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Maria Gonzalez Blog
Mindful Leadership

Don’t Forget to Take Time to Be Present

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Sometimes we forget to be present and enjoy the moment.  Spring is fully here and everything is blooming!  What a treat to take time to smell the flowers.

So often we forget to take time to be in the present moment.  And, in so doing, we miss life.  Whether it be a season, a conversation, a meal, if we are not present, we have not really experienced it.  And, that moment will be forever gone.

Life ONLY happens in the present moment. When we are locked in our heads, we are either in memory or fantasy.  We are reliving the past and perhaps wishing it had been different.  Or, we are fantasizing about a future that may never happen.  It is possible that we may be locked in regretting the past and worrying about the future.  But, what about this moment…right here right now?

To come back to this moment is a choice.  We can decide that we want to be fully alive and to live fully.  That means taking time to smell the flowers like the fellows in the pictures below.  Animals have a wonderful way of being fully present.  You will notice in the pictures, that each animal is fully engrossed in this moment!

You may wish to take a time out at your earliest convenience and, as you gaze upon the pictures below, take time to breath and be aware of your breath.  It will only take a minute or two.  But, in that time, you will have practiced being fully alive and being aware of the aliveness.

I would like to thank Marion Hill for passing along the beautiful pictures.

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Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words

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Mindful leadership is leadership from the inside out.  And, this inner leadership transforms us.  As we transform, we have the privilege and pleasure of being of service, and having a positive impact on the world.

“Pictures are worth a thousand words”, and the quotes below are true words of wisdom.  I would like to thank Aurie Massey for sending this along.  It is so beautiful, it needs to be shared.

If you are looking for a time-out in the middle of your day, you may wish to read the quotes and view the pictures as a meditation and contemplation.  They are profound.  And, if you allow yourself to sit in stillness for a few minutes, you will notice how you can feel regenerated, calm and inspired.

I hope you enjoy the experience.


Compassion is language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
~Mark Twain~




Kindness is in our power even when fondness is not.
~Henry James~




Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret,
for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.
~Robert Brault~



Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you ,
not because they are nice but because you are.



Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up.



A good character is the best tombstone.
Those who loved you will remember.
Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.



It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.



Today, give a stranger one of your smiles.
It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.



If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.



I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.
~Rudyard Kipling~



Don’t be yourself — be someone nicer.



Never miss an opportunity to make others happy,
even if you have to leave them alone in order to do it.



Love your enemies – it will confuse them greatly.



There is one word which may serve as a rule for all one’s life — reciprocity.



Grownups know that little things matter and that 
relationships are based on respect.



Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.
~Henry James~



The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.
~Henry Boyle~



When I was young, I admired clever people.
Now that I am old, I admire kind people.
~Abraham Heschel~



If we should deal out justice only in this world, who would escape?
No, it is better to be generous for it gains us gratitude.
~Mark Twain~



Be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, tolerant of 
the weak, because someday in your life you will be all of these.
~George Washington Carver~



You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone
who will never be able to repay you.
~John Wooden~



If those who owe us nothing gave us nothing, how poor we would be.
~Antonio Porchia~



You cannot do a kindness too soon for you never know 
how soon it will be too late.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~



By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.
~Winston Churchill



Real generosity is doing something nice for someone 
who will never find out.
~Frank A. Clark~



We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen 
twice as much as we speak.



Don’t let those who take advantage of your generosity
stop you from being generous.
~Author Unknown ~



Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.
~Maya Angelou~



In a world full of people who couldn’t care less, 
be someone who cares more.
~Author Unknown ~



Love thy neighbor and if it requires that you bend the truth, 
the truth will understand.
~Robert Brault~

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I have frequently written about gratitude and its importance in our lives.  Research tells us that “gratitude” makes us happy and it makes us healthy.  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/08/04/ways-to-cultivate-gratitude.aspx

But, often when we think of gratitude we think of being thankful for what we call “the good things in our lives”, those things we consider to be pleasant, like the people we love and our comforts or luxuries.

