Use your thoughts for good and not evil

I saw this great post on FB this week, and it hit home for me, because it’s something I really believe in.Ordinary things

I think part of it is due to my mindfulness practice (which encourages noticing all the small things), but maybe more because I’ve found that it’s doing this that brings real happiness.

My belief is that you should have lots of things in your life that make you happy – all the small moments combined should bring you a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. And if they don’t then it’s probably time to look at why, and what you can do to change it.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows – actually from my experience it’s usually the opposite – but if you can focus on the small things that you love then it balances it all out.

For me personally the things that have made me happy this week are:

  • Going to the shops as a family and buying beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables for the week.  I’ve found a great fruit shop that sells the most beautiful fruit – it’s always such fantastic quality.  And things like that give me so much happiness.  I adore my fruit and vegetables and knowing I have a fridge full of the loveliest produce makes me really happy.
  • Nourishing my soul with classical music.  I work from home, so I have the freedom to listen to whatever I like to during the day.  And lately I’ve been listening to cello music.  It’s something Mr ISFS and I both have a passion for.  I just love having it on in the background as I work.
  • Books.  I’ve always been a huge bookworm since I could read.  Sometimes I find I get too busy with other things to read much, but it’s always such a joy to go back to it.  On Thursday during lunch I sat with my feet up, a cup of tea, my cello music playing, and a new book to read, and it was (to me) the idea of perfection.
  • Sharing my favourite takeout (noodles) with Mr ISFS.  This is something that we have always done – shared our favourite takeout together at least once a month.  We are trying to save for a house, so we are mostly budgeting very carefully, but once a month we splurge and get all our favourites – Kway Teow, Garlic Prawns, Special Fried Rice, and spring rolls.

and lastly

  • 12599343_960538727371424_1772379474_n(1)Valentine’s Day.  Today has a heightened meaning for me today, and it’s been a chance to realise how truly blessed I am.  I bought Mr ISFS a 1st edition copy of DeadPool (the comic), and he bought me a pair of amethyst earrings.  They have such special meaning for me as he picked them specially as they are my birthstone, and he knows how much I love them.  But the gifts are really only a very minor part of the day – the day is a reaffirmation for me of how much I love the life we have built together, and how much it means to me.

I am struggling with some personal issues at the moment (health related), but it’s focusing on these small things that makes my life full, and I realise how truly blessed I am.

Much love,
Meg

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Poetry and prose

I’ve been finding myself drawn to writing poetry more lately.  I’ve always had a passion for it – particularly when I was younger – but as my adult years approached my creativity was replaced by responsibilities.  I love that it’s coming back to me.

I was thinking yesterday about how I’ve changed in recent years.  Through life experiences (good, and very horrid) my expectations and desires have changed radically.

Particularly in what I thought I wanted in a relationship.

So many things have changed in relation to those expectations – as I realised what was important and what wasn’t.

One of the very small things was that I thought it would be lovely for my partner to also be on Facebook.  Mr ISFS used to be on Facebook a long time ago (in a galaxy far far away), but he had a bad experience and deactivated his account.   And there is next to no chance he will ever go back.

I actually admire him a lot for that. It’s something that I should do, but so much of my life is entwined with Facebook, including my work.

However I used to wistfully think though how nice it would be to have him on there to support me.  I would look at my friends whose partners would comment on their posts with something gushy and romantic, and think that would be so sweet to have that myself.

I realised yesterday though that it’s not something I desire any longer.

I would rather keep that side of my life private, and to tell Mr ISFS how much I love him face to face.

There’s something I have realised – how beautiful it is to have our love kept between us.  When broadcast it to the world – it seems (to me) to diminish it somehow.

And these words and this poem formed themselves in my mind:

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It also feels so much better to respect his privacy, and not overshare on social media as I have been guilty of myself in the past.

I am by nature a very open and sharing person.  And unfortunately that quite often has been my downfall at times.  But this time I am really loving being more private about my relationship – it makes it seem even more special and magical.

Much love,

Meg

 

 

Mindfulness of mindfulness

This week for me I’ve had a very strong focus on mindfulness.

