There are so many times, when we simply don't have the words to assist and comfort someone during a challenging situation. It's quite okay. Our presence is the present, the gift that can ease stress, anxiety and offer lasting relief and light during a moment of pain and darkness. Sometimes we think we have to know exactly what to say, or have experienced the exact situation to truly empathize, yet just allowing a person to feel completely heard can be priceless. A listening ear, a silent prayer, sharing meaningful time and/or presenting an open heart as authentic feelings are expressed can build an even stronger sense of understanding and connection with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, while offering unique insight(s) to ourselves as well. As we begin this week, let's make a conscious decision to listen with the intent to simply listen. Whether it's something or someone we want to hear or not, whether we agree with the content, or not. Just mindfully listen. And yes, at times it will take courage. Listening has the capacity to strengthen our hearts, and our ability to deepen our practice of patience, compassion and grace, which further grants us the ability to express those very attributes effortlessly as needed towards ourselves as well as others. Affirmation: "As I mindfully listen, I become stronger within my mind, body and spirit enabling me to grant unconditional love, patience, compassion and grace to myself and others."