But, what about those things that we consider to be unpleasant, painful, even tragic?  I suggest, that to be grateful, is to be grateful for absolutely everything…no exceptions.  And, why is that important?  It’s important for a couple of reasons.  No matter how unpleasant or challenging a situation, circumstance, or person, there is always an important teaching from which we can learn and benefit, if we care to look.  The second reason, which is even more profound, is that difficult circumstances have the greatest impact on our “purification”, and thereby, our refinement as human beings.  This positively impacts our lives and the lives of those around us.  I describe “purification” in Mindful Leadership, as the “clearing away of negative patterns that impede our ability to live fully”.

It is by being equanimous with any, so called, negative experience, that purification arises.  And this is an enormous victory as a human being.  It is among the most challenging things we can do.  But, the reward is beyond measure.

As Mindful leaders, every time we purify our negative patterns, we empower ourselves and we are a positive influence on the world around us.  The only change we can ever truly effect in the world is the change we create within ourselves.  And by transforming ourselves we change the world.

Rumi, the Persian poet (1207-1273) has written a beautiful poem called “The Guest House”.  It is one of my favourite poems of all time.  He so eloquently talks about being grateful for everything…no exceptions.  I hope you enjoy it.


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Empower Yourself with Gratitude

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For many people, gratitude will often come to mind during the holidays.  But, what happens once the holiday is over?  Often the beauty and deep meaning of that day is forgotten.  And that is unfortunate, for gratitude is empowering.

When we live with gratitude in our hearts and minds, moment by moment, or at least daily, it changes everything.  Gratitude is the realization the we are entitled to nothing at all.  In fact, gratitude acknowledges that everything we have is a gift and true good fortune.  Whether it be a loving partner, family, a rewarding job, a home, a pet who loves us, or the ability to walk, see, or hear, it is all a true blessing.

I don’t mean to imply, for a moment, that we have these things by chance.  We can certainly work hard to attain and maintain healthy relationships and good jobs, etc.  And, that is the aspect over which we have some control.  We can intend and work to have a healthy and positive attitude, and to behave in ways that enable us to be proud of our lives.  But, the outcome of our efforts are not within our control.  We can’t make someone love us and we can’t always get what we believe we professionally deserve.

Consequently, it serves us well to be grateful for everything we do have.  And when we are grateful, something incredible happens.  We unleash the most amazing internal power.  Our mood is quickly affected, how we relate to others greatly improves; everything seems to flow with much greater ease.  The outcome of intentional gratitude (which in time becomes automatic) is a deep and abiding joy.  A joy for no reason at all.

So, you may wish to try this for a week.  Everyday, upon rising, reflect on that for which you are grateful.  And at the end of the day, as you go to sleep, reflect on your day with gratitude.  Even if you are experiencing hardship on a given day, find whatever you can to express gratitude.  It may just be that you saw the beautiful Fall colours, or that someone smiled at you when you needed it, or the fact that you have a roof over your head and food to eat.  I don’t know of a strategy more potent than gratitude.  It truly unleashes a power from within that will change your life.

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Just This Moment

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Just this moment….that’s what it is to be present.  As each moment arises and fades into the next moment, being present means to focus right here, right now.  When we are only conscious of the present moment, a wealth of opportunity arises.  Our vision literally expands.  Time slows down to the point of feeling like it is being experienced in slow motion.  There is a presence of mind that allows for clear judgement. There is a joy in being in this moment.  And, we feel as if we are being guided by “an invisible hand” that has the “big picture”.  We become conduits of inspiration.

Whether playing a soccer game, playing a round of golf, chairing a meeting, having a conversation, playing a piece of music, painting a picture, it’s all the same.  There is only this moment.  Only the activity changes.  The process is the same.  Stay focused on the moment and doing the very best you can do, in this moment, under the circumstances.

And that is key.  The circumstances matter greatly.  Some days, some moments, we are brilliant, others, not as brilliant.  That is not relevant.  What matters is that we stay present and do our best in that moment.  Each moment is sacred and deserves our best.  It is our gift back to the Universe and to one another.  In so doing, it becomes a blessing to ourselves.  It brings us peace and joy.  That is the gift we receive.

Ever notice how peaceful and balanced you feel when you are present and have done all you can do, in that moment?  I don’t mean going outside yourself to accomplish a super human feat.  I am referring to that place where we stay within ourselves and all seems to flow.  That’s the sweet spot.  That is the place of Pure Presence.

