Friday, December 25, 2020

Wisdom, notes and quotes of 2020

Just a sampling of some beautiful, thought-provoking quotes and notes, and gems of wisdom I gathered this year. Hope they inspire you.

Happy New Year! 


 “My father too shows me how it feels to be exquisitely seen.”

“She was used to seeing the world a place of deficit, and therefore Joy was foreign to her.”

“A gift wrapped in a criticism.”

“We may want others’ forgiveness, But that comes from a place of self-gratification. We are asking forgiveness of others to avoid the harder work of forgiving ourselves.”

~ Lori Gottlieb, “Maybe you should talk to someone”


"I like having things to do but I hate having to do things. Having things to do is an option. Having to do things is a demand." 

~ Mrs. Mazel (from Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)


“Tears are often the telescope by which men see far into heaven”

~ Henry Ward Beecher


“Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world.”

“Emotion itself is not and happiness. Only emotion combined with the story is.”

“My secret is I don’t mind what happens.”

“To be in alignment with what is, is to be in a relationship of nonresistance with what happens.”

“Only if you resist what happens are you at the mercy of what happens and the world will determine your happiness or unhappiness.”

“Three modalities of consciousness (or awakened doing) are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm. Make sure that one of them operates when you’re doing anything at all, from the most simple task to the most complex.”

~ Eckhart Tolle


“Just as a truly courageous person is someone who knows fear but acts bravely in spite of it, a truly forgiving person is someone who experiences all the anger merited by injustice and still acts with fairness and compassion."

~ Martha Beck


“9 attitudes to cultivate” by Jon Kabat Zinn.

- Non-judging

- Acceptance

- Patience

- Beginner’s mind

- Trust

- Non Striving

- Letting Go

- Gratitude

- Generosity

PS - Mindfulness = heartfulness


“There is blindness that comes with self-furthering agendas. That leaves us thinking we know, but actually we don’t know as much as we think”

“Surrender - willingness to participate in life’s dance with a quiet mind and open heart.”

“Adding nothing, subtracting nothing. Affirming that this is it”

“The power of mindful selfless generosity - at the deepest level there’s no giver, no gift, or the recipient. Only the universe rearranging itself.”

~ Jon Kabat Zinn, “Wherever you go, there you are.”


“The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.”

 ~ Tacitus


“The danger is that if we invest too much in developing AI and too little in developing human consciousness, the very sophisticated artificial intelligence of computers might only serve to empower the natural stupidity of humans.”

~ Yuval Noah Harari, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”


“We don’t have to intend to exclude for the results of our actions to be exclusion.”

“The way we’ve come to define racism makes it impossible for white people to understand it.”

“According to the ideology of individualism race is irrelevant.”

“A romanticized past is a strictly white construct.”

“2016 study found that half the medical students in the study believed that blacks felt less pain.” (Study: Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites.)

”White equilibrium is a cocoon of racial comfort. Centrality, superiority, entitlement, racial apathy, obliviousness all rooted in the identity of being good people free of racism. Challenging this cocoon throws off our racial balance.”

“White fragility is the sociology of dominance”

“It would be revolutionary if we (white people) could receive and reflect on the feedback.”

“White fragility punishes the people who give feedback and presses them back in the silence”

~ Robin Diangelo, “White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”


 “To help other people we have to focus on them and not on our vision of how things should be.”

~ Richard Boyatzis, Melvin L. Smith and Ellen Van Oosten, “Helping people change.”


The concept of Hedonic Treadmill or Hedonic Adaptation.

Hedonic Adaptation means you get used to the good things in life and you adapt to them and they no longer bring you as much pleasure as they used to. We take things for granted.

“The sad fact about human experience is that the more we have something the less we appreciate it.”

~ Hidden Brain, You 2.0


 “There’s a big difference between compassion and pity. Pity is a certain kind of othering. […] If you are really sorry for this person’s loss, maybe you don’t need to say anything. Maybe it’s your being that does all the talking. Maybe it’s the silent presence that does all the talking.”

“Healing is not fixing. It’s not going back to the way things were before the thing happened. Healing is the coming to terms with the actually of things as they are.”

~ Jon Kabat Zinn WISDOM 2.0


The concept of Fundamental Attribution Error

The fundamental attribution error (also known as correspondence bias or over-attribution effect) is the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing situational explanations.

In other words, people have a cognitive bias to assume that a person's actions depend on what "kind" of person that person is rather than on the social and environmental forces that influence the person.”

~ Simply Psychology


“This is what it means to be human. We’re all just canvases for our scars.”

“There’s so much art in the ordinary it could leave you in tears.”

~ Jodi Picault, “A spark of light.”


“Each of us is in a container of some kind. The label signals to the world what is presumed to be inside and what is to be done with it. The label tells you which shelf your container supposedly belongs on. In a caste system, the label is frequently out of sync with the contents, mistakenly put on the wrong shelf and this hurt people and institutions in ways we may not always know.”

“The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly. And the least that a person in the dominant caste can do is not make the pain any worse.”

“Slavery was not merely an unfortunate thing that happened to black people. It was an American innovation, an American institution created by and for the benefit of the elites of the dominant caste and enforced by poorer members of the dominant caste who tied their lot to the caste system rather than to their consciences.”

“We are responsible for our own ignorance or, with time and openhearted enlightenment, our own wisdom.”

~ Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”


“The terrifying power of caring deeply and being cared for deeply.”

“There was a net of love to break her fall.” 

“Never underestimate the big importance of small things.”

“Every life contains many millions of decisions. Some big, some small. But every time any decision is taken over by another the outcomes differ. An irreversible variation occurs which in turn leads to further variations.”

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

“What sometimes feels like a trap it’s just a trick of the mind.”