I had been reading a blog post which talked about another blog post, which talked about a great podcast, which was based on a book (which I then had to buy).  And so it goes.  (Oh how I love technology ♥).

So the book I am currently reading is this one:

Mindfulness

With reading this book I’ve been thinking a lot about mindfulness, and I’ve been trying to be more aware of it in my daily life.

And I am noticing many more small moments.  This morning I was making a cup of tea, and I was accurately aware of the sound of the boiling water being poured into the cup.  And I was AWARE that I was aware.  Then I was aware of the silence around me (it was dawn and the rest of my household was asleep).  It was a small moment of clarity, but it was so beautiful.

I then decided to do my jigsaw puzzle while I drank my tea, and listen to a talk about mindfulness tools in daily life.

And a funny thing happened.

I was listening to the tools that the dharma teacher was suggesting (which were great!).  And I was thinking how I could apply them in my daily life.  And then I had a lightbulb moment.

Why?

I was reading this book on mindfulness, listening to a mindfulness podcast.  Trying to incorporate it in my daily life.

But why?  Why practice mindfulness?

To me it was my own ‘mindful’ moment.  I was spending all this energy and focus on becoming mindful.  But I then realised I didn’t know why I was doing it.

My curiosity was piqued then, so I did more reading on why practice it at all.

But for me personally…. I hope that my mindfulness helps me to help others.  My goal and focus has long been to provide support and kindness to others.  And now my intention is that my mindfulness practice helps me to become a better listener, more in-tune with those around me and their hearts, and more in-tune with my own heart.

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A different take on mindfulness

I came across a talk yesterday called “Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness” by Ellen Langer.  I really love challenging my thinking, and learning/growing and this talk has been a real eye opener.

Ellen discusses the concept of mindfulness, but from a very “stand alone” view point.  Her research and opinions are of mindfulness as it’s own practice, and not as part of meditation or Buddhism.

And it’s fascinating.

I’m still absorbing her concepts – as they are many and varied (and brilliant!).  But a few things have resonated with me already.

A lot of her work (as I understand it so far) explores challenging our thinking and the labels we apply to certain situations.  And how changing our thinking changes our experience.

For example it’s proven that most of us view our jobs as “work”.  Our attitudes are that it’s a necessary evil, and we approach our work days as such.  We don’t enjoy our jobs (that’s what our personal time is for!).  However if we can approach work our work as being fun/pleasurable/interesting our experience changes vastly as does our enjoyment.  The work is the same, but the approach and outcome are different.

She also challenges us to explore our set beliefs.  One question she asks is “what is 1 plus 1?”.  And naturally most people are going to roll their eyes and say “2”.  But as she says, that’s not always the case.  What if you had one wad of chewing gum, and one more wad to it?  It’s not going to be 2.

And personally I love challenging my thinking that way.

Maybe I’m weird (okay I own that I am lol), but I often question the labels that we give things.

For example – the common belief is that going into a shopping centre/restaurant/business with bare feet is considered rude.  Why is it rude?  Because as a society we frown upon it.  But why?  Who came up with that rule that shoes must be worn?   We are raised with that belief, but what if the belief was that it was rude to wear shoes in a shopping centre?

It’s an odd example I know, but I often think about small things like that.  Or “the sky is blue”.  Why do we call it the sky?  Why have we given it that label?  Where did that come from?  What if we knew it by a completely different name?

And it’s true of basically everything in life.

Which leads me to say I’ve always been very vocal about my belief that things never black or white.  A neighbour of mine is always very very firm in her opinions.  She will argue – violently – with anyone who doesn’t agree with her take on life.  But I often wonder – how could she be so set in her opinions?  What makes them unshakeable?

I can honestly say I never have set opinions or beliefs on anything.  I just don’t see life being that way.  It’s fluid, and changeable and only appears to everyone differently based on their experiences, on their upbringings, their financial situation, their religion, etc etc etc.

 

I’m enjoying learning more as I listen to her talk.  And I’ve immediately downloaded her book as well, so I am sure this subject will come up quite a lot in coming weeks.

