512-589-0482 elly@ellyvanlaar.com

Stand your feelings

How often did I tell myself to stand my feelings? How often did I proclaim that this is the indispensable first step to connect to the needs underneath those feelings and recognize them as precious and beautiful? How often did I tell people that standing your feelings is crucial to find strategies that are truly supporting all needs, yours and those of others?

I don’t know. Maybe a couple of 100 times?

And now that I am in this rage of anxiety and fear, I hate the idea of standing my feelings. I hate my racing anxiety, my accelerating heartbeat, my running away urge. I want to find the culprit (and guess what, I already found her) and get rid of her (yep, the whole strategy is laid out in my head). I want to make sure that nothing triggers my anxiety, and if there are, that they are minor triggers, like the fear of a cockroach.

And yet.

3. Stand your feelingsI do want to practice what I preach. I take a deep breath and return to this simple tool of mindful breathing. Which, by the way, sucks. It is no fun to focus on my breath, when a boa constrictor is wrapped around my chest. Just so you know.

I focus on my second breath. No fun either. I’ll stop saying that I hate standing my feelings, but I can’t think of another way of saying how much I dislike it.

I focus on my third breath. BANG. Rudimentary, old fear. If I don’t stand up, the Nazis will come and take away those that I care about. I have to speak up. I have no choice. I have to save those that will be excluded.

I continue focusing on my breath, hand on my belly. The first panic attack dissipates. I am a bit more aware that I am here and now. That she is a human being, not a Nazi. That she is doing her best to serve the greater good, within whatever limitations she is facing.

The fear is still present. More tender now. More caring. More longing to connect, understand, be heard. The fear is willing to speak up for the needs unmet (safety, inclusion, transparency, dialog, fairness), and give me space to act in alignment with my aspirations, values and dreams.

Standing your feelings is not a command. It is not a trick to get rid of them. It is an invitation to listen, deeply listen, to what is true for you and make choices that are grounded in your values.


You want to learn to stand your feelings? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

My fear, my child

She hears a soft crying. She can hardly hear it with Anger yelling in her ears. He is trashing the place down. She probably should pay attention to him, but something is drawing her to this crying. She can’t quite determine where it’s coming from, somewhere in the corner over there.

Image courtesy Flickr.comAs she walks over, she sees there is a door she has never noticed before. She feels her heart pounding as she turns the knob. The crying gets louder. Not that much, just a bit. It is dark inside, pitch dark. Coming from the brightly lit room, her eyes need to adjust. As she gets used to the dark, she sees a child. Maybe eight years old. Exhausted. Almost starved to death. She probably hasn’t been bathed for years. She can smell the urine and feces she has been drenched in.

The child turns her face to her. Startled, she recognizes this is her child. This is Fear whom she locked away years ago, hoping she would never see her again, hoping she would never feel afraid again.

As she looks at her child, a wave of compassion, love and care well up in her. A kindness for the child, a grief for the harm she contributed to. She strokes Fear’s hair. She sits with her for a long time. Finally she gets up to bring her some food, some water. As she walks to the fountain, she notices Anger sits in the corner, reading a book on compassionate communication. He looks quite satisfied and content.

She understands how Anger tried to cover up Fear, so she would not feel the anguish of being afraid. She has some appreciation for his efforts to empower her to overcome her fear and stand up for herself, even though they were somewhat unskillful. And she is grateful for having found Fear. For getting a second chance to connect with her child, and understand her. Collaborating to find ways to support her. Listening to how Anger can trust that she works on getting her needs for respect, safety, inclusion, and kindness met.


You want to learn to connect to your own anger and fear? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

Reverence for life and the death penalty

“Because all manifestation has both an individual an collective aspect, it would not be correct to say that a young man in prison bears the whole responsibility for his crime. He is the product of his family, his schooling, and society. If we look deeply, we may find that when he was younger, his parents often fought and caused each other and their child to suffer. Perhaps he was abused. Lacking love, lacking education, he tried to forget himself in drugs. With drugs, his ability to make good choices diminished even further. Committing a crime was the result.

Looking deeply, we see that the conditions for this young man’s actions did not arise only from his own mind and experiences. All of us bear some responsibility for creating the conditions that led him into the cycle of crime and addiction. If we only condemn or punish him, it will not help. People use drugs because they are in pain and want to run away from life. Putting someone who is suffering like this in prison is not the way to solve the problem. There has to be love and understanding, some means to bringing him back to life, offering him joy, clarity, and purpose.“ Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind.

Image courtesy to pbs.orgWednesday evening, September 10, 6 pm CST, Texas State killed Willie Trottie. Because he killed his ex-girlfriend Barbara Canada and her brother Titus.

