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Empathy works. It always does.


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Enjoying the jackal show

You sit on your cushion at your Sangha. It is time for tea. The two cushions on your left and right are empty. As is customary when tea is served and your neighbor is off to the bathroom, you take two cups: one for yourself and one for your neighbor to your left. The person sitting right of the empty cushion to your right does the same. She doesn’t. Frustration is rising.

So now you have two cups for three persons. Trying to practice generosity, you offer your cup to your right neighbor. Ostensibly you pick up your water bottle to join the tea drinking ceremony. You hope everyone sees your sacrificing generosity. No one does. More angry thoughts pop up.

Someone gets up to get herself a cup of tea. She wasn’t served either. Angry thoughts start to race. ‘Which idiot is not even able to serve everyone tea!’

Someone gets up to bring tea to the Buddha. Full blown angry storm. ‘My gosh, how can they let a newcomer serve tea and not instruct him clearly?’

Oh, my goodness! Here you are at Sangha, a sacred place of mindfulness and compassion, and all you do is judge, evaluate, condemn. What’s wrong with you! Thank God no one can see all these angry thoughts.

Image courtesy to malamala.com

Image courtesy to malamala.com

Then you remember Marshall Rosenberg’s invitation to ‘enjoy the jackal show’. Instead of judging your judgments, trying to get rid of them, you imagine them as little puppy jackal puppets, just doing their jackal thing.

A burden falls of your shoulders. Your shame dissipates and you start to relax. You see all these little jackal puppets jump up on stage, each with their specific line. They are actually disciplined enough to follow theater conventions and speak only one at a time. And they are quite cute, with their fluffy ears, doing their utmost best to deliver their lines as lively as possible. You are watching them with a certain interest and curiosity, and you’re noticing the detachment between these thoughts and you. You are not your thoughts, you’re just having them. Just thinking. Nothing more, nothing less. You start enjoying your water. You are right here, right now. Just drinking water, and enjoying the jackal show.

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You want help to enjoy your jackal show? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


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A glimpse of my true nature

The kids want someone else to babysit them tonight. Not forever, just this once. “She’s more fun, because she plays games with us.” Ouch. Well, honestly: ouch, ouch, ouch. I’ve been with them for so long. I try so hard to support everyone’s needs. I care about them. And I want acceptance and appreciation for all of that.

It hurts. It just hurts.

I think of my ex-husband. I told him five years ago that I wanted to leave him for someone else. We had been together for 14 years. He had supported me through some of the most difficult periods of my life. He was unconditional in his acceptance, always supportive, and deeply loving. I can only imagine how devastated he might have felt when I told him,  “I’m leaving. I found someone more fun to be with.”

And yet, he has never stopped accepting me, supporting me and my choices, and, I think, loving me. I experience him as the epitome of unconditional, selfless love.

Image courtesy to windpacer04.deviantart.com

Image courtesy to windpacer04.deviantart.com

And now, as I feel this  hurt, I feel some of that too. I do feel the pain of what I perceive as rejection, ànd I also feel a love that is way bigger than me. It is a love that is personal and non-personal at the same time. It is love for for the kids, love for myself. It is a quality of love with no object, no subject. It has nothing to do with what’s done, what’s said. It’s not even about who is. It is love for love’s sake. It is not my love, it is a love that is universal and timeless. It flows through me, it touches me, the only ‘I’ in this love is that I’m the vessel for it.

I feel relieved. Apparently I can feel unconditional love, at the same time that I feel pain, loneliness, sadness.

This must be my true nature. Some call it basic goodness. Some call it the Christ-essence. I call it Love.

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You want help to touch your own true nature? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

 


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I am way bigger than my perspective

The cool thing about expressing what you want and being open to hear what’s up for the other party, is that you’re actually owning up to your needs and your experience of whether they’re being met. It’s about you validating yourself. You’re accepting and honoring your truth, whether other people get you or not. And the fun part is that in this stage of emotional liberation, there are no demands. There is just the acknowledgment “Hey, this is what’s going on for me. This is how I think you can enrich my life. How would that be for you?” Just like you would listen to the special needs of your bougainvillea. And in this happy space of offering your needs as beautiful and precious you open up to options that you never considered before.

I haven’t come from this place too often. Usually I demand that the other party validates my needs, because I carry so much shame for having them. I wished that acceptance, belonging, love weren’t that important to me. I wished I could do without them. And if not, my god, I wished I didn’t need to ask your help supporting them. And if I do, you have to say ‘yes’, because a ‘no’ would confirm that there is indeed something wrong with me. Like fundamentally wrong.  A ‘no’ is not a message about what’s going on for you, but a reflection of me.

