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 hospice los angeles 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 los angeles hospice 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.