When we are not in that present moment, we are focused on judging ourselves, others or situations that may have occurred in the past (near or distant).  Or, we are focused on the future with concern, dread, or anticipation.  Whatever the focus, if it is not in this moment, we are short changing ourselves and compromising our performance, inner peace and joy.

You may wish to take a time out right now.  If you are not already present, stop whatever you are doing and take a slow breath.  Notice your body and how it feels.  Notice your surroundings, the sights, the sounds.  Become fully anchored in the present moment and smile.  You are here.  You have arrived to the only place that matters…just this moment.

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We Have the Freedom to Choose Our Attitude

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Every day carries with it its hardships, its struggles, its aspirations, and its joys.  It all depends how we choose to look at it, and what we wish to embrace, moment by moment.  There is so much over which we have no control in life.  Yet, what we can control is our attitude; no one can dictate that for us.

Victor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning stated it beautifully.  “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others,  giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man, but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This quote speaks to the power we all hold within ourselves.  We all have the power to be Mindful leaders, which includes choosing our attitude.  I am not exclusively referring to those in positions of formal power when I speak of leaders.  I am referring to every one of us.  A leader is anyone who is in a position to influence another being for any period of time.  That pretty well includes us all.  But, to be a Mindful leader is a choice.  And our attitude is a key component of that.  Our attitude impacts our lives and the lives of those around us.

If you wish to practice a strategy, you may consider in the morning upon rising, spending a couple of minutes being deliberate about your attitude.  Determine your intention for the day and how you will approach life.  An example might be that you may decide to be positive towards every circumstance that comes your way.  That does not mean you sugar coat a bad situation.  It may just mean that no matter what life throws your way, you approach it from a place of creativity and opportunity.  Every difficulty can also hold within it a “nugget of gold”.

Here is a link to a 1.5 minute interview with Dr. Ellsworth Wareham, a 100 year old retired heart surgeon talking about attitude, and making a contribution, among other topics.  His philosophy is simple, “you do the best you can, and the things you can’t do anything about, don’t give any thought to them”.   http://youtu.be/hGQTpxjbwaM

I would like to thank Rob Quartly for the video link.

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The Power of Kindness

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Far from being a sign of weakness or poor leadership, kindness carries with it a great strength.  There is a gentleness to kindness.  It comes from a place of stillness, inner quiet and confidence.  Kindness has the power to change the world, our world, and the world around us.

When dealing with hostility, kindness can be disarming and non threatening to others.  When dealing with the sadness, it can offer gentle encouragement and give hope. Ultimately, it signals that the other person matters. They matter enough for you to stop and notice, and to act towards them with an open heart, and they notice. That is the impact we can have on strangers, friends, and colleagues.  It is a true sign of Mindful leadership.

An often overlooked area of kindness is the impact it has when we are kind to ourselves.  We often think about it in the context of how we relate to others.  But, think of it from the point of view of being kind to yourself.  Try it and see how it feels.  In fact, you may wish to make it a habit.  When you treat yourself with kindness, it becomes much easier to authentically be kind to others.  When we are kind to ourselves, sincere kindness to others wells up spontaneously.  Ultimately, it makes us feel good, and it isn’t just in our minds.

Mary Anne Christie Burnside, a developmental psychologist, writes that”Studies show that thinking about, observing or practicing a kind act stimulates the vagus nerve, which literally warms up the heart and may be closely connected to the brain’s receptor networks for oxytocin, the soothing hormone involved in maternal bonding. Kindness also triggers the reward system in our brain’s emotion regulation center releasing dopamine, the hormone that’s associated with positive emotions and the sensation of a natural high.

Kindness—which reduces stress, anxiety and depression—can literally put us, and others, at ease. It works wonders in the relationships we have with ourselves and with everyone else, even with people we don’t know.” Here’s a link to an article on the topic of intentional acts of kindness.   http://www.mindful.org/intentional-acts-of-kindness/?utm_source=Mindful+Newsletter&utm_campaign=3cf01c3d0a-Weekly_Wakeup_Jun_6_20165_6_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6d03e8c02c-3cf01c3d0a-21347677&mc_cid=3cf01c3d0a&mc_eid=d4ba0db1b0

If the science of kindness is of interest to you, you may wish to check out Dacher Keltner’s book, Born to Be Good: The Science of A Meaningful Life (published by W.W. Norton in 2009).