Image courtesy to wikipedia.org

This time it’s different. I notice that I completely accept my need for appreciation and to be seen for my contribution and commitment.  Very matter of factly. ‘Yup, that’s me. I flourish most if these needs are met. Yup. Isn’t it wonderful?’ The self-acceptance allows a curiosity about what’s up for them. ‘Wow, that’s fantastic. Is that how you see the world? Is that how you would thrive? Wow.’ The openhearted curiosity invites a profound understanding. ‘Ah, yeah, I understand your experience, if you see the world from that perspective through these glasses. Now, take a look through my glasses and look at the same situation from my perspective. You understand that I don’t receive my salary as meeting my needs for appreciation through my glasses of habitual thoughts of not-mattering? Makes sense, hey?’ And the understanding invites a spontaneous desire to support all needs.

And maybe for the first time in my life, I understand, own, and accept that my experience in the world is determined by the glasses I wear. And, even better, that I am not my glasses. That I can take them off and put on other glasses. Or no glasses at all. Just as I chose. Just a perspective. Nothing more. I am WAY bigger than that.

Pretty cool, hey, for spring?

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You want help to validate your own needs? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


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A holy journey into my fear

I get in my car to drive off for my salary negotiation. I feel anxious. A deep fear comes up that I have to face I’m not that important, that I don’t matter that much, that I won’t be heard.

I stop.

Image courtesy to ajunglescientist.files.wordpress.com

Image courtesy to ajunglescientist.files.wordpress.com

I do a quick self-connection practice. Breath. Physical sensations. Feelings. I relax. What, if I view this conversation as a holy practice of loving speech and deep listening. What, if I see this as an invitation to meet my inner demons? What, if I use this as a journey into my fear of conflict, disconnection, and not mattering, like my tree climb was a journey into my fear of heights? What, if I commit myself to stop, breath, and connect to myself as soon as fear arises? And trust that our connection offers support, so I won’t fall? Imagine that my friends are here to be my belay to catch me if I do fall, so I won’t hurt myself?

I relax. A peace comes over me. I can do that. It’s not about a salary raise, it’s about the practice of sharing honestly what’s alive in me, what I want, and hearing deeply what’s alive in them, what they want.

And about using every sign of anxiety, fear, discomfort, as an invitation to connect. To myself. To take good care of my fear. To own it, and be responsible for it.

I walk into the conversation with an open heart and a clear mind.

I walk out of the conversation with pride and appreciation. For all the times I shared honestly from my heart, vulnerably. For all the times I caught myself being scared and stopped talking, breathing into my fear and letting it be. For all the times I listened to really get what my employers are saying. For all the times I captured their message and reflected it back. For the level of integrity and courage I showed to myself.

I leave my employers with appreciation and gratitude. For all the times they expressed themselves directly. For all the times they listened. For the offer they made.

And the salary? That is just a strategy to support our needs for contribution and to be seen for our contribution. We can work that out. Easily.

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You want help to negotiate? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


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I want to matter to myself

I want to ask for a raise. I don’t receive my pay check as appreciation for the value I add. I think my empathy and mediation skills are unique and contribute to the emotional, social, and academic development of my clients. I empower them to be autonomous, authentic, and responsible. I teach them to include all needs and figure out strategies that work for everyone. I want to be seen and appreciated for these qualities.

I talk with my empathy buddy about this. I tell him I should earn more, that I deserve it with the level of commitment I have for my clients.

Oops.

I just read in Nonviolent Communication that ‘should’ and ‘deserve’ language conveys that a request is actually a camouflaged demand.

I fall silent. I check in with myself. I am making a demand. I am so scared I will hear a ‘no’ that I am using force to get a ‘yes’. I’m too afraid to hear the ‘no’ as proof that I don’t matter, that my employer doesn’t care about my needs.

“Mattering to whom?” my buddy asks. Duh. To my employer, of course! I need to know that I matter to them.

Then I fall silent again… Or is it mattering to myself? Am I afraid that I will walk out on myself, as soon as I hear a ‘no’? Am I scared that I will give up on myself and my needs to accommodate the relationship?

Image courtesy to wellness.nicolepresents.com

Silence… Yes… That’s it… And I realize that if I matter to myself, I would use this request as an opportunity to express what’s alive in me, what my inner experience is. Not to get what I want (NVC is never a good tool for that purpose), but to be known for who I am and what I need. To create a relationship that’s based on honesty and empathy.

And all of a sudden I realize that this conversation is actually a chance to support the inner child in myself. The little, stuttering child who so often thought she didn’t matter, that no one cared what was going on within her. Who was too scared to speak up, because she feared disconnection. This is the time to invite the adult within me to squat next to her and encourage her to speak, to help her find the words. This is not about a salary raise, this is about healing. Learning to ask for what I want, in a way that conveys to myself that I matter. That’s all that matters.

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You want help to matter to yourself? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


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Can advice be true empathy?