Take care my friends,

Meg

 

 

The value in sincerity

I was inspired by something I heard this week.

I was listening to another Gil Fronsdal dharma talk, and he related a story from the Zen tradition.

A student asked his teacher “If I practice Zen will I become enlightened?”.  And the Zen teacher replied “If your practice is sincere, it is almost as good”.

I was incredibly inspired by this simple concept.

I know myself that I practice Buddhism because I identify with the precepts very strongly.  However I do not hold the belief that I will become enlightened – I would imagine very few Buddhist practitioners ever will become enlightened.

However I can practice with sincerity.  We all can.

And it doesn’t have to relate to Buddhist practice – we can live our lives with sincerity full stop.

I love that thought so much.

Sincerity encompasses so many things – living ethically, honestly and with pure intention.  And all of those things make such a difference not only to our lives, but to the lives of those that we touch.

You can’t really put a value on sincerity and honesty.

So this week I’ve tried to really keep that as my intention.

Also in this past week I heard a discussion on the Buddha – how before he became enlightened he had to live through many lives, and learn from each one.  He was reborn many times.  And of all the lives he lead, and the mistakes he made (as a lay person) one thing he never did was lie.  And specifically he did not lie to himself.

It’s a deep concept – to never lie to ourselves.

It’s also been on my mind this week, and I have given a lot of reflection on the ways I have lied to myself in the past.

There are so many great things that can be gained from self analysis and knowledge.  I feel blessed to have access to the dharma teachings.

And a new day each day to learn from them.

Namaste,

Meg

 

Let it go

Regular readers of my blog will know that last week was a less than ideal week for me.  Stress caught up with me, and I cracked somewhat.  I acted out of character, and I had to live with the consequences.

I’m feeling so much better in myself now.

One of the defining moments for me was a bus ride I took into the city on Monday morning.  I decided to make the most of that time, and listen to a dharma talk by Gil Fronsdal.  I may not have mentioned it before on my blog, but he is my absolute favour dharma speaker.  His talks (found at Audio Dharma) have taught me so much.  I am the person I am today thanks to Gil’s teachings.  So many of them have resonated with me on a very deep level.

So on this bus ride I decided to really take stock of what was going on in my life.  I put on my headphones, and picked a talk by Gil on “thinking”.  I spent the next 45 minutes looking out the bus window, and mindfully listening to his wisdom on thinking.  And I consciously let all the stress go.

I tried to just focus on what was happening to me in that present moment.  And when I did I found I could much better reconnect with myself.

Because what was happening in that moment?  I was having a day off work, I was on the bus (which I love).  I was lucky to be listening to a dharma talk by Gil.  And I was on my way to a rally against violence.  Something I felt very strongly about supporting.

Aside from the bus trip, I have also spent time recently doing things which replenished my soul.

It’s a bit of a daggy hobby (maybe), but I really adore doing jigsaw puzzles.  Ever since I was a child I have found them incredibly relaxing.  To me they are a form of meditation.  I sit there, and sift through the pieces, and let the thoughts come and go in my mind.  I find that afterwards anything I’ve been stewing over is released from my focus, and I feel much calmer and more focused.

I’ve also started to take a lot more note of the people in my life that I am grateful for.

And I have received so much support in recent weeks from my closest friends.  It makes me incredibly humbled.

It’s all these little things that make life so rich.

And on that note I’m going return to my cup of tea, my puzzle, and my classical music.

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Namaste my friends,

Meg

 

Just keep swimming

It’s been a great (and challenging) time for my practice lately.

It’s easy to ‘stay the course’ when things are going well.  But it’s when things are hard that you get to really put into use what you have learned.  And to also grow from the experience.

I must admit at the moment I feel that the ground is very shaky.

And I use that term as it’s one that I’ve seen often used by Pema Chodron in her great books and teachings.

She teaches that at the times when the ground is shaky, are the times that we need to lean into the experience, and to not feel scared and try to resist it.

And I am the worst for trying to resist change (if my friend Loren is reading this she will be laughing in agreement).

