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Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Emotions, grounding, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Radical Acceptance, Sacred justice, Self-love, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering

Lovingkindness in action

Yesterday, when House Republicans voted in favor of replacing the Affordable Care Act with their own version that would raise insurance costs, exclude benefits for an astonishing array of “preexisting conditions,” and cut taxes for the rich while penalizing the poor and middle class, I witnessed the tremendous wave of anger and pain that so many in our country were feeling, those who depend on the flawed yet essential coverage that ACA provides us and those with loved ones who rely on these benefits. Sure, this system is far from perfect, but it allows so many who previously were uninsured or underinsured to finally have the safety net to access care and get medications they need to live without going into debt. Feelings of despair and outrage are a natural response to such self-serving, irresponsible, and cruel legislation. I want to share, though, that as we make space for the pain we feel, we can also experiment with some alternate responses, to help us cope and build resilience in the face of a long 4 years. For my readership outside of the US, i am sure these ideas can be applied to other situations in which injustice and power-hungry demagogues prevail in your own lives.

  • Take action. Lovingkindness is the inspiration for my coaching practice, and is the deep compassion I want us to all have for ourselves and others. Lovingkindness means responding to our own needs and the needs of those around us.  Some people’s response to seeing anger in others’ is judgment, and claims that this is a “negative” or “toxic” emotion to be avoided. Some who identify with new age spirituality want to hold onto bliss experiences and therefore stay out of politics and avoid difficult subjects like poverty and racism. I’ve seen others spread the notion that love will conquer all, as if we don’t have to actually do anything but radiate some emotion and all will be well.  No spirituality is worth anything if it does not care about the suffering of others. Anger is an energy of protection, fierce compassion, and a commitment to justice. Honor its place and channel it into appropriate, loving action. While politics may be unsavory, they are a fact of how power is marshaled in our society to the benefit of some and to the detriment of a great many. We must be invested in the fate of those around us. We are responsible for standing up for what is right, making our voices heard, and holding our representatives accountable by making calls, donating to campaigns and causes for justice, and voting. Some of you might be called to run for office, and if so, that is great! But we don’t need to make this kind of commitment in order to be involved. Start here. Call your senators to oppose the AHCA. Or text “resist” to 50409 to easily contact your senators. Donate to organizations doing work for immigrants, refugees, racial equity, the environment. Find what resonates with you.
  • Focus on the facts. It is painful to realize that so many members of Congress are okay with gutting healthcare for our most vulnerable citizens. This is heartbreaking. And we also can get grounded in the moment and remind ourselves that this was only the first step to passing the AHCA. No one is yet being harmed or hurt by this bill. This is not to deny the potential threat posed, but to help propel us into moving with resolve to working to make sure it does not get through the Senate, and to help us not suffer so much with the imagined torment and dying that could happen under AHCA. We do not need to jump to the future yet and create nightmare scenes in our head that cause us more panic and pain. Stay in the present, focus on what is happening in the moment. Nobody is dying or being denied coverage due to this bill, and if we get consumed with fear over what could happen in the future, we may not be as effective in taking steps to stop it in the now.
  • Accept reality. This has 2 important pieces for me. The first, is understanding that given who these Republican leaders are and looking at the evidence of their values that came through in recent years of intransigence, racism, misogyny, and greed, it is not at all surprising that they passed this legislation yesterday. I can ease some of the suffering and preserve some of the wasted energy that comes out of saying, “I can’t believe they did this heartless thing,” and instead, with complete acceptance of reality say, “It makes a lot of sense, knowing what I know about these people, that they would behave in a manner consistent with a lack of heart and lack of mercy.” This does not change the facts or say they are okay or good, but helps me to not argue with the truth of what is happening. The second piece is similar. I ask: what part of me is refusing to accept that this is happening? In what ways am I resisting that this legislation and this awful administration is part of our reality? I am down with the #resistance, don’t get me wrong. Political action and justice organizing are essential, and, I think, more effective if they come from a place of radical acceptance. Check out this therapist’s advice on staying sane through these difficult times, using the principal of radical acceptance of reality. We aren’t saying things are acceptable as in good, but that we when we accept that things are the way they are, we can more effectively change them.

