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I’m at a Starbucks, thinking about loving-kindness.

My Saturday began early, journaling about loving-kindness while my youngest daughter, Olivia, got ready for us to drive to her high school. There, Olivia and the other freshmen are cheering on people of all ages with disabilities as they participate in the Achilles Nashville 6th Annual Hope and Possibility Race. Olivia has a good heart, and a smile and encouraging word for everyone she meets. I’m grateful for that.

As we drove, Olivia made fun of the Chinese meditation music that momentarily streamed from my Spotify app through my car stereo. I asked her if the nuns at her Catholic school have brought up the name of the late Trappist monk Thomas Merton, and mention that Merton was heavily into eastern spirituality and meditation before he died in Thailand. Olivia’s on her phone during this part of our drive, so not sure if she fully heard me.

I’ve got a couple of hours to myself before I pick Olivia back up at the school. I started listening to a recent Tara Brach podcast on my way to the Starbucks on West End, where I’m writing this. The podcast is about loving-kindness, it turns out. And Brach mentioned Merton, and an observation he made that it’s “easier for us to travel to the moon than to travel to ourselves.”

Here in Starbucks, I’m not trying to eavesdrop; but I can tell from overhearing snippets of their conversation that the two young men sitting nearby are having an AA-type of meeting. One is reading through the long list of things he’s ashamed of, ways he’s screwed up, and the efforts he’s making at sobriety. 

And I’m thinking of loving-kindness, which Thich Nhat Hanh defines as the intent and capacity to bring compassion and joy to others. Including ourselves.

I wish loving-kindness upon the Achilles participants, and upon Olivia and her classmates. I wish it upon the young men near me in the coffee shop, at least one of whom has obviously suffered so much and caused others to suffer.

And I’m cognizant, as I am every day, of the suffering I’ve caused myself and others. I’m filled with gratitude for the loving-kindness that is available, renewable, and applicable moment by moment. The loving-kindness that’s always there as I continue on the stutter-step journey Merton alluded to toward my own wholeness, while trying to help others make the journey as well.

I write tips on how mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling can help you love your career. As a bonus, most of these tips will also enhance your overall quality of life.

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John M. DeMarco is a writer, strategist, and executive coach based in Nashville, Tennessee.
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