Coaching for Nonprofit Leaders

Based in Austin – Specialized in Empathy and Self-Compassion

Tante Ria

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.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

“Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” At least, that’s what Elton John sings.

Image courtesy to answers.yahoo.com“Sorry” seems to convey that there is something wrong with us, that we did something bad, and that -as a result of our action- we are unworthy of love, acceptance, and belonging. It is the beggar’s word in a one-up relationship, where I know what is good and what is bad, and decide whether you are good enough to be in the inside circle.

Sometimes this burden of self-incrimination turns into the opposite, and our “sorry!” becomes oblique, as we run out the door, leaving our spouse frustrated with our unwashed dishes and our stuff at the counter, with no intention to clean up after ourselves the next time we’re in a hurry.

It does not have to be this way.

Sorry can also reflect a profound self-reflective journey of looking inward and acknowledging the times we did not show up the way we wanted.

The ten days between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur invite us to this journey of self-connection and reflection on our transgressions against G*d, our fellow living beings, and ourselves.

I understand transgressions not in the legal way, but as a longing to awaken to our true nature of love, compassion, and mindfulness, and to our innate desire to contribute to the well-being of others, including ourselves.

Atonement is the process of restoring our at-one-ment, our interbeing.

Nonviolent Communication calls it the cycle of Mourning, Celebrating, and Learning. We ask ourselves which universal, human, precious needs were unmet with the behavior we now regret. And we ask ourselves which precious, human, universal needs we did meet -or were trying to meet- with the behavior we now regret. And in that process of looking deeply, understanding, and accepting our choices, we open up to learning different ways to nurture all those needs: the ones we met and the ones we didn’t meet. It is the process of connecting to our values and that what is most important to us: life and love.

When we approach the word “sorry” as an indication of our learning, as a sign that we realize our unskillfulness in pursuing our needs, without giving up our dignity and worthiness of love, acceptance, and belonging, it is the easiest word possible. It expresses that we are human beings who search, sometimes stumble, through life, looking for ways to honor our needs, those of others, and those of G*d. It indicates that we are not stuck in the past, wallowing in our regret, but that we open up to life and making more wholesome choices in the future.

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You want help to mourn, celebrate, and learn from actions you now regret? 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.

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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.

Touching Toulouse in the ultimate dimension

Brutus to the left, Toulouse to the rightI’m reading “Opening the Heart of the Cosmos, insights on the Lotus Sutra” by Thich Nhat Hanh and learning about the historic and ultimate dimension.

The historic dimension is the reality as we know it in our current body and is bound by time and space. We are born, we live, we die. A car is manufactured, used and disassembled. A song is written, popular, and forgotten. There is a beginning, middle and end.

The ultimate dimension is the continuous flow of life, of unlimited being, of the one and the all.

Once we touch the ultimate dimension, we lose our fear of death, because we understand that we cannot die, that we were never born, that we have always been. Our present appearance is just one of the multitude manifestations of the ultimate dimension. A wave cannot die, it just returns to water, which it has been all along.

I don’t claim that I get it. I think if I did, I would be way more open, loving, and relaxed. I would be less anxious, jealous and angry.

And last night I realized that I am probably seeing a glimpse of the ultimate dimension in the loss of and continued connection with my cat: Toulouse.

She was my buddy, soul mate and Bodhisattva of unconditional acceptance, boundless love, and immeasurable appreciation. She followed me around the house, the garden, out on the street. She used any opportunity to jump on my lap, cuddle with me on the couch, crawl under the comforter and find her favorite spot in my arms.

I left her behind with my ex-husband, when I got a divorce and moved to the USA. I was heart-broken. Whenever I felt upset, I took her picture and held it to my heart. I’d fall asleep like that. Even now, five years later, I feel a raw, scourging pain in my stomach. She was the love of my life.

I went back to the Netherlands twice a year, and always visited my ex-husband and my two cats. As soon as I opened the door, she’d run up to me and claim my lap. She loved me as ever before. She never held a grudge that I had left her behind, as if she honored my choice, and accepted my departure.

The last time I saw her was December 2010. She could hardly walk, lost 10 pounds, and couldn’t get up on the couch.

My ex-husband took her to the vet Jan 21, 2011 to let her die.

I wasn’t there.

Despite all the grief, sadness and loss -that I even feel right now as I write about her- I feel this incredible joy of knowing that I never lost her. She is here with me,  right now. She is always available with her love, affection, and acceptance. Her appreciation never died.

I understand it better now.

I am touching Toulouse in the ultimate dimension.

Fully wanting to be you

Image courtesy to Flickr“It takes courage to love yourself. It is easier to hate yourself. To always want to improve and change for the better. To never be satisfied with who you are right here, right now. But to fully say ‘yes’ to whatever is here, your anger, your fear of failure, your striving for perfection, that takes courage. You’re trembling in the nakedness of your honesty and you’re fully wanting to be you. I’m fully wanting to be me. Yes, that takes courage.”

I’m in awe with my client. I’m not sure if I have the courage to be fully wanting to be me. I rather be someone else. Happier. More successful. Less jealous. I’m pretty sure I’m fully wanting to be my future self, an improved version of me. Less needy, more lovable.

I’m in awe with my client, and her choice to unconditionally love and accept herself.

I’m in awe with my client and her choice to say ‘yes’ to who she is in this moment.

She reminds me of the ferryman in Herman Hesse’s Siddharta. He doesn’t do much. He tends his garden, he enjoys the sun, he takes people to the other side of the river. Hardly anyone recognize in him the Buddha, the Enlightened One. Hardly anyone even look at him. They just want to get to the other shore, and he is taking them. He is an instrument to their purpose, and as such not very interesting.

I have always been impressed with that courage. To just live your life, not doing much, not striving for acknowledgment, validation, reassurance of your worth. And fully enjoying being alive. Gosh, if I only would have that solidity in me, that groundedness, that self-confidence.

I giggle. That seems like a contradictio in terminis. Wanting to be someone else, so I can fully want to be me.

Hum. Maybe I could start wanting to be me with all my striving for love, acceptance and belonging?

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You want help to fully want to be you? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to help you on the path of unconditional self-acceptance.