Dear Maria . . .

mariaS9.21.2_20210920-125435_1 Maria Shriver - Sunday Paper
the friction
inside your mind
will keep overflowing
into your relationships
until you process
your emotional history
and understand how it shapes
your ego, perception, and reactions

—yung pueblo

I've Been Thinking...

I got a letter the other day, and I was so excited when I saw my name on the envelope. I knew right away that it was a handwritten note.

I love getting handwritten notes in the mail (and I must say, I don’t get many these days). They really stand out amongst the stack of bills, mailers, and other junk that we all get. You just know a handwritten envelope when you see it. You know that it's something personal, and that it's probably from someone you care about, or who cares about you.

At first, I thought the envelope was from one of my brothers or cousins, as they do still write handwritten notes. (My kids do too, but they don't mail them.) But then I opened it and realized it was a note from me to me! Can you believe that?! Allow me to explain how it happened. 

When I went on retreat this past August, I was encouraged by the retreat leaders to write a note reminding myself of how proud I was of the deep work I did at the inner bootcamp. My note said, "Maria, I’m so proud of you for all the hard work you've done. I hope you remember how you felt at this retreat, standing in your light and feeling strong, powerful, tender, and whole."

The note made me stop. It made me close my eyes and remember how I felt in that moment when I wrote it. It made me sit down and reflect for a little while. It also made me smile.

The words I wrote to myself were kind, encouraging, and generous. I'd never written and mailed a note to myself before, but now that I have, I totally recommend it. In fact, I met a woman at my retreat named Stephanie who told me that she actually does this a lot. Stephanie said that whenever she's traveling and sees a card in a coffee shop or store that speaks to her, she buys one for a friend and another for herself. She then writes a note to herself and mails it, often forgetting that she even sent it. So every time one arrives in the mail, it brings her unbridled joy.

I love that.

Standing in your joy—standing in your light and believing in your light—is an inside job. It's your job. It’s super challenging when you're up against the negativity that the news, politics, and our world throws at us every day. When you toss in challenges with your kids, a partner, or a boss—and maybe some financial challenges or health challenges as well—it's all a perfect recipe for a life of overwhelm, anxiety, and fear.

So how do we push back? How do we resist the urge to jump into the fray on social media, at our school board meetings, or in politics? I think we resist by having a process or a practice that guides us every day. I think we resist by making sure we surround ourselves with people who believe in us and encourage us forward. We push back by not following negativity on social media, and by not consuming media that’s negative 24/7. We push back by allowing inspiring people to light us up.
This week, the young women of the U.S. gymnastics team inspired me. Their stories filled me with rage, but their strength filled me with hope. The unfolding story of what the Pentagon has called a tragic mistake in killing 10 civilians in an August 29th drone strike in Afghanistan is tougher to make any sense of. It has left me reeling about the senselessness of war, and even more convinced of the importance of finding peace within ourselves, which helps us work towards a peaceful world.

What I know for sure is that it’s our job to be centered when we go out into the world—to try to be the best versions of ourselves no matter what is happening around us. To help me do this, I have a pretty strict morning practice of meditation, gratitude, and writing (and coffee). I also feel blessed that I have people around me who believe in me, inspire me, and uplift me.

Of course, the most important person to encourage you to be a light in a sea of darkness is yourself. So today, why not sit down and write a note to yourself? Write how proud you are of who you are and what you've done. Write about how you feel. Write how you feel you are moving yourself forward, and as a happy result, how that inner work helps to move our world forward as well. Try not to let your mind tell you this is a silly or stupid exercise. Because it is actually very profound. 

When you're done writing, mail the letter to yourself. (Yes, do it.) And while you're at it, write a handwritten letter to someone else. Then, when you receive the letter one day soon, sit and read it. Take it in. Reflect on what you wrote. Feel what happens inside of you. Revel in the gratitude you have for yourself and your life. You've built it. Feel grateful. 

This is one practice that will begin to make our world gentler. How? Because it will make you gentler. Never doubt that the change you want to see in the world begins with you taking responsibility for yourself. That is empowering and life-changing.

Heal yourself. See yourself as someone who can heal others. Then, watch the world start to shift.



PRAYER OF THE WEEK                      

Dear God, help me resist the urge to allow fear and anxiety to overwhelm me. Help me treat myself gently and with kindness so that I can in turn give the world the same courtesy. Amen.


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