Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.


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Day 13 Journey into Wholeheartedness

“Vulnerability is being open to the goodness within us and others.”  Sakyong Mipham, The Shambala principle.

There is a woman on the street, who I have never seen looking up, who always sits huddled, and often has a frown on her face,  I am not scared of her, just not inclined to engage with her, or give her money.

Today I remembered the quote.  And as she looked up, I opened my window and gave her a dollar.  She started talking to me in a language I didn’t understand, with what I received as an angry look and tone.  And then it dawned on me: there is basic goodness in her, and all I need to do is accept her for who she is, embrace whatever comes up and with my smile affirm how beautiful and precious she is, how lucky we are to have her in our world.

And as she walked back to her spot, I felt such gratitude for the wisdom of Sakyong Mipham, and such trust in our basic human goodness.


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Day 12 Journey into Wholeheartedness

My sister and I go way back.  Well, of course: she’s 43, and I’m 48.  We have always been close, sometimes struggled for connection, and again and again found the place where we enjoy our friendship.  I have supported her to trust that her  authenticity and vulnerability are strengths, and that when she honors her true self she can create the life she wants.  She does.  She is creating amazing results at work, beyond what I imagined possible.

Today I decided to offer something else than empathic listening for feelings and needs, and do a ‘just listening’ exercise.  I invited her to bring her open heart and clear mind to the table, while I shared my feelings and physical sensations.  If I would tell a story or share a thought, she could say “That’s a thought, not a feeling.  What are you feeling?”  After seven minutes we would shift roles.

She is open and adventurous and was up for the experiment.  So we started.  First me, then her.  Seven minutes is a long time.  Seven minutes sheer attention is quite something.  It feels uncomfortable.  I want to explain, I want to reassure.  Without the stories, I feel naked.  Nope.  That’s a thought, not a feeling.  What am I feeling?  I don’t know.  I am stuck in thoughts.

My whole life I wanted to be heard, I wanted to be seen, and now that I get full attention, I am scared.  What will she think of me?  Will she think I am a nut case?  Will she  think I am a nervous wreck?  Will she laugh that the only feelings I have are fear in all it’s variations?  Why is only fear coming up?  Why don’t peace and calm come along?  Fuck!  Why don’t I  have sweet and happy feelings?  Why can’t I prove how mindful I am?

Then I calm down.  It is like being on a boat on the river.  We see this, we see that, we get stuck, we get unstuck, we go in loops, we float by.  And there is just the being in the boat.  Just watching, just observing.  Just being.  That’s it.  It is not a listening exercise, it is a being exercise.  Just being in the moment.  Right here, right now, and enjoying whatever comes up.  Or not.  And accepting all of that.


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Day 11 Journey into Wholeheartedness

This morning I imagined myself at this year’s Thich Nhat Hanh retreat.  I saw myself up on the platform during the Q&A session.  I wondered what I would ask him, and I realized that I didn’t really have many questions.  I find joy, fulfillment, connection in my relationships, I often experience inner peace, I am fit and healthy, my business is taking off.  I like my practice of bringing awareness to my in- and out breath, of being fully present in the here and now.  I don’t need more learning, I want more practice.

And then it struck me.  I DO have a question.  A big one.  A very vulnerable one.  A very meaningful one.  One that I hardly dare to ask.  To get a hug.  Or to hold his hand.  Or to sit next to him, enjoying the silence.  I trembled all over.  I would NEVER have the courage to ask him THAT.  Let alone in front of 700 other retreatants.  I would never have the guts to walk up to him, and ask “Dear Thay, can I please get a hug?”

And I realized: Elly, that is wholeheartedness.  That is the path you chose.  To ask for what I truly, truly want, no matter what my scary feelings and judgmental thoughts are.  To fully want without attachment.  And I feel tender when I imagine Thich Nhat Hanh’s gentle embrace.


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Day 10 Journey into Wholeheartedness

Try this.  Invite someone to create a safe space for you and listen to you.  Ask them to bring their presence and open heart to the process.  Share your feelings, just as they show up.  Tell them to interrupt you as soon as you start telling stories, explanations, thoughts.  Let them redirect you by saying with care and compassion:  “Uhm, that sounds like a thought.  What are you feeling? ”  Connect to yourself and share your feelings.  And immerse yourself in the peace of witnessing this constantly changing stream of experiences, held in the safety of unconditional acceptance.


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Day 9 My Journey into Wholeheartedness

Yep, I changed the name.  Rejection doesn’t ring true to me.  I don’t believe there is something like rejection, just someone who says ‘no’ to what we ask.  And it hurts, because we think it is about our worth.  We think we are not worthy enough, that we don’t matter enough to receive a ‘yes’.  That’s a misconception.  Our worth has nothing to do with it.  It is just someone whose needs are not met by our request.  That’s all.  We can  find another request that works better for them, or we find another way to get what we want.

And that’s where wholeheartedness kicks in.  I commit myself to have the courage to stand up for my truth, to express myself authentically and to ask for what I truly, truly want.  I honor my own vulnerability and chose to live a life based on my values and dreams, not my fears.

That’s my journey into wholeheartedness.


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Day 8 Rejection Therapy: Someone signed up for my blog!

Day 8 of my Rejection Therapy: OMG!  Someone signed up for my blog!  Oh no!  Panic!  Terror!  Someone might actually be reading my posts!  OMG!!  I can stop my rejection therapy right now: there is enough rejection risk in this one person following my posts.  And it is not even my parents, my ever encouraging sisters, my dear and faithful friends: it’s someone I have never even heard of!…  It is a scam…  He wants to sell me something…  He wants me to read his blog…  He wants to date me…  He wants to have sex with me…  Oh no!  I have to tell him I am married and my house is locked!  I have to get in touch with him, and tell him to unsubscribe.  I never planned for someone to have an interest…  Maybe he doesn’t have an interest!…  Maybe he is just gonna post nasty comments…  Maybe he is gonna copy my posts…  Maybe…  My mind runs out of options…  Nope, it’s not: it’s back in the race: Maybe he is just curious.  Maybe he is looking for inspiration.  Maybe he has positive intentions.  Maybe he wants to be coached by me.  Yep, he definitely wants to benefit from my services!  And my mind spins of oncemore: I see myself on television shows, I see the blockbuster movie based on my blog, I see my novel piled up in every bookstore, I see truckloads of people lined up for  my autograph.

And then I see my hand touching the keyboard.  Just writing a blog.  About reading a blog.


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Day 6 Rejection Therapy

Day 6 of my Rejection Therapy.  Finally: Brene Brown!!!  (www.brenebrown.com).  From Daring Greatly, p 68-69:

There are a couple of very helpful ways to think about shame.  First, shame is the fear of disconnection.  We are psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love and belonging.  Connection, along with love and belonging (two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.  Shame is the fear of disconnection -it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.  I’m not worthy or good enough for love, belonging, or connection.  I’m unlovable.  I don’t belong.  Here’s the definition of shame that emerged fro my research:

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

People often want to believe that shame is reserved for people who have survived an unspeakable trauma, but this is not true.  Shame is something we all experience.  And while it feels as if shame hides in our darkest corners, it actually tends to lurk in all of the familiar places.  Twelve “shame categories” have emerged from my research:

  • Appearance and body image
  • Money and work
  • Motherhood/fatherhood
  • Family
  • Parenting
  • Mental and physical health
  • Addiction
  • Sex
  • Aging
  • Religion
  • Surviving trauma
  • Being stereotyped or labeled.