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Sometime early last year it hit me. Duh! That’s what the term “gentleman” really means (or ought to, anyway)! No, no, not the idea that finally, the savage, brawny creature becomes cultured and cultivated, reigning in his natural instinct for rough-and-tumble and emerging the gentleman. And no, neither do I mean that the gentleman is someone who “is in touch with his feminine side.” Rather, I actually mean that gentleness is at the very core of every man. It is the true nature and true power of the masculine essence! (**Please see P.S. for a note on gender.)

I came to understand this not intellectually, but experientially, inspired by the profound influence of a singularly special man in my life. My phrase (and poem below) for the experience is Like Water to Earth — Water, the most powerful sculpting agent of Earth, all the while doing it with a softening, molding, cleansing, nourishing and life-giving power. Once I saw this, though, it somehow extended to become my all-encompassing view and understanding of all the wonderful men I have (had) in my life — as friends, partners, (partners of friends), brother- or father- or grandfather-figures, and in recent years, also several “son-figures.” (It seems that I am surrounded by and inevitably close to mothers with boys!) And also through the many incredible men who have contributed to the heArt work in publishing Courageous Creativity for over 4 years now — men who transform the world every single day with the extraordinary power of gentleness. (I can’t help giving a special shout out to Nipun Mehta!) Writing this post quickly in the heels of Father’s Day, I have to mention noticing (through social media) that many women appear to be experiencing and acknowledging this quality in the fathers of their children regardless of whether it “worked out” between them or not, (or are/were fortunate to experience it in their own fathers, like I too am now). One particularly beautiful phrase that stuck with me was about the power of fathering with “gentle strength and tender affection.” (more…)

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In our social consciousness, we have grown to place a premium on empathy, and often mention it in the same breath as compassion or loving kindness. I’ve long been reflecting on the differences, and in this last year I’ve been profoundly experiencing the subtleties through my body and energy states.

Empathy is the ability to feel and share another’s feelings. This is considered a very good thing because we want human connection and understanding to grow, since these in turn promote humanitarian and peaceful relations among otherwise different peoples and groups. We think that if I can feel what you feel, if I can identify with you, I can have a sense of our “sameness” and our differences will cease to matter.

Loving kindness (metta or maitri) is independent of the particulars of the external situation. At our highest and best, loving kindness is our innate state of being, rather than an identification with another’s feeling state. It is the warmth and light we feel in the presence of an enlightened being, who is simply emanating her Love without becoming entangled or mired in our day-to-day troubles (while lending a loving listening ear whenever necessary). Like the sun giving us warmth and light and Vitamin D by virtue of its very existence, like a tree giving us shade, fruit or oxygen by virtue of its very existence, loving kindness is the “sunshine” and “oxygen” given off naturally by an enlightened being, by virtue of her very presence and existence.

What is so significant about the difference between the two? Well, for starters, empathy is an avenue of showing caring that is predicated on identification — that sense of “sameness” I mentioned before. Loving kindness, on the other hand, is independent and free of whether I can resonate with you (in a particular situation you are facing) or not. (more…)

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Buddhist monks are known to create beautiful, elaborate sand mandalas and then wipe them clean. A clean slate, a blank canvas, an empty space for new creation to become possible again and again. Over the last year I have come to realize that perhaps the most loving gift someone can give you is his keen, inquiring, interested, attentive presence, but with utter, unwavering neutrality. Like providing a completely clear mirror in which to look at your true self. Like that clean slate, the blank canvas, the empty space, so you may create yourself anew. (more…)

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I’ve written extensively on the nature of true Love before, both on this blog and in my book Thrive! Falling in Love with Life. Still, continuously practicing Love inspires and compels me to write more about it time and again. And each time I reflect brings forth a more evolved and nuanced understanding.

1. TRUE LOVE IS AN INNER WAY OF BEING

True Love is a way of being and therefore, acting in the world, not merely a bunch of good feelings, though these feelings are a natural corollary to Love. Love is first an innate quality of oneself, independent of a relationship or situation or another person. Because it originates and emanates from within oneself, how much Love there is only depends on how much one’s heart is open and willing to give and receive. As Marianne Williamson, author of Return to Love recently said in an interview, “The only thing lacking in any situation is what you are not giving it,” and I would add, “receiving from it.” And as Benjamin Zander, author of The Art of Possibility said in a TED Talk, “Who am I being that (your) eyes are not shining?” (more…)

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I am writing after a rather long hiatus, and this is because I am hard at work on my second book, Thrive! A Love Story with Life. In it, in the chapter Compassion, is an essay titled Love is not Fear. What about love’s close partner ‘respect’? Can respect exist where there is fear?

At this time last week, I was deeply immersed in the most transcendental event I experience annually – or shall I say pilgrimage – the Sur-Laya-Chhandotsav Shibir, a summit with Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj (Bade Guruji to me), and several of his senior disciples, including my Guruji Pandita Tripti Mukherjee. Over five incredible days, Bade Guruji and the other Acharya Gurus impart divine Indian classical music to approximately 150 students of the Pandit Jasraj Institute of Music, in an ashram tucked away in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania. Having a living legend and maestro like Pandit Jasraj, a national treasure of India teaching us, is in itself an unbelievable experience. (more…)

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Love. The theme all around us this past month, popularized by Hallmark via Valentine’s Day. The subject of most books, plays and films from time immemorial. Yet, love continues to intrigue us, confuse us, elude us, and overpower us … and by thus being relegated to the domain of emotional life, it remains the most unharnessed power of human existence!

Since I was a little girl, I have loved openly and frequently, fiercely and fearlessly. The vulnerability of love was terrifying, and yet somehow, I knew innately that an open heart would keep me open to self-discovery and evolution. But it wasn’t until I encountered a love that stripped me of any and all remaining masks and left my soul bared in the mirror, that I stumbled into the depths of the meaning and power of love. (more…)

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The October issue of Courageous Creativity features stories from contributors who have cultivated the important ability to find alternative ways of looking at life events or situations, which is fundamental to creative, transformative thinking and action. They are … a Phd student of science education, a bread-winning mother, an artist-activist currently living with a disability, a social worker who translates the troubles she witnesses into poetry, a budding social entrepreneur, a Colorado artist and photographer, and a language enthusiast who reaches a million people around the world every day. Read and send your responses to info@flyingchickadee.com!

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