Many of us heard the word "responsibility" in a negative way as we were growing up. It was usually connected to a whole list of things we felt forced to do. We may have developed a negative reaction to the word because the list was so long – homework, chores, work, being nice, saying "thank you," "I’m sorry," etc. Here’s an opportunity to discover a new attitude about the word responsibility: take the word and break it into two main parts – response-ability. Imagine having the ability to respond appropriately to what is in front of us. That is all there is to it. Simple, but not always easy! Awareness helps us feel our connection with our community. It also helps us take respond-ability INTO our community. To respond to what’s in front of us, we need to be clear and present, without mental and emotional baggage weighing us down. Experiencing this kind of alert, spontaneous clarity happens as we cultivate awareness. With practice, we see something needs doing and we respond. If volunteers are needed, we see what we can do. There’s often no set amount of volunteer time being asked for by many organizations that need help. Doing what we can is enough. Asking, "How can I help?" is an active, direct way to respond in times of need. Offering help is the way to go beyond the concept of community to experience it directly. Living with awareness is always a gift to yourself and others.

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Try this the next time you are aware that you feel stressed and want to quiet down the inner chaos quickly. Walking, driving, standing still or sitting, quietly say while breathing in, "I am breathing in, and I am at peace." Say while breathing out, "I am breathing out, and I am at peace." Focus attention on what happens. If you become distracted, simply return your focus to your words and notice what's happening within. Repeat until you notice a shift, and are ready to stop. The cells of the body receive thought as instruction, and they are willing followers to whatever we think. Saying we are at peace allows the body to shift from feeling rushed around, to slowing down, so we can feel quieter inside. With the goal of maintaining balance in all things, use this practice with care, and let awareness be your guide. Sometimes this practice is helpful, and other times, it can be used to distract us from exploring mistaken beliefs that keep us rushing around. Remembering awareness is a gift to yourself and others.

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