Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.


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Stand your feelings: the only way out is through

MindfulnessMindfulness is not for the weak of heart

Waking up this morning, I smile,

twenty-four brand new hours are before me.

I vow to live fully in each moment,

and to look at beings with eyes of compassion.

It couldn’t have been more untrue. I wake up tired, discouraged, somber and listless. I am willing to look at beings with eyes of compassion, but the commitment is feeble.

I wished it were different. I wished I was energetic, positive, enthusiastic, bubbly with life.

I’m not. And all the meditation and mindfulness in the world won’t change that. And that’s not what they are for. They are not tools to guarantee eternal happiness. They are not tools to never feel miserable again. On the contrary, mindfulness will bring you back to the astounding realization how miserable you feel. There is no hiding, no distraction, no cover up. You sit on your cushion and you feel your own restlessness, you drive your care and you notice how impatient you are, you feel hurt and you hear yourself scream.

Embrace your feelings with love and compassion

If anything, mindfulness brings immense clarity to what you’re actually experiencing in this moment. What your life is about right now. And it is a fantastic tool to stand these feelings. To let them penetrate you. To let them tell you what it is like to be a human being, to be you. Mindfulness helps you to feel all these human feelings with more love and understanding. “Oh, that’s what it is like to feel lonely, envious, enraged.” Whatever feeling consumes you. Mindfulness helps you to stand them. To bring some love and compassion to them. To listen to them as if they are your beloved children, long, long forgotten. They bang at your door, force their way through, and all they want is you to listen. Just listen. How scared they are, how sad, how angry. How they don’t want to feel scared, sad, angry. How they want you to help them, hold them, embrace them. And all you need to do is sit and listen. Give them space, give them some love.

And you know what? If you sit down with them and listen, they will calm down. They have been heard. That is all they wanted. They want to tell you what they need. A beautiful, precious, human need. Maybe some reassurance, some warmth, some help. And they ask you to look for ways to nurture those needs.

That’s where mindfulness meets Nonviolent Communication. I can’t think of a better combination.

Yes, I smile. I vow to look at beings with eyes of compassion. I start with myself.

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Contact me at 512-589-0482 if you want to see how I can help you stand your feelings.


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All you need is a little help from your friends

Once upon a time, in a country far, far away lived a king

He was lonely. He had no one to share his life, his love and his kingdom.

One day he decides to straddle his horse and find himself a queen. He searches through forest and beach, through mountains and plains, through deserts and snow, and finally finds her on the other side of the ocean. He is infatuated by her smile. She falls in love with his humor, his hands, his wisdom.

He takes her home as his happy bride

Then, one day, disaster strikes. A tornado hits the kingdom and destroys the barns, the crops, their livelihood. The kingdom weeps and the king desperately seeks money to help his people. To no avail.

Creditors bang on his door and threaten to take his stove away. They come back and threaten to take his furniture away. They come back and threaten to take his palace away.

As he gets more afraid, he starts to bark. He worked so hard, he gave it his all, and it turned into dust. His barks call on storms.

As she gets more sad, she starts to cry. She traveled the world, she gave him her best, and it was not enough. Her tears burn holes in the ground.

Friends

Then, one morning she wakes up and discovers flowers, where once there were holes. She sees the sun shine. She feels the warmth in her heart and the strength of her hands.

She is not alone in this. She has communities. She has friends and family. She can ask for help. She sits down and prays “Thank you for the prosperity I enjoy, the riches I can share. Thank you for everything I received and can give to others. Help me bring more prosperity and abundance into our lives.”

A kind soul from the East responds. “I am here to help. You are not alone. You have the answer in your heart. Your life energy will show you where to find the golden grain that will bring you wealth.”

And so the queen does. She helps a lady across the street and gets an apple. She plants the seed, and it bears fruit of silver and gold in the Fall. Enough to feed the kingdom.

Thanks to a little help from a friend.

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All you need is a little help from your friends. Just ask.  Contact me at 512-589-0482 to see how I can help.

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P.S.: Someone calls me as I write this blog. I just listen, open to celebrate her successes with Nonviolent Communication. At the end of our conversation I ask if she wants to engage my help. She says ‘yes’. The universe takes care of us in miraculous ways, if we are willing to surrender to life.

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Grateful thanks to my beloved husband for his edits.


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Isn’t it wonderful to have a community?

CommunityA community that supports you in your practice, and encourages and inspires you to continue your efforts? A community that shares the same values and aspirations? Whether it is your AA, my weightlifting, our Sangha, their church, his soccer club, any community that celebrates your successes and your failures is wonderful.

Thich Nhat Hanh once said that the next Buddha is not gonna be an individual, it’s gonna be a Sangha. A community that awakens to enlightenment and helps relieve suffering.

