Dear Mr. Rogers,
As the slowness of this holiday sits in the air, you are thick on my mind. I come to my computer to get "work" done yet find there's nothing more worthwhile than watching clips of your old TV show. Your strong, gentle voice, your unabashed reverence for children and simple, profound principles like kindness, compassion and friendship...
Your Emmy acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement Award has me deep in thought, wondering how I might direct my desire to express love through a medium I struggle with, the TV of our time. Just as you "hated" television (such a strong word for highly sensitive souls like us to use, yet I can relate) and worked to use it as a tool for good, I wonder how I might turn my significant distaste for our cultural mindlessness around smartphone/computers -- a far more complex machines than TVs -- into something as powerful as your show did.
When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s I watched your show every day. You've probably had as much of a parenting imprint on me as my parents. Twenty-two years ago (more than half my life), I stopped watching TV, and I had almost forgotten that my worldview and ways have been significantly shaped by your teachings and your show. It's almost as if I would only be a fraction of the person I am without your imprint on my most formative early childhood years.
The way you captivated this 1969 Senate hearing, luring its leader into a devotee of your simple "expression of care" ... only Love can melt a room like this.
Lately it has become obvious we all have an artist within us, longing to burst out and take center stage. Whether it's frisbee or mountain bike racing, cooking, piano or painting, inside each and every one of us there is at least one place, one experience, where presence and joy hold our attention outside of space and time.
You were born and you died in the sign of Pisces, the sign most associated with artists. I never met you in person, but I wonder what you would have to say about yourself as an artist.
I am convinced my most important work in this life has been, and will increasingly be, related to work like yours: work with a simple, accessible message of care, truthfulness, love and friendship. The kind of work adults may "laugh off" if only for a moment, until someone close to us dies and we remember it's the basis for all good things in a healthy society -- the ethical center that guides how we treat each other.
I admire and love you dearly and forever, and I'm so glad you're on my mind today...
P.S. This song melts me. It's you... I like...
My favorite holiday is coming up, you know..: Thanksgiving. For our family it's all about gratitude and great food. It's the one holiday that tends to come without a heavy focus on material things or candy, and it graces our autumn without a great deal of hurry, stress, a zillion parties and plans.
Then the big one comes: Christmas. Within days of Thanksgiving, many people are frenzied and making at least some, if not their best, effort to simplify every year.
For the latter, I'll suggest one way to radically honor your vision of a simplified season. It's very simple, as most of the things that matter in life are: SELF-LOVE. Nope, it isn't selfish. Not in the twisted way our culture -- and our own internal voices of criticism -- has led us to believe. Loving yourself isn't easy, either. I know plenty of wise, proactive people who wouldn't dare declare that self-love is easy. It takes courage, dedication, and sheer generosity as self-love is an expression of a desire to love and be kind and generous with all of life, actually.
Loving yourself makes you more generous with everyone you care about, too. Its value is endless, but 'let's start with the basics: If you're mailing out Christmas cards that say "Peace and Joy this Holiday Season" and you're a walking example of hurried, worried stress, well... Perhaps it's time to walk your talk.
Every single one of the wisest people I know starts their day in a way that places an anchor of self-awareness and presence into the hours that follow. Give yourself this basic piece, this basic gift of mindfulness. What 5-minute meditation would help you start your day centered, assisting you to speak, act and make decisions that benefit your peace of mind?
There are 10,000,000,000 (ten gaga-lillion) possibilities. Here's one to try on.
The peace I am is the peace I will give throughout this day.
Love is the core of my being, and I will spend this day in acceptance of that.
Everyone whose path I cross will benefit from my presence.
Today I speak and act from this deep place of serenity that can overcome anything.
Please share your ideas or findings here, oh generous you! And truly, THANK YOU for doing the simple, but definitely not always easy, work of loving yourself. THANK YOU for leaning into light. Shine on!
If women fully own our power one day, we won't recognize the world we live in the next day. And so, to offer my gifts to more women around the world, I have decided to venture into delivering my services online! Took me awhile, heh heh.
What happens when women own our power? Quite frankly, the power within us is unstoppable. When we own our power we:
- move more freely and uncensored, in our day to day lives
- amp up the potency of our intimate partnerships
- more easily let go of relationships that don't bring out the best in us
- draw in new friendships that are deeply energizing
- have a potent, magnetic impact in business and social endeavors
- feel deeper bliss in our hips and bones
- adapt to change more easily
- become stronger and more gracious role models for our children
- invite masculine power to become more balanced and mature
- create a world with less war and more love (hands down, no doubt, 100%)
Only when we ourselves honor and own our power -- which can be distilled all the way down to Love itself -- will the world “outside” of us mirror back its reverence for woman.
We have the power to bring new life into being. Stop for a moment, right there.
We have the power to choose who our partners are, which jobs we want and which jobs we don’t. We have the power to embody grace in the face of chaos, the power to support our families in highly skillful ways that society doesn’t recognize and honor, the power to be present to complex systems dynamics as we lead projects with enormous compassion and inclusivity, a high level of attention to detail, and even mastery.
We have the power to wear make-up, high heels, men's shoes or women's shoes, pants or dresses, or whatever we feel like wearing. We have the power to feed babies from our own bodies (this one is a superpower).