Offer yourself empathy, place your hands on the places in your body that are feeling constricted, tense, nauseous, or twisted up in pain and offer some soothing words and spacious breaths of allowance–it is understandable to feel distraught when those entrusted to protect people are intent to cause pain. But don’t get stuck there. Pick up the phone, focus on the facts, be honest about what is happening, and put that incredible compassion you have into action.

 

Adventure, Autumn, Celebration, Compassion, Dreams, Emotions, Experimentation, Freedom, grounding, Healing, Intention, Life Coaching, Life Path, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Self-love, Soul, Suffering, Support, Wisdom

Letting go, creating change, a practice for magicians and wizards of self-love

A beautiful, sunny day that began with a walk with a friend and dogs, with weekend weather that’s allowed the delicious coziness of light sweaters and leggings.  An exciting new beginning as I’m catapulted into my life as a full-time graduate student, in a field fully aligned with my mind and heart, where I’m getting daily affirmation that I am on the right path. Also, close enough to my return from France that I still can recall how freeing the experience of traveling alone feels in my body, and can easily connect to the joy of walking miles a day on cobblestone to be wowed by gardens, castles, vineyards, ornate bridges, rose windows, public transit, and pain au chocolat.  These are days to cherish and savor.

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I turned 37 in July and when I left 36, I entered into possibility and adventure. I started inhabiting myself more completely, without the inner struggle and conflict that marked past years of grappling with career and relationship confusion, sapping my energy and attention (more on that, soon). I feel fully engaged and in my life, and I feel satisfied.

Except for when I don’t. There are times I forget and feel impatient about where I am on the journey. Instead of staying open to possibility and adventure, I close down around my desires and feel like I can’t be me until things or situations arrive or can’t be truly happy until things are arranged to my liking.

In some ways ending a 2 year relationship and starting out a Masters program can seem like certainties, specific finalities or futures planned out. Yet being single and in “beginner’s mind” as I embark on the path to becoming a counselor, so much is unknown and undefined. This is a vulnerable place to be, but truly, we all never know what will happen, even if things seem solid, small changes sometimes have a big impact, and small changes can happen at a moment’s notice.

For me, these next couple years will be a process of getting to know my philosophical orientation and professional identity as a counselor, getting to know people and clarifying my relationship goals and what I want to give and receive in my romantic life. There are a billion things I want for my life at 37 and beyond, some of which I am pursuing by going back to school for counseling, taking on new coaching clients, meeting people online and dating, dancing at home and in community, and forging friendships as I release old connections that I’ve outgrown. The constant practice, for me, is to not close up around my wants and get attached to outcome, to not craft an identity that I then get stuck in and am unable to flex and grow from, and to not feel discouraged when what I believe I want is not already here.

So, here I share a practice that I do to build my awareness around where I am attached and where I summon all the power of life and love within and without to break these fear-based patterns.

I meditate in stillness and quiet for 10-25 minutes before moving into this practice. Establishing the connection of meditation helps me listen more deeply to what is true under the surface grasping and whining. Then I go inward and check out what I am holding onto, what thoughts are driving my emotions and behaviors, what stories I’m telling myself, then I name all of it as I pull in a “clearing statement” from Access Consciousness, to help me cut through it with sharp awareness, wisdom, and compassion.  The clearing statement is like the abracadabra of a magical spell…”I  create as I speak,” or “May it be so,” invoking the power of language and intention to create change.

abra

Even in times of joy–sometimes especially, as we may be clinging on to things as they are, worried about losing what is going well–we can experience anxiety and insecurity. As this very amazing moment in my life opens me up to learning new things and loving new people, I find a lot of fear in and around my chest, a tightening jaw, flurried belly flops, repetitive thoughts pulling me into a spiral of anxiety, and a tenderness about emotional, intellectual, and spiritual risks that I am taking.

