A simple way to keep your marriage fresh and strong

What makes love last? Is it possible to keep a relationship strong and vibrant over the long term or are we destined to live out our days in boredom and annoyance after the honeymoon is over?

That is a million-dollar question and researchers have been asking the same question for a very long time.
The beginning of a romantic relationship is often marked by high levels of passion, joy, attraction, excitement, and novelty. We find everything very exciting.
With time, however, these feelings and experiences become less intense, rendering the relationship a great deal less exciting.
This does not only happen in marriage and relationships but in all aspects of our lives.
Let us take the example of travel:
When we travel by air for the very first time, we are impressed if they give us earphones and a drink. It feels luxurious to sit in our seat with the stewardess coming around to check if we need anything and if our seat belts are tied.

After the first few rounds, however, we start eyeing business class. It seems so much more comfortable and luxurious. If we are lucky enough to enjoy business class travel, it feels indulgent at first . . . until we get used to it and then we start dreaming of the joys of first class . . .
Why does this happen?
Are we just really spoilt and entitled human beings or is there more to it?
Psychologists and scientists explain that getting used to the good things (and actually the not so good things) is natural and it is because of a process called Hedonic Adaptation.
Hedonic adaptation simply means that when a good (or bad) thing happens in our lives, it will make us happy or sad for a short amount of time, after which we will return to our normal state of happiness or misery.
This natural tendency of human beings leads us to switch off to the value of the good things in our lives. We fail to appreciate the full value of our health, of the people we love, of our peace, freedom and prosperity, and the very fact that we are alive at all. Our attention only turns to these things when something goes wrong. We learn the value of these things when they’re taken away from us–for example, we begin to appreciate the value of health when we become seriously ill or lose some functionality.

Using the travel example again, Hedonic Adaption means that we begin to take business class travel for granted – until we are bumped off business class on a flight and have to travel coach!
What does this mean for our relationships?
For our marriage relationships, this means that the “honeymoon period” will last for a short time and boredom or dissatisfaction will set in. We sometimes talk about it in a way that “love has faded” or that we have “fallen out of love”.
When we first fall in love we notice and appreciate all the good things that our spouse brings to the relationship. We appreciate that they bring us our first cup of coffee or tea. In time, we begin to take that morning ritual for granted – unless the tea is cold or there is not enough sugar.
What happened? We have start taking each other for granted. We have the “take for granted syndrome”. We begin to expect the good things and take them for granted. We only focus when something is not right.
While this may be the natural progression of a relationship it certainly does not bring us happiness. Maybe this is why there are sooo many jokes about and against marriage. It is almost as people expect to live in misery for the rest of their lives!
This sounds like really bad news, right?

The good news is that this course of events is not inevitable. There are many couples who manage to remain in love and happy over long term so there are ways to counteract this tendency and make sure that the relationship remains happy and satisfying.

Let’s explore one important way to maintain a happy relationship.

This simple practice is so powerful that I often refer to it as the 60 second technique to transform a relationship.

And this technique is the practice of appreciation

What is appreciation?

Appreciation means the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.
Appreciation means to pay attention to something and have a positive feeling associated with that attention.
For example,
I appreciate that you are reading this post. (Makes me feel that my efforts are worth it)
I appreciate that friends take the time to answer my texts or calls. (It makes me feel supported)
I appreciate the time that you take to give me feedback. (It makes me feel valued)
I appreciate that my husband comes home in time for dinner. (It makes me feel connected)
And so on . . .
Why does appreciation work?
When we focus our attention to something that is going right in our lives, it allows us to continue to experience that positive thing and the events and emotions that accompany it. It other words, when I appreciate something, I delay the process of Hedonic Adaptation.
Science now recognizes that when we continue to practice appreciation of the things in our lives it can keep things new and fresh and manage increased expectations and feelings of entitlement.
So it turns out that in appreciating our spouses we benefit ourselves. On the other hand, when a person no longer attends to and appreciates his partner, he will essentially stop garnering any positivity or benefiting from having a partner, which is the very definition of adaptation. This is how boredom and taking for granted syndrome sets in and the relationship deteriorates.
Appreciating others is of course very important for the person on the receiving end of the appreciation as well. In order to keep doing our best, human beings need to know that our efforts matter and are appreciated. Even at work, research shows that appreciation or lack of it in an organization is a major predictor whether or not people will stay in the job. When people leave jobs and they are interviewed, they cite lack of appreciation or value for their work as a major reason for quitting. Similarly, in families, when family members feel appreciated, they are much more likely to keep doing positive things for the relationship and for each other.
How do we practice appreciation?