So right at this moment when I feel things are so unsettled I’m trying to just accept that, and not fight it.

The biggest issue I face is the knowledge that gossip is being spread about me behind my back that isn’t true (unrelated to my post from yesterday).

It’s stirred so many feelings in me – anger, betrayal, hurt, and indignation.  I want to set the record straight, I want to put out every “fire” where people are being given the wrong information, and set them straight about what really happened.

However in reality I know it’s not possible.  Unfortunately it’s a case where if someone throws enough mud, at least some of it will stick.  And the hard truth is that there is very little I can do about it.

The people that know me well know the truth.  And the people that believe the lies have absolute freedom to do that.  And there’s nothing I can really do to stop it.

I can only hold my head high, and keep my dignity, and have faith in myself.

It’s a good time to really think about things though – as my blogging friend Ben Naga commented – who was the “I” that felt outraged and hurt.

It’s a great time to delve further into it (gently) to figure out why it has hurt me so much.  And to perhaps let that go.

And also for me a great time to just accept the uncertainty of the moment, and maybe even embrace that.

(and in the meantime I’m feeling the love from my cat Milly :p)

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Life, love and everything in-between

A friend of mine and I were discussing relationships today. He shared the most breathtaking insight with me:

We build our lives together in a relationship. Our essences are entangled from the moment we commit to being a relationship; even after it disintegrates we carry a part of that person with us always. I suspect this is where our minds come in and do the comparison thing with what we have presently and with what we had in the past. They key here though is that the past is purely the past. Those moments will never be rekindled good or bad. All we can do is try and make the forward part better. Relationships are hard work. Stupid things get said, buttons are pushed. The beauty of it though is that despite all that we can choose to keep trying to be there for the other person and to commit fully to be a part of the relationship. The “enthusiasm” of a relationship ebbs and flows. The true “enthusiasm” of a relationship is to continue to be in the relationship despite the ebbs and flows.

It’s so true.

So often we can approach relationships with “small mind”. We keep track of every “wrong”, every slight hurt and slight. And we lose sight of our “big mind” which is nurturing our relationship as a whole, and giving our partner space to breathe and grow within the relationship. Without holding them accountable constantly for every small thing that they said, or did (or didn’t do!).

I try to always hold my relationships (romantic and platonic) with great metta. I’m not always successful, but I try to approach each person, and situation, with as much loving kindness and spaciousness as possible.

Because in the end you can’t “make” someone act or say or think the way you personally want them to. All you can do is giving them as much love and forgiveness and kindness as you can, and trust that they are doing the best they can at any given time.

Much love my friends ♥

Meg

What do we REALLY need in life

After our basic needs are met, then what becomes important?

I was giving this question some thought today after listening to another Gil Fronsdal dharma talk.

In it he discusses the “4 requisites” which is what all humans need to feel safe and healthy.  And those 4 requisites are:  enough food to live, shelter, adequate clothing, and medicine.

These 4 requisites can be met quite simply.  They key though is what becomes important after these basics are met.

Is it important to you to get a bigger house?  A better car?  A more important job?

Personally I believe that once these basic needs are met, there are 2 important factors to build our lives on – caring for others, and caring for ourselves.

By focusing on our own egos and trying to pursue “more” and “greater” we are just leading ourselves to greater disharmony.  Whereas by concentrating on others, and others happiness, we inadvertently find our own happiness.

And it’s a happiness as a result of a life of service and selflessness.

There is so much good we can do in the world, by living a life of kindness and compassion.  

Once our basic needs are met, and we are safe and healthy, I believe it’s time to start giving ourselves to helping others, and making a difference in the world.

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The greatest gift of compassion

One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen ♥

People that inspire me ~ Martin Smith

The people I find inspiring are those who embody the traits that I value – kindness, generosity, compassion and positivity.  And I feel incredibly grateful to have very inspirational people around me – both in real life, and on the world wide web.

In this blog post I would like to pay recognition to Martin Smith.

Martin Smith is an Ambulance Officer, single dad, and the creator and illustrator of the “Wuff and Ready” Adventure stories.