The process of tuning into all of this, speaking it, and clearing it out went like this the other day (note–these words came out spontaneously and were captured on audio so I could share with you–it is always unknown, unplanned, and uttered from the wisdom of the moment):

ALL THE WAYS I let fear pull me around, hook me in. All the ways I lose trust. All the ways I abandon myself and focus on someone else making me whole. All the ways I grab and cling and want to control life or know the future and ensure an outcome. All the ways I contract and get tight and small around my desires. Destroy and uncreate all of that. “Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS that I leave myself, my truth, my wholeness and grasp at something outside. All the ways I think someone can fulfill me, all the ways I feel afraid of rejection, abandonment, of not being lovable. Destroy and uncreate all of that. “Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS I forget that I’m already whole and already loved, all the ways I lose touch with my own heart and go into lack…all the ways I dwell in sadness and fear, that I feel sorry for myself. All the ways that I push away my experience and reject my emotions. Destroy and uncreate all of that. Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS I get self-absorbed and make my pain the center of the world, all the ways I don’t show up for others and don’t reach out to connect, or make my sadness bigger than everything else on earth, including my own heart. Destroy and uncreate all of that. Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS I believe I’m smarter than everyone, the ways I judge and criticize, all the ways I want to be right, all the ways I am not open to learning and challenging my world view. And all the ways I make myself small, don’t use my voice, doubt my intelligence and contributions. Destroy and uncreate all of that. Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

Having been said, make it so, now. Activate growth, change, and healing.

Clearly, I could (and did) go on…that was just a part of what felt up for me on 1 day. I share this to show you that we are in this human experience together–all the ways we undermine our own happiness by identifying it as outside of us or in the future, when some external goal is reached. All the ways we humans think we are missing something and fixate on lack. All the ways we forget who we are. These are so common! This practice can help us see these for what they are and to get underneath, in the wise mind that knows the wholeness we already are, in the tenderness of our oh so human vulnerability. Vulnerability is not about something being absent, but the presence and fullness of love, compassion, and open-heartedness.

Naming our habits can build awareness. We cultivate the counter-habit of catching ourselves in the act, not to chastise but to chuckle, and say…there’s that again, that energy of wanting to control, that tendency to place the responsibility of my fulfillment on someone/something else.

When we truly believe in change, we see it leaving our field, we feel our bodies lighten from the lost weight of worry and grasping. It will come back, and we will practice again.We stay in compassion for ourselves and our habits. And sometimes, we forget all this meditation and magic and have a good cry with a friend and a cathartic release of all our crap, and move deeper into love with ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

Compassion, Dreams, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Open, Power Within, Relationship, Sacred justice, Self-love, Soul, Suffering, Support, Tonglen, Transformation, Wisdom

A dream, deferred

It is normal for empathic people to feel emotional fatigue when reading the daily news cycle, or seeing video after video in our social media feed displaying global violence and chaos. Even more, for those who are among the populations who’ve consistently been targets of hate and rage, they may experience vicarious trauma and added fear for their safety in moving around the world. This can take a physical and psychological toll.

Even if we are not in a time of unprecedented violence, as some social historians argue, it sure can feel this way because our exposure to trauma occurs more rapidly and constantly.

girlOne piece of this is attending to the care of our souls and knowing when to take a break from technology and cynicism.

The other truth is somewhat paradoxical to the research that shows that today, more than ever before, we live in safer and more peaceful times overall, as a human community. There, at the same time, *is* a breaking point we are reaching. Someone in my Facebook feed posted this morning’s latest headline of Baton Rouge’s police killing with a comment that “this summer is filled with tragedy.” Tragedy, to be sure. But my first reaction was: No, this summer is filled with neglect. This is what happens when we do not respond to tragedy appropriately.

The Langston Hughes poem came to mind:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

 Or does it explode?

The first instance of neglect comes from the residual economic inequality left over after the Civil Rights Movement’s many successes in extending voting rights and desegregating public spaces and schools. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw that his aims for true equality would not be realized until economic injustice was addressed–it was a campaign against poverty that Dr. King was devoting his life to when assassinated. We’ve chosen to memorialize his dream without ever achieving it. We’ve let his dream fester and sag even while posting inspirational memes with his face all over social media on January 16th, or as a retort to present-day activists.

Secondly, we have never collectively faced our history as a nation. Just as in spirituality, bypassing over pain to get to bliss does not work. We keep thinking we can skip over acknowledgment, apology, and reparations by telling people to “get over” something that has never truly ended or been redressed. Slavery took on more protean forms in the carceral system and engineered ghettoization in our American cities and endemic poverty in rural areas. We need truth and reconciliation. We have to move through the worst of our legacy to get to our best. We cannot keep trying to preserve an image of ourselves as liberal do-gooders or colorblind soldiers of love without facing the reality of the racist and classist systems of power and knowledge that we inherited.

