Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.


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Self-compassion and cockroaches

Cockroaches and Self-Compassion

My husband and I cherish our vegan household. We don’t eat animal products, we don’t buy leather shoes, we don’t spread poison to kill bugs.

As a result, we have our occasional cockroach visitor.

Since we don’t want to kill or harm them, we try to catch them and transition them to the compost pile in the backyard, hoping that’s nirvana to them.

It’s not easy. Cockroaches are fast, and have a magic ability to disappear between cracks I didn’t even know existed.

So when we spot them, we have to stealthily get a glass bowl from the drawer, put it over them, shove a piece of firm paper underneath the bowl, and run carefully to the compost pile.

My success rate is around 60%.

I am pleased with that, until a friend tells me it’s not difficult at all: you just pick them up and throw them outside.

Well, I don’t know which countries he has visited. Maybe Tibetan cockroaches have more equanimity and are happy to be picked up, but our Texan friends are fast, really fast.

Irritated at hearing his claim, I prove my point by acting out my catching strategy on the living room floor.

Ouch…

Exaggerating the speed in my demonstration, I land badly on my thumb. I can hear it pop. It’s extremely painful. I feel the blood drain from my head and I can barely get up. Still feeling the original irritation, I pretend as if nothing happened, waving him goodbye.

When he’s gone, I hear a roar of critical thoughts swell in my head: “You stupid idiot, you are unable to regulate your irritation! You made a fool of yourself by being caught up in your own self-righteousness! You deserve a sprained thumb!”

It takes a few hours, before these elements of self-compassion surface:

  1. Awareness. Just noticing my pain and suffering around these critical thoughts and my thumb. “Ouch, that hurts, that really hurts.” We cannot foster self-compassion, if we don’t acknowledge we’re suffering.
  2. Befriending myself, being on my own side. Just wanting myself to feel better, caring about my needs. Something like “I wished I didn’t suffer.”
  3. Shared humanity. I start thinking of all the other people who hurt themselves while trying to impress others. I breathe in their pain, heaviness, and suffering. I breathe out love, light, and relief to them. “May all beings be happy, peaceful, and light in body and spirit.” Myself included.

Working with these elements of self-compassion, I feel better. I see myself for who I truly am: an ordinary human being, whose behavior is sometimes a tragic expression of unmet needs. I don’t need to judge myself for that. I need to reaffirm that I am still unconditionally worthy of love, acceptance, and belonging.

How could these elements of self-compassion help you to accept your mistakes and learn from them?

Let me know. I would love to read from you.


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Juggling and learning new things

I’m juggling. Four balls. My best is maybe five catches. I drop them a lot. Almost all the time.

My husband juggles too. He drops too. More than I do. He’s practicing seven balls force bouncing on a double stacked rola bola balance (watch the video, it’s insane). He has 107 World Records.

When we’re learning a new trick, building a new habit, or changing our situation, we can have a lot of misses. It’s inevitable when you’re learning something you haven’t yet mastered. If you knew how to do it, it wouldn’t challenge you. I would already qualify four balls, stop eating when I’m full, be more consistent and disciplined following my work plan.

Apparently, growth is not simple. We have to overcome homeostasis, the tendency of systems to revert back to an original set point. We can make a conscious effort to change our habits. And in that effort we can get lost, make mistakes, slide back.

For me, the trick is not to beat up myself, blame or shame myself, when I don’t meet my own aspirations.  The trick is to see that a failure in action is not a reflection of who I am, but of what I do in this specific moment. I am not a failure, because I failed here and now. If I can’t accept my failures as the natural consequence of sincerely trying, if I think I’m a failure when I don’t succeed, I would feel so discouraged and disappointed that I would stop trying altogether.

My challenge is to endure “creative tension” (Peter Senge in the Fifth Discipline). This is the difference between my reality and my vision — between where I am and where I want to be. If I can’t stand this tension, I resign to my situation and give up on my dreams. When I can stay with my thoughts and feelings around this tension, I can change my current situation and get closer to my dream.

For me, it means accepting that dropping balls is part of the path to learning juggling. What’s important to me, is learning and getting better, not being attached to the results.

When can you accept and celebrate your ‘mistakes’ as a sign that you’re learning and growing? Let me know, I would love to read your wisdom.


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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.


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Is this ego or a behavior I don’t like?

I am not a big fan of the word ‘ego’. I find the term too judgmental. I associate it with being egoistic, which I hear as rejection. I don’t want to be egoistic, and I certainly don’t want to be seen as such by others.

Image courtesy to musformation.com

I also want more compassion and empathy for the behavior we label as ‘ego’. I want more love, care and understanding for the stuckness and habit energy I now want to change.

And I don’t like the black and white thinking implicit in the term. “My ego gets in the way of my true self. If I let go of my ego, then I will live a life of integrity and alignment with my values.” I see our lives and choices as a continuum, not good versus bad.

I much rather use the Mourning and Celebration Process offered by Ike Lasater and John Kinyon to process my regrets and to make new choices. When we empathize with the universal, human needs we were trying to support with the behavior we call ‘ego’, we can relax in the beauty and preