Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.


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Have your experience and enrich it

Ever traveled business class?

I hadn’t.

In all my travels to and from my family and friends in the Netherlands, I travel economy class. I certainly have looked with envy as I walked past the business class seats, seeing them transform into beds, with clean, cotton pillowcases and yummy comforters.

I have never wanted to spend the money. I have made do with squeezing into an economy seat that I can’t stretch out, expecting to be startled awake when my head slips, as I try to sleep upright in a less than ideal position.

This July, I again traveled to the Netherlands to see my family and friends. And lucky me, my friend used his air miles to buy me plane tickets. When he emailed me my ticket, he wrote that the ticket allows me to use the lounge in Amsterdam and Houston. I didn’t pay much attention to that clue until the evening before my departure.

That evening when I print the ticket, I notice I have a seat all the way in the front of the plane!… When I take a closer look at the seating map, I see… YES! row eight IS business class, and my seat is one of those amazing, reclining seats…

So here I am, a simple girl from the Netherlands, sitting like a queen in this luxurious and comfortable chair. I can’t stop smiling. I play with all the different buttons testing my seat positions: all the way down, all the way up, my legs up and my back down, back up and legs down, everything at 45 degrees! You might understand why, with my excitement, it takes me more than an hour to finally take a nap. Nope. Not a nap. Sleep, deep sleep for more than four hours!

In this glorious moment of having all my senses satisfied, I remember an exercise by Rick Hanson to help change my brain for the better.

It is the HEAL process:

  • Have the experience: bring awareness to your needs being met, that you have feelings you enjoy, that something positive is happening in your life
  • Enrich the experience by focusing on the freshness of the moment, engaging all your senses
  • Absorb the experience as if you’re basking in sunshine, extending the positive feelings with a few minutes
  • Link this positive experience to a negative one in the same realm, to transform the brain’s negativity bias – which Rick Hanson describes as “teflon for positive, velcro for negative”.

Doing this exercise I notice I’m transforming distracting thoughts of scarcity, that I don’t have enough, that I don’t have support to seeing that in this moment I have more than enough conditions to be happy and that I have all the support I want. A sheer delightful experience of abundance.

Which positive experience can you link to transform a negative one? Let me know, I would be delighted to read from you.


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All you need is a little help from your friends

Once upon a time, in a country far, far away lived a king

He was lonely. He had no one to share his life, his love and his kingdom.

One day he decides to straddle his horse and find himself a queen. He searches through forest and beach, through mountains and plains, through deserts and snow, and finally finds her on the other side of the ocean. He is infatuated by her smile. She falls in love with his humor, his hands, his wisdom.

He takes her home as his happy bride

Then, one day, disaster strikes. A tornado hits the kingdom and destroys the barns, the crops, their livelihood. The kingdom weeps and the king desperately seeks money to help his people. To no avail.

Creditors bang on his door and threaten to take his stove away. They come back and threaten to take his furniture away. They come back and threaten to take his palace away.

As he gets more afraid, he starts to bark. He worked so hard, he gave it his all, and it turned into dust. His barks call on storms.

As she gets more sad, she starts to cry. She traveled the world, she gave him her best, and it was not enough. Her tears burn holes in the ground.

Friends

Then, one morning she wakes up and discovers flowers, where once there were holes. She sees the sun shine. She feels the warmth in her heart and the strength of her hands.

She is not alone in this. She has communities. She has friends and family. She can ask for help. She sits down and prays “Thank you for the prosperity I enjoy, the riches I can share. Thank you for everything I received and can give to others. Help me bring more prosperity and abundance into our lives.”

A kind soul from the East responds. “I am here to help. You are not alone. You have the answer in your heart. Your life energy will show you where to find the golden grain that will bring you wealth.”

And so the queen does. She helps a lady across the street and gets an apple. She plants the seed, and it bears fruit of silver and gold in the Fall. Enough to feed the kingdom.

Thanks to a little help from a friend.