The third act of neglect is when murder after murder is captured on video and nobody is held accountable–no individual, no system, no society.

The final form of neglect I want to address is that we neglect each other, our most powerless here and abroad, when we over-fund the military and under-fund education, healthcare, and education. When our politicians more vociferously protect gun ownership than they do safety and civil rights of the vulnerable, that is neglect.

Terribly, 3 police officers were killed today. (Did your hearts sink so much when, in one July weekend in Chicago, 60 people were shot?). This violence was not promoted, not sanctioned, not perpetuated by activists like Black Lives Matter, despite what the media wants to insinuate. But you know who does promote, sanction, and perpetrate such violence? We ALL do, all of us who choose separation over love, who want to be right more than we want understanding. We ALL do, who allow the structural violence and the unrelenting brutality of poverty and racism to continue without taking a stand for those living in such conditions, and without taking responsibility for helping to create those conditions.

When we show up, valuing all lives–not just the white or the wealthy or the powerful, but the black and brown and poor and disaffected–home by home, neighborhood by neighborhood, then the culture may change. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other.

meditationtUntil then, it may not be so surprising that the dream, deferred, will explode.

I want to end this post with 2 pieces you can practice:

1. Tonglen–breathe in the world’s suffering (grief, fear, pain, stress)–on behalf of those hurting, take it on with a deep inhale, breathe out fierce love and compassion and relief to all in pain. Keep going…any positive return you receive from this meditation, breathe it right back out to those who need it, while continuing to breathe in all remaining pain.

2. Show up fully to every interaction with empathy on full-blast, looking out for opportunities to serve and be present for those in need, even in the smallest ways. When things are quiet and you are alone at home–turn that empathy inward, on yourself. Do tears come up? Sadness? Allow life to flow through you while loving all of it, all of you.

Celebration, Compassion, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Power Within, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

On suffering and the overcoming of it.

When I look at the tragic photos and news, I see both the horrors of the bombs and shootings and the thousands of helpers who have rushed in to care for all the suffering. It shows that the world has both suffering and the overcoming of it. It is in the overcoming of it that we are called to respond.
–Jack Kornfield on Paris attacks, November 2015

 

wall-1405964_1920US primary politics. Orlando. Brexit. Blocked immigration reform. Istanbul.

With distressing and heartbreaking headlines in the news, compounded with our own personal challenges, these past few weeks have been a time of heaviness and high emotions for many. Despite or maybe because of these private losses and tragic world events, I decided to focus on the small daily things that bring me joy or inspire me: the Carolina wren scaling my window screen in the morning, the scent of gardenias in front of my apartment, the outpouring of love after the Pulse tragedy and the music that love brought to me in the form of a mix made by a Chicago friend, and many moments of connection shared with loved ones and animals.

I acknowledge and allow the grief and heartache, while also doing my best to not add more suffering to the world. Following the lead of one of the women who I coach in an online women’s support network, who vowed to not get embroiled in heated social media debates that would do little to change policy yet do much to create stress and bitterness, I refrained, as well, and practiced privately sending compassion to each person who posted a view opposing mine online.

I understand why some cannot move beyond grief, fear, and anger. Particularly those whose communities are at the center of tragedies, bloodshed, or political upheaval. I, myself, treasure my own early experiences in gay bars. In the late 90s, the Hide and Seek in Colorado Springs, offered a glimpse into what beautiful worlds are possible when people are free to be themselves, living out their own personal style, flair, and fabulousness. The bar, and those I danced with there–the tight-knit friend group I found in undergrad–introduced me to brave love, universal acceptance, embodied sexuality, and authentic living. And even as I comprehend how grossly this sacrosanct experience was violated, I still choose to live in the celebratory space of my own queer heart that was raised lovingly during late nights at the Hide and Seek, by college friends in the LGBTQ community, and the fairy godnurturing queer friends of my early 20s, like T, who shared my love of girl groups and made me feel Supreme.

We do not need to wilt or shrivel when these horrors happen. We can mobilize for change, we can show up for others in need, and we can live our lives by following the lead of those who dance in the night–loving our own bodies loving other bodies, uplifted, buoyed, and emboldened by solidarity. It’s what happens when we totally embrace and inhabit who we are, and allow ourselves to be loved in a radically open and nonjudgmental way. Not to paint a naively Utopian picture or diminish the high rates of suicide, terror and discrimination facing LGBTQ people, but at their best, this is what queer spaces create: collective, often joyful, overcoming of suffering.

