I watch the rising sun every morning while on my long commute to work. There is something amazing about walking out the door while the moon is shining, then watching as the sun slowly makes its way across the horizon. First I notice how many stars there are in the sky, how bright and how full the moon is. Living in tropical southern Minnesota, I have a wonderful view of the sky and it is dark enough that I can see many of the stars. It reminds me that I'm not alone. It reminds me that we are connected to the rest of the universe. I love feeling connected. No matter how dark it is when I leave the house, I know the sun will rise. On cloudy days I may not see the direct sunrise, but I see the effects as the sky gets brighter and the day fills with hope and possibility.
It is a daily reminder that when things are dark, this is part of the cycle. I am not going to remain in the night forever, the sun will come and warm things up, bring me new light and a new day.
We are bombarded with media that warns of the doom and gloom of night and evil. For the last year, the political ads have focused on the negatives, what will happen if this candidate is not elected. Fear is on the rise. I see panic and anxiety in many of my students and friends. The ones who voted on the winning side feel a sense of relief, but disgust and lack of empathy for the ones on the losing side. The ones on the losing side feel despair and fear. They have been told that this will bring danger, and now the danger is upon them. This has just continued the hatred and polarization that is destroying our sense of connection.
Whether or not you like the political candidates is not the issue. The issue is how are we going to live with the choice that our country has made? Choose to look for the connection, the brilliance in this decision. It's not US and THEM anymore, it's only US.
No matter how dark things look now, the sun is coming. Focus on the brilliance of the moon, the reflection of light that is to come. The moon is there to remind us that the sun is coming. The stars remind us of our connection with every other living thing. Why else would we look for ways to connect the stars and create pictures in the sky?
Reach out. Look for ways to connect. Look for ways to be brilliant. You may think you are not important, not significant, but together with other brilliant people, you will shine and see the sun return. It starts with the little things.
Forgiveness. I am not asking you to forget. I am not asking you to allow people to continually violate your boundaries. I am just asking you to forgive. Don't hold hatred in your heart anymore. It will destroy you and everything you believe in over time. Hatred is too passionate to be ignored. Forgive your enemies. One of the most powerful things you can do. They can no longer hurt you once you have forgiven them.
Empathy. Pay attention to what they are feeling, what they are going through. Listen to their point of view. Let them know you hear them and that you care. You don't have to agree with someone to listen to them. You don't have to change their way of thinking. Just listen. Everyone wants to be heard.
Transparency. Life your life in a way that inspires others. If you are true to yourself, say what you mean, communicate honestly and with intention, if you know yourself well enough to know the values that you live by and make decisions by, you will inspire others. This is so important in our world today. There are few secrets anymore. Everywhere you go, there are cameras that capture your every move. Pictures of you are easily found on the internet. You can be tracked through your financial records. Everything you put on Facebook is captured on a server. When something goes wrong, it is twittered within seconds. Live a life that is true to what you believe. When you make a mistake, go back to step one and forgive yourself. Admit your mistakes. Make things right. The best lampshade is one that is transparent enough to let the light through.
Connection. Remember that we are all connected. What hurts one person hurts us all. Why do we hang on to the idea that some people are entitled to more than others? Why do we sit in fear with our riches, terrified that someone will take them away? Look at the people around you. Look at the people in the world. Remember that we are all connected. If you close your eyes to the violence next door, it will spread. Find ways to help. Start small. Someone you know personally may need help with something small, offer help. You may see someone hungry, share your sandwich. As you start to reach out, it can become a habit. You will find that sharing the brilliance within you will become something you want to do on a regular basis. It will become a way of life.
Look for the treasure in everyone you meet. This is hard, I know. It can be very hard. I had a student years ago and people told me, "Oh, he's in your class? Try to get him to drop out. He's trouble." I reacted by feeling angry. How dare they judge my student? I got to class and he was very disruptive. Loud, angry, hard to handle in every way. I invited him to my office after class and we talked. Instead of confronting his behavior, I asked him about himself, his life. I looked for that treasure. It took a while, but eventually I discovered the rough background that he had grown up with. He was a survivor and an amazing one at that. The rough exterior was to protect a hurt child within. We became close friends, still are. He became one of the best students I ever had in that class. He works in a very rough environment now and is very good at what he does. I am amazed at how well he can use the pain and terror that he came from and be empathetic with others while maintaining those necessary iron boundaries. It wasn't that he changed, it was that I changed when I saw the world from his point of view.
Everyone has a different perspective, and the more of those perspectives you can see, the better your vision will be. The more brilliant your light will be.
Alli Vainshtein is a business, accounting, and career instructor at Riverland Community College in Tropical Southern Minnesota. She loves to write (stories, lectures, blogs, letters, emails, etc.), paint, play piano, meditate, travel, cook, make new friends, and live like a Goddess. She is also a great fan of Jamie Ridler - Circe's Circle changed her life dramatically!