So many things are going through my head and plucking at my heart as this year begins. I have chosen to look instead at possibilities as we begin a new year together. I am happy to bid farewell to 2017, a year where my posts often focused on the awful divisions, wars, prejudices and personal unthinkable actions of certain individuals. I also wrote about the way that turning over rocks and showing what is under them can empower us as people and nations. It is easy to become disillusioned and heart-sick at the incredible stupidity and misbehavior of our elected officials and groups who thrive on division. It often seems that there is a deliberate attempt to overwhelm, and in that overwhelm good people will cover their eyes and ears and go to ground. On the other side, there is always the possibility that good people will stand tall, gather their positive emotions and move forward into better ways of understanding and befriending those who seem to be other. I am advocating for that side.

I don’t know the future, but I do know we have the ability to change it one moment at a time. I am not suggesting that righteous anger and the ability to see wrongs in the world is a bad thing. I am suggesting that there is another step after the recognition. We have a choice. Choosing to act is a choice, but so is choosing not to act. Both have consequences. The next step is crucial: now that I know, now that I feel what I know, what do I do? Can I reimagine what the past has taught me? Can I make a choice that will send positive vibrations onto our beloved planet?

What sort of future is coming up from behind I don’t really know. But the past, spread out ahead, dominates everything in sight. Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

In a recent conversation I was asking how it is possible that empathy is so missing in those who pretend to govern, oversee and guide our country. My voice rose as I asked: “how can they not see what the results are for the poor, the sick, the elderly and the frightened?” Truly, I couldn’t grasp how the actions of our elected officials are so heartless in a time when so many are suffering. I heard the angst in my voice and stopped, went to my room and prayed. My heart slowed and my breathing grew less labored as I felt the presence of peace and calm in my space.

I wrote in my journal, asking myself how I could move from the “why” of it to acceptance of what is and choice of what I could, realistically, do about it. I am only one person, but my energy can be a power for good— if it is not depleted by grief and angst. I can be empathetic in my daily interaction with individuals, in my giving to groups, in my conversation when it is useful and in my work. I cannot, no matter how much I care, change the heartless callousness of the greed consuming the world.

Acceptance of what and how things are is not giving up. It’s actually empowering to recognize reality and vow to do everything in your power to change it in your own world. You can’t change the governing belief system or the division that rules human behavior, but “light one candle” is not a Pollyanna fantasy. One becomes many. All positive change in the world has come from the beginning of a movement. I am advocating for a movement, one-by-one, to a time of reconciliation, coherent conversation and movement from division to unity. It has happened before, and often following a leadership that shows us how totally lopsided things are. I think that time is now. In that spirit, I ask that every person reading this make an effort by focusing on changing one thing in their life that adds to division, letting it go, and adding one thing that promotes unity. Finding one aspect to admire about a neighbor who pulls all our strings or saying a kind word to the grumpy person in line can be practice for life changing.

One step further can be the saying of a prayer of unity every morning on arising. Imagine the energy of the prayer infusing your body and soul, and think of it throughout the day. I suggest the following, or one you compose yourself as I composed this one.

Today I remind myself that I am one of many.
Today I remind myself that all people have fear and untold stories.
Today I will remember to look past the surface and see that fear.
Today I remind myself that all people won’t like me and they don’t have to.
Today I remind myself of all those who give from their hearts and thank them.
Today I pray for strength to look straight at evil and deny its entrance.
Today I pray to embrace love and caring in every facet of life.
And finally, I remind myself to forgive my lapses and the lapses of others when we fail.

Of course it is optimistic, and maybe a little Pollyanna, to believe in change through one person’s actions. But throughout history we have glorious examples of how it has worked, one heart at a time. Why shouldn’t we try it? Our bodies radiate energy many feet into our space, touching all those who pass near us. Practicing filling that energy with compassion rather than judgment is enough to change our life, and often to touch others. It can’t hurt, and it brings us peace, calm and a longer life than any other emotional space. Anger, fear, righteous indignation and judgment fuel our energy. It helps us notice what is amiss. But stay too long in that place and it sucks us dry of our natural compassion. In HeartMath® we teach the ability to be aware of the “choice point,” that moment when we can shift. Recognizing what sparked the negative emotion is a gift—a moment where we breathe, slow and choose the energy we prefer to send others. These energies are of the heart, not the ego. We have nothing to lose as our energy is constant and never taken from us, especially when we are choosing what to radiate in our lives. You may lose relationships and gain new ones as you realign yourself with who you are meant to be. May this year be one that proves nothing is intractable, and we are more powerful when we focus on the strength of our heart. Every time we choose change, we have losses and gains. In the words of beloved John O’Donohue:

The beauty of loss is the room it makes for something new. The constant flow of loss makes vital clearance in the soul. Loss is the sister of discovery; it is vital to openness; though it certainly brings pain.  Eternal Echoes

We are strong and can survive the pain that opens us to compassion. As long as we are on the trajectory of loving and honoring more than we fear and attack, we are on the right track. This new year is one of opportunity. I am looking forward.

Therèse Tappouni is the author of six published books—four of which have received major awards—and creator of two meditation/visualization CDs. Her latest book is The Gifts of Grief: Finding Light in the Darkness of Loss. Therèse is the founder of the company Whole Heart, dedicated to helping people live a balanced, loving and creative life. She teaches workshops for women in mid-life, grief workshops, women’s history classes, resilience workshops and one-on-one coaching created from her certification as a HeartMath® Trainer. She has also trained in many other modalities, including Somatic Intuitive Training™ and Time Dimension Therapy™