Overcoming does not mean we won’t feel the pain any less, or that we aren’t aware of our broken hearts–it is that we have learned to use that heartache to connect with ourselves and others. Vulnerability can bring us more deeply into the human experience and allows us to love that much more fiercely and compassionately.

We can do our own spiritual work that attends to the overcoming of suffering–the more practiced we are, personally, in the overcoming, the more we can share and serve others in healing themselves, as well. This is worthy work: your personal growth and transformation. It ripples out and allows you to show up strong for a weary world. You loving yourself without apology may give someone else permission to reveal who they are. Even better when we have strength in numbers. Find others around you who are willing to live courageously, wholeheartedly, and come together to create our world anew…we need you!

Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Compassion, Embodiment, Emotions, grounding, Healing, Life Coaching, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Self-love, Suffering, Whole Body

The 5 S’s of handling distress

Sometimes a big emotion rolls in and seems to take over without warning.  We may be flooded with sadness, possessed by anger or jealousy, or perhaps we get caught in an argument or crisis and our whole system seems to get overloaded and overwhelmed in an instant. When we get triggered, we can help to re-set our nervous systems and calm our body, heart, and mind. Move through these 5 steps when you catch yourself stressed out or upset. If you’re interacting with others or in a public situation, simply excuse yourself by saying you need to go to the restroom or outside for a moment…no need to give a “why.”

STOP

press pause on the moment. don’t react. just take a deep, spacious breath in…and out.

stop

SOFTEN

notice your body. is there tension? loosen, let go, and soften your whole body. your jaw–relax it. your shoulders–lower them. with your strong emotions, you may only be able to do this a teeny tiny bit. that’s great…just a notch. turn down the volume of the situation by signalling to the body that it can soften a little smidgen. feel into the softness as much as you are able.

SCAN

close your eyes (if you’re able) and go into your body with your awareness. turn within. see inside your heart, your belly, legs, feet, arms and hands, throat and neck, head. draw your attention on what is happening inside. check out the energy in your chest area, behind your eyes, in your gut, feel within your muscles and bones…tune in and scan to see what it feels like inside you. breathe here for a few minutes.

SENSE

turning from the internal to the external: are you hot? cold? how do your clothes feel on your skin? how does the air touching your skin feel? what sounds do you hear? what do you see all around you–looking up, down, and side to side? observe as if you were a scientist just exploring and doing an inventory of what the 5 senses are picking up.

SOOTHE

take 3 full belly breaths in and out. find some way to soothe yourself. a cup of tea? a walk in nature? a piece of music? a healing mantra? petting a dog? choose something that soothes and restores.

~practice, rinse, repeat.~

Compassion, Freedom, Healing, Intention, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Open, Relationship, Self-love, Spirituality, Suffering

Freedom from Wanting

Last week in gathering with spiritual friends–2 women with whom I’ve been meeting for 2 years to share in sacred circle (or triangle) about our relationship with meditation, self-awareness, and trans/personal growth–we sat together and followed a guided meditation practice by Sharon Salzberg.

Our group moves through inspirational books together, though our meetings are not strictly book discussions. We open up, reflect, and listen to one another as we grapple with how the questions, quests, and heart lessons in these works land in our everyday lives.

We recently started traveling through life with Salzberg’s book, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, as our companion. We began our first evening together with this book by listening to a 15 minute lovingkindness practice available on Insight Timer.*

The practice is like most metta meditations: well-wishes and compassion sent first to self and then expanding outward to wider circles of people, creatures, beings–friends who are kind to us, strangers we feel neutral towards, people with whom we have conflict, broader communities of beings and the world of life.

peace

In this focused endeavor of sending love, health, and peace to self, friend, foe, familiar and unfamiliar souls, I noticed something happen. In only 15 minutes i felt a sense of fulfillment, ease, and warmth that had felt out of reach for me all week.  In my ruminating and longing, hours and days before,  in my busy and noisy mind, my worry about the future, desire for different outcomes or pushing away of sadness or loneliness, I’d created a lot of suffering–all rooted in wanting to be happy. And in the simple attention on happiness as it already exists in my own present moment–and sharing that with others–suddenly that suffering was gone. In wanting to be happy, I felt pain. In connecting to happiness and wishing it for others, I felt…happy. It is unbelievably simple. Maybe I can’t metta myself into happiness 24/7, but this provides a tool to heal ourselves and pull us out of thoughts that cause suffering when we are really feeling down or lost.

