Today, my two beautiful daughters are graduating from high school in one of the most unusual periods in modern history. Both girls attended their senior year online, so they weren’t expecting a formal in-person graduation with their classmates. However, they had been eagerly anticipating a big graduation party with karaoke, friends by a bonfire, lots of great food and celebration. After all, they’ve been attending school since they were three years old! So today, I am celebrating them. I am honoring them. I am offering words of support, encouragement, love and pride.
Gracie asked if I would officiate a private graduation ceremony. Laurel Springs has an online graduation. But Gracie has been working all week to personalize the event. She has invested dozens of hours into creating awards, preparing special ceremonies, crafting decorations, and even making her own graduation cake! Our friend, Cyrene, is staying with us. She is graduating this year too, so she will be included in the pomp and circumstance. And I will deliver the following keynote address as kids sip lemonade at the back yard picnic table:
Welcome friends (point to Gracie’s boyfriend, Kalib), family (point to brother, Christopher) and esteemed guests (point to the kids’ crested gecko and aquatic frog, who will be in attendance). We are here to celebrate the accomplishments of these three magnificent creatures who stand here before you. Considering how unique they are, it seems fitting that their high school graduation ceremony is unique as well. It is my hope that these words offer the honor and celebration that is rightfully theirs.
The topic of this graduation day keynote address is “Trust”. Trust. When you think of that word “trust”, how does it make you feel? Safe? Protected? Or a bit annoyed? If we are being honest, I think most of us feel a little annoyed right now when we think of the word “trust”.
What can you trust? The list is much shorter now than it was just a few short months ago, isn’t it? Trust. You trusted that money would be available if you worked hard at a job.You trusted college to be there when you graduated. You trusted that if you worked hard and saved your money, you could travel: fly to cool places, explore new cultures, meet new people. Today, right now in this moment, what can you trust? What is worthy of your trust? Who is worthy of your trust?
Can you name a person who you can trust to consistently behave the way you want them to behave? Should anyone else trust you to consistently behave the way they want you to behave? No. Of course not. That is because trust is linked to responsibility. People are not responsible for behaving the way you want them to behave.
Is there anyone on this earth who is responsible for your happiness? Are you responsible for anyone else’s happiness. No. And yet every day, we act surprised when other people disappoint us and we feel guilty when we disappoint them. Every day, we put our trust in the wrong things. We trust other people and events to make us happy when those people and events are not ultimately responsible for our happiness.
So how do you know what to trust? How can you determine what is trust-worthy? By using the tools you were born with. Every human on the planet was born with a very important tool. Let’s call it your emotional guidance system. When you hear something, witness something or think something that resonates with your emotional guidance system, it feels good. Something inside you says “Yes!” It pulls at your heart. It draws you in.
I’ll show you what I mean. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it and release. Relax. Listen to these words and pay attention to the way you feel when you hear them.
- You are a spiritual being in a physical body.
- You are here because you chose to be here.
- You are worthy of living a life of abundance and beauty.
- Your contribution to this world is important and the world would not be the same without the gifts and talents you contribute.
- There is no such thing as a mistake. You can’t screw it up. It’s all part of the journey.
- All energy is good.
- There is no such thing as shortage or lack. There is plenty for everyone.
- Time and space are your playground.
- Life is a palate you use to paint, create and express your true self.
- And now, in this moment, you can feel the universe conspiring on your behalf, because you can be, do or have anything you desire.
O.k. You can open your eyes. How did those words make you feel? If they made you feel good, you are aligned with your higher self. If they made you feel awkward or uncomfortable, you are out of alignment with your higher self.
When you are aligned with your higher self, you feel alive, engaged, energized, invigorated, inspired. Your spirit does a little happy dance. Trust that. Whatever it is that makes your heart sing, trust that. Because that feeling is the feeling you get when you are connecting with something bigger than yourself. Some people call it God or Spirit or Source or Higher Power or the Universe. I believe it’s the You that was here before you were born and the You that continues after you die. So I call it my “Higher Self”. Call it whatever you want. Trust that.