I joined my Sangha to sit as a silent witness at the steps of the State Capitol in honor of our first mindfulness training: Reverence for Life. “Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivate the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life.”

I thought of offering myself as a replacement of the convict to take an active stand against executions as a strategy for safety. I thought about it a long time. Then I realized that I would be terrified, panicked, and anguished in the certain prospect of death. I am too attached to life, and too averted to pain and suffering. Instead of peace, trust, love, openness, and understanding of impermanence and interbeing, I would offer fear and terror. I am pretty sure that would not help.

I think the only thing that helps is practicing compassion, understanding, love, and mindfulness in our thoughts, speech, and actions. For ourselves, for our beloved ones, for our not so loved ones, and for our society. So that we would help create a society where everyone receives so much support, acceptance, belonging, understanding, and compassion, that no one needs to kill to get their needs met.

—–

You want help to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

Fear and veganism

Fear is being afraid of what’s gonna happen in the future. Fear is never about this moment. Jack Kornfield tells a beautiful story (at least I like it) in The Roots of Buddhist Psychology. A man goes camping. He sees footprints of a bear. He gets scared, because he is afraid he’ll be eaten by the bear. He starts worrying, even though he is fine in the moment. Then he sees the bear and starts running, scared of the anticipated pain he’ll feel, if the bear starts eating him. The bear runs after him, and indeed bites him. What the man feels in that moment is pain, hurt like hell, not fear. There is fear, but that  is not about the bite, it is about being eaten alive and dying. Something that might happen in the future. Fear is about an anticipated moment you dread in the future. Pain and hurt are what you feel as you experience this moment.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/Vegan_patties_with_potatoes_and_salad.jpgI dreaded holding on to my vegan diet when I went to the Netherlands. I feared non-belonging, critical questions, ridicule as I was eating differently than everyone else. I was afraid I would roll over into eating cheese, butter-filled cookies, and anything else that might contain eggs or dairy, as I soon as I thought my sense of acceptance, belonging, and understanding would not be met.

None of it happened.

My family and friends easily offered me vegan food or accepted me bringing my own dish so I had enough yummy food to eat. To my big surprise my aunt, who I don’t think ever considered veganism, even made a separate dish that completely supported my choices. My family ate my vegan dishes with joy and delight, even though some of it didn’t turn out as yummy as I had hoped. I felt joyful, enthusiastic and excited to offer my compassionate alternative as an invitation to understand how our own happiness and suffering are not separate from the happiness and suffering of animals. I felt proud to water the seeds of compassion and interbeing in each of my family and friends, and they received it for the acceptance I have for their meat-eating choices.

I have learned that eating vegan isn’t synonymous for exclusion, loneliness, and ridicule. It equals inspiration, integrity, and connection.

Hallelujah.

—–

You want help to offer your compassionate choices as an invitation to understand the interconnectness of our happiness and suffering? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

Fear in, jackals out

Sometimes our blame, criticism, and anger is actually an habitual, automatic response to our fear.

We perceive we’re in danger and we get so scared we immediately react with counterattack. We don’t allow ourselves to stop, breathe, feel, and connect to our needs. We don’t even think about it, our reptilian brain takes over. Fight and flight at the same time.

Image courtesy to David Nayer

It goes something like this: “Michelle is teaching an intro Nonviolent Communication at church.” “What a bitch!! She didn’t even connect with me first!! Who is she to barge in and think she is the big star?! Over my dead body: it’s not gonna happen without my support!! I’ll offer another workshop that same day, and make sure that no one shows up at her event. She is a selfish, inconsiderate taker.”

Bang.

Anger in full explosion.

There is something yummy about anger. You’re bumped up, you’re in control, you’re riding the wave of adrenaline. A little bit like flow, but without the peace part. Ready to crush, to slash out, and destroy. No one is gonna fool you, you stand your ground.

Feeling into your fear is much harder. To allow it to rush through you, to feel what it’s like to be that scared, to be thinking you’re helpless and cannot protect yourself from harm.

Yet, that’s where your empowerment lies.

In your vulnerability.

In this precious place of longing for safety, acceptance, inclusion, and belonging. All these needs that help us to survive and thrive.

If we dare to stop, if we have the guts to step into our fear, breathe, and be penetrated by it, we can open the door to self-care and self-compassion. “My beloved self, I see you’re scared she will get more attention than you. I get how afraid you are that she will attract more NVC-enthusiasts than you. I know how you’ve come to believe that being popular and interesting will bring you love and belonging and a sense of worthiness and mattering. I understand your pain. I’m here for you. I love you the way you are and I care for you.”

When we acknowledge our pain, we can offer ourselves support and understanding.

That’s how jackal ears out can help you to heal old, old pain.

—–

You want help to translate your jackals out into self-care and self-compassion? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.

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.

—–

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