A good friend gave me a book last week, thinking I might like it. The book is "Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion" by Jesuit Priest Gregory Boyle about his work with gangs in Los Angeles, CA. Reading the first chapters in the early spring sun this morning at Beach Pea in Kittery, Maine, I feel calm and centered and blessed.

The book's uplifting message, flowers budding, birds stopping for crumbs, and the melody of conversation at nearby tables open a stillness in me, a quiet place of gratitude and connection, of being lucky to be alive.

"Tattoos" is about one person's quest to help others reclaim goodness, love, and life. I am deeply moved. The book reminds me of my own guiding principles, thoughts I repeat to myself now and then that keep me centered and on track. They change, as life does. And they help me live each day with gratitude and anticipation.

Four Principles
When conflict arises and when life seems complicated and chaotic, these principles help me slow down, appreciate, and dwell in the simplicity and grace of this Ki Moment.

#1) Life is easier than I make it.
Whenever life speeds up or I feel I'm losing control, I think about the Unbendable Arm exercise from Aikido, and I remember that struggle is optional and that I'm not really in control of anything besides my self. I take a breath and re-focus, and things begin to fall into place. I'll bet life is easier than you make it, too.

#2) I have more power than I think.
When I think I can't, when I feel afraid, I remember my grandfather who, at 16, emigrated to America from Greece and then returned to marry and bring my grandmother over, and never looked back. I think of my Aunt Mimi, my mother, or any number of incredibly powerful role models, and I go forward. When I change my thinking, everything changes.

#3) I am connected.
I recently became a Hospice volunteer. During the training, we were asked to write down on ten small pieces of paper what was most important to us. I wrote the names of loved ones, of course, and other aspects of life I'm thankful for, such as physical health and well-being, mental acuity, and the ability to connect with others meaningfully.

Connection. We may not always feel it, especially in rough patches, but we are connected in a way that sustains us all. It is not whether we are connected, but how we acknowledge and foster that connection.

#4) I am loved.
I am. By lots of people. I only have to remember, and perspective returns.

An Unexpected Gift
I was given a gift this morning of clarity and connection--a gift more beautiful for being so unexpected. An altered state, in a way, that I didn't have to do anything to achieve. It's there if I'm willing to receive it. It's a lot easier than we make it.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict (http://www.unlikelyteachersbook.com) and the award-winning e-zine, Ki Moments, containing stories and practices on turning life's challenges into life teachers. Judy is a black belt in aikido and nationally known presenter, specializing in unique workshops on conflict, communication, and creating a positive work environment. She is the founder of Power & Presence Training and chief instructor of Portsmouth Aikido, Portsmouth, NH, USA. To sign up for more free tips and articles like these, visit http://www.JudyRinger.com