1) Become intentional about focusing on what is right rather than what is wrong. Learn to focus your attention on what is present rather than what is lacking. Train your brain to scan your day for what is going right.
2) Create practices to make it habit. Inspiration wears out. Consider a simple practice can you can ritualize. For example, you can start and end your day with an appreciation, or express it at mealtimes. In order to get the full benefits of appreciation for your relationship, you have to both feel it and express it. To work effectively, it needs to be consistent. You can express appreciation through a note, text, email or spoken word.
3) To develop a culture of appreciation, we can encourage others to appreciate us by receiving compliments more graciously. We can practice simply saying thank you and shut up. We don’t have to give it right back or argue with the appreciation (which makes them feel silly and stupid). This ruins the gift of appreciation and offends the giver!
Latest research suggests that when one person gives a compliment and the other receives it graciously, it raises the serotonin level in both human beings – it physiologically changes the brain of both people for the better. Pretty cool, right?

So go on, challenge yourself to develop a practice and habit of appreciation and enjoy the experience of your relationships flourishing!

What your smartphone is doing to your relationships

Few things in life can bring us as much joy in life as having fulfilling and close relationships with those who matter most to us – our families. Feeling connected to, being loved and supported by those whom we love has been called akin to experiencing heaven on earth. Maintaining family relationships is not only an integral part of our Deen, it is also a key to having a positive experience in this world. While essential for worldly and ultimate happiness, maintaining a strong family is less than easy in modern society.

Families everywhere are feeling the stress of conflicting needs and schedules of dual working parents, the shortage of time and the pressures of living in an environment that often contradicts the values they try to nurture at home. Ours is also the first generation to experience the reality of mobile technologies that are always switched on.

The Internet has expanded our horizons like never before and opened up a world of possibilities in education and communication. These benefits have come at a cost though, the extent of which is not yet fully understood. Although research on the impact of constant connectivity to technology is only just emerging, our families are already reeling from its impact.

In many households today, family time consists of everyone being occupied by a smart phone, tablet or laptop. Where the family sits in the evening is determined by where the wifi signal is the strongest. Even though the entire family may be sharing the same physical space, each person is lost in their own private world. Things that have always been shared family activities, such as watching TV or the news, or listening to a lecture, are now individual activities. In the past, the family would gather around, watch TV and then get on with ‘normal life’. Today, it is ‘normal’ that the TV, Internet, entertainment, emails, work and non-work contacts follow us around wherever we go.

Mobile technology is so seductive because it meets so many of our needs for work, play, education, entertainment, communication and socializing. Why would we ever want to switch off?

One reason to consider switching off is because it is becoming increasingly clear that this constant connectivity has come at a great cost to relationships. Shirley Turkle points out in her seminal book, Alone Together, that technology has made it possible for people to connect to each other on their own terms and in amounts that they can control. Texting and instant messaging appears easier because you can control when, where and how much to reveal. You can also edit and re-edit your messages, carefully crafting what you want to say and how you want to respond. It is often easier to have difficult conversations via text because you do not have to witness the reactions of the recipient of the message unless they tell you in an emoticon. The result is that people today are less likely to want to connect in real time because relationships in real life are ‘messy’, raw and unedited, in other words, human. Turkle’s and other research has found that it is precisely because it is so easy (although one-dimensional) that makes communicating through technology a barrier to forming relationships in real life.

When we use technology to mediate our relationships, we become “alone together”, that is, sharing the same space, yet not really connected to each other. Moreover, when we are communicating to others than whom we are with, we are giving our loved ones the clear signal that we aren’t really there for them, that whom we are ‘talking to’ is more important than whom we are with.

Reflecting on our own relationship with technology is challenging. It is so much easier to point the finger at ‘youth these days’ and lament how the ‘Net Generation” cannot set boundaries for themselves or manage technology in an appropriate way. It is more uncomfortable, although also more effective, to take stock of our own relationship with technology before can begin to guide our children.

So let us consider how our relationship with our devices is impacting our other relationships.

Parents are distracted from each other

It is well established, both in theory and research, that the strongest link in a family system is the parents’ relationship with each other. Mothers and fathers set the emotional tone of the family by how they relate to each other and to their children.

Growing up in a household where parents express their love and support for each other provides a safe foundation for children to grow up in. It also teaches them that that it is possible to have a great long-term partnership and the skills that it takes to maintain such a partnership.