The essence of community is a sense of belonging

For me belonging means that, however I show up, I am seen and accepted for who I am. I find that in my Sangha. Whether I come in grumpy, irritated, peaceful, happy, sad, lonely or scared, I always receive the same kind of love and welcome. It is even irrelevant who is there. It is the Sangha as a body, that bids me welcome. This welcoming is not limited to me, everyone who shows up is greeted with the same level of warmth. Whether you have ADHD, mental health challenges, alcoholic issues, struggles in your marriage, failing grades at school, whether you are black, brown or white, young or old: everyone is embraced with the same kind of excitement, just because they show up to practice together.

Strong communities support autonomy

There is more to strong communities. Yesterday I wrote about differentiation. The ability to balance your needs for togetherness and autonomy.

I claim that our Sangha is differentiated.

This morning I talked with Nhu-Mai about my intention to become an aspirant member of the Order of Interbeing. She encouraged me to use my time as an aspirant member to check in with myself whether being a member of the Order of Interbeing really resonates with me. Whether that is my heart’s desire, and honors the flow of my life. She told me that there is no shame, no punishment, no exclusion if I realize during my period as an aspirant member I don’t want to be ordained. My clarity will be celebrated. Whether the clarity is that I don’t want to commit, or do want to commit, I will belong and accepted.

I feel touched and impressed.

I am part of a community where my need for togetherness is nurtured, and my need for autonomy.

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Contact me if you want to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help you with your practice 512-589-0482


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Do you need to be an expert at marriage to write about it?

Can you write about something when you are failing at it more often than you like?

When I started blogging, I wanted to write about marriage (as in any intimate, romantic, long-term relationship). I am passionate about any relationship, and marriage seems the pinnacle of relationships. Marriage was the topic of my heart.

Image courtesy to Deviantart

As I wrote, I realized that I suck at marriage. I broke up two long-term relationships, divorced once, and now struggle to transform anger, resentment and jealousy into love and compassion. Who am I to think that I can add anything of value about this topic?

I am better at friendships.

Well, of course.

In a friendship you can hide

You feel frustrated and don’t respond to emails. You meet for lunch and only talk about small things. You don’t tell your friend you don’t understand her partner choice, “out of respect”.

In a marriage you have less exit options

You live in the same house, you declared your commitment in public, his/her choices have a direct impact on you. And because of the amount of time spent together, your partner becomes more important. Their opinion of you becomes more important. You get more attached to their approval of who you are and what you do.

That’s why marriage can be challenging.

David Schnarch writes about it in his book Passionate Marriage.

A healthy, happy and safe marriage is a marriage between two differentiated people

People who can balance their needs for togetherness and for autonomy. People who are able to calm themselves down, when their partner loses it. People who are able to hold on to themselves, when their partner pushes to conform. People who are willing to pause their dream to accommodate their loved one. People who are willing to make choices that nurture all needs. People who are willing to love wholeheartedly, knowing they will once lose it all, death is inevitable.

David Schnarch claims there are three routes to differentiation.

  1. Unilateral self-disclosure: to disclose something vulnerable and important about yourself, without expecting the other person to do the same. A sort of emotional undressing, while the other keeps their clothes on.
  2. Self-validation: the ability to validate your own experience, when no one agrees, the ability to pursue your own dreams, when no one supports, the ability to believe in yourself, when no one else seems to.
  3. Conflict: the courage to stand up for your truth and desires, even if you fear disconnection and rejection.

 

I felt very relieved when I read number three. I have plenty of experience with conflict.

Maybe I’m not so ignorant about this topic after all. I might just be differentiating.

What if that is my expertise?

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You want my help to transform conflict into differentiation? Call me at 512-589-0482 or email me to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.


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Are you kidding me? Grumpiness is not the issue, my response to it is?

Childhood messages impact how we receive reality

My husband writes on and teaches Nonviolent Communication. More than 20 years and 1100 classes. Every Sunday,  every Tuesday.

His favorite piece is ‘Repairing the Boat’ – a daylong workshop he offers on self-connection and discovering introjections. Introjections are the external messages we hear in our childhood. They can impact our sense of self, our perception of reality and our openness to the needs that are present.

Road to FreedomWhen people are willing to look at these, sometimes elusive, hard-to-hear childhood messages, they can learn to more deeply explore their needs. As a result, they experience more freedom, joy and peace. They learn to take the actions of others less personally, and to distinguish between what is being said/done and how they receive these words/actions. This helps to understand all needs, which in turns helps their connection with others.

Are you kidding?

Last night we work with his material. He asks of a recent experience that was uncomfortable for me. He invites me to explore any phrases or ideas that come up -introjections- to understand my needs and the needs of the person whose behavior was uncomfortable.

Hum. Yep. I can think of one.

Of course. It is his.

His grumpiness.