 

Wuff and Ready are a range of colour children’s books designed to represent the real heroes in our community.

Martin is dedicated to spreading the message of kindness and compassion to the next generation of young children.

And as such, Martin started on a mission to change the world.  To give kids real heroes, no violence, happy endings, and to show compassion is a strength that all real heroes have.

The books feature a host of inspiring characters.  Ed and Elle are fire fighters on big truck 2, Bruce the turtle and Courtney the mouse are the paramedics from the Wagapaw ambulance service.

Martin’s aim is to provide kids with heroes with a heart that they can look up to.

And as Martin says: “Real hero’s open their hand to help another, not use a clenched a fist….. that’s ‘Wuff and Ready’ ”

For more information on Martin, please visit:

www.tmasbooks.com.au

Wuff and Ready Adventure Stories

 

Be kind to yourself today ♥

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
– Buddha

Today, take some time out to be kind to yourself.

So often in life we spend time looking after our families, our friends, our neighbours, our pets…. and yet we struggle to extend the same love and kindness to ourselves.

I am aware of a lot of people around me going through a hard time at the moment.  And I must admit I have been through a very tough time myself this month.

To all of you I send my warmest and deepest blessings and love.

Remember to great yourself gently, and with kindness.

Today spend time nurturing yourself.

Do the things that make you happy.  Have a long hot bath, chat with a dear friend, watch a movie that makes you laugh.

But most importantly – just be kind to yourself.

All the goodness you put out into the world starts with how you treat yourself.

“Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.”
– Veronica A. Shoffstall

Helping someone in need

Frequently in our lives we will come across people who are suffering.  Friends, loved ones, even strangers.

Sometimes we don’t have the answers to their suffering.  And sometimes answers are not what is needed.  What is needed is our presence, and our willingness to listen.

Listen deeply as they express how they are feeling.  Listen with your whole being – not just your ears.  Listen with your heart, your eyes, your total presence.

Listen in silence, without talking.

Give space for them to speak, and acknowledge their pain and suffering.

And through your intuition, caring and compassion allow them to reveal themselves and their feelings.

Often just by being present, and by listening fully and openly (and with acceptance), we help to alleviate their pain.  And nothing else is needed.

 

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A blessing of compassion

Each morning I re-establish my intention for my spiritual path, and indeed my whole life.

I have dedicated my life to helping others, and saying this blessing helps me to re-affirm my goal.

 

May everything I do today be kind

May I adhere to my spiritual practice throughout the day, and through this practice may I gain more confidence in the wisdom and compassion of my true nature.

May every contact I have with others bring us both benefit – relieving suffering, bringing healing and happiness, and furthering us both along the path to freedom.

May kindness, compassion and wisdom increase in the world, and through my efforts today may I contribute to the betterment of life for all.

 

 

Much metta to you all ♥

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Everyday Wisdom #76

For everyone there is challenge and loss.

And there is the possibility of meeting those challenges with kindness and compassion.

Kindness and compassion both for oneself, and for everyone else.

This transforms our minds and hearts and allows us to feel empathy for others.

 

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Compassion and forgiveness

I heard this wonderful story that I would like to share.

As soon as I heard it, it caused such a shift in my mind.  It’s so beautiful, yet so profound.

 

One day the Buddha was sitting under a tree, teaching his students.

A man – who was there for the first time – walked right up to the Buddha, and spit in his face.

All the Buddha did, was remained sitting, and remained calm. and asked him what else he would like to say.

The man was shocked.

He didn’t expect that kind of reaction.

The Buddha’s disciples were outraged, and asked why he would allow that kind of behaviour.  That if he tolerated it, that others would think it was acceptable.

Speaking to his disciple, the Buddha said –

“This gentleman is obviously upset, and has something he wants to say.

I’m not offended by his behaviour.  But I am however upset by yours.  You have known me for years – and you want me to react to that?  To lash back at him?  Do you think, after all the years I have taught you, that I would do something like that?

That I would yell at him, or correct him or embarass him?

