March 2018

True Bliss

Dear Friends:

Timing is everything. I’m grateful I waited to write my March newsletter until I could report on the magical event on the last day of February, Living In Love. Intuitively knowing I can’t write about something until it happens, my decision to delay communicating with you has proven to be practical wisdom.

Leading up to my talk at the cultural center in Stonington Village (on the same street where I live) proved to be a most exhilarating several months. By concentrating on living in love I was feeling more aware of the powerful force for good that a loving soul can generate. By concentrating my energies and time on the greatest of all – love – I was able to reach deeper and wider into all the goodness around us and inside us.

As part of my study and reflection, I re-read books about love. I also read several new books on meditation and mindfulness, and reviewed my library of books and articles by and about His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I smile thinking of my cousin Russell who owned the New Dominion Bookstore in Charlottesville, Virginia. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s book The Art of Happiness came out, it coincided with my book, Choosing Happiness. Russell put stacks of our books side by side in the bookstore window, making me feel graced by the coincidence of our book publications and her undying support of her older cousin.

The most powerful book I revisited was written by Erich Fromm, published when I was fifteen in 1956. Certain books become so important to us, we feel drawn to re-read them at different stages of our lives. The Art of Loving is one of those thought-provoking books that is timeless wisdom. Rereading Fromm’s thought-provoking words reminded me that loving is what’s important. Being a loving person is an energy that has no bounds to improve the greater good. The more time we spend cultivating being loving, the more we’re able to spread light in a troubled universe.

Fromm wrote two later books I re-read. In 1976, two years after Peter and I married, Fromme’s book To Have or to Be was published, leaving a lasting impression on me. When we are always wanting to have, to possess and are needy, whether it is power or more than is enough of any object, this excess causes greed and possessiveness, not a sense of well being and contentment.

Loving is an art, and we have the inner resources to cultivate this powerful human mystery in all aspects of our lives. Peter taught me that there is no such thing as being overly prepared. When we’re passionate about something, we focus on our subject of interest and resource until we eat, sleep and live our subject.

When Bank Square Books and La Grua Center invited me to give a talk, I chose the end of February, wanting to finish the month of love on a loving note of faith, hope and charity. Having happiness as my main research, the subject of love seemed the most appropriate topic to concentrate on when the opportunity was presented to me. I delved into my library and notebooks with vigor and great pleasure.

The book I wrote, Living in Love, came out twenty years ago. What an amazing experience to have lived in love for two more decades, not only with Peter, my true love, but with myself, in understanding and love in order to nourish the most positive aspects of my character and cultivate all the different ways I can evolve into my higher power in order to become more useful to others. In addition to self love and ways to care for ourselves in constructive, loving ways that are motivated to be in the best possible position to be of service to others, and loving others intimately whole showing our vulnerability, we can learn to become more caring about our community. We can’t be all things to all people, but we can as one person, make a huge difference.

A forever-spiritual leader who spoke to 5,000 followers on Sunday mornings at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, Eric Butterworth taught us “Do your best and leave the rest.” It’s safe to say, none of us are going the extra mile as often as we can. If statistically we are only using a small fraction of our human potential to become fully self-actualized, when we’re using the greatest amount of our God-given capacities, what is holding us back?

Whenever I have a conversation with someone who feels hopeless, unable to make a difference, I suggest that they reach out to ten people with their concerns for causes they choose to support, and seek their advice. We quickly learn we are not alone. We can share ideas and collectively become the change we want to happen.

It’s easy to become frustrated, but whenever we become discouraged, we lose our power to use all our energy constructively, not able to concentrate well. Aristotle taught “Active virtue.” It is through our actions that define our values. The tragic massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School happened on Valentine’s Day. My heart broke into a million pieces and when I looked up at the stars in the cool night air I breathed deeply, knowing how seriously I was taking my preparation about the subject of love. The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.

Madeleine Wilford was shot with bullet wounds in her torso, abdomen and right arm in Parkland, Florida where fourteen students and three adults were killed at her school. As she was healing physically and psychologically from this unspeakable carnage, she said “It’s times like these when I know that we need to stick together.” Her doctors said she is “very, very lucky.” Dr. Nichiprenko said, “We’re talking about large-caliber bullets penetrating through the chest and abdomen—these are serious injuries.” “I’m so grateful to be here,” Maddy said, “and it wouldn’t be possible without those officers and first responders and these amazing doctors, and especially all the love that everyone has sent.”
This unspeakable tragedy is so sickening, so deeply serious; each one of us is responsible. Our responsibility as human beings is to love, honor and respect all human life. When we’re given countless blessings and are privileged, when much is been given, much is expected. Let us gather together. To use Maddy’s words, “stick together.” Each of us has been given talents we can deploy to help make a difference.

