to hold onto the past. Let go of the past and instead change your relationship with it Change how it lives within you.

Stop being afraid of mistakes. Mistakes can be inconvenient. But they need be nothing more than that. So, dare, do, and adapt. And use old mistakes propel and guide you, not define you or bring you down.

Stop trying to buy happiness. Happiness does not have a price. Know that your worth is intrinsic, and do not attach a price tag to it.

Stop looking to others for happiness. We cannot offer nor experience what we already do not carry within us.

Stop being idle. Go and do. Go and be. This is called living

Stop waiting to be ready. More often than not, we will never feel quite “ready”. Know when to act, ready or not.

Stop being in relationships for the wrong reasons. Bad company is not a good substitute for loneliness. Choose wisely, and do not force the process. And remember that all relationships have something good to offer, even if it is a hard lesson learned.

Stop competing, and stop being jealous. There will always been someone “better” and you will always be “better” than someone else.

Stop complaining. You are not a victim, and no one is out to get you. The curveballs of life are meant to shift your direction, not derail you.

Stop holding grudges. Hatred is toxic. Especially to the self. Forgiveness is the anecdote. For both the self and others

Stop letting others bring you down. Take the high road so they have a place to step up to. Show them that there is a better way.

Stop explaining yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe you, anyway.

Stop doing the same things over and over. Or you’ll keep getting the same things over and over. Distance yourself from old patterns and learn.

Stop overlooking small moments. They are bigger than you think.

 

Stop striving for perfection. Instead, strive for effective

 

Stop following the path of least resistance. Take the road less traveled by.

 

Stop saying it’s okay when it isn’t. It is okay to be not-okay sometimes. Rather, sometimes, this is exactly what you need to do in order to pick up the pieces and be okay again.

 

Stop blaming others. If you blame others for what goes wrong, who gets credit for what goes right? Own your life.

 

Stop trying to be everything to everyone. This is impossible and it leads to burn out . Narrow your focus and be good at what you do.

 

Stop worrying. Know when to let go and when to transform that energy into action, and watch the world change.

 

Stop focusing on what you don’t want. Invest in positive thinking, and you will attract wonderful l things.

 

Stop being ungrateful. There is always, always something to be grateful for. Always.

A Blast From Christmas Past

Reposted from December 12th, 2012

Once again, Christmas is upon us, and many of us are finding ourselves immersed in holiday cheer and excitement, magical festivities, heartwarming traditions, and the sheer goodness that seems to accompany the holiday season.

Each year, as I begin preparing for the holidays, I ask my children to write a letter to Santa Claus. In their letters, they of course take care to include their holiday wish list. This year, my four year-old daughter asked Santa for the following things:

  1. A kitten (brand new)

  1. Someone to come out of the TV (maybe Dora and Diego)

  1. A huge motorcycle machine that drives me off in pretty clothes

  1. To slide down a rainbow

  1. To climb a mountain

  1. A make-up party

  1. Sticky gloves to stick on the walls and climb the ceiling

  1. Run super-fast in the really far woods

  1. My own money. That is pink

  1. A phone that I call someone for real

  1. A brand new costume that is everything

…Fortunately for Santa and I, her list included thirteen additional items that are a bit more feasible in terms of holiday gift-giving, while my ten year-old son created a list of five items, such as Legos and DS games, that he would like to receive from Santa Claus. To be fair, I asked my husband to do the same, and after several days of deliberation, he was able to think of one thing that he would like for Christmas. I, on the other hand, am still thinking of something tangible that I would like to receive this year.

As I reviewed my family’s wish lists, I could not help but to reflect upon the experience of Christmas, and the transformation it undergoes as we mature. As four year-olds, we are much like my daughter. We are in awe of the magical wonderland that is Christmas, believing in such beautiful things as the selfless charity of a timeless old man, the flight of his eight tiny reindeer, and the possibility of even our wildest dreams coming true. As we grow older, however, it seems that we slowly lose touch with this fantastical side of ourselves. Instead, we gravitate toward things that are more realistic in nature, more tangible, and less whimsical. We forgo our imagination, intuition, and creativity in favor of relying on our logic, reason, and practicality, and before we know it, we have become immersed in a reality that reflects our idled dreams. Our Christmas, then, is no longer a time of magic and wonder. Rather, it has become a time of hustle, bustle, stuff, and stress.