How do you learn to recognize the voice of your Higher Self? By developing good mental hygiene. When you were little kids, you learned to brush your teeth every day. Why? To care for your teeth. To protect them. To keep them healthy. You learned to take a bath or shower. (Unless you’re Christopher. But most of the rest of us learned to take a shower!) Why? To care of our bodies. To protect them. To keep them healthy. Every day, you eat healthy food. (well… mostly healthy) You get the sleep your body needs. (well… most of the time) You recognize the fact that meeting your body’s physical needs helps you live a happy, healthy, vibrant life.
The same is true for your mind. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about mental hygiene. But it’s just as important (if not more important) than physical hygiene. Unhealthy thoughts are destructive. They are like little weeds that crop up in a beautiful garden. Taking care of those mental weeds when they are little is easy. But if you let them grow, they can take over the garden and choke out the flowers. They can destroy what’s beautiful in that garden. Tending to your mental garden is a daily task. It involves not only weeding out the negative thoughts, but planting positive ones in their place.
When I first moved to Boyne City 23 years ago, I was always afraid when I was running in the woods alone at Avalanche. I was afraid a stalker would jump out and attack me. Instead of enjoying the beauty of the trees and flowers during my runs, my thoughts were consumed by fear of some unknown assailant. Then one Sunday morning, during a sermon at Walloon Lake Community Church, the pastor told the story about a man who was consumed by unwanted thoughts. The sermon ended with a quote from Martin Luther: “You can’t prevent a bird from flying over your head. But you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.”
I realized that fearful thoughts can pop into my head at any time. But I can decided whether to entertain those thoughts as guests at the dinner table, or I can politely ask them to leave. I chose to dismiss the thoughts of a stalker lurking in the woods. I actively pulled those fearful mental weeds and replaced them with positive thoughts.
And before I knew it, the fearful thoughts stopped showing up unexpectedly. It took far less time and effort than I could have imagined. And I learned a valuable lesson. I have much more control in this world than I thought I did. Fear is not real. It’s just a figment of my imagination. Fearful thoughts can’t control me unless I let them. The act of pulling mental weeds builds trust in the power of your mind.
I also began to see how many mental weeds there are to pull. You know the Golden Rule. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. But behavior is just the very first level of following the Golden Rule. Yes. You absolutely want to treat people the way you want to be treated. The next step is to only TALK about people the way you want to be talked about. And then… where the true gold lies… only THINK about people the way you want to be thought about.
Protect your mind. Wash it. Shine it. Polish it. The best way to clean your mind is through daily meditation and visualization. It’s not hard and it’s not time-consuming. But just like brushing your teeth, it takes daily discipline. For 20 minutes every day, preferably when you first wake up in the morning or just before you go to sleep at night, set aside 20 minutes for your mental hygiene routine.
For the first half of your meditation, visualize a life of your choosing. See yourself earning as much money as you want doing something you absolutely love. You can’t even believe you are getting paid to do what you do! See yourself surrounded by friends and family who celebrate your success. See yourself going on adventures, traveling the world. See yourself trying new foods, meeting new people, exploring new mountains, and forests and beaches. See yourself happy, fulfilled and joyful. Picture yourself loving deeply and being loved deeply, honored, respected, admired and celebrated.
For the second half of your meditation, empty your mind and feel a deep sense of gratitude for the air as it enters and leaves your lungs. Feel each muscle relax as you enter into wordless communication with your Higher Self. Feel supported. Nurtured. Held. Inspired. Loved. In that place, discover your own deep knowing and understanding of what it means to trust.
I love you with every fiber of my being, with every piece of my soul. As you’ve heard me say a thousand times… every bit of me loves every bit of you. Yet even my love – as deep and powerful and eternal as that love is – even my love can’t compare to the powerful love of your Higher Self, available to you every moment of every day. It is my hope that good daily hygiene will help you discover a deep, fulfilling, unending reservoir of love that will help you navigate all the beautiful journeys life your life has in store for you. And in that, I hope you find deep, abiding trust.