Something is jammed in my neck. It is stiff and painful. I can turn it -carefully- to the left and right. I can bend it forward. I can hardly bend it backward. Drinking my tea is a challenge.

Image courtesy to Flickr

Image courtesy to Flickr

I tell my husband about it. He immediately comes up with advice: take a ten minutes very hot shower, roll your back, let me give you an ortho bionomy  treatment.

I love it. I love all his advice and faithfully follow up on all his suggestions.

Sometimes advice is much better than just empathy.

Marshall Rosenberg defines empathy as the ‘respectful understanding of what others are experiencing’. It is the slowing down to really get what it’s like to be the other person, to see their world through their eyes, to imagine walking in their shoes.

My husband could have responded with guessing my feelings and needs, our usual form of empathy. ‘I hear you’re in pain. Are you confused what happened? Are you worried about your neck? Are you scared you have a herniated disk and your insurance won’t pay for treatment? You want health, reassurance, physical safety?’ What if he had walked away, after I affirmed that he got it?

I would have felt sad, lonely, confused, maybe even frustrated that I didn’t get the support I so desperately wanted.

For me, true empathy always leads to the opening of the heart and a natural longing to relieve suffering and to contribute to life. For me, true empathy is not only guessing feelings and needs, it is also guessing the implicit, unspoken request hidden in what’s being shared. For me, true empathy leads to an openhearted curiosity to figure out how to support the other person’s needs and honoring your own. My husband got that without many words. He acted on it right away with his advice and offer for treatment.

Sometimes, advice is the natural result of true empathy. And more than welcome.

Thank you, David, my neck is much better and my trust that I can heal much increased.

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You want help to empathize with implicit requests? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

 


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Empathy for unsollicited advice

You struggle with your co-worker. You feel frustrated and upset and you want more collaboration, understanding and support. You’re looking forward to talk about it with your friend. Alas. As soon as you start talking about the situation, she responds with advice. “You should sit down with him and tell him what’s going on for you and what you want from him. If that doesn’t help, you should go to your boss and let him intervene.”

You’re noticing you’re getting triggered. Something doesn’t work for you. You don’t want advice, you want understanding for your struggles, acceptance of your experience, and trust that you have the inner wisdom to navigate the situation with care and compassion. Maybe even some encouragement ‘You can do it!’. Or hope that the situation can and will be resolved.

You’re about to tell her that her advice didn’t work, when you remember ‘Empathy first’. You have heard yourself say that só often, and now -when it would be really helpful- you almost forgot. ‘Empathy helps. It always does.’

So instead of expressing your frustration, you start guessing her feelings and needs. “Are you sad, because you want me to do well at work?” “YES!” “Are you hoping that your suggestion will help me to move through this situation with grace and resolution?” “YES!” “You just want to support me and see me happy?” “YES!” A sigh of relief… A pause… Then she starts talking. How hard it is for her to see her friends being stuck. How this reminds her of her childhood, when she was expected to resolve situations she was unable to resolve. How scared and powerless she felt.

Image courtesy to FlickrAnd you listen… Just listen… You give her space to share her pain when other people are struggling. And your frustration dissipates. Instead of judging your friend of doing something wrong, you now see a human being who wants support and understanding. Just like you. And in this space of compassion, all you want is connection. From one human heart to another.

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You want help to empathize with advice? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


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Emotional liberation

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try and how sincere your intentions, your efforts to connect and support are not enough. What you wish for doesn’t happen, and you receive a response you wished you hadn’t received. Ouch moments. My friend doesn’t want to continue working together. An old panic comes up “You did something terribly wrong, you are a bad person, and because of that you don’t deserve connection, acceptance, belonging. Out with the bastard, off with her head!” A fear of rejection, ostracizing, and finally, lonely death. I know this fear too well, and it has determined many of my actions.

Marshall Rosenberg calls this emotional slavery. We think we are responsible for the happiness of the people around us and we go to great lengths to make sure they are happy: our sense of worthiness and emotional safety depend on it. We think they feel, because we do. So if they feel angry, sad, lonely, we did something fundamentally wrong. We have yet to learn that they feel, because they need and I feel, because I need.

There is freedom, an immense freedom, once we learn that we are not responsible for what we other people feel, that they feel because how they perceive their needs being met or unmet. As soon as we understand that their pain tells us something about them, not us, we can listen with care and compassion. What is going on for this person? What is the precious, tender message behind her complaints, blame, anger?

Image courtesy to WikimediaA few years ago I bought a bougainvillea. I was happy and took good care of her. I didn’t cut her back, I didn’t fertilize her, I made sure her feet were wet all the time. The bougainvillea wasn’t happy. She hardly bloomed, her stems were lengthy, her leaves droopy. And instead of taking her message personally (who does that anyway, with bougainvilleas?), I heard her complaints as the bougainvillea telling me something about her. I got it and immediately started to learn about bougainvillea care taking. Who doesn’t want to see their bougainvillea in full bloom? So the next year I let her roots dry out a little, I cut the stems back ferociously in spring, I fertilized her with special bougainvillea fertilizer. And she blooms as only a bougainvillea can bloom. Abundantly for months, and months, and months.

