Ever since high school, I have been into this thing called leadership. Holding various leading positions, starting non-profits and businesses, following the recipe: 1) Listen for the fire in your soul, 2) Clarify your vision, 3) Make it happen with your voice, hands and heart. Always holding a vision for what the world would look like if your big dream came true.
That vision of what is possible can help you rise out of bed every day. It can put a spark in your step. It can motivate you to put in that extra hour of work, believing in something you cannot see with your eyes.
Yet until recently, there was something missing for me. It had to do with being too focused on my vision, too caught up in making it happen, not relaxed enough to feel a true sense of enjoyment about it all. At times I got so caught up in trying to make something happen, that it gave me severely painful multi-day migraine headaches. Too much pressure.
What was missing was a simple practice, a new way of being with leadership. This new way kept tugging at the back of my neck, gently, a little more every day…
One day at a time. That is all I can do.
One day at a time. That is all I am being asked.
It’s a whisper in society’s sea of noise...
One day at a time.
The first time I remember practicing this was to try and get out of a 13 month postpartum depression. I had gone through trauma starting two hours after my daughter was born, and in the days that followed, some of the things I noticed about our world felt really, really sad. It was a heavy load to carry on my mind, and I didn’t really know how to get out.
One day it struck me that I was the only one who could break this cycle for myself, creating peace of mind and a sense of contentedness. I decided I would engage in a simple process of asking myself questions, one moment after the next.
Springtime sent the scent of lilac across our front patio, through our front door. Following the heavenly lure, I stepped out for a walk. I took one step forward, my daughter in her flower-picking state of toddling glee, and paused to silently ask myself, “In this moment, am I depressed?”
“No!” I responded, again quietly, “In this moment I am walking on a sunny day, with my healthy child. I feel grateful.”
With my next step, I paused again to ask. My response was, “In this moment I am admiring a cheerful, crisp purple paint job on my neighbor’s house, my daughter is laughing, I feel good.”
Within moments I realized I had taken the power back from my own cyclical sad thoughts. I could decide with each step, how to feel. And within a few days the dense fog that sat with me for 13 months was lifted.
That was four years ago. Since then, I’ve experienced dozens of highly challenging situations and adventures. What seems to be rising to the surface is this simple way of living taught by many living and ascended masters. Take life one day at a time. Take life one moment at a time. One step, pause… Here we are now.
It doesn’t interest me to dive into the question of why we get so caught up in the future, or in the past.
What interests me is sharing with you how much freedom greets me when I take life one day at a time. How much freedom is available to you, through your own choice about where you put your attention. All it takes is the awareness that when you feel tense or strained, unpleasant or frustrated, you can check in and bring yourself back to this day. Feel what you’re feeling now, even if it hurts. But don’t feel what you might be feeling tomorrow, because you’ll never be there.
You can only be here, today, now.
And I suppose that’s the truth behind it all. Tomorrow never comes, it is only a dream that tries to take us away from this precious present.
May you remember in this moment -- as you read these words -- how loved you are, how brightly the earth shone on the day you were born. May you look around you and focus on what you appreciate, knowing your appreciation and attention will help it grow. Listen within for your leadership vision, clarify it, give yourself to it, and let it go so you can enjoy this one precious day you’re living in.
Turn off the TV, put your cell phone away for the weekend. Screens aren’t so helpful in magnifying the beauty of the now.
Stare at the sunlight bouncing off your Marigolds in the garden. Listen to the soft texture of the wind. Somewhere, an elder is being served warm tea, her wrinkled hands shaking in thanks as somebody values and cares for her. Somewhere, somebody is opening a handwritten letter they got in the mail today.
One day at a time, may the light within us rise.
It was 1996. I was at a college party with the usual dynamics at play. Youngsters flirting and flaunting goofy theatrical dance moves, getting into conversations deeper and looser than those that happen sober. The hotness factor was high, hormones ripe and bodies ready. We were 20-something adults from Marin and Southern California, living in Chico for an education and to party, in good shape with stylish clothes.
My two housemates at the time were San Diego beach-born and -raised, pretty and full of spice. One of them had mentioned her name before. Piper. A girl she didn’t like much for whatever reason.
I had learned in high school not to like or dislike others because of what someone else said. I hadn’t met Piper yet.
And then she came shining.
I didn’t know who I was seeing at the time. What I saw was a young woman whose confidence lit up the room like fire.
Her humor wasn’t the kind used for distraction or avoidance. Her words weren’t used to impress anyone else. Her ways seemed to come from a deeper well. Hers was the kind of confidence that other girls wanted, not the temporary boost gained from mascara or a fresh tan. I was stopped. I fell in love. Her soul captivated me. My respect for her ways and choices led me to aim within myself for more confidence, too. Her name was Piper.
Twenty-two years later, she remains one of my closest friends. Our friendship has ebbed and flowed as great ones do, and through it all she has beamed. She is a shining ray of rooted woman confidence that comes from deep within herself, tapped into the divine.
Through my 13-month postpartum depression, with all its riveting questions and despair, it was Piper who helped me realize that I parent by instinct. Beyond attachment parenting, mothers can honor our instincts — ancient, clear and piercingly beautiful — and this was the way I was meant to mother. Accepting this has given me freedom I couldn’t find anywhere else. I was fortunate to have a lighthouse to look to. In Piper’s confident claiming of her own parenting style, I found mine.
Being witness to this kind of confidence in a woman during my 20s gave me a renewed sense of what is possible for women. Five years ago when I gave birth, a strike of lightning reaffirmed this possibility. When women wake up to our own power, astonishing beauty unfolds. Our power lies in no one else’s hands.
If I could show every teenage or 10-year-old girl what it’s like to feel deep inner confidence like I’ve seen in Piper, I’d wave my wand and do it fast. No soap opera Kavanaugh courtrooms could live in that universe.
On this day, her birthday, I bow to the willingness in my friend Piper. And I bow to the willingness in a woman, every woman, when she chooses to lead from the power within her.
If you have a woman friend like this, call her now! She is actively creating a world in which women are valued.
Happy Birthday, friend. Your willingness to open to the divine and let it lead your life makes my head and my hips shake with wonder. I love you past the soft rolling hills of Denmark and into the furthest peppery galaxies!
Our free recording for November is here! Listen to The Spirit of Waldorf Education and Tips for Parents, our 55-minute interview of Education Director Shannon O'Laughlin, here.
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, and eternally a fan of Fred Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded conversations are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.