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Ripples #1135: Persistent Optimism

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Ripples #1135: Persistent Optimism
Feb 22, 2021

PEBBLE
Your optimism will never be as powerful as it is in that exact moment when you want to give it up.
-Amanda Gorman, shared by Joy in Madison WI (original source: Time Magazine)

BOULDER
Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something and don’t tell yourself that you can’t do something. The dreams that scare you the most are the ones that are worth taking.
-Sydney Barber, shared by Holly in Phoenix, AZ (who admired these words from the Naval Academy’s 1st Black Female Brigade Commander Midshipman)

PONDER
It is no easy feat to maintain an optimistic attitude during life’s really tough chapters, and yet that is precisely when optimism is needed most. And continuing to recognize and focus on bright possibilities day after day, week after week, year after year, even in the midst of considerable darkness…it is draining for sure.

Some people see optimism as unrealistic or even impractical. I get that, and I recognize that there are many good reasons that both hopelessness and helplessness creep into the mindsets and outlooks of so many people.

I’ve spent the last few months mindfully reading and discussing Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist with two trusted colleagues. It included some troubling statistics and distressing anecdotes that I was expecting; it also had a powerful narrative that made it much more accessible and engaging than I anticipated. His closing lines were particularly powerful for me: “There is nothing I see in our world today, in our history, giving me hope…. What gives me hope is a simple truism. Once we lose hope, we are guaranteed to lose.”

Most days, I am able to choose optimism because it fuels my hope. By lighting the path ahead of me, optimism helps me identify constructive actions that help me move forward. Some days, when hope is in short supply and obstacles abound, what keeps me going is the reality that moving forward with optimism, even if it has dimmed, is better than sitting alone in the dark.

And on the really, really tough days, when things seem bleak and hope is nowhere to be found…well, that’s when I’m able to turn to those around me and whisper, “Help.” And it is their optimism, their hope, that reliably helps me rediscover my own.

If you’re struggling to maintain optimism right now, I hope you have the courage to reach out and borrow someone else’s. If you have some optimism to spare, keep an eye out for those who need a hand.

Peace,
Paul
P.S. This quirky, sweet tune called The Keep Going Song came to me via Josh Radner’s latest missive. It is charming and definitely on point for this week’s Ripples. It has lifted my spirit, and I hope it lifts yours.

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Ripples #1134: Healing the Hero

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Ripples #1134: Healing the Hero
Feb 15, 2021

PEBBLE
Emotional pain cannot kill you, but running from it can. Allow. Embrace. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal. -Vironika Tugaleva, shared by Isaac in Sedona, AZ

BOULDER
And though the darkness may seem incorrigible, it is up to each of us to find the internal strength to strive and make our own way. Indeed, there are guides and companions along the way, but once you realize that you are sovereign in your capacity to make your life the way you want it to be, there is no limit to the light you can shine, the darkness you can obliterate, or the paths you can illuminate for yourself. We are all protagonists in our own lives; we are all heroes in our own stories.
-Jeremiah Cobra https://jeremiahcobra.com/#novels, shared by Harry in San Clemente, CA

PONDER
I’m a morning person, and I love my morning walks. For the past several weeks they’ve been even more energizing than usual because I recently befriended a neighbor who, like me, is an early riser and an early exerciser. We’re still getting to know each other, and we’re both curious, so of course there is lots of personal history to share. Earlier this week I was unpacking some of the chapters of my life that have required quite a bit of healing, growth, and therapy.

My first reaction after we parted ways on that morning was to cringe: ooh, that was a lot of self disclosure…might she think that was too much too soon? It wouldn’t take me too long to recognize that my temporary insecurity was based in the vulnerability I had just risked and had little to do with her capacity to embrace both the bright lights and the darker shadows of my personal history.

My second reaction to the conversation came an hour later when I sat down to work on this week’s Ripples and the above quotes were at the top of my “Paired up and Eager to be Rippled” list. I did a quick pivot from needless worrying to proud beaming. The chat was another useful reminder that all the STUFF I’ve been through, and importantly all the ways I RESPONDED to that stuff, has paved the way for growth: personal growth that allows me to enjoy a rich, full life, and professional growth that allows me to share with others some useful ideas and strategies I’ve picked up along my journey. You know, people like you, right now, reading this. How crazy cool is that?

We are indeed the heroes of our own stories AND we’re heroes in need of healing, still on our paths. Do me a favor: take a moment right now to cut yourself a little slack for any healing work that still lies before you, and also congratulate yourself on the insights and actions that have helped you make it to today. You deserve it, and generosity toward yourself will compound your healing efforts. Are you in? … Read More!