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Purification Requires “Grit”

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As we become more Mindful, we also become aware of our negative patterns.  Essentially, these are behaviours or habits that hold us back, get us into trouble, cause us to struggle, and become impediments to our happiness and effectiveness.  If left unchecked, these patterns compromise our relationships and our lives.

As Mindful leaders, our objective is to purify these patterns, so that we can get the most out of our lives, personally and professionally.

In the previous Blog, I cited the research of Angela Lee Duckworth on “grit”, which she asserts to be a predictor of success.  She defines “grit” as passion and persistence for your long term goals.  It is having stamina and working towards your future goals, day in and out, for years.  It is living life as if it is a marathon, not a sprint.

And that is exactly the quality required to “purify” negative patterns.  First, it requires being honest with oneself.  We have to be prepared to accept the negative side of ourselves, to acknowledge that we could do better.  Most importantly, once that is done, we have to be prepared to accept ourselves as we are, without recrimination, and without guilt.  Purifying requires self compassion, and along with that self forgiveness.

Even when we fall short, we have tried our best. It is always our best under the circumstances.  And that’s all we can ever ask.  We can resolve to do better next time, and to try and try again, until the negative pattern has dissolved, with barely a trace.

By making deliberate purification a habit, we feel lighter and more in control of our lives.  In fact, we begin to see that our negative patterns were never punishable failures, but rather opportunities to “correct our course”, much as a sailor would alter or correct course in recognition that the winds had changed.

Deliberate purification is empowering.  It enables us to recognize that we are not at the mercy of life and its circumstances.  No matter what life brings, we can always take control of our attitudes, behaviours and actions.

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What Does it Take to Succeed?

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I just heard a very interesting TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth; it is 6 minutes long and has had over 8 million views.  In her Talk she asserts that a predictor of success is not related to IQ or even talent.  It is something which she calls “grit”.  She defines “grit” as passion and persistence for your long term goals.  It is having stamina and working towards your future goals, day in and out, for years.  It is living life as if it is a marathon, not a sprint.

And that is exactly as it is with Mindful leadership.  The 9 ways of being a Mindful leader require that very same perseverance.  They  are achieved with practice and attention, day in and day out.  It is not a game of perfect.  We try and succeed, then falter and try again, and so it goes on.  We begin to see that there is no such thing as failure, but rather an opportunity to correct our course and continue to try.  And the prize for this perseverance is the experience of being comfortable in one’s skin, knowing who we are and being at peace with that.  It enables us to enjoy life fully, to share our gifts with the world, and to be of service.  The result is a life well lived.

I hope you enjoy the TED Talk.    https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit?language=en#t-244362

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Discovering Your Life Purpose

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In the previous Blog, I suggested that as humans, our life purpose is to refine consciousness.   And I defined the refinement of consciousness as the process of becoming more and more aware and present, moment by moment, regardless of circumstances.  In fact, when this happens, we notice an enormous transformation in our lives.  We approach life differently.  We become more conscious of everyone and everything around us.  And we become aware of how we impact others.  It is empowering to be present and aware.  It makes us feel alive and full of wonder.

At the same time, there may be a nagging sense that we are here to do something, something we may not have not yet discovered.  This can be unsettling.  In fact, the more we press to know, the more confused we may become. In Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself and Inspiring Others, I devote an entire chapter to a process one can follow, to arrive at discovering one’s purpose.  If this is something you are pondering, I would suggest going through the exercises in the chapter.  Take your time and reflect, no need to rush the process.  Often ideas will crystallize as you reflect on your life to date.

Here are some things you might consider.  When you are putting your life purpose into action, it should feel joyful, exciting, and fun.  You might even call it a passion.  The hours seem to fly by as you engage in what you are doing.  It will likely feel effortless.  This is not to say it is easy or does not require work.  You may be working harder than you have ever worked.  But, you love it! You are using what you might call your gifts, things you do very well, and for which you may have a knack.

And finally, there is almost without exception, a sense of being of service.  In the process, we feel we are contributing and making our corner of the world, however we define this, a better place.  And it just feels right. Finally, we feel we have come home.  In reality and ultimately, it is a journey of self-discovery.  When we arrive at that place, we feel comfortable in our skin and at peace within ourselves.

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