Of course, I fully recognize that at least some part of ourselves must operate in the realistic realm. However, I do encourage you to adopt your inner four year-old this season, and rediscover the magic of Christmas and the beauty of your every-day life.

Gentle Reminders

With the dawn of the holidays upon us, I am reminded daily that it really is one of the most wonderful times of year.

It is also one of the most stressful. As such, I thought I might share a handful of reminders that I have been given to maintain some modicum of mental and emotional balance during an otherwise potentially stressful time:

Do not lose sight of what truly matters. Your definition of what truly matters is your compass. It will help you remember that petty things do not, in fact, signify the end of the world, and it will redirect you to what is truly important to you.

It is okay to be alone. When you find yourself cocooning, remember that it is okay to pull back from the world, to take rest, to re-evaluate, and to take time. Quite often, this quality time with yourself, this time of hiatus, is also a time of healing, restoration, and growth.

You are not always in control. Recall the Serenity Prayer. Whether we like it or not, we are not always in control. It is during these times that we are best served to “let it go” so that we may instead “let it come”.

What other people think is irrelevant. Of course, we want people to think of well of us. And this is okay, because it means that we care. Yet, the truth of the matter is that we simply cannot please everyone and their opinions are their business, not ours.

Do not give up. And, do not confuse “giving up” with letting go or surrendering to something greater.

You need not know all the answers, all the time. Quite often, not knowing what to do means that it is not time to do anything at all. So, live the questions and learn to embrace uncertainty, as uncertainty is certainly part of life.

You are enough. You are. And so is all that you do.

Be here. Now. Stay present. This is hard, as we have a tendency to relive the past and lean into the future. Yet, doing so changes nothing about what has been, nor does it control what will be.

Your feelings will not kill you. Despite what it feels like, feelings are fleeting. Just as joy does not last forever, neither does heartbreak. Find the strength to ride the wave, and you will find that you can endure anything.

You are human. Therefore, give yourself credit for your triumphs, and forgive yourself for your short comings. You will have many of both, so rather than clinging to them and tearing yourself down, build yourself up, and embrace everything about this moment right here, right now.

{Over}Abundance. Making Enough Enough

 

With the holiday season upon us, many of us will find ourselves caught up on a cycle of overabundance, or the state of having “too much”. More than we need, more than we can use, more than we can process. Overabundance is the cup that floweth over.

While it certainly is a blessing to have enough, it seems that we have become a culture of excess. And strangely, this can be taxing, as it creates stress, drains us of our precious resources, and shifts our focus from gratitude to greed.

As you reflect on your Thanksgiving celebration and look forward to the festivities of Christmas and the New Year, consider the following areas of overabundance and how they affect your life.

Overabundance of food: Eating, drinking, and merry-making is undoubtedly a central and very pleasurable part of celebrating the holidays. As such, it is also one area in which overindulgence is common, nearly expected, and quite often, regretted. So as you partake in the merry-making this year, remember to be mindful of your internal cues, rather than relying only on the external.

Overabundance of gifts: The cycle of giving and receiving can be overwhelming, especially when the act of giving is overshadowed by the quantity of “stuff” being received. To break this online casino cycle, do not hesitate to give on a smaller, yet just as meaningful, scale.

Overabundance of socializing: This time of year is certainly one to be celebrated, however, it is not uncommon that we find ourselves attending social functions because we feel that we “must”. This is often caused by a sense of obligation, the expectations of others, or the fear of missing out. And while there is nothing wrong with joining in on the festivities, it is also okay to graciously decline invitations, to rest, and be still.

Overabundance of relationship stress: Family, dear friends, and loved ones often take center stage this time of year, and this is for good reason. However, because we are so busy during the holiday season, we often do not have time to work on our relationships and thus perpetuate strained interactions with those we love most. During this time, remember to be gentle and forgiving with yourself and others.

Overabundance of tradition: Remember that just because you have “always done it this way” does not mean that you have to keep doing it this way if it no longer fits. In these situations, do not be afraid to break free from the old to embrace something new.

Overabundance of group-thought: To avoid mindless consumption and overabundance, be mindful of the impact that collective thinking can have on your well-being. During this holiday season, take time to reconnect with yourself, your loved ones, and that which gives your life meaning.

As you step away from overabundance during this holiday season, you will likely discover that it is a process. A process that involves both tuning into yourself and tuning out of that which no longer serves you. Of letting go of the old so that you may embrace the new. And most importantly, it involves embracing an attitude of gratitude and feeling satisfied and fulfilled with having enough.