I’m tying to get my publisher to reprint Gift of A Letter. We can write letters to our government officials and our state representatives. Meet over coffee or tea to have a dialogue. Take a stand on guns. We are the most violent country on the planet. We have the most guns. Guns put other innocent beings in harms way. At least, if we can’t help others, we should not have weapons of mass destruction that shower fast range rifles.

The Dalai Lama feels that love and happiness can transform the energy of the planet. If we can teach our children how to meditate, how to be still, and feel peaceful, comfortable with their quiet solitude, we will be making a difference. If we can teach loving-kindness by our own example, we will give children an example they will be drawn to mirror. There are noble characters everywhere. Seek them out and “stick together.” Walk on the sunny side of the street. Smile for no reason other than it radiates positive energy. As a bonus of putting your face to the sun, letting vitamin D penetrate into the marrow of your bones, your spirits will be in line with your higher powers.

It was Saint Mother Teresa who said she didn’t do big things; she did little things with a great deal of love. Perhaps this is a definition of a human being who sees a need and responds in kind. We serve in our own way. Some people are balcony workers, always wanting to be pressed into service. Some prefer local service; others are drawn into state and national politics. How can we be agents of change if we feel there is a stalemate where we feel our ideals and values are blocked?

Believe in your intuitions. Be mindful of what your conscience is persuading you is what is true, good and beautiful. Be guided by Aristotle to act on what is true, good and beautiful. A recent New York Times editorial by Paul Krugman, “The Force of Decency Awakens,” wrote “A funny thing is happening on the American scene: a powerful upwelling of decency.” Krugman believes that there’s a surge of indignation and a refusal to shrug after the Parkland massacre. David Brook’s op-ed column, “A Generation Emerging From the Wreckage” quoted one Harvard student told him “We’re the school shooting generation.” Something is definitely in need of reform. Steven Pinker, however, believes humanity is fine, but please don’t ask him about individuals. His new book, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress” argues that things are improving our species as a whole. “None of us are as happy as we ought to be, given how amazing our world has become.” Pinker thinks the United States is suffering spectacular ingratitude for our obvious privileges. We as a country are not in the top ten on the happiness scale; we’ve dropped down from eleventh to fourteenth. Let’s do what we can to live more mindfully, being more caring and careful about our own character and values, the way we value our precious time, and how we share our resources.

I want to end on a high note. “Living in Love” was a joyful evening. The energy was positive and I had fun discussing being loving in all aspects—self-nourishing, and self-knowledge is the foundation of all love. When we maintain and sustain our self, keeping our mind body and spirit healthy and thriving, we’ll be in the best possible position to be loving in our intimate relationships, unafraid to be vulnerable. When we find all the people, places and things we love, we can thrive in our community. The more we love in our environment, the more we thrive and appreciate how fortunate we are to feel at home with our neighbors, acquaintances and friends. We all do stick together and do what we can for the common good. When there is a need, collectively we roll up our sleeves.

The whole concept of living in love is a journey of joy. My granddaughter Cooper, age nine, called me before school the morning of my talk: “Grandmommy, guess what? I’m reading a book that has the definition of love. Do you want to know what it is? Grandmommy, its happiness.”

That was how I closed my discussion on love. I showed a small antique enamel oval pillbox Peter gave to me shortly before we were married. On the top are the words “Love & Live Happy,” with two hearts and lovebirds. When you open the lid there is a mirror. When we are loving, we are happy. I’m hoping together we will open up enthusiastic new ways of looking at the world as we experience it and feel comfortable about finding our unique way to make a difference. The first step is to know that the journey of a thousand miles does not begin with one step. We take “steps toward being,” learning the art of being.

We’re marching toward spring. One Nor’easter caused friends who came from Montana to be delayed two-days before flying home. The winds have calmed down, but we’re expecting more “weather” in a few days. We can’t control the weather but we can control our minds, and do what we can for the health of our environment. Ah, how lucky we are to have useful work to do.

Love & Live Happy

Mark your calendars!! Alexandra will be hosting a Happiness Retreat at the Inn at Stonington on November 7th and 8th! (More details to follow.) (See Event Page)

Living in Love

Grace Note

"When we direct our loving attention to what is beautiful and true, as we live in love together, we all blossom."

~~ Alexandra Stoddard
Living in Love