Investing in our marriages by paying attention to our spouses is one of the most effective ways that we can support our children’s success and happiness. A happy marriage is, of course, also highly correlated with our own mental emotional and physical wellbeing.

Meaningful communication on a daily basis is how a married couple keeps emotionally connected to each other, and this keeps the marriage strong. Dr John Gottman, a respected marriage expert, believes that in emotionally connected relationships, spouses frequently make small bids for attention from each other throughout the day. These are tiny gestures that are easy to miss if one is not paying attention. For example, a person looking out of the window and commenting on the fall colours is a bid for connection. In a strong marriage, the couples respond to each other’s bids for attention by ‘turning toward’ their partner. This simply means that they respond in a neutral or kind way to the comment. Simply saying, ‘yes, they are nice, aren’t they’ or even nodding and saying ‘yeah’ would qualify as turning towards. In unhealthy relationships, the partners either miss the other’s bid for attention or they respond in an unkind manner. It is normal for even happy couples to miss some bids, but a couple that is frequently distracted by technology is likely to miss many, if not most, of these bids for attention. Dr Gottman’s research has shown that these tiny hurts of not being responded to add up over time and lead to emotional distance in the relationship.

Moreover, if a couple does not communicate with each other because each person is constantly looking down at his or her phone, children will start to normalize this behaviour. As a result, children may turn to devices for support and comfort rather than to parents or friends. According to current research, one of the contributing factors of depression and loneliness in youth today is a result of missed human interaction.

Parents are distracted from children

We know that young children can get themselves into trouble and danger very quickly. We just have to turn our gaze for a minute and they appear to run towards danger. These days our gaze is turned a lot. Even when we are close by, our attention is on our phones, and this is putting our children at physical risk. The Centre for Disease Control confirms that distracted parenting has led to an increase in everyday childhood injuries, such as playground accidents.

With the advent of mobile technology, it has become increasingly common for parents to multitask while they are with their children. A mom or dad pushing a stroller with one hand while checking his or her email with the other hand is an all-too-common sight today. For parents, it can be challenging to be with a young child all day while yearning for adult company and conversation. It is easy to empathize with parents wanting to escape what appears to be daily drudgery. However, when we begin to recognize the impact of our attention on children’s cognitive and emotional development, we may be more motivated to switch off the phone and turn our full attention to our children.

The benefits of positive and consistent attention to our children cannot be overstated. Our attention is vital to a child’s cognitive, emotional and social development. Research on attachment in children shows that even very young children know when their parents respond to them. When a baby cries and a mother responds by turning her attention towards the child in an attempt to soothe the child, she is not only following her God-given instinct. She is establishing a strong basis of comfort, trust and security within the child. Children feel safe if they are able to bond with parents through physical touch and eye contact. This basis of trust is a strong foundation from which to view the world and it will contribute to his or her emotional wellbeing throughout life.

On the other hand, when the parent’s attention is fragmented, it can have a long term impact on children’s wellbeing. When children sense that their parents are digitally distracted or emotionally unavailable, they may feel less familiarity, comfort, trust, security, and, most importantly, love from their parents. Without this basis of trust and security, it is challenging to build a healthy relationship with our children. As they grow older, they are less likely to turn to their parents for support and guidance. It also makes it much less likely that they are able to form other healthy relationships.

Connect before guiding

It is not only young children who need our emotional presence and attention. As children get older, they encounter moral and emotional challenges. While incidents such as fighting with a friend may appear trivial to adults, to a child or an adolescent, how these events are dealt with and processed can be life-changing. While children can ‘Google’ almost everything these days, it is our response to seemingly minor daily events that can help build a relationship where they will come to us rather than go to Google for life’s big questions.

I am not suggesting that parents spend every waking moment focused on their children. Allowing children space to entertain themselves, deal with the minor frustrations of everyday living, and solve problems for themselves is vital for their sense of efficacy. The difference between this kind of “benign neglect” and distraction from technology is that benign neglect is intentional, while not being able to tear ourselves away from our devices is unwilling and unconscious.

Switching off and paying attention to our spouses and children is challenging in the short term. In the long term, however, it will bring us a lot more fulfilment than the fleeting enjoyment from that funny YouTube video or WhatsApp message.

We all have those ‘magic moments’ of parenting and family life that make it all worthwhile. The joy of connecting and really ‘seeing’ another human being is unparalleled in human experience. These magic moments, as we know, do not occur on a schedule. Instead they appear, almost randomly, in daily routines when we are present and emotionally available for each other.

So how can we take small steps to turn from being digitally distracted to emotionally available for our family?