Ripples #1133: Giving & Getting Love

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Ripples #1133: Giving & Getting Love
Feb 8, 2021

PEBBLE
It’s in our nature to give and to get love.
Do some of both this week.
Do some of both always.
-Patti Dobrowolski, shared by Angela in Madison, WI

BOULDER
We’ve been infected with this idea that love is an emotion only felt between two people. But love is universal. An energy. A Contagious force. A gift. To offer support to someone in need is to love. To save a worm from the sun is to love. To smile at a stranger is love. To be grateful, to be hopeful, to be brave, to be forgiving, to be proud, is to love.
-A.R. Lucas (adapted slightly), shared by Diane in Appleton, WI

PONDER
We’ve arrived at the second week of February, which means it is time for our annual love-themed Ripples. We choose this spot in the calendar because of its proximity to Valentine’s Day AND we make a conscious effort to consider an expansive perspective on the idea of love. We can always choose to recognize love as relevant and worthwhile and sacred, even if we’re not into candy hearts and flowers (although I confess I’ve been craving Sweet Tart hearts for the past few weeks!)

Today’s pebble reminds us that love is at its most precious when it is moving frequently in both directions. The boulder reminds us that love can be expressed and lived in many different thoughts and deeds.

We’ve known that for a long time that physical exercise builds our heart health. Mindfulness activities like meditation and prayer have a soothing impact which helps our heart by providing tranquility. It turns out that Love invigorates our heart, too: strengthening our sense of self and deepening our capacity for connection.

It does our heart good when we find new ways to extend love.
It does our heart good when we find new ways to receive love.

I dare you to experiment this week with fresh ways to share your love, and see if you can recognize less obvious demonstrations of love that are being extended to you.

Peace,
Paul

P.S. Have I told you lately that I love you? These weekly splashes are my way of saying, “I love that you join me for a minute each week; I love that you compound the love through quote submissions; I love that you extend the love by sharing Ripples with your colleagues and friends.” (((❤️)))… Read More!

Ripples #1132: Revealing The Human Spirit

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Ripples #1132: Revealing The Human Spirit
Feb 1, 2021

PEBBLE
Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
-E.E. Cummings, shared by Holly in Phoenix, AZ

BOULDER
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. THE WORLD WILL NOT HAVE IT! It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
-Martha Graham, shared by Pat in Portland, OR via JamesClear.com: https://jamesclear.com/quality-comparison (emphasis added by The Ripples Guy)

PONDER
I’ve wanted to share these quotes with you for some time, and yet I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say about them. As I sat down to assemble this week’s issue, I revisited these lovely words and it was questions that popped into my head instead of statements and sentences. So, here goes:

1. How much do you believe in your ability to pursue and achieve grand possibilities for yourself and others?

2. On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) what number would you assign to your level of belief in yourself in this very moment of your life?

2. Can you identify any recent accomplishments you’re proud of, ones that you might not have pulled off if your score had been a few points lower (for example if your self belief score was a 5 instead of a 7)?

3. Is it possible to imagine any opportunities you could more confidently pursue if your self-belief score was even a little higher (so maybe an 8 instead of 7)?

My invitation for you is to spend time this week acknowledging and appreciating specific ways you’ve recently revealed your human spirit, and to be curious about how the future could unfold more expansively if you mentally rehearsed thoughts, feelings, and actions that would come along with a slightly elevated self-belief score.

Are you in?

Peace,
Paul… Read More!

Ripples #1131: Making Masterpieces (minus perfection)

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Ripples #1131: Making Masterpieces (minus perfection)
Jan 25, 2021

PEBBLE
You are made for perfection, but you are not yet perfect. You are a masterpiece in the making.
-The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama
shared by Allexendra in San Diego, CA

BOULDER
Perfection comes out of molds or off assembly lines. It is not the natural state of things. And the great irony is that we value things made by hand more than we do things that come from machines, despite the fact that things from machines are more…perfect.
-Simon Sinek
shared by Sue in Plymouth, MI

PONDER
OH PHOOEY! This was the sentiment I expressed aloud when the first person reached out last week, catching a likely misattribution of last week’s Pebble in our annual tribute to Dr. King (I may have used a different word than PHOOEY.) A few others expressed similar concern, and our collective research revealed no evidence that he ever wrote or spoke the lines.

I strive to accurately and fairly credit the inspiration we share here, and I’ve been willing to put in a reasonable (though certainly not exhaustive) effort to verify quote sources. I’m generally satisfied with a “less than perfect” record of accuracy, but missing this one was disappointing, especially since I spent SO much time last week pouring over Dr. King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail to find a longer quote that wasn’t often used.