I feel sad. I clearly remember the specific childhood instance this is tied to. I learned I cannot be who I am, when someone is grumpy. There is a penalty for being giddy, bubbly, exuberant. I need to confine myself to that person’s demands.

My husband asks if this memory makes it hard to be around him when he is grumpy. And how my life would be if I shift into understanding my and his needs.

Are you kidding me? I should make the effort to translate his behavior into needs? I should try to empathize with his experience? I should try to understand that his behavior has to do with his experience, and is in no way a reflection of me?

Why can’t he stop being grumpy? Why can’t he be more joyful? Why can’t he make an effort? Why do I have to do the work?

The road to inner freedom

And yet.

There might be some truth in it. Maybe it helps to be able to accept reality for what it is, not for what I want it to be.

It reminds me of The Work that I have been doing. “Until you can look forward to all aspects of life, without fear, your Work is not done.”

Maybe there is a gem in his teaching: that surfacing introjections dissipates their power to confuse reality. Maybe it is worthwhile to be honest with myself and face my baggage. Maybe I can take a step back, and see my needs in my reaction, and the needs of others in their behavior.

Maybe that’s not a maybe.

I can change my response to any behavior. That’s the road to inner freedom.

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You want help to explore your introjections? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session 512-589-0482, or email me.

Image courtesy to  Creative Commons


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What my blog is about

BlogWhy do I blog?

It is the first assignment in the WordPress Zero To Hero Challenge to build a better blog in 30 days. Why do I blog instead of writing a personal journal? What are my blogs about? Whom do I love to connect with through my blogs? If I blog successfully throughout 2014, what would I hope to have accomplished?

All kinds of socially correct answers swirl through my head.

But the truth, is I started to blog to attract more visitors to my website and turn them into clients. I wanted to raise my income.

Frequently adding pages to your website tells the search engines your website is current. Writing about the same topics tells them your website is relevant, and voilà, your website shows up higher in the search results.

Then came National Nonfiction Writing Month along

And the challenge to write 50,000 words in one month.

Bang.

Straight back to my lifelong ambition to become a published author.

Finally.

A book about marriage. How to transform anger, resentment and jealousy into love and connection. How Nonviolent Communication helps. Mindfulness. Compassion.

Bang.

The core three elements of my business. This work is my road to success, I can feel it in my bones.

As I write, and write, and write, I get less and less excited. I often struggle in my marriage. I am not a textbook example of transforming anger, resentment and jealousy. How can I  tell others how to do that?

How am I different from all the other experts in this field? I have no clue. If this is not my specialty, what is?

Know yourself

Then I remember Socrates quote, Gnothi seauton: “But I have no leisure for them (=mythology) at all; and the reason, my friend, is this: I am not yet able, as the Delphic inscription has it, to know myself; so it seems to me ridiculous, when I do not yet know that, to investigate irrelevant things.” (Wikipedia). If Socrates tells us to understand ourselves, who am I to doubt that that is an honorable thing to do?

So I decide to write about my experiences on the path of deepening mindfulness and expanding compassion. About my stumbling steps, my faltering failures, and my small successes. About my enthusiasm and dedication to this path.

I hope my blog inspires and encourages you to continue on yours.

And grow the wave of mindfulness and compassion enthusiasts together

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You want to explore how I can help you with your mindfulness and compassion practice? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session 512-589-0482.

Image courtesy to Creative Commons


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Let your future self guide your steps

StepsVisualize your desired result

“Ik ben een kanjer!” I yell, as I park in the driveway last night. “I am a hero!”. Or something like that.

I had just succeeded driving home safely through 10 miles of sleet, freeze, and storm. Over bridges, through winding roads, down the 23% hill to our house.

I was scared all the way.

I am not used to drive through such weather on hilly, winding, unsalted roads. Dutch roads are flat, straight, and immediately taken care of by government agencies when it starts to snow.

I applied my battalion of fear-reassuring tricks. Singing, focusing on my breath, thanking God for a safe drive, visualizing my warm and welcome homecoming.

Take your first step

The funny thing was, I was a more responsible driver, because of that tenacious determination to arrive home safely. I was so intent on keeping myself from an accident and my car from wreckage, that I carefully took all the necessary steps to make that happen. My desired end result was so clear, that I only needed to reason back from that end situation to my now to find the steps that would get me there.

I am noticing it with my application for the Order of Interbeing too. I haven’t even applied, I haven’t told my Dharma teacher, I haven’t asked my Sangha. And my visualization of whom I want to be is so clear, my commitment so conscious, that I can track all the steps my future self took to get there. All the thoughts, words and actions my future self took to come into existence.

Isn’t it wonderful? It’s it simple? Imagine your future self, and track back the steps your future self took to come into existence. And take that first step. Just that first step.

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You want help to figure out your first step? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session 512-589-0482 or email me