1. Assess how much time you actually spend on your devices. Many parents greatly underestimate the time that they are plugged in. All those tiny moments of checking the phone add up.

2. Establish sacred, unplugged time and space when family is around. Commit to being available to family with your full presence at certain times and places in the home. Dinner time and bedtime are great places to start.

3. Have a family meeting about your concerns regarding technology and family time. This works best if you are honest about your own challenges with managing technology. Brainstorm with the family to come up with a plan to manage technology within the home.

There is no doubt that the digital revolution is here to stay. We cannot ignore it or shun it. We can become aware of how it is impacting our families and learn to practice ways to develop a healthier relationship with technology that is not at the expense of our other relationships, but makes room for the relationships that matter most.

This article first appeared in Jaffari News: http://www.jaffarinews.com/2016-02-13/what-your-smartphone-is-doing-to-your-family-relationships/

Fostering Moral Intelligence in Children: The Role of Parents and Teachers

SPELT poster


I need your help!

Many women struggle with their relationship with the in-laws once they get married. They may start out with the best of intentions or they may have preconceived (negative) assumptions. Regardless, many women experience this relationship as one of the biggest challenges of adjusting to married life, whether they are living with, close to, or far away from their spouse’s family.

I am in the process of creating an online course that provides support for many of these challenges, including how to tell if it is you or if it is them and how to manage if your in-laws are truly “toxic”.

In order for the course to be helpful to as many people as possible, I want to get an idea of what are some of your biggest challenges around your relationship with your in-laws. Please take a few moments to fill in the survey to get this process started.

Thank you so much for your time. I truly appreciate it. Here is the link for the survey

5 Ways Moms can encourage Dad to be more involved in parenting

While mothers have always been celebrated as being vital in the upbringing of children, popular culture and even science, until recently, has mostly ignored the crucial role that father’s play in the healthy development and success of children. Attachment literature, therapists and parenting experts alike have focused on the child’s relationship with the mother, maintaining that it is this relationship that predicts whether a child will be emotionally and mentally healthy and well adjusted in life. While this is true, it does not mean that the role of the father is any less important. Thankfully, research has recently begun to recognize the different but equally important role that fathers play in their family.

Fathers foster emotional intelligence and confidence in children

According to the American report “Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-Being“: “Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections”.

Playing with fathers has many important benefits for children

It is sometimes tempting for mothers to minimize the way that fathers interact with children, believing that they are left to the heavy lifting while the father “merely” plays with the children, getting to do the “fun stuff”.

Studies have found that this “fun stuff” and play is in fact very beneficial for the children. The same report found that: “The way fathers play with their children also has an important impact on a child’s emotional and social development. Fathers spend a higher percentage of their one-to-one interactions with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior”.

A good relationship with Dad is good for grades

The report went on to say that: “Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes. The influence of a father’s involvement extends into adolescence and young adulthood. Numerous studies find that an active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents.”

According to another study from the University of Illinois, fathers who take the time to ask about what their children learned in school and their day-to-day social activities and relationships have children who do better in school than kids who don’t have that kind of interest from Dad.

A role model for boys and a high standard for girls

There is no doubt that having a positive male role model in a father helps boys develop positive gender-role characteristics. Researchers at the University of Oxford have reported that boys who have involved fathers are less likely to get in trouble with the police as they get older. They are also more likely to be more in touch with their feelings and emotions.

In other words, it is fathers who model what a true gentleman looks like. Boys emulate the ways that their father leads the family and treats women, particularly their mother.

Girls also benefit from a close relationship with their father. Because he’s the first man she’ll get to know in life, he will set the standard in her mind for what to expect from men.

There are also some unexpected benefits. According to research from Vanderbilt University, girls who had close, positive relationships with their fathers during the first five years of life tended to reach puberty later than girls who had more distant relationships with their fathers. In addition, the University of Oxford researchers noted that girls who had more involved fathers were less likely to face mental health problems later in life. Genuine praise and admiration from a father can help his daughter grow up to be an independent, confident woman and this in turn will help her make good decisions about her own relationships with men later in life.

Mother’s Role in Father Involvement

Given that a positive relationship with involved fathers has so many benefits for the family, why is it that some fathers today are not more involved in family life and parenting? In families where women are not supported in their parenting role, they often complain about the lack of support from their spouses around parenting and house keeping chores. It is encouraging to learn then, that what mothers say and do can have a big impact on how involved and supportive their spouse is.

