A Pace of Grace Part 1




A PLUME BOOK                2004


Back cover

From the author of the bestselling Family Virtues Guide comes a program

for restoring grace, sanity and vitality to our lives

In today’s anxiety-ridden, stress-infused world, even a moment of quiet reflection has become a time-consuming luxury most of us just can’t afford. How did we reach this point? How did we lose our direction and sense of control? And, most importantly, how can we reclaim our lives?

Linda Kavelin Popov asked herself these same questions after the pressures of her own workaholic lifestyle nearly destroyed her. Now, as cofounder of The Virtues Project International, she helps others achieve a pace of grace – a pace for our lives that can balance and sustain us physically and spiritually.

Through a four-part program, A Pace of Grace offers lessons to rediscover the essential elements of a life well lived. Complete with Linda’s ten rules for health, this comprehensive guide is the first step in rediscovering the joy and vibrancy inherent within each of us.

Front cover

A Pace of Grace contains vivid examples of how to make our daily lives meaningful. I offer my prayers that those readers who sincerely put them into practice will achieve that inner peace that is the key to lasting happiness.”

The Dalai Lama

About the author

Linda Kavelin Popov is the author of The Family Virtues Guide, and is one of the founders and directors of The Virtues Project International. She travels around the world in support of the project’s initiatives, speaking to communities, businesses, and governmental organizations. The United Nations Secretariat has honored the Virtues Project as a model for global reform for people of all cultures. She lives in the Gulf Islands near Victoria, British Columbia.

The Five Strategies of the Virtues Project

These strategies help us live more reverent, purposeful lives, raise morally conscious children, create a culture of character in our schools, and enhance integrity in the workplace. They are being used worldwide to build safe and caring communities.

v  Strategy 1: Speak the Language of Virtues

v  Strategy 2: Recognize Teachable Moments

v  Strategy 3: Set Clear Boundaries

v  Strategy 4: Honor the Spirit

v  Strategy 5: Offer Spiritual Companioning

“Great spiritual nuggets for a healthy spiritual pathway.”

Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., author of Love Is Letting Go of fear===



Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man ceases to live unreflectively and begins to devote himself to his life with reverence in order to raise it to its true value.

Albert Schweitzer

Until life caught up with me, I was a dedicated member of the Stress Generation. I didn’t mean to be. It just happened. A few weeks before September 11, 2001, I struck up a conversation with an East Indian cabdriver in Vancouver as he drove me from the airport to a downtown hotel where I would be speaking at a conference the next day. We chatted about how he felt, living so far from most of his family. He told me he longed to have them here but that his relatives had no wish to come to North America. When I asked about it, he said, “When I go home to India, it is pure peace, no worries. People still have bills, they still pay the bills, but they are not busy – overdone – as people are here.” Overdone. I blushed in recognition. What an apt description of the typical stress-filled North American lifestyle, I thought, and the perfect word to describe what had led to my own collapse several years before in 1997.

After a lifetime in the healing professions, I lapsed. I had no idea how far I had been swept into the swift current of stress until a life-threatening health crisis literally knocked me off my feet. Like so many others in this era of excess, the demands of my life had outgrown my capacity to sustain it. I had drifted from a gentle path of reflection, reverence, and service to a fast-paced life of constant international travel and an attempt to manage a growing global project, which had become an all-consuming passion. I felt like the goddess Kali, all of her arms busy juggling, but without her steady knowing gaze of serenity and grace.

It all began with a simple desire to be of service, yet there I was careening toward a vortex of exhaustion. I know full well I’m not alone. Too many of us are constantly overdoing because we have overextended our lives, our financial resources, and our personal energy supply. Most days, we don’t even stop to breathe. And now, watching the nightly news has become a health hazard. The turmoil in the world seems worse than ever, the economy is uncertain and unpredictable. The deepening world conflict set in motion after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 has cast an unsettling shadow of anxiety and insecurity over an already overwhelming way of life. We are engulfed in an epidemic of stress in a culture of chaos.

I have always been privileged to pursue the work of my dreams – fulfilling a passionate prayer I uttered while circumambulating our backyard garden at age five: “God, please let me help people when I grow up.” I worked for decades in community mental health, consulted government leaders in the halls of Washington, companioned the dying at a hospice, conducted healing retreats with indigenous and inner-city communities, yet even the best of intentions didn’t protect me from burnout.

