Monthly Archives

June 2015

Compassion, Curiosity, Healing, Love is Space, Open, Personal Growth, Radical Acceptance, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation, Wisdom

the hidden gifts of sorrow, fear, and other bummer feelings

Cheering someone on who is feeling down with a “Feel better!” or “Stay Positive” may feel supportive, but as Pixar’s newest film, Inside Out, shows, sometimes the best way to joy is sadness, and these kinds of statements can feel dismissive of whatever pain we are experiencing.


When we try to skip over what we are feeling or when well-intentioned family and friends tell us to feel something other than what we are feeling, it can make us feel invalidated, shame for not feeling 100%, and make things worse by asking us to deny what is needing our attention and sensitivity. By shining a light on sadness, pain, anxiety…truly seeing it, spending some time with it, acknowledging and understanding why it is there, we can move through it and even touch a little gem in its center. We can hold our attention on and validate our feelings, without getting caught in mental drama or a story. Just giving to this emotional energy and the physical sensations that come up with it some space to breathe, we often find it can release and move on more easily.

Here are some ways so-called “negative” emotions serve us

  • they tell us valuable information about something we are needing –either a change we need to make, a new perspective we can adopt, the suffering can be motivation and signalling that something is off that we can take action around
  • they call on us to harness our inner strength and deep humility of feeling powerless, they give us a chance to practice radical acceptance, courage and surrender
  • they allow us to ask for and receive support from people who care about us–to share our vulnerability and be open to feeling how truly loved and cared for we are
  • they connect us to a shared experience of being human–there is not a single person who has not felt difficult feelings–we can use this knowledge to feel a sense of solidarity and empathy with all the beings who’ve experienced loss, uncertainty, or tragedy and to send them and ourselves some love as we breathe in that awareness
  • they give us the full range of the human experience, for if we numb ourselves to pain, we also dilute the capacity to feel joy–we feel more fully alive when we allow all of it into our experience

Don’t see sorrow, sadness, worry, or anger as “bad”–see it as a signal that something needs to happen, that you are alive, that you can ask for  & receive support, and feel a part of this web of human life that both suffers and celebrates. Feel the power you have to move through it, the willingness to feel it without judgment, and learn how to care more and more radically for yourself–all of yourself. Sad and joyful and everything else!

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Curiosity, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Open, Power Within, Spirituality, Suffering, Tonglen, Transformation, Wisdom

why lovingkindness

A few days ago I came across a promotion for a self-care program that had among its marketing messages, a quotation attributed to Buddha. It urged: “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

This adage stood out to me because I knew this had to be a fake Buddha quote–that is, one of the many memes on the internet that go around with a message that sounds nice but that doesn’t really sound very Buddhist, and when we search his works, we find he actually never said.

Buddha never said such a thing because he didn’t have to.

lovesignIn Buddhism lovingkindness means extending the compassion we have towards ourselves out to the entire universe. It takes for granted that we accept ourselves and regard ourselves with kindness and warmth and asks us to share this with the people we know, people we don’t know, even people we feel most challenged and offended by, and then, too, to all beings.

This is not to deny the importance of the prescription to love ourselves first. When the US psychologist and meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg asked the Dalai Lama to speak to the issue of “self-hatred” at a small gathering in 1990, he was utterly baffled and confused by her question, and repeatedly asked the translator for help, convinced he couldn’t be hearing correctly. Through their discussion in which he asked her to explain the thoughts and behavior of the self-hating, it became apparent that what is a rampant affliction in the West has little hold in the East.

So even if the Buddha never uttered these words as it wasn’t part of the culture, it seems like those of us in the modern West are desperately in need of its message. Lovingkindness, however, isn’t just love and affection. It’s not about feeling sentimental, sweet, and gooey towards ourselves and the whole of humankind. Lovingkindness is as much about absence as it is about presence. It is about the absence of suffering.

As a coach, I see it everywhere: “Self-care, self-care, self-care.” I am not convinced that this is what we most need. For in most people’s minds self-care is additive. If we continue our pace of life, continue to rush around and set goals for ourselves in work and relationship based on societal standards, continue to identify with our thoughts, continue to believe in the many lies of a culture that sells us our identities and sense of success on the backs of others, continue to get hooked by our fears, and continue to believe our stories about who we are and how we are limited in life and happiness, but then add some bubble baths, green smoothies, yoga or 10 minutes of daily meditation, then we still suffer. We might be adding some comfort but we are not taking away the root causes of suffering.

So if we start with self, and we must, in order to share with others, this needs to go beyond just feeling warmth and affection or celebrating our positive attributes. True compassion means freedom from suffering.


This is where self-care collapses in on itself and the paradox of self/other as one is revealed. We free ourselves from suffering, in part, by wishing others free, by seeing others having what we have, by wanting for others what we want. We free ourselves when we see the fate of others bound up in our own, and contribute to the health and care of ourselves so that we may show up fully for others. We question the thoughts that cause our suffering and see how our beliefs and habitual behaviors create pain in our lives and in the lives of others. Without judging ourselves or beating ourselves up–just with the recognition, an “Oh, i see that!” and choosing something different next time.

What if we didn’t believe the voices that tell us we are not worthy or enough? What if we all were to start from the same place of knowing our true nature, and that of all beings, is what wants to be expressed through us? What if we knew that true nature is love-filled, clear, open, pure, and generous?

What if when an inner voice cuts us down or tells us we failed, it is put in its place, immediately, as an untrue thought that is trying to pull us out of our power, beauty, and sense of well-being out of fear? What if we were to feel that fear without getting trapped in its stories about what it means, and to wish for ourselves, in that moment of shakiness, freedom from suffering? What if, when we get hooked or pulled into engaging with such thoughts, we noticed the sensations in our body, nurtured the wounds that weep these old hurts and insecurities, and then moved forward from a place of profound knowledge of our passion, purpose, and goodness?