A simple mantra and a focused heart can cut through such hurtful thoughts about our shortcomings, our failures, our regrets, our fears about the future, and all that ails us in a culture in which shame, self-hate, and self-doubt are so common.

A lovingkindness meditation will be some variation of these metta phrases:

May I be free from harm. May I be happy. May I be healthy. My I feel peace.

May you be free from harm. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you feel peace.

May all beings be free from harm. May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings feel peace.

Starting by turning inward, then to specific persons we like and don’t like, and then global communities.

 

Another that I practiced this week:

this is a moment of suffering. suffering is a part of life and all beings suffer.

may i be kind to myself. may all beings feel peace.

Repeating for several minutes (when something is troubling you set a timer and keep cycling through)

it’s an antidote to the wanting and despair that so often fills our minds. may you feel peace!

*Insight Timer an app that is free to download with many excellent offerings and a handy dandy chime timer for meditation.
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.

painpositive

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.

flowers

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.

 

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Embodiment, grounding, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Movement, Self-love, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

facing our fear of change

lately things in my life have felt uncertain, unpredictable, and downright chaotic. truth is, this is always the case. my homegirl, Pema Chodron, says it best:

“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground-something predictable and safe to stand on-seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.”

so while everything is changing all the time, there are moments when we are acutely aware, excruciatingly uncomfortably aware. we are thrust into the middle of the manic movement. it tosses us around. it feels dizzying and unstoppable. we often flail and thrash around to try to force something to solidify or clarify or to try to grab a hold of something fixed to keep us flying off the earth’s surface. chaoschange

how can we handle these storms without losing complete contact with ourselves, with our stillness, centeredness, and intuition that are always pulsing within? how can we move with the chaos, into the change, instead of against it?chaosflipone thing in the moment

this is deceptively simple and uber-powerful. be where you are. be totally in your experience of what you are doing. right. now.

that’s it.

say to yourself: “right now, i am driving to the store.” then “in this moment, i am waiting at the stoplight.” and “right now, i am noticing the traffic.” or “right now i am looking for parking.” and so on…

it seems basic–and that is why it works!

bringing the brain back to the basics, focusing our attention only on the task at hand, can deliver us into the safe space of the now. unless there is an immediate threat or danger around, most stress we experience during times of transition, originate in our heads.

with this practice, instead of getting pulled into rumination or worry, we only use our brain to experience what is here & now. there’s no room for that thought-spasm that is trying to control a situation over which we have no control.

only present are the thoughts about the actions and observations of this moment.

get grounded heartree

there may never be any solid ground in our experience of life, as Pema is suggesting in the excerpt above. even in periods of apparent stability, things are always shifting, moving, ebbing, flowing. just when we think we’ve “made it”–in career or relationship, etc. things can change drastically in an instant. which is why, when our feeling of this groundlessness is heightened, it can help to connect with the literal ground and feel its support.

like to garden? great! if not, just find a place to sit or lie down on a rock or in a field or even on your bedroom floor…let yourself be supported by the ground and take in the sensations of where it is touching you. notice it is there, holding you, giving you a place to Be. without conditions.

other ways to ground: walk barefoot on the earth, hold heavy a rock in your hands, meditate with a grounding stone like Tigers Eye, listen to drumming, eat root vegetables, drink holy basil tea. any other suggestions to bring the energy levels down?

move with change

those of us who are regular visitors to the ocean are probably familiar with riptide safety 101.