When we receive messages as people trying to tell us something about themselves, we have the freedom to contribute to their needs, or not. Without fear of rejection. Just a choice what makes life more wonderful in this moment.

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You want help to make contribute to life freely? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


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Mourning and regret

Image courtesy to fotomedia

Image courtesy to fotomedia

I didn’t call my friend as promised. Last week I canceled our phone call too. I feel bad about it. How do I feel when I think I’m bad? Hum… I close my eyes and listen to my body. Your physical sensations offer wonderful opportunities to connect to what’s really going on for you.

I feel tired, sad, and scared. Tired, because I have so many projects going on and I want more rest and spaciousness in my schedule. Sad, because I really want to honor my commitments. I want more integrity: to make conscious commitments that are in alignment with my physical sensations, my feelings and thoughts, my needs and values. Scared, because I’m afraid that I’ll be judged as untrustworthy, unreliable, dishonest, and maybe even not good enough. Ouch… I resonate with that fear. I want understanding and acceptance that I have too much going on to keep track of everything and I want to be seen for the sincerity with which I reached out for my friend to make an appointment.

Gosh… I made a choice that didn’t include all needs. Let me just sit with that for a little bit… Let me just mourn that and move away from self-blame and self-judgment… Maybe I can connect deeper to the needs I was trying to meet by not calling… Rest and spaciousness… Yeah… I so much wish for more rest and spaciousness, less running around from appointment to appointment. And maybe I can connect to the needs that were not met by my choice of not calling… Integrity, understanding, acceptance, and to be seen for my intentions…

Such beautiful needs… So human and universal… I wished I had chosen a strategy that would support all of them… Ah… Let me just sit with that… I want to support all needs…

Yes! I’m gonna send her an email in which I express my regret for not honoring our agreement and in which I share honestly what I can offer with my limited time availability… Which commitment am I joyfully willing and sincerely able to make?… How can I offer support and include my needs for rest and spaciousness? Maybe less than I wished I could. And maybe this new offer can include all needs. Different than I originally thought, and more honest and true.

Happy Easter.

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You want help to mourn some of your choices? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


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Emotional potty training

Image courtesy to Wikimedia

I am so happy with my emotional potty training. After I realized that I’m emotionally incontinent, I went on a quest to learn how to stand my anger, jealousy, fear, and other unwelcome feelings. I learned how to have my feelings, connect, accept and understand them and respond with compassion, mindfulness, and care for everyone.

I can proudly say that I am a little bit more emotionally continent. I still my accidents where my painful feelings overwhelm me, and I yell, blame, and judge despite my value of compassion and connection. And I’m noticing moments where I feel anger, jealousy, fear arise and maintain my calm.

I couldn’t have done it without John Kinyon and Ike Lasater’s self-connection process. This is how it might work for you.

So there you are. With your husband. You come home, and, again, he didn’t clean the counter, as promised. You think you don’t matter and that what you want doesn’t count. Angry thoughts are piling up one after the other. Yep. That sometimes happens.

Then you catch yourself. You’re getting triggered. Oops. Just in time to do the self-connection exercise. You move to a spot on your right (I always chose my right, so my body builds up an instinctive routine and doesn’t get confused in times of challenge) and focus your awareness on your breath. Just noticing it. Nothing else. Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out. Maybe a first sigh of relief of pausing.

Then you bring your attention to your physical sensations. Just an invitation to get out of your head and into your body. Maybe you’re sweaty, maybe your stomach is tight, maybe your heart is racing. Just bringing body and mind together, and ground yourself in the present moment. Your body cannot be anywhere else. Maybe a second sigh of relief of self-connection.

In this safe container of breath and body awareness you connect to your feelings. Wow. You might be surprised by your feelings. You might notice that there is sadness underneath your anger. A tender sadness. Maybe a fear too. A fear that you don’t matter, that there is not enough care and support for your needs. Ouch, maybe the pain of the thought that you are not good enough, that you are not worthy of connection, love, belonging.Maybe a third sigh of relief and self-compassion.

Breathing in, breathing out. Physical sensations. Feelings. More clarity about your needs.

This is it. Just some spaciousness to listen to yourself before you respond. Just an opportunity to hold your own experience with love and gentleness.

I’m curious to hear if this self-care helps you to respond with more loving-kindness, compassion, and understanding. It does for me.

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You want help to ground yourself in your breath, body, and feelings? Contact me 512-589-0482512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session. I would be delighted to work with you.