Valentine’s Day, a holiday with complicated origins that date
back to 496, marks the 45th day of a new year. Nearly 13% of 2020 is already in the rear-view
What better time to check in with ourselves and our beloveds to see just how much time and attention we are devoting to what we love, what really matters. To:
note what’s bringing us joy,
what’s raising our energy,
what’s piquing our curiosity,
what’s warming our hearts.
And to, as my massage therapist/zero balancing professional once advised, “Do more of that!”
It’s all too easy in our connected world to get swept along in life’s currents, causes, and concerns and for our deeply-held values and our heart’s desires to get shoved off into the margins. This Valentine’s Day reboot is a chance to check-in and make sure life is flowing in a direction that serves YOU and your highest good.
Find some time this weekend to ask yourself and those you
love if how you’re spending your days now is how you want to be spending
your days. You may find that you
are happily on track and absolutely no changes are necessary. Or you may realize that there are some”
spring is on the way” modifications you would like to make.
Either way, you’ll have given yourself and those you love one of the greatest gifts of all – a path to warmth, peace, radiance and, yes, love.
Take a minute (or more) to sit with this simple phrase. I first heard these words uttered by Judy, my dear friend and Catherine Place colleague. Hearing her use them prompted me, in time, to invoke them. This short string of words has become a touchstone, a litmus test, a path toward greater authenticity and honesty in my life.
“What is true” are the opening words in this three-part melody. Like many of you, I often know what is true for me in the first three seconds of an exchange. However, over the years, I developed a strong capacity to “override” my truth for one “good reason or another.” After many years of playing with these three words, I’ve come to learn that there are times when I’m absolutely clear about “What is true” and other times that require I step back and take some quiet time to check-in with myself before speaking or acting. Some of my favorite ways to sift into my truth happen on a brisk walk in the fresh air, as I lean and lengthen into myself on my yoga mat, or while washing dishes at the kitchen sink.
Waiting for “what is true” is uncomfortable for me and often inconvenient. In Tai Chi, we are taught to “do nothing when we don’t know what to do.” In a strive, drive world that seems to thrive on rapid responses, taking one’s time feels, at best, counter-cultural and, at other times, downright rebellious. And, yet, experience has taught me that the veracity of the outcome is indeed worth the wait — as unwieldy as it may seem. Some of the most difficult decisions for me to walk back were made when I was uncomfortable with or unwilling to wait.
The addition of the phrase “for me” to this short melody helps ensure we all understand that I am speaking only for myself, not for others. A free and independent spirit, I do not wish to assume that what is true for me will be or in any way needs to be true for you. This is not intended to disregard facts that can be proven, but rather to make way for an individual to share her or his truth from a grounded position of strength and confidence.
“Right now,” the last two words of the melody open the field of the conversation and life to space and grace. The one constant in life is change and “right now” anchors my truth in the present moment without nailing it down forever. Like many, I like direction and certainty. The inclusion of the words “right now” helps me avoid an unhelpful tendency toward control that has been well-honed through a lifetime of goals, plans, objectives, and contracts. As situations change and new information becomes available, and as I grow and change, “right now” offers me the latitude to hold people, circumstances and positions lightly and makes it clear that I am free and open to review, to reassess, to reconsider if and/or when something internally or externally changes.
There is a vibrancy, an aliveness, a joy to a life that flows. “What is true for me right now . . .” has allowed me to step calmly into that current of life rather than to swim upstream in someone else’s world. I hope you’ll join me.
On this day, 23 years ago in a small Indian village, Maher – which means “Mother’s home” in the local dialect – opened its doors. Founder and Director Sr. Lucy Kurien recalls that three women and their children sought shelter that night in the tiny home that would one day grow into Maher’s National Center.
Unwilling to Look Away
Raised Catholic in Kerala, Sr. Lucy was horrified by poverty and need she encountered in the slums of Mumbai. Mother Teresa’s work inspired her and she became a nun. Moved by a need to improve lives outside the convent walls, she began working in a women’s empowerment center. A woman approached her for help and they made plans for the woman to return the next day. That night, the woman’s husband set her on fire. Like others, Sr. Lucy heard the woman’s screams. At the hospital with Sr. Lucy at her side, the woman perished as did the unborn child she was carrying. Sr. Lucy was not able to save that woman, but in time she realized she could help other women in need and Maher was born.
A Story of Faith
Sr. Lucy was not a celebrity. She was a nun with no money. In the early days, Sr. Lucy and her colleagues walked to nearby villages to earn the trust of the people. To feed the growing numbers of women and children arriving, she and other members of the Maher community visited nearby markets and pick up the rice and produce that had been left behind or discarded. While her faith was strong before this time, she says it was these days of hardship and uncertainty that sealed her trust in the Divine. Welcoming, respecting and working with people from all India’s faith traditions created within Sr. Lucy an unshakable faith in the confluence of the world’s religions to attain human well-being.
Over time and with prayer, faith, and hard work, Maher’s
story spread and money and people came to help.
Our daughter and I arrived at Maher’s tiny office in Pune on a hot June
day in 2010 largely unaware of what was in store for us. We planned to spend a month at Maher before
moving on to other non-governmental organizations in India. As the time for us to leave neared, neither
of us could imagine leaving. Together
that year, we would spend a total of seven months celebrating birthdays,
marriages, accomplishments, mourning deaths and shortcomings, all while
becoming acquainted with the rhythm of life in the safe space of the Maher
An Invitation to Love
Looking back, I am astonished at how unfamiliar all of this felt to us. Nearly a decade after our arrival on that June day, I have come to believe it’s because we had never lived in a community centered on the concept that “life is love.” Up until that visit, our lives in the U.S. had been lived in compartments – school, work, politics, religion, and so on – all of which seemed to me, too often, to prioritize growth, profits, results, outcomes over people’s well-being.
Uplifting Us All
I cannot imagine my life without Maher’s uplifting influence. For me, Maher is proof not only that there is another way, but that this other way works.
It’s an important day for India because Maher has walked with so many as they rise to new life. Maher has grown from a single home outside Pune to 44 homes in three Indian states. On any given night, more than 900 children, 350 women and 85 men find care and shelter in Maher homes. Nearly 10,000 Indians (mostly women and some men), participate in self-help groups sponsored by Maher.
It is important for the world because it shows those of us in resource-rich nations the unstoppable power of faith, love and community. Child laborers and individuals viewed as society’s untouchables have graduated from college, obtained master’s degrees and travel the world showing how very possible the impossible is. Maher friends around the globe share Maher’s life-affirming story, host Sr. Lucy and Maher community members, and seed the idea of care and concern for all people in their communities and countries.
Maher matters. To the European social work students who study its ways. To the Oman International School students who plan games and activities for the children and adults there. To the children Maher social workers rescue from the train stations. To all of us who dream of a more peaceful, loving world where all can thrive.
Ever grateful on this day to Sr. Lucy, Maher Board Chair Hira and all the joyful beacons of light at Maher,