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 sister had great advice for me the last time I visited the Netherlands: do even less.
I immediately implement it. At the Nonviolent Communication retreat, I continuously stop myself in my tracks, in my well-developed habit of speaking or doing if no one else does, and ask myself ‘Why do I want to say this?’ ‘Why do I want to do that?’
It takes a while, before I can answer those questions. I have such a strong habit of being helpful, I am so used to making sure everyone is happy, that I only can say that doing much is a strong pattern.
The why behind the doing
After a day or so, I connect to the ‘why’. I just want to belong, be accepted, and be seen. And I have learned that being helpful, kind, funny are great ways to get a sense of acceptance. I can not imagine I will matter, belong and be appreciated, unless I actively work on getting them.
‘I don’t get anything, unless I work hard for it.’
So here I am at the retreat, asking myself non-stop ‘Why?’ And then stop, focus on my breath, feel into my experience. And leave it at that. Only talk and act if I have a wildly enthusiastic impulse to speak or act.
The relief in the not-doing
That what I fear, is not happening. People don’t fall apart, the world doesn’t collide into catastrophe, I am not blamed for all the suffering in the room. Nothing terrible happens if I don’t speak or do something. The world does perfectly fine with me just sitting on my spot, enjoying my breath and the life in and around me.
The acceptance and appreciation for being you
A burden is taken of my shoulders. I am not responsible for everyone’s well-being. People can take care of themselves, of each other, yes, even of me. I can relax, lay back, and see everyone doing their own thing. And be part of the gang. Just by being me. Laughing wholeheartedly when I feel amused, showing my vulnerability, being present when someone cries. Just being me brings me everything I want.
I never received as much appreciation as at that retreat.
I did less, and was more. That was enough.
Try it for yourself: do less and be more. You’ll love it.
If you want help letting go of your habit of having-to-do: Nonviolent Communication is a perfect tool to work on that. I am happy to coach you in those skills. Contact me 512-589-0482.
Listening to your anger
My client suffers from road rage. Her rides turn into anger, yelling and frustration. She arrives upset and disturbed.
Anger impacts her relationships too.
She wants my help to deal with her anger more mindfully.
In a visualization exercise she asks her anger what it is about, and what it wants from her, so that it can relax and let her live her life grounded in her values. She asks her resistance against the anger the same questions.
She cries when she opens her eyes. “I need an outlet. I have so much anger in me. My childhood was drenched in anger and yelling. It was the only communication in my family.”
“Did anyone ever walk up to you, when you were angry? Did anyone ever stretch out their arms to you, when you were throwing a fit, and tell you ‘I’m here for you. I see how angry you are. I won’t go away. You matter to me.’ Did anyone ever just sit with you, creating a safe space where you could experience your anger and maintain connection?
She looks at me bewildered. “No! I was punished and sent to my room.”
Even now she thinks that that is the only reasonable response to anger. To express your anger with yelling and throwing a fit is childish.
“It is not childish. It is your child. It is the little child within you that cannot think of any other way to be heard. It is your inner child that desperately wants help for her suffering and longing.”
She looks at me bewildered, again. She had never even thought about her anger this way.
“When you think of yourself as this little child, maybe two years old, ‘throwing a fit to get her way’, what do you think she actually wanted?” “Attention.” “And if she would get attention, what precious need would be fulfilled?” “Belonging”, she says, with tears in her eyes.
We just want to belong
Just to know that you belong. That you matter. That someone cares about you, and wants to include you.
Such a beautiful, simple need.
How can we be angry with ourselves when we scream and yell in our despair, because we don’t know any other way to ask for help? How can we judge ourselves because we so desperately want to belong, to be seen, to matter?
We don’t need labels, judgments,punishment when we scream and yell. We need compassion. We need someone to stretch out their arms to us and tell us “I’m here to help. I’ll stay as long as you need. You matter. To me.”
That is the only way to heal. Ourselves. The world. Let us stretch out our arms to each other and say “I’m here for you. How can I help?”
Contact me if you want my help to deal with your anger more mindfully 512-589-0482.
A 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.
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
This is a tender letter to all my friends who experience shame. Shame about the choices you’ve made, and how you think these reflect on you as a person. All my friends who have come to believe that whatever you do, it is never good enough. It is never good enough to cover up the fundamental flaws of your being. It is never good enough to get the love, acceptance, support, and understanding you so deeply long for. You just want to hide and never face the pain, fear and loneliness of this shame again.
You’re not alone. I am here. We are here. For you. For me. For us. We all know what shame feels like. We all know the devastating impact shame has on the freedom of choices we make.
We also all know the healing power of compassion.
Last year I participated in a yearlong program Nonviolent Communication. We were invited to offer a workshop to the other participants as a learning opportunity. I had two participants show up. Josie had 14. I felt deeply ashamed. Here was direct proof that I was not attractive, interesting, and inspiring enough to have anyone show up. When I shared my shame in my empathy-group a shame storm raged through my body. I hardly could look at anyone. Then they responded. With compassion. With care. With understanding. With a longing to include me, support me, reassure me.
I was flabbergasted. I was showing up naked, covered in my shit, and instead of the anticipated response of disgust, rejection and exclusion, I received love, belonging, acceptance.
I wish this healing experience for everyone in the world. I wish we all can find a friend, a coach, a therapist we trust. Someone who is willing and able to listen and empathize with us. Someone who doesn’t brush off our experience, or tries to cheer us up, but who is willing to be there for us in our suffering.
Then we can start to heal. We can start to heal the wounds of our childhood. We can start to believe that love, acceptance, and belonging are possible, just for who we are, with all our flaws. We can start to open up and be vulnerable. We can start to share our dreams, our aspirations, our heart’s desires.
After the shame storm is heard, we can listen to the quiet. We can hear everything that brings joy in our lives, and help us bloom, blossom and grow. Our vision will reveal itself, guiding us on the path of becoming more fully who we are.
May this year shower you with love, acceptance, and support.
You want help bringing compassion, healing and integration in your life? Contact me, 512 589 0482