The truth is that in many families, the mothers are the gatekeepers to their children which means that they can consciously or unconsciously keep others from getting too close to the children. While many women may not admit this openly, but upon self reflection, they confess concerns about their husband’s competence as a parent and many will confirm that even when their husband’s try, they do not do things in the “right way”.  Because these moms are not comfortable about their spouse in childcare duties, they do not give their spouses many opportunities to be involved.

What happens in these situations is that Dad feels the criticism from Mom, decides that he cannot measure up to her standards and gives up. This cycle is quite damaging for the whole family as it leaves Mom feeling unsupported, Dad feeling undervalued and unappreciated and the ultimate loss is that of the children in the loss of opportunity in developing a close relationship with Dad.

So how can mothers encourage Dad to be more involved with the children?

  1. Validate his role:

Given the mother-centric nature of current parenting trends, fathers often feel like second-class citizens. It seems that with so many voices telling them that they are irrelevant for the family, fathers get more withdrawn than involved. Conversations and surveys with fathers show that if fathers are conscious of the value they bring to the parenting equation, they are more likely to be involved.  When mothers view their spouse as a competent parent, when they provide encouragement and expect and believe that parenting is a joint venture, the men are more likely to be involved with, and responsible for their children.

So if mothers begin to appreciate and acknowledge the fact that fathers bring something important, although different to the parenting partnership, fathers can be more encouraged to participate in parenting and be supportive of their spouse.

  1.  Work on your marriage:

Research also suggests that there is positive correlation between marital quality and the level of father involvement in childcare responsibilities. In other words, if you are in a generally happy relationship, your spouse is more likely to be involved with the children. On the other hand, if there is a high degree of marital conflict, it will negatively impact the father’s relationship with the children.

It is easy to ignore nurturing the marital relationship once children arrive. With so much to do, lack of sleep and the tiredness, young moms often feel overwhelmed and feel like they are barely able to keep it together. Even during this time, if mothers can still give some attention to their primary relationship, the entire period of active parenting can be easier and more supportive.

Moreover, practicing conscious parenting means being mindful of the lessons your children are learning from your relationship. If you pay attention to your spouse and give priority to the marriage, your children learn valuable lessons in relationship building.

  1. Get along with your in-laws:

More recently research indicates that a mother’s positive relationship with both the father and his family was found to predict a greater likelihood of initiated and sustained high father involvement.  In other words, if mothers work at getting along with their in-laws, their spouses are more likely to be helpful around the house and involved with the children.

  1. Appreciate what he does do rather than focusing on what he is not doing:

What we focus on in life grows and this is no different in the parenting relationship. If we acknowledge and appreciate what Dad is doing rather than minimize what he is doing, he will be more encouraged to be more involved. It is much too easy to become critical of the lack of involvement and this often stops us from seeing the ways in which he might be contributing.

study by Brigham Young University researchers finds that involvement in simple everyday activities, such as eating dinner together, watching TV, playing in the yard, and playing video games (yes!) are even more important to share with Dad than big outings or trips, although those contribute to children’s development as well. Children and youth whose fathers spent regular time engaged in everyday activities reported being very satisfied with family life.

  1. Make room for his way of doing things.

Some women struggle with letting Dad do things his way when doing childcare or household tasks, which is often different from theirs. This of course discourages more participation in childcare. So many fathers I speak to say something along the lines of: “I can never do it right. She finds something wrong with everything I do. It is best if she does it herself since she is good at it and I am not.”

As we can imagine, feeling that you can never measure up or do something right is not a good way to encourage participation. On the other hand, when mothers and fathers trust each other to care for their children in their own way, both are encouraged, participate more, get better and more confident at their roles.

When Mom starts out with criticism about Dad’s less-than-perfect efforts, she is unknowingly signing herself up for a lifetime of doing it herself, unsupported. It is no wonder that so many women feel burnt out and resentful of the over functioning that they have taken upon themselves. One of the best lessons in parenting I learnt was: “You can either do it your way yourself or accept help from someone who will do it their way.” To Moms who find it hard to let go and think it is for the good of their children, it is important to recognize that children’s lives are more enriched through father’s imperfect efforts rather than a burnt out mother who tried to do everything perfectly!

There are also differences in the way that Dads interact with their children as they grow. While mothers tend to encourage and foster security, collaboration and ‘playing nicely’, fathers encourage competition, independence, and achievement.

