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Optimism

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 #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 #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 #1123: Free Your Focus

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Ripples #1123: Free Your Focus
Nov 30, 2020

PEBBLE
Don’t water your weeds.
-Harvey Mackay, shared by Carol in Bloomington, IN

BOULDER
What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.
-Robin Sharma, shared by Ted in Lancaster, PA

PONDER
As we get closer to wrapping up the year, my partner Jamie and I recently sat down to write our holiday letter. Our first thought was, “What are we gonna write about? We’ve basically been stuck at home for most of 2020!” It didn’t take long, however, until we were thinking about some fun adventures we had before Covid inserted itself into our lives. And then we remembered quite a few good times we had despite all the limitations and restrictions.

We also realized that even though the year is almost over, there is still time to focus our time and energy so that the year can include a few more bright spots. My pal Toby reminded me in his weekly tobynotes email that there is still 8% of the year left, and there are plenty of possibilities to be explored!

If we focus primarily on our weeds, we might inadvertently set ourselves up for more weeds in 2021. So this week, I’m asking myself:
What thoughts and actions are keeping me in the weeds?
How can I pivot away from them and move towards more productive thoughts and actions?
To end the year strong, are there areas that need my attention more than others? Rest? Reflection? Chores? Planning?

I invite you to join me in pondering, planning, and pivoting.

Peace,
Paul
P.S. We’ve already sent out all the Bundles of Hope we assembled last week. I’m open to creating a few more if you or someone in your life needs Hope for the Holidays: https://bit.ly/HopeBundle-Doc… Read More!

Ripples #1,004: Rekindling Hope!

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Ripples #1,004: Rekindling Hope!
Aug 20, 2018

PEBBLE
Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons do not last. The spring rains will come.
—Sarah Ban Breathnach
shared by Pete in Colorado via Values.com
https://www.passiton.com/inspirational-quotes/7015-expect-to-have-hope-rekindled-expect-your?

BOULDER
It’s better to be a hopeful person than a cynical, grumpy one, because you have to live in the same world either way, and if you’re hopeful, you have more fun.
-Barbara Kingsolver, shared by Deb in Madison, WI

PONDER
I agree with the above quote that says it is generally better to be hopeful than cynical. At the same time, I also know that hope can be harder to maintain. Even us optimistic folks can find ourselves in a pessimistic downward spiral because the more you look for reasons to roll your eyes and sigh, the more reasons you’ll find to do just that.

With a little bit of practice, though, hope is equally addictive. Once we decide to look for signs that things are going to get better, they start popping up all around. These little hopesparks make it easier to spot the more sustainable reasons for steady optimism. Even when my way forward is still steep, I notice that the more I climb, the better the view, and once you get above the fog and clouds, it is so much easier to find the sunshine.

If you’re struggling right now, I encourage you to keep your eyes and ears open for tiny hopeful signs. If you’re doing okay, keep your eyes open for a fellow traveler who is struggling and go a little out of your way to BE the hopespark for someone else. A smile, a nod, a generous gesture…any of these could make all the difference to someone who is at the end of their rope.

Peace,
Paul
The Ripples Guy… Read More!

Ripples #942: Purifying Light!

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Ripples #942: Purifying Light!
June 12, 2017

PEBBLE
The difficulties you meet will resolve themselves as you advance. Proceed, and light will dawn and shine with increasing clearness on your path.
-Jean le Rond D’Alembert, shared by an anonymous rippler

BOULDER
A true mind can weather all the lies and illusions without being lost, a pure heart can touch the poison of hatred and never be harmed; since beginningless time darkness has thrived in the void, but always yields to purifying light.
-Lion turtle (from Avatar: The Last Airbender, episode 59, by Aaron Ehasz)
shared by Cody in San Francisco, CA

PONDER

We all experience darkness in our lives; times when we feel lost, scared…unable to see what is going on or where we’re headed. Darkness then allows fear and frustration to fester, causing our outlook and our emotions to spiral downward even further.

The useful thing about light is that even a tiny bit of it immediately cuts through darkness, paving the way for more light. Dim rays of hopeful feelings and optimistic thoughts peer through, generating more light which in turn allows us to grow even more confident and more determined to move forward toward other sources of light.

If you’ve been struggling lately, keep your eyes peeled for sources of light, remembering that small flickers of hope come in all shapes and sizes: something as small as spotting your favorite color, encountering a fragrant whiff of fresh baked goods, or hearing one of your favorite songs pop up on the radio can lift your spirits and help more than you realize.

If things are going pretty well right now, spend some extra time and energy keeping your eyes peeled for someone else who is struggling. You can be the PURIFYING LIGHT for someone else by extending your patience, your compassion, and maybe even a warm smile to let someone know that you recognize their humanity. It will light up your day as well.

Peace,

Paul
The Ripples Guy… Read More!