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All you need is a little help from your friends. Just ask.  Contact me at 512-589-0482 to see how I can help.

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P.S.: Someone calls me as I write this blog. I just listen, open to celebrate her successes with Nonviolent Communication. At the end of our conversation I ask if she wants to engage my help. She says ‘yes’. The universe takes care of us in miraculous ways, if we are willing to surrender to life.

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Grateful thanks to my beloved husband for his edits.


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Self-compassion, day 4: Gratitude

There is something about fear that I really appreciate. Something about the moment that fear turns into blind panic and terror. When this happens and it lasts long enough, it dissolves into surrender, softening, letting go.

I’m not talking about the fear that comes up when our live and safety is threatened in this moment. I’m not talking about the fear when bombs fall, someone is coming at us with a knife, we get into a car crash.

I’m talking about anticipating fear. The fear that something will happen in the future. The fear that we won’t create enough income, that our husband is gonna leave us, that we’ll get a disease and die, that we’ll lose connection when we express our authentic truth. Those scenarios our mind chooses from all the possible scenarios and believes to be true. Anticipating fear.

When that fear grasps you long enough, there comes a moment when you cannot sustain it anymore. Your system doesn’t have enough capacity to be and terrified and continue living. It collapses.

Thàt’s the moment to catch. Thàt’s the opportunity to wake up to this moment and realize that all you have is the present moment. That there is really nothing else but this moment. This waking up is not the result of a mental exercise, trying to convince yourself that the future has no reality. It is a visceral experience of understanding your future is beyond your control. You feel in your body that the only thing you can influence is your intention, thoughts, speech and action, right now.

Once that awareness sunk in with me, I completely relaxed. My fears dissipated. All that was left is gratitude. For my hands which are able to hold a pen and write. For the four walls that keep the cold outside, and the warmth in. For the faucet that gives me easy access to water. For the carpenter that made the chair that supports me. For my husband who works, holds me, appreciates me. For my family and friends who are willing to help.

The gratitude list is endless. I giggle. My experiences are faster than my gratitude. There is só much to be grateful for, that I can’t keep up with it.


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Self-Compassion, day 1: I’m doing the best I can

Wangari Maathai shares a beautiful story about a hummingbird and the forest. The forest is on fire and all the animals flee away, terrified of the fire and immobilized by fear of what will happen to their sacred home.

The hummingbird flies off too. To the lake. He picks up one drop and flies back to the forest and drops it on the fire. Then he flies back to the lake as fast as he can and picks up another drop. And another. And another.

All the animals watch him and ask: “Why are you doing this? It’s not gonna help? Your beak is too small, the fire too big, and your wings too slow.” The hummingbird pauses a second, then replies “I’m doing the best I can.”

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with our situation, the situation of our world. We see all the suffering, within ourselves, in other people, nearby, far away. The task is too heavy, the stakes too high. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now, but whatever we have to offer is nothing compared to the grief and suffering. There is too much to do, and we stand to lose it all. The situation seems overwhelming, and we get paralyzed.

Those are the moments that we can stop. We stop to appreciate everything we are doing. Every thought we create, every word we speak, every step we take. We appreciate how we contribute to more abundance in the world, more prosperity, more security, more love, connection, peace, joy, and harmony. We acknowledge how our efforts bring more loving-kindness, compassion, support and understanding into the world. We appreciate how we work to sustain ourselves, our loved ones, and those we don’t know yet. We might not create the results we want. But, we’re doing the best we can.

And that’s enough.


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Appreciation in 4 steps

There is a tender beauty in expressing appreciation. There is something precious in sharing how someone’s actions enriched your life. A little line of connection between two people on this earth, who care enough about each other to find joy in supporting each other.

Even if you only say “thank you”, you water the seeds of joy, love and trust within yourself. Appreciation reinforces awareness of everything you have and everything you receive that is positive, pure and good.

