I’m feeling angry. I’ gonna practice holding my anger with compassion and rehearse the lines Thich Nhat Hanh gives us: “Dear Anger, I know you’re there…. I’ll take good… F*ck… I… hate you being here!”
Hum. Not exactly it. Let’s try again.
“Dear Anger, I know you’re there… I’ll take good… You know what!!! I’m gonna ignore you. I’m gonna pretend you’re not here and continue doing what I planned to do, even though I’m shaking.”
Hum. Okay. That didn’t work either. Third try.
“Dear Anger, I know you’re there… And you know what!!!… I’m gonna lash out and yell!… Commitments and mindfulness practices, get out of my way, and let me go on my rant!”
My goodness, holding my anger with compassion and mindfulness is much harder than I thought. I feel shame that I have anger. I think I am a lesser person, because I don’t receive every remark, every action with insight and love, see them as an opportunity to deepen intimacy and learning. Oh my goodness, I think I am a failure on the path of mindfulness and Nonviolence.
Gosh, after all those years of practicing with my Sangha, and learning -even teaching- Nonviolent Communication, I still struggle to say: “Dear Anger, I know you’re there and I will take good care of you.”
I resist my anger, I don’t want to have it. Stephen Hayes has an exercise to work with anger ànd your resistance to it.
- Scan your physical sensations and put your hand on the spot, where your anger lives.
- Invite your anger to sit with you. In front of you, or next of you, far or close. Whatever you feel comfortable with it.
- Observe your anger: the smell, sound, taste, form, touch. Maybe it has an age, a name.
- Ask two set of questions. 1. What is the important message you have for me? What is it you want me to know about you? 2. What do you want me to do for you, so that you can relax and calm down, and let me live my life grounded in my values, dreams, and aspirations?
- When you are ready, do the same thing with your resistance, and ask the same two questions.
- As soon as you have a sense of completeness, bring your feelings back into your body and put your hand on your heart. Ask your heart which step brings you closer to your aspired future self.
I have always found this process helpful being more at peace and whole within myself, and getting unstuck. I hope it helps you too.
You want help embracing your anger and your resistance to it with compassion and understanding? Contact me to schedule a free discovery session, 512-589-0482.
This Wednesday I flew out to Atlanta to renew my passport. At first I was frustrated about the hassle, and the consumption of time and money.
Then I decided to make it an adventure and see it as an unique opportunity to visit a city, its people, and its highlights.
So I visited the birth home of Martin Luther King Jr., the The Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, and The King Center. I walked away with even more awe for the radical love, the ultimate fearlessness, and the relentless commitment to social justice, truth, and inclusion Martin Luther King Jr. had. Here stood a man who was dedicated to serve others, no matter the personal cost. I don’t think he spent much time hanging out in front of the television, chatting with friends, dangling his feet in the swimming pool. Here was a man on a mission , who did not waste his time mindlessly, who used every minute, every second of his life in pursuit of his dream.
My mind starts racing. “I should educate myself on philosophy, I should not watch Elementary, I should talk about big topics. I should be on a mission to convert everyone to veganism, to restorative justice, to Nonviolent Communication. I should volunteer to take the place of a death row inmate and let myself be executed or refuse to pay taxes as a statement of the injustice of the punitive system. I should not lull myself into sleep that I do enough.”
You know me well enough to imagine the rest of the drill.
Then I read Martin Luther King’s ‘What’s Your Life’s Blueprint’ in The Radical King (Edited and introduced by Cornel West, 2015, 66-67)
“And when you discover what you’re going to be in life, set out to do it as if God almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. (…) If it falls to be your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. And sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that the hosts of Heaven and Earth will pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” “
And I realize that all I need to do right here, right now is to be the best Elly possible. As a wife, a nanny, a coach. As Elly. Be mindful of everything I am. Bring joy and delight to everything I do. And take a radical stance for compassion, acceptance, and love. For myself. And for others.
That’s good enough.
Want help to take a radical stand for yourself? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to work with you.
When I lived in the Netherlands, I loved to go on bird excursions. Every Thursday in April I would get up at 5:00, leave at 5:45, and bike to the dunes in The Hague. I would gather with 15 or so other bird watchers and then go off on a bird watching expedition.
“Shush… I hear a nightingale.” Everyone freezes in their movement, attentively listening to what might be a nightingale. Or a lark, a robin, a tomtit. Whispering. Quiet. We don’t want to disturb the birds and spoil our fun. We are always equally excited, however mundane or unique the bird. Every bird seems a treat from heaven. And even if we see none, we enjoy the elevated anticipation.
Not once did I have the inclination to mediate between birds quarreling over their domain. Not once did I feel the urge to interfere on behalf of the bird that didn’t attract a mate. Not once did I step in to portion out the food more fairly.
I just watched, carefully observing their behavior, their colors, their sounds. I just had this sincere longing to get to know them.
This Monday during an empathy session I realize how differently I treat my own thoughts and feelings. I judge, evaluate, criticize them constantly, and most of all I want to change them. Into more acceptable thoughts and feelings. I talked about how my back pain had kept me up at night. I interrupted myself, saying I was babbling. I didn’t even notice the judgment in that word. My empathy buddy did. With a shock I see how harsh I can be about myself, thinking my thoughts and feelings are not good enough, thinking I am not good enough.