How much more effective would we be in assisting and giving to others from this place of confidence in our own loving nature?

This is the work I do with my clients. For me, coaching is less about self-care and more about self-aware. Aware of self, we are awake to life and continually learning to relate to ourselves & others in a completely new way. We channel the power of the whole universe through our body, breath, being, for our unique purpose and path, motivated by an intention to share our best and express our individual talents & gifts.

In the ultimate view, the Buddha would say that the question of self-care isn’t relevant…our true nature points to an illusion of a separate self. I care for me means I care for you because we are the same, living out soul and spirit in our amazingly singular spectacular expression.

Don’t let society dampen you down or tell you who you should be or how you should live. Don’t believe the messages about what it is to be selfless, responsible, or successful unless it truly resonates with your soul.

Start here, with lovingkindness

And end? There is no end.

Just continue to practice lovingkindness. Breath by breath.

All else is illusion.


Compassion, Discernment, Dreams, Life Coaching, Love, Open, Personal Growth, Self-love, Spirituality

protect your dreams


your dreams are precious.

sharing our hopes and visions can be a tender and vulnerable thing.

i know i’ve encountered some discouraging and cynical feedback, even from well-intentioned friends who think they are looking out for me and simply want me to be realistic. i bet you have, too.

just by that fact that we live in a society in which we (many of we, at least) are encouraged to operate without question to follow a life path of schooling -> “secure” 9-5 job with benefits -> marriage + house + babies -> accumulate stuff -> finally get free time in retirement years– it can feel like an enormous risk and rather isolating to choose anything off this usual trajectory. even if what we are dreaming about looks like it fits into part of this prescriptive path, it is brave to create something out of nothing, to stay true to our way of living out our dreams when it may not align with familial and societal expectations. it is brave to believe you are worthy of pursuing your aspirations when we have few role models who display the willingness to give up approval and safety for the integrity and dignity of their dreams.


when the world is feeling too rough for your precious and beautiful dreams–your heart’s desires–where are some safe spaces you can go to share and nurture and cultivate steps towards making it a reality?

treat your dream with care…use caution with whom you share and build your inner strength–knowing no matter what reaction you get from out there, when you listen to what’s true IN HERE, you can’t go wrong!

some ideas for treating your dreams lovingly:

  •  find a beautiful blank book or diary in which to journal and muse about your inspirations and visions.
  • create a ritual around daydreaming & visualizing. light a candle, get still, and use your imagination. bow to your heart for guiding you into the wisdom of your authentic dreams. whisper the words that will guide you into your wish fulfillment.
  • designate 1-2 trusted friends as confidants who you know will respect your ambitions and goals and support you. let them know how appreciated and important their role as protector is.
  • work with a life coach who will listen, provide space and provocative questioning to move you deeper into your desires, and will collaborate with you on taking action.
  • write yourself a love letter celebrating your courage to dream and mail it to yourself.
  • craft a box with “blue-cloud cloth” (thanks, Langston) in which to place your dream as if a gift to yourself. you can choose a symbolic object to represent your dream, or write down a sentence that captures its essence and wrap it softly and safely in the cloth, in the box. place the box somewhere visible to remind you that this gift is always there.
  • write a poem, or make a collage or painting that channels your dream into something felt and seen. let it inspire you to keep dreaming.

feet on ground. heart open.

Life Coaching, Love is Space, Open, Silence, Soul, Spirituality, Transformation, Wisdom

silence is magic

While working with a client this morning in a coaching session, i asked one of my favorite kinds of questions: the kind that elicits complete and utter silence. The kind that opens up space for her to go inward, to new depths & from a new vantage point she hadn’t previously considered.

During my coaching sessions, i ask a variety of questions. Many of these are to help give me more clarity around why the client thinks the way she thinks.  I notice the things she takes for granted as true and aspects she has left out from view so that i can better sense what options live outside of the way she has formulated and approached the issue she wants coaching around.

Then i ask questions that are meant to stop the client from moving forward and outward with her language and instead to turn her around, to look inside–i mean really look inside, deeper, and to do so with a new frame of reference. What question will break through, create space, and allow her to consider things anew? It doesn’t feel like I am devising some strategy to come up with the “right” question, but rather, quite organically, when the client is ready and willing, our movement back and forth creates the opportunity to drop in more and more.

In these silence-inducing inquiries, i find the client is interrupted from her normal thought pattern, from the known, and is plunged into the unknown or unconsidered. Here, she has no immediate answer.  When pulled out of her familiar story and usual way of relating with life events and inner experiences, she is speechless and must go look inside of herself for understanding.


I  love when listening & intuition lead me into questions that open up this silence because i know this is where the magic happens! Sometimes it is the question alone, given time to sink in and reframe her thinking–that is more powerful than any answer could be.

The client may say something explicitly like “I have never thought about it that way,” or “Hmmm, that’s an interesting question.” They may say nothing. My job as coach is to offer the question and give them the gift of silence. Silence is rare in our speedy media & tech saturated society. It is a beautiful way to witness, listen deeply, and to require of the client to rely on her own knowing and wisdom.

It is so essential for me, as a coach, to not fill that powerful silent and open space with more talk or with any attachment of getting to some goal or specific realization. When the client receives the silence, and receives the invitation by diving into themselves, they make a powerful shift. They have moved…maybe only an inch, but they have shifted into an unfamiliar stance from which that question was asked. They are changed. They will continue to change after the call is over as they ponder the question and integrate the shifted perspective. Coaching creates silence, and silence is magic.

What are some ways you can create more silence in your life?