No matter how grim your circumstances seem, how dark your future, how gloomy your past, appreciation highlights the moments of joy, love and harmony that you do have.

My friend suggested four steps of appreciation. Three to express to your friend, partner, parent, sibling, neighbor. One to express to yourself.

1. Observations

You start with a specific observation of what the other person did. Simply, as if you are a fly on the wall who recorded the event with a camera. The less interpretations, evaluations, judgments, the easier it is for the other person to know what you are talking about.

2. Feelings

Then you share how you felt when you observed what happened. Maybe you felt happy, touched, relieved, proud, tender, joyful? You can use your physical experience to locate and connect to your feelings.

3. Needs

Then you share how the action of the other person nurtured a need in you. Needs are universal throughout space and time. All feelings point to universal, human needs we all share. Maybe your friend supported your need for support, acceptance, understanding, compassion? Sometimes sharing your needs feels a little vulnerable, because we own up to what is important to us. We are a little bit more seen than before, a little bit more naked.

4. Your contribution to the event

You end with acknowledging the qualities you brought to the table to invite this experience in your life. You appreciate your consciousness and choices that made this possible. Maybe you were courageous enough to ask for support. Maybe you are grateful enough to notice the unfolding leaves on the tree. Maybe you are helpful enough to support your friend in need. There is always something in you that made this experience possible.

You’ll notice a big shift in your experience of life, if you practice these four appreciation steps twice a day for one month. Start today. Life is too short to postpone what’s important.


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Playing mindfulness

She sits quietly, reverently. Almost solemnly. She picks up the mallet to invite the bell to ring. As she gently strikes the bell, I giggle. Out of the blue. I am tickled by the thought that we are playing mindfulness. Our playground is the Sangha, and sitting meditation is the game. We take our game seriously. When kids play hide and seek, they try to be super quiet, so that no one can find them. If they are discovered, they run as fast as they can back to base, before the seeker can tap them. And then they play again. And again. And again. There is no winning and losing, there is just playing.

We adults play mindfulness. We bow when we enter the room. We bow when we sit down, we bow when we get up. We bow when we serve tea. We bow when we drink tea. We bow to our teachers. We bow before we go home. We bow to our thoughts and label them “thinking”. We bow to our attention as we go back to our breath. We sit on a cushion and bow to everything that arises. To our entanglement in our thoughts, our presence, our breath. We bow in gratitude, and start over again when we’re lost. There is no winning and losing, there is just playing.

We once did a variation on this game. We were offered pen and paper and invited to write down our thoughts as they arose. I scribbled non-stop. “How much money do I have left?” “What is 38°F in Celsius?” “What should I write in my next blog?” Habitual thoughts, important thoughts, irrelevant thoughts.

My neighbor didn’t write down anything. I got anxious. Scribbling “I’m not mindful enough.” I got envious. Scribbling “My neighbor has a calm mind, and mine is stuffed with thoughts.” I got confused. Scribbling “Which game are we playing? Being mindful of whatever is present, or wining the competition of having the emptiest mind?” I giggle. There is something funny when games turn into competition. The fun is lost, there is just striving for winning. Scribbling “I rather have fun playing mindfulness, than be the best of my Sangha.”


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Day 13 Journey into Wholeheartedness

“Vulnerability is being open to the goodness within us and others.”  Sakyong Mipham, The Shambala principle.

There is a woman on the street, who I have never seen looking up, who always sits huddled, and often has a frown on her face,  I am not scared of her, just not inclined to engage with her, or give her money.

Today I remembered the quote.  And as she looked up, I opened my window and gave her a dollar.  She started talking to me in a language I didn’t understand, with what I received as an angry look and tone.  And then it dawned on me: there is basic goodness in her, and all I need to do is accept her for who she is, embrace whatever comes up and with my smile affirm how beautiful and precious she is, how lucky we are to have her in our world.

And as she walked back to her spot, I felt such gratitude for the wisdom of Sakyong Mipham, and such trust in our basic human goodness.