This gentleman probably has some mistaken view of me.  He has some mistaken concept of who and what I am.

He didn’t spit on “me”.  He spit on his idea of me, because he didn’t know me.  He spit on a notion of me.

If you consider it deeply, and take it a step further, he spit on his own mind.”

The gentleman that spit on him couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

He had never received this reaction before – he was used to being yelled at, or retaliated against, but that wasn’t happening this time.

He went home, and couldn’t sleep – he thought about it all night.

He came back the next day, and he bowed deeply to the Buddha  to show respect.

The Buddha looked at him – the same way as the last time – and asked him what else hw would like to say.

The man profusely apologised and asked for his forgiveness.

The Buddha said –

“I am not the same person you did that to.  

You are not the same person you were 24 hours ago.  

Everything is constantly changing.  The man you spit on, is not longer sitting here.

So don’t worry so much about what happened yesterday.”

 

I loved this story.  About our own ego’s and our ideas of “self”.

That the Buddha could recognise that it was not himself that was spat on, but an idea of himself.  

And that he was able to remain equanimous and understanding.

 

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Everyday Wisdom #57

To be generous means to conquer our fears.

Our fears of loss.  Of losing our possessions.  Of losing our identity.

We fear irreversible loss – of giving away something that we cannot get back.  We fear losing a part of ourselves in the process.

To be generous though means to redefine our boundaries.

Those ‘things’ that are yours – your pain, your suffering, your problems – are also mine.

And those things that are mine – my knowledge, my abilities, my time, my resources and energy – they are also yours.

This is true generosity.

 

“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.” 

The Dalai Lama 


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How much do you care?

There are many beautiful emotions available to us, and available for us to share with others, and “care” is one of the most beneficial and needed in this world.

So many people are lonely, and craving the attention and genuine compassion of another human being.

So how can you show care to the people around you?

We can bring care into so many of our dealings with others in daily life.  The opportunities are really limitless.

For instance even asking someone “how are you?”.  And really being interested in the answer, and attentive, is a wonderful form of caring.  It can make such a difference to someone – to feel like someone truly cares about them and their well-being.

There is so much that we can do to care for others….

Read aloud to someone who has trouble seeing

Bring a hot meal to someone who is sick or going through a rough time

Give a bunch of flowers to brighten someone’s day

Tell someone you appreciate them

If you are going to the shops, ask a neighbour if they would like anything

Leave a kind note in someone’s letterbox

Share your umbrella with someone who doesn’t have one

Showing someone that you care is the greatest type of kindness, friendship, blessing and connection.

 

“Kind words cost little but accomplish much.” …Hal Urba

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Facing

Facing anger: practise compassion, patience and self-confidence
Facing attachment: look at the disadvantages and temporariness
Facing uncertainty: forgive yourself for being human
Facing fear: practise relaxation and mentally give away whatever is threatened to be taken
Facing greed: practise gratitude for what you have
Facing jealousy: practise rejoicing in others’ fortune
Facing pride: practise humility, equanimity and real self-confidence
Facing guilt: act instead of regret
Facing other’s pain: gather some courage and allow it to tear your heart open! Have compassion for their suffering and frustrations. Also have compassion for your own helplessness & frustrations.
Facing others’ cruelty or rudeness: remember they can only act that way because they suffer themselves.
Facing any negative emotion by myself or others: the quicker I can recognise my own negative emotional patterns, the better I will be able to avoid these actions myself

Courtesy of  Chung Tian Buddhist Temple

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Spreading kindness

I was inspired by reading this great blog post today Be Kind Anyway.

Mother Teresa was truly such a beautiful person.

She was a great reminder to us all that as human beings, we are capable of bringing about a world based on kindness and compassion.

This blog post is dedicated to remembering her, and the kindness, compassion and love she brought to the world.
 

“Spread love everywhere you go: First of all in your own house…let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
 

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
 

“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
 

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is a beauty, admire it. Life is a dream,realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game,play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure,dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is life, fight for it!”

 

 

Together we can create a society based upon peace, harmony, wisdom and compassion.

 

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