You see things and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”

George Bernard Shaw

In 1990, my husband, Dan Popov, my brother John Kavelin, and I founded The Virtues Project. It began one April morning in 1998, over brunch at the stately, ivy-covered Empress Hotel overlooking the inner harbor in Victoria, British Columbia. John was enjoying the final day of his week of respite from his frantic career as a show producer for Walt Disney Imagineering in Los Angeles. He began to talk about wanting to be of more direct service to the world. The three of us experienced a crystalline, life-changing moment as we feasted on scones and salmon. We were discussing the state of the world – the rising tide of violence, the school shootings, the growing hole in the moral ozone – and one of us (I don’t recall who) said, “Someone should do something about it.” Suddenly we looked up from our plates, gazed deep into each other’s eyes, and in that moment the dream of serving together was born.

John moved up to Victoria, and we began working together. It occurred to us that violence was a symptom, and meaninglessness was the disease, therefore the cure would have something to do with the meaning of life. So we set off to find it. For years, Dan had studied the world’s sacred texts. He pointed us toward the six thousand years of spiritual guidance contained in the Jewish, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Moslem texts. He researched those and more. We were startled by the luminous simplicity of the answer that emerged.

Running through the great spiritual teachings of all cultures, like a silver thread of unity, are the virtues, described as the qualities of the Creator and the attributes of the human soul. Love, justice, courage, joy, and peace are the essence of who we are.

The virtues are God’s grace to us, a gift in our lives. What we do with them is our gift to God. They are both our spiritual legacy and our destiny. Many sacred traditions also describe the virtues as a very high order of angels, pure expressions of the Divine nature, higher than the archangels.

We found that virtues are at the heart of the value system of every culture on earth and are expressed in the oral traditions of the First Nations. They are a universal vocabulary of character, a context that enables people to integrate spirituality into everyday life, whatever their belief system. Several years after we initiated The Virtues Project, a First Nations shaman in northern Canada told me, “Linda, The Virtues Project is the bridge between the cultures.” On our second trip to the Solomon Islands, Dan and I were invited to meet with the prime minister. We were surprised to recognize him as a participant in a virtues workshop two years before. He told us that he had attained his position after receiving the Virtues Card of service in that workshop. “It set the course for my life,” he told us.

In 1990, in a converted garage beside the home we shared on a five-acre property, we self-published The Virtues Guide, a kind of handbook to help parents to morally and spiritually mentor their children. The book offered simple ways to awaken the virtues within ourselves and our children, describing fifty-two of the three-hundred-plus virtues we discovered in the world’s sacred texts. To say we published a book sounds a bit too lofty, given the fact that we were photocopying it onto three-hole paper and Saran wrapping it for shipment. Within two months of completing the guide, we received orders from more than twenty countries, where news of the book had spread by word of mouth alone. In 1997, to our amazement, the book caught the attention of all the major publishing houses in New York and was put up for auction. Penguin republished it as The Family Virtues Guide (this time with binding!), and Oprah Winfrey invited me to present it on an episode of her show in 1998, “Doing the Right Thing.” It has become a international best seller.

The Virtues Project has evolved into a grassroots movement in more than sixty-five countries. In 1994, the International Year of the Family, the United Nations Secretariat recognized it as a model global program for families of all cultures. Suffice it to say the project took over our lives; seven years after we started it, my life was completely out of control. I found myself sinking under the weight of an unsustainable lifestyle, and finally I crashed.

  • I experienced a profound shock when the fatigue of post-polio took over my life. The world had been my pasture. Now I could no longer drive, had difficulty walking some days, and often could only concentrate and hold my head up for a couple of hours a day.
  • Darkness greeted me on that winter morning when I opened my eyes. When I attempted to get out of bed, my legs went out from under me, and I plunged into a dark inner place of hopelessness and fear.

I struggled out to my prayer corner in the living room by holding on to furniture and leaning on walls. I literally fell to my knees, sobbing, and cried out, “Help me, God! I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to live like this.” I anticipated silence, expected no response. Suddenly, the familiar voice of Spirit spoke: “I will give you ten rules for health. Write them down and follow them.” The commanding power and clarity of this inner voice startled me, but I immediately pulled myself up to my prayer chair, grabbed my journal, and began to write. It felt like taking very rapid dictation.

When it was over, I read through the Ten Rules. They were simple, practical, and surprising – demanding a radical change in my lifelong habits of overdoing at the cost of self-neglect. The first rule was Purity and Cleanliness. It contained detailed instructions about purifying my diet – what foods to eat, the required amounts of water to drink, and the necessity of immersing my body in water each day. The meditation ended with the tenth rule: Plan a sustainable life. That morning, this phrase utterly mystified me. I had absolutely no idea what the word “sustainable” meant. I had a vague understanding of the words “sustain,” meaning to support life, “sustenance,” which means food, and “sustainable,” something that endures over time. Although the phrase baffled me, I did have an alarming sense that if I failed to follow the Ten Rules, I would probably not survive.

To be continued.

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