Whether or not we can have babies, whether or not we can debate about political or historical subjects with a table of men, whether or not we can mesmerize an audience with our voice or guitar, whether or not we can impress people with our frisbee skills, ALL women are ALL powerful when we choose to own it, stand in it, honor it.
It is a CHOICE.
There is no end point in owning our power. No finish line. Every day we choose 1,000 times whether we honor the power within us, or give it away out of a sense of lack of self worth or other fear. Practice, practice, practice. Every moment, every single day. The answers and the power are within.
P.S. Thanks to our collaborators, partners and friends for being part this very exciting moment of Leaning into Light as we venture online with our workshops! Loving more widely is a big part of our big vision!
To My Dear and Precious Daughter,
I am writing this letter for you to read in 10 or 20 years. You are napping, now two and a half years old, still so perfectly brave and unfiltered, still so willing to "own" your power. Actually, you're unwilling not to. You know that Love is who you are; you were born knowing this.
What do I mean by "own" our power? To know it; to acknowledge it; to fiercely stand in it; to honor it. To refuse not to embrace the exquisite expression of life that you are.
When you're five years old, or 11, or 26 or 40, will you want to own your power? Certainly you will. For right now, you might be wondering why the hell I'm even asking this.
I ask because women do not fully own our power. If we did, overnight, the world we see tomorrow would barely be recognizable. We instead give our power away--> to men, for a night or for an instant or for a lifetime, for their approval... to jobs we don't love, for years or for moments or for months, for the sense of safety we feel they give... to cultural expectations and images of what we ought to look like, to fill the holes of self-judgment we inhale starting in childhood.... We give our power away to other people's judgments, by letting them sink into our own eyes... We give our power away when any thought we think, feeling we feel, or action we take does not acknowledge that Love is who we are. We aren't bad or wrong for doing it; we're always just as lovable. Yet gosh, sweet child of mine, wouldn't it be marvelous if women stopped giving our power away so much?
I'From the day you were conceived, my life and voice became bolder than ever. Your existence has raised the bar for mine more than anything else ever will. Giving birth to you gave me many things, one of them being a swift, solid smack in the face to stop EVERY single thing I was doing to not love myself. This I must do, for you. No, not for you. But because of the Love you have helped expand inside my being. Can I put this all into words? No, sweet One. But still I'll always try.
There are no easy answers. Owning our power as women requires that we be our boldest, bravest, most rigorously honest selves. No one has the answers for anybody else. The point is to create space for the answers we all have for ourselves, to rise to the surface. We can be curious. We can ask questions. And questions are powerful, very powerful.
When women ask powerful questions, and make space within ourselves to answer them from a place of empowerment, fierce honesty, and deep self-love... Oh my, Dear Daughter, Oh my. Your mama squints at the thought of it. It isn't about power over anything (men, other women, or anything else). It is about power for the sake of life.
Forever yours, dear daughter,
P.S. In your honor, I am inviting a group of women to join me for a 3-part series, three one-hour conversations, about what life will be like when women own our power. Because it isn't a question of if; it's a question of when. Supported by other women and by the power that lies within us -- which is Love itself -- nothing will stop us. How dare I claim this, dear daughter? Because as you well know, and so breathtakingly exhibit with every move you make and every deliciously delightful word you say and tear you cry... Love is unstoppable.
On Michael Jackson's Thriller album, producer Quincy Jones talks about how the music gives you chills. He calls it "the chill factor" and says this is nothing less than divinity.
And it's precisely how I feel about exquisitely fine milk foam on a cappuccino or latte. The texture, the sensual wholeness, the smooth taste. There is nothing quite like spectacular milk foam.
This is why, as I stood watching one of my favorite baristas make my favorite drink recently, I literally stood there and cried. Slow, graceful, pausing tears. The kind that drip devotedly, in love with what the heart's eyes are seeing.
Why the hell was I crying about an espresso drink?
It is quite simple: Tears are a sign of an open heart. An open heart is willing to give and receive love. And Love is beautiful. To elaborate...
- Happiness and love are close relatives. There is great happiness found in simple joys. One living breathing moment to the next, all we've got is a taste of our latte, a fold of the laundry, a flush of the toilet. If we can't find happiness in the small things, where will we find it?
- Telling the truth is far more powerful than we acknowledge. The drink I like, with the kind of foam I like, is very, very uncommon. "Can I have a deep-wet-foam latte...? Every time I approach a cafe counter, I contemplate whether to ask for it or not -- and if so, how. Do I just order a coffee, or do I try to convey what I really want, and see what shows up? How annoyable does the barista appear? (And boy, this varies.) This process has allowed me an opportunity to clarify what I want, refine my language in asking for it, and surrender to what shows up, knowing it usually won't be exactly as I hope. Telling the truth takes courage. Owning our desire takes courage.
- It also takes courage to be true to your dreams -- and shizz, I really love this drink -- especially when it's not popular. The more we live authentically, the stronger those muscles get. Still, sometimes it seems a lot easier to just. Order. Coffee. Just go with the cultural flow. Stop dreaming, stop your fantasy world imagination, go with what is. There's power in that too sometimes, yet authenticity sure can fire up the heart.
Our featured free recording for September is a 35-minute conversation with mailman Sean Lanham called Mailman Magic and the Power of Letters. You can listen here!
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, and eternal fan of Mr. (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.