Research also shows that there are unique and complementary ways that fathers contribute to the parenting equation related to how they play with their children (including it turns out watching video games!), how they encourage risk taking and how they discipline which are often very different from the way mothers do these same things. It is actually from these different ways of doing these things that children learn so many valuable lessons. Here is great article on the specific differences and synergies of Dad’s parenting style.

father and son with kite

To summarize, Mothers and Fathers are both doing the best that they know how, given their unique styles. If both parents appreciate the different ways of doing things, lives of their children will be more enriched from the input and contribution of each. The support and partnership, will of course, also make the parenting journey that much more satisfying and joyful.



A letter to my daughter on her graduation day

My Dearest Daughter

As I see you standing tall in your hat and gown, my heart is bursting with pride. I watch you confident in your step and radiant in your smile. As you step onto the threshold of life outside “the bubble” (as you call it), I silently pray that you have many many reasons to flash that beautiful smile. You have worked hard and your achievements are well deserved. The pride I feel today, however, is the result of who you are as a person and not simply at what you have achieved. I am humbled and inspired by the poised young woman I see before me, wanting to contribute to making this world better, with a heart that is motivated by love and a sense of justice that leads her to take action towards the establishment of a better future for this planet.

The degree that will hang on the wall will open many doors for you, I hope. It will, I pray, be the start of much success and achievement. People will likely commend you for the work that you have done and the successes that you have achieved. I pray that at times like that, your feet will remain firmly planted on the ground and that you will remember that the only person you need to impress is the woman looking back at you in the mirror. If you continue to live life according to your principles and values, you will be pleased with what stares back at you, you will feel worthy and you will sleep well. If you are tempted to prioritize image over substance, if you are seduced by praise and accolades I pray that the empty feeling inside you quickly reminds you that external successes cannot raise self esteem. That doing something for praise or to look good can never bring true fulfillment or sense of purpose. I pray that you can remind yourself that if you continue to pursue substance and value rather than image, it will be a fulfilling life, whether or not external successes or accolades accompany your work.

I pray that you continue to enjoy strong relationships but that you remember to keep Him at the centre of your world and your life and make your relationship with Him the most important one in your life. That you make it a priority to please Him rather than anyone else. If you do that, I promise that all your other relationships will eventually fall into place.

I pray that you remember the challenges that you faced as well as the successes that you have achieved. That you remind yourself that challenges (or ‘failures’ as you sometimes insist on calling them!) have perhaps more to teach you than easy victories. That the value of the B, C or D that you receive in life that brings you humility is more valuable to your personal growth than the A that makes you proud or leads to attachment to image or praise.

I pray that your success goes not to your head but to your heart, for if success goes to your head, it will make you arrogant, but if it goes to your heart, you will be full of gratitude to Him and you will remember to thank those who have helped and supported you to get to where you are today. I pray that you continue to remember that any success that you achieve in life is not yours alone. That many have contributed to it in different ways. I pray that you remember to thank Him and those that He has placed in your life to make it easy.

I pray that you keep your idealism and your passion for making this planet a better place. You will doubtless encounter many obstacles along the way. You will meet people who will test your faith in yourself and your cause. I pray that while you stay the course and persevere, you can continue to treat these people with kindness and to maintain your love for humanity.

I pray that you find meaning in your work so that you never feel that you are overworked, that you are driven by passion, rather than obligation.
I pray that in whatever career you choose, you are guided more by a sense of contribution and service rather than power and money. If you hold values such as these as priorities, money and power will court you. If you chase money and power, however, you may find that even if you attain what you desire, it will be empty and meaningless in the end.

I pray that you continue to let your conscience be your guide. If you listen to it, it will be your friend and it will continue to guide you towards ultimate success but if you ignore it too long, it may fall silent.

I pray that even when things appear to be going wrong and not as you planned, you can expand your awareness to take in everything that IS going right. I pray that at times like this, you can still find gratitude in your heart and faith in your soul that Someone bigger than you is in charge and that everything will work out in the end according to His plan.

I remind you that if you are living consciously, you will most likely be in the minority and not necessarily part of the crowd. I pray that when this gets challenging, your own company is enough for you and that you remember it is better to be alone than in bad company. I pray that you can sit in silence and let your own wisdom guide you. However, I also pray that you remember that mostly all happiness and success in this world is a result of great relationships and that you find time to invest in these relationships daily.

As you step outside the bubble of college (as you call it), I pray that you take the gift of time and of life seriously but that you take yourself lightly and can have compassion and humour for your own shortcomings as well as of those around you.

I pray that He continues to shower you with His blessings and guidance and that you continue to live your best self. I pray that this world treats you gently, my love.

Love you with all my heart