Ripples #909: Storm Dancing!

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Ripples #909: Storm Dancing.
Oct 24, 2016

PEBBLE
Joy is a decision, a really brave one,
about how you are going to respond to life.
-Wess Stafford, shared via Values.com

BOULDER
You can dance in the storm.
Don’t wait for the rain to be over because it might take too long. You can do it now. Wherever you are, you can start, right now; this very moment.
-Israelmore Ayivor, shared by Jeff at UC-Davis

PONDER

The external climate isn’t up to me, but my internal climate is.

We’re all seduced at times by the myth that happiness comes from having things go our way. Especially on the tough days, it can be tempting to believe that good moods shine along with the sunshine, and bad moods are caused by bad weather. On our best days we know that it’s probably more accurate to say that storm fronts make it easier for sadness and frustration to rain down while our sunshiny emotions retreat behind the clouds.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from having a dog in my life for a decade was that *every* day can be a good day for a walk. While some days were more pleasant than others of course, there were plenty of rainy and snowy days that still provided fresh air and a chance to stretch my legs.

Choosing the weather isn’t up to me, but how to dress for it *is* up to me; and we can always stash a flashy, funky umbrella in the glove compartment to help keep us a little bit drier and a little bit happier on an otherwise gloomy day.

Peace,
Paul
The Ripples Guy… Read More!

Ripples #873: Reducing Worry.

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Ripples #873: Reducing Worry.
Feb 15, 2016

PEBBLE
It is the trouble that never comes
that causes the loss of sleep.
-Chas. Austin Bates, shared by Matt in Appleton, WI

BOULDER
Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.
-Arthur Somers Roche, shared by Donna in Naperville, IL

PONDER
Worrying is one of those things we all do a bit of, and its origins are quite noble: worry allows us to anticipate potential problems and to identify feasible solutions. If left unchecked, however, it can gradually and inadvertently shift from being a useful planning strategy and head towards becoming a significant drain on energy and creativity.

If you find yourself worrying more than a useful amount, try pausing for a moment to THANK yourself for having both a *concern* about an obstacle and also the *desire* to succeed. Quickly review the situation and see if there are reasonable actions you could take to prevent or resolve issues and make a plan to implement them. If you find yourself in an incessant loop of fear and caution, make it an opportunity to create a new habit of interrupting downward spirals with complementary thoughts: shift “Oh what if this awful thing happens,” into something like “Ooh, what if things turn out just fine….or even better than fine?”

Remember, it isn’t about eliminating worry completely. It’s about adjusting the volume and frequency so you can enjoy the benefits while minimizing your discomfort.

Peace,
Paul
The Ripples Guy… Read More!

Ripples #871: Wholehearted Presence!

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Ripples #871: Wholehearted Presence!
Feb 1, 2016

PEBBLE
The best chance to be whole is to love whatever gets in the way, until it ceases to be an obstacle.
-Mark Nepo, shared by Pat in Cincinnati, OH

BOULDER
This is the true meaning of embodiment: To show up with wholehearted presence for this moving encounter with life. Instead of clambering towards ever-furthering horizons or withdrawing into distractions and addictions, showing up for those absences in our lives. Welcoming our fears and discomforts as necessary conditions to creativity. Loving the gestation as much as the harvest, even while remembering the barren season that must follow. Aspiring, in all things, to be human.
-Toko-Pa Turner, shared by Leslie in Madison, WI

PONDER

Life is easier when life is good. It is easy to show up for the good days, to love all the great things about our life. It’s a bit tougher to show up for the blechy days and to love all the challenging things about our life as much as we love the delightful things. It’s tougher, but it’s important to do for several reasons:

1. Avoiding problems or resisting challenges often extends their lifespan, and can even allow a smaller concern to fester and eventually require even more resources to address. A little time and energy and love early on will allow you to spend more minutes on the good stuff.

2. Reserving joy for just the good times reduces the amount of joy you get to experience. If you view your life as five work days of GRRRRR and two weekend days of AHHHHHH, well that just seems like a quarter life and not a full life <pauses to punch 2/7 into calculator… 28.5714%> I know life is better without a headache, but it is possible to experience joy even when you have a migraine.

3. We happen to learn lots more from failure than success, and we can improve so much more efficiently if we recognize the potential for growth spurts during and immediately after difficulty. The fitness folks always remind me that while the weights shouldn’t be too heavy or you risk injury, it’s essential that they not be too light or you won’t strengthen your muscles at all.

If you’ve got some tough stuff that seems to be getting in the way of your otherwise joyful journey, I invite you to take a break from trying to ignore it, move it or defeat it and see if, just for a little bit, you can try to see it, receive it, and love it.

Peace,

Paul
The Ripples Guy
P.S. For the record, it is possible to love something without liking it. For reals.… Read More!

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