  • don’t panic
  • don’t try to swim against the current

swimmers who succumb to rip currents do so because they exhaust themselves with the fight and drown.

let this be motivation to connect to the calm within. take a moment now to find it.

for me, when i bring attention to my physical center…just above the naval and above the lower back and move my awareness inward to meet in the middle from front of the body and back of the body,  i can sense a steadiness there. i can also tune into my heart center and find calm there. birds-633103_1280

find your center. from that steadiness, relax. then move. don’t freeze, flail, or fight. roll and shift and sway and lightly dance into it, allow the change to guide you, and with radical trust, let go.

peptalk to yourself

this can feel like hard, scary stuff. go gentle with yourself. remind yourself when things feel particularly tough, that you are strong, brave, and fabulous for showing up to life.

this is how it is–the reality of life is all about change. moving into, with lovingkindness towards yourself is what it’s all about. suffer less…surrender more. remember that you have survived hard times before and we often emerge from strange churning and chaotic rumblings stronger, wiser, and more connected to our fellow human beings, who are on similar change-filled journeys. send yourself some love right now. you are doing awesome!

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Discernment, Healing, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Nonviolent Communication, Psychology, Suffering, Wisdom

When Distraction is a Good Habit

Walking through my local co-op grocery store this evening, i noticed the latest issue of Tricycle magazine.  In orange and black typeface its cover commanded: “DROP DISTRACTIONS.” Its subtitle continued: “And find time for what really matters.”

i browsed the article and it had some great advice on paying attention to what websites we’re visiting, how much time we’re spending behind a screen, noticing the feelings that are driving our habits, and taking steps to move our attention to something else–going outside, scheduling times for email and blocking our social media sites for a chunk of time.

it can be helpful to discover how it is we are using our leisure time and to reprioritize according to our values. it can be helpful to unplug and open our awareness to the magic of life beyond a screen.

but something was missing from this perspective.

buddhajam

it doesn’t surprise me to see distractions–especially of the tech variety–being cast in such an unquestionably negative light in a Buddhist magazine. then again, i think of how Buddhism is also a practice of using what is human to wake up. being distracted is just a part of reality, and we need not judge ourselves for going there, nor judge our choices, as Tricycle does (inspired by this kid’s classic) as “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.” i mean, there are no “bad” habits–just ineffective and painful ways of trying to meet our legitimate needs. instead, we can practice compassion. and more, we can use distraction mindfully.

Accept Distraction.

Sometimes we need a break. From painful emotions, intense thinking, or physical discomfort. We can consciously choose to distract ourselves without it meaning we are being unmindful, unspiritual, or self-indulgent. Knowing our limits and being tuned into our needs means approaching the internet, technology, tv, games, or other activities generally regarded as time or mind wasters in a way that can be healthy and helpful. Really.

Distract yourself effectively, mindfully, and skillfully by finding ways to draw your attention from worries, stress, or suffering into activities that feel relaxing or amusing. Set an intention and say it aloud to yourself. For instance: “Right now, I consciously choose distraction to help me cope and relax during a difficult time. My intention is to feel some lightness and relief.” It’s okay to choose to totally forget and have fun for awhile if your nervous system is heightened and needs some TLC. Or any other quality R&B.

Notice how you are feeling as you are doing whatever you are doing…allow the distraction and bring in awareness of sensation. Do you feel any relief…where? Any lightness…where? Any emotions at all…where in the body? Breathe into it and just be with it as you continue to distract yourself with whatever diversion you’ve chosen.

Meet the Underlying Need.

The Tricycle piece takes a step toward this when asking “What’s this all about?” We can see what feelings are coming up that may be expressing themselves or repressing themselves through busyness or entertainment. That is, sometimes anxiety and fear show up as lots of grasping for information and answers, insecurity and loneliness might be behind compulsive email and social media surfing, boredom and disconnection could be under our marathon tv binge.

It’s not enough to just see this and then change our activity, as much as we believe we’ve rationalized our way out of these emotions, they are likely going to return and show up even in our more so-called wholesome activities. We can be walking in the woods or sitting on a zafu and still be ruled by distraction.

treesshadow

So go deeper…

What is this feeling really telling me? What is it needing?

My own reassurance, my own love, my own presence, my own patience, my own encouragement, my own faith, my own surrender.

Keep going…

How can I give this to myself now? What is a step I can take toward meeting my needs?

Take some full belly breaths. See yourself as already 1000% being reassurance, love, presence, patience, encouragement, faith, surrender. Make a welcoming gesture with your arms, allowing the feeling in and giving yourself fully over to it…in your attention, your understanding, your compassion.

Because you know what really matters? You do. Trust yourself to make smart choices for you!