“A beautiful messy struggle.”

“The impossible, I suppose, happens via living”

“You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.”

~ Matt Haig, “The Midnight Library”


“There’s really nothing more to say except the Why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.”

“Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover’s inward eye.”

“Lonely was much better than alone.”

“Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging.”

~ Toni Morrison, “The Bluest Eye”


“How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.”

“Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.”

“There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.”

“To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.”

“You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.”

Matt Haig, “Reasons to Stay Alive


“Enthusiasm makes up for a host of deficiencies.”

“Perhaps most troubling of all, our democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of crisis—a crisis rooted in a fundamental contest between two opposing visions of what America is and what it should be; a crisis that has left the body politic divided, angry, and mistrustful, and has allowed for an ongoing breach of institutional norms, procedural safeguards, and the adherence to basic facts that both Republicans and Democrats once took for granted.”

“To be known. To be heard. To have one’s unique identity recognized and seen as worthy. It was a universal human desire, I thought, as true for nations and peoples as it was for individuals.”

― Barack Obama, A Promised Land


The concept called “Unconditional Positive Regard”

“Unconditional positive regard is a term used by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers to describe a technique used in his non-directive, client-centered therapy. According to Rogers, unconditional positive regard involves showing complete support and acceptance of a person no matter what that person says or does. The therapist accepts and supports the client, no matter what they say or do, placing no conditions on this acceptance. That means the therapist supports the client, whether they are expressing "good" behaviors and emotions or "bad" ones.”

~ Verywell Mind

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Hard things are hard: 4 years later, 3 days before the 2020 election


Photo by Pete Souza (@petesouza), Former Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama

On November 6, 2016, I wrote a blog called “About my America” That day, like millions of others, I felt anxious about what that, 2016 presidential election will mean for our country.  In that blog post on November 6, 2016, I worriedly asked:  “Will America be alright? Will the world be alright? Will there still be freedom of speech? Or will I have to tell my child that for "everyone's safety," it's best to keep our views private? Will I have to hide that I am an immigrant, a refugee, a woman, a person of Jewish descent, or that I have an accent? Or that I am an American citizen? Or anything else that makes me who I am?” and several others…Many at the time said that I was being hysterical and was overreacting.

Four years later, three days before the 2020 presidential election I once again find myself pondering, with heaviness my soul, what awaits us.  

There is so much to say and yet, like over the past four years, I am so often at a loss for words. Does living through a pandemic completely rob you of the ability to coherently express yourself? Possibly. For example, how does one comprehend the deaths of 1,190,661 in the course of several months (as of today) many of whom died alone and not go completely mad? I just don’t know.  It is simply impossible put into words.

Michelle Obama said a few months ago that she developed a “low grade depression”. According to Harvard doctors the symptoms of low level depression (a.k.a. dysthymia) are:

  •        feelings of hopelessness
  •        overeating or loss of appetite
  •        insomnia or sleeping too much
  •        tiredness or lack of energy
  •        trouble concentrating or making decisions

Is this what we are collectively and individually experiencing? Possibly.

But it is not just the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic in the context of US, the world’s political climate and actual physical climate, in fact, feels more like a gut punch which renders you completely breathless…and near lifeless but still alive to experience the full range of emotion and pain.   

But there is more. Something has changed within me over the past four years. The sheer volume and variety of painful, excruciating, heartbreaking and outrageous circumstances definitely do something to the psyche. How to describe this change? I am not sure. I know for sure I have not lost my ability to feel. Otherwise, I would not be this anxious today. But something changed. I see the signs:

I am experiencing a constant buzz of anxiety running through my veins
~ I cry more easily and I laugh more freely
~ I'd like to think that I love more deeply 
~ I care much less if at all about the judgements of others
~ I became an expert in doom scrolling
~ My tolerance for the regular every day, pedestrian bullshit has diminished significantly (those who are closest to me may say that it has become non-existent)
~ I think of my grandparents and my mom even more often than ever. And since I can't ask them directly anymore, I mentally ask them “Are you worried about me? Do I still live up to your expectations of me? Are you still proud of me? How did you survive all the things you had to live through?”  
~ I have seemingly lost all ability to pretend (especially to pretend that everything is fine)
~ I have gotten older…

President Barak Obama had a plaque on his desk at the White House and it read “Hard things are hard.” According to Pete Souza, Obama’s photographer, this plaque was given to President Obama during the fight to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010.  I have been thinking about it a lot.  My best guess is that the biggest thing that change is just this: I have developed this hardened vigilance and an irreversible realization that life does what it does regardless of our wishes. And that reality is inescapable and, in fact, is meant to be lived no matter what is the set of circumstances are set before us. And that hard things are hard, and the only path forward is through.

I heard someone say that this kind of pre-election anxiety, the kind I am experience along with many others, is akin to waiting for biopsy results. Does our country have an incurable cancer? Will we need chemo therapy? Will we simply go to hospice to die? Or is it a small nodule that can be easily removed and with some homeopathic therapies we will be back on our feet? I just don’t know.

So what’s my point with this rare and, arguably, not the most eloquent blog post? Do I have words of wisdom, inspiration, encouragement? I am afraid I do not.

I just wanted to say if you are anxious, I am with you.

Even if we are anxious for completely diagonally opposite reasons, I am still with you.

My spirit honors your spirit even if my world and political views do not match yours.  

What I now know for sure is that hard things are hard. And there is no way around, just through. And so,  no matter what happens this election or any other day, we must persevere. 

We still have a life to live, families to raise, a country to cherish, art to create, a planet to save from a climate catastrophe and so much more.

May America choose wisely this November 3rd and may the best in us prevail. Amen.