And all of a sudden I imagine how open, relaxed, compassionate, free flowing my life would be if I watch my own thoughts and feelings with the same openhearted curiosity as when I watch birds. “Oh, here is a flock of grackles. They are loud and chase the other birds away. Fascinating.” “Ah, there is a Caroline wren, her little tail pops up as she sits. So cute.” “Wow, there is a cardinal, I wonder where his mate is.” Accepting whatever comes along, or doesn’t come along.
All these thoughts and feelings flying in and out of my head. On a rainy day, a sunny day, through wind and hail. What a delightful image. I am happy to welcome and observe them.
Want help to practice observing your thoughts and feelings with acceptance? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.
Let me talk about death. Not because it is my favorite topic, but because it was why I was in the Netherlands after all.
My aunt died 76. Seems a reasonable age, not too young, not too old, and yet I startle. That would only be 26 years away from where I am now.
My goodness, only 26. That’s the same time from here back to the end of my University life, a period I most vividly remember. What happened in these 26 years, what did I accomplish? Not much. Nothing that will gain me an award, a prize, a television interview.
I know, I shouldn’t be attached to these signs of public recognition. I should be satisfied with a life of service, grounded in understanding of our interdependence and impermanence. I should not be afraid of death either, for that matter. With all my Buddhist practice and trust in G*d, I should be beyond that.
I am not. The truth is that I am desperately seeking for ways to earn love, belonging, acceptance. I find it hard to imagine I am worthy of love for my own sake, that I matter just because I am me. I think I have to contribute and make a difference to belong. Gosh, after all those years, that didn’t change.
The good thing is that I had an interaction with an uncle, which highlighted with extreme precision how strong this habit energy is. It was most liberating. I have an automatic reflex to help, whether I am asked or not, whether I have the relationship or not, even whether it is helpful, or not. “Here, let me help you, I so much need to know that you love and accept me, and I think helping is the best way to get that.”
Hum. Not too bad for a two minute interaction. Quite an insight. Enough to reflect on for the next 26 years. Quite an invitation to better understand my intentions, and to free myself from patterns that are no longer helpful.
Maybe I will die at peace, accepting whom I was after all. Sounds good enough to me. No prizes necessary. Just honesty and love.
You want help to free yourself from habitual patterns? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.
This is a tribute to my aunt. Tante Ria. She died last Monday. Peacefully. Trusting that she would enter Heavenly Paradise, and be welcomed in the house of her Father.
I am flying out today to attend her funeral.
I feel a deep sense of sadness and loss.
And more deeply than that, of gratitude and appreciation.
Image courtesy to creativecommons.org
She offered a warm, welcome home every Summer holiday for my sister and me. She organized fun events, exuberant barbecues (and even now, being a vegan, I enjoy thinking of those gatherings), and special activities. I always had such a sense of love, acceptance, belonging, appreciation, and delight, whenever I visited her house, at a time when I didn’t experience much of that in many other places.
She never talked about my troubles. She never asked about my pain. She just offered love and acceptance.
Teyber and McClure call that a restorative emotional experience. Through tante Ria I knew that love, acceptance, belonging, understanding, and joy were possible. Also for me.
We cannot always prevent children from feeling pain, hurt, loneliness. We can’t always repair the damage done by neglect, criticism, and ignorance. But we can always offer our open heart, welcoming hands, and radiant smile to let a child know how delighted we are that they are in our world.
Tante Ria, thank you, for inspiring me to bring out those qualities in myself for all the children and grown-ups in my life.
I love you.
My new year’s commitment for 2015 is simple: when I’m getting angry, I am gonna put my hand on the spot in my body, where the anger sits, and just breathe into it. Nothing more. Just connecting to my anger and bringing awareness to it, if even for just a split second.
Last year I made a much bigger commitment, and failed at it at least 150 times, if not more: “When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger.”
At the end of 2014, looking back at all those failures, I realized I was practicing at PhD level. My mindfulness practice is not strong enough to prevent myself from slashing out when I am angry. I nurtured the habit energy of anger for such a long time, that I probably can’t stop myself when anger overwhelms me. The habit energy of my anger is like a tank, firmly grounded in the solid course of its pain and hurt. It might take a while to steer it in another direction.
So I decided to set myself up for success and commit to a practice I most likely can keep, and trust that just a little nudge of the rutter will change the course of my tank in a more wholesome direction.
Image courtesy to fitbie.com
I accept I am a toddler, wobbling on the path of mindfulness and compassion. Sure, I mastered standing up. And sure, my goodness, am I excited to walk and get somewhere. And yet, I fall all the time. I am not ready to run with the elite. Let me first learn how to walk with a stroller. And then, maybe, without. And then maybe, go a little longer, Till I can run as fast and far as I want.
But now, start where I am. Right here. Right now.
Put my hand on my body where the painful feeling arises. Breathe into it. Embrace it with compassion and acceptance. Speak to it: “Hi precious anger, I now you’re there. I’m just as angry as you are. I’m just as scared and confused. I don’t know how to help you yet, but I’ll stay with you. I won’t leave you alone, I’ll hang in here and hold your hand.”
That’s my commitment for 2015. What’s yours?
Want help making a commitment that leads to big successes? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.