One of many important lessons I value in Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” and Ibram Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist“: erring and failing are essential components of learning and growing. Besides the fact that actual, literal perfection is unattainable, Striving for perfection requires concentrating on a far off (and possibly unattainable) endpoint. Focusing instead on daily progress is achievable today because it involves what is happening right here, right now.

So today I apologize to Dr. King, to all of you, and also to myself, grateful for an opportunity to grow. Not only did an error reveal a useful theme for this week’s Ripples, it led me to find a slightly more complete and more useful version of the quote submitted as today’s Boulder.

Whatever you’re working on today, may it become a masterpiece.

Peace,
Paul
P.S. After 20+ viewings in the last week, I’m *still* not done experiencing Amanda Gorman’s radiant performance of “The Hill We Climb.” Talk about a masterpiece!… Read More!

Ripples #1130: Scintillating Beauty

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Ripples #1130: Scintillating Beauty
Jan 18, 2021

PEBBLE
Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shared by Diana in Illinois

BOULDER
Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

PONDER
For over 30 years here in the U.S., the third Monday in January has been acknowledged as Martin Luther King Day. For over 20 years here in Ripples, we’ve celebrated Dr. King’s legacy by featuring his words and/or words inspired by him.

As we prepare for what I pray will be a peaceful transfer of power in this country, I’m hopeful that we can cultivate a fresh batch of collective courage and optimism. There is much work to do to replenish the reserves of mutual trust, respect and positive regard that have been depleted over the last few years; I think we have ample motivation and determination for such shenanigans. We just have to bring fresh amounts of persistence and patience and compassion and creativity.

For example: reasonable people can disagree on why it is taking longer than we hoped it would to disseminate the Covid vaccine, and yet most people and agree that this is an incredibly large, complex and in many ways unprecedented process that requires more resources and collaboration and persistence than we’ve (yet) been able to extend. I think the same is true about many other issues we’ve been grappling with: systemic inequalities in class, race, and gender; fundamental reforms to our immigration and criminal justice systems; education and policy around climate change; and of course the list could go on and on.

These are not simple issues, and there are unfortunately no simple solutions. Still, there are measurable, manageable, useful steps we can take, both individually and collectively: repairing relationships, seeking common ground, and searching together for new paths forward. We can do better than we have been doing, we need to do better than we’ve been doing, and I think enough of us are ready to do better than we’ve been doing.

Both conservatives and progressives reached out last week with feedback about last week’s Ripples about Rising Above (https://mailchi.mp/unleashripples/r1129). My responses shared a common theme: “We need your help in making things better,” I wrote to them, “and it involves all of us venturing further out of our comfort zone than we’ve previously traveled.” (https://www.facebook.com/ripplesguy/posts/10164735389625010)… Read More!

Ripples #1129: Rising Above, Choosing Love

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Ripples #1129: Rising Above, Choosing Love
Jan 11, 2021

PEBBLE
See the world as it is. Know you have the Grit and Grace to choose a path of Love.
-Fia Skye, written and shared by Fia of Flying Edna

BOULDER
Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and oppressors free.
-Shane Claiborne, shared by Pidge in Pacifica, CA

PONDER
So I didn’t think things could get any weirder and harder. And then, uhm….they did.

I’m bummed that we haven’t (yet) figured out how to mediate the polarization that is making it harder to grapple with the other significant challenges we’re facing (you know, little stuff like pandemics, racial reconciliation, poverty, climate change, etc.). Emotions have been running extremely high at the very same time that our collective reserves of patience and compassion are running extremely low. That’s a recipe for Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Poopiness (apologies to The Music Man).

I’ve been struggling to figure out what I wanted to say about the latest messiness. It’s hard because our community of 30,000 Ripplers includes people who hang out at just about every spot on political spectrum. I love that, and I love you! I’m honored and humbled that this incredibly diverse group comes together briefly every week to help lift each other up. I think Ripples works because you all chip in to help me find great content, and also because we primarily focus on the stuff we agree on (you know, little stuff like compassion, kindness, joy, wellbeing, etc.).

On the other hand, I’ve worked hard for 20 years to make sure Ripples isn’t an overly fluffy “let’s just all be happy” kind of thing. I’m fairly sure the reason I’m on this planet right now is to help us all seek the right balance between comfort and challenge, and this includes accepting (embracing?) the discomfort that is required for growth.

I’m determined to rise above the distractions and the defensiveness and seek the elusive field beyond right and wrong that Sufi poet Rumi describes. I want to find it and I want you there with me, too. That’s where we can listen, talk, affirm, challenge, learn…GROW. And I believe this is all possible each time we choose a path of love instead of another path (you know, little stuff like hate, fear, despair, indifference, etc.)

My goal for today is to rise above, and choose love. Who’s with me?

Peace,
Paul… Read More!

Ripples #1128: Where to Begin?

