"What is your title to me?" Eli asked. He was really asking, "Where do I stand in the circle of your family?" Mother Teresa said: The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small. It's not that hard to understand what she meant. The nightly news is filled with stories of small circles. Some people are called to widen these circles through their work. But you don't have to be a delegate to the United Nations or a volunteer in a soup kitchen to do the noble work of drawing bigger and bigger circles. Our friendships and families, our marriages and work relationships—all of them are circles begging for more spacious boundaries.

We need wider circles and new titles that relate us to each other, rather than divide us into smaller and smaller groups—family groups, political groups, religious groups, racial groups, tribal groups. I think this may be the only way to save the world from the meagerness of our own hearts. It took a child to show me this; a child and a willingness to widen the circle. I had to start somewhere. So I started with Eli. I figured that if I couldn't let a child into the circle of my family, I had no right to have an opinion about "the problem with the world."

Take a look at some of the more closed loops in your life. Do you really need to keep that person out of your heart anymore? What would it take to give him or her a new title? Have you stayed angry or shut down long enough? Vengeance or protection or cold heartedness may have served a purpose then, but could forgiveness be a better balm now? If so, take a few small steps toward expansion. Push gently on the edges of your circle, and see if there is room within it for the exiled ones. And like the proverbial pebble thrown in the pool, as your circle widens, it will ripple out, and set a widening pattern in motion for the world.

As the co-founder of Omega Institute, America's largest adult education center focusing on health, wellness, spirituality and creativity, Elizabeth Lesser has studied and worked with leading figures in the fields of healing and spiritual development for decades. A former midwife and mother of three grown sons, she is also the author of Broken Open and A Seeker's Guide.

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Excerpted from Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. © 2004 by Elizabeth Lesser. Reprinted by arrangement with the Random House Publishing Group.


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