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Ripples #1128: Where to Begin?
Jan 4, 2021

PEBBLE
Begin anywhere.
-John Cage, shared by Chris in Denver, CO

BOULDER
Do not wait; the time will never be “just right.” Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.
-Napoleon Hill, shared by Shelley in Horicon, WI

PONDER
Here we are, at the start of a new year. What shall we make of it?

Even people who aren’t into the whole “new year’s resolutions” stuff still experience some excitement (or at least intrigue?) when we imagine the opportunities and possibilities that come along with a clean slate.

Of course, we sometimes get carried away with our daydreams and too easily overcommit and then underperform, burning through our zeal before we even make it to the end of January.

I believe 2021 is an ideal year to experiment with managing our expectations, and creating just a modest goal or two. Perhaps something that we’d like to do a LITTLE more of or learn just a bit about. That makes it much easier to begin right where we are, following Hill’s advice to utilize the resources we already have as opposed to rushing out and buying new systems or stuff to help us “do it right.”

A few solid baby steps forward in January will get us started on our journey. Perhaps in February we can figure out what else can help us to continue onward and upward. Are you in?

Peace,
Paul… Read More!

Ripples #1127: Next Year’s Words

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Ripples #1127: Next Year’s Words
Dec 28, 2020

PEBBLE
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.
-T.S. Eliot, shared by Karen in Newton, MA

BOULDER
May we accept and appreciate the time we have, abandon fear and its affiliates, choose to be kind, to love & be together, pay attention, not take any one/thing for granted.
-Annie Weisbrod
shared by Craig in Cincinnati, OH (who shared this snippet from his colleagues annual new year letter…he also raved about how helpful and fabulous she is: “Every workplace needs an Annie!”)

PONDER
We have finally made our way to the last week of 2020.

As we reach the end of a most exasperating year, I think this is an excellent time to notice: we lived through it. We made it all the way to today, and there are reasons for genuine hope that 2021 will be a transition from this tumultuous, uncertain chapter in our lives to something less heavy and maybe, just maybe, a little more fun.

Many substantive difficulties remain, of course. The road ahead remains steep. Still, I think we’ve earned the right to celebrate reaching the end of a really strange and really difficult year. More importantly, it is time to scour the recesses of our soul for any remaining scraps of optimism and determination as we dare to ask ourselves and the universe the same question President Bartlet used to ask on The West Wing when it was time to move on: “What’s next?”

Peace,
Paul
P.S. A big THANK YOU to another handful of Patreon Peeps who signed up as Founding Members! Y’all are fabulous, and besides leveraging your support to unleash several new initiatives in the coming months, I’ll be sending everyone who signs up in 2020 an extra trickle of inspiration throughout 2021. https://www.patreon.com/RipplesGuy… Read More!

Ripples #1126: Accessing Peace

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Ripples #1126: Accessing Peace
Dec 21, 2020

PEBBLE
We will have so much peace in our life if we stop trying to control what is not ours to control.
Fr. Joseph Krupp (found in a Facebook video)

BOULDER
The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.
-Thich Nhat Hanh, shared by Keith in Lompoc, CA

PONDER
Today’s pebble presented itself when I randomly stumbled upon a Facebook video of a priest responding to a concern about bawling babies at mass. His response was both light-hearted and also deeply profound: “When we have a little squeaker at mass and they are making a lot of noise, I assume the parents are doing the best they can and I assume I don’t know what I don’t know.” This seems like a gentle yet constructive way of remembering that what we observe in someone else’s behavior is such a tiny tip of the iceberg of what is going on in another human being’s life.

He then invites a shift in our experience of a crying baby, a pivot from annoyance to recognizing the blessing of new life. He even suggests we could use the situation to improve our concentration: “If you need perfect quiet to focus, you will never be able to focus.”

Peace remains elusive when imagined as a state of mind that we can achieve only when certain external conditions are just right. Peace is more accessible and more available by turning inward and remembering it is always there, patiently waiting for us to visit. So, the next time you’re feeling particularly unpeaceful, can you pause to take a few deep breaths (Here, Now!) and see if a peaceful feeling reveals itself.

Cultivating a culture of peace isn’t as simple as a deep breath, but here’s the deal: the more we access our inner peace, the more readily we can encourage peace in our relationships and throughout the world.

Peace,
Paul
P.S. Another shoutout to my Patreon Peeps, a group of several dozen Ripplers pitching in to keep Ripples free and ad-free for all. Everyone who join us in 2020 will be considered a “founding member” and will be helping us launch several new initiatives. They’ll also receive a stream of bonus treats throughout 2021, so if you’ve been thinking of joining us, you’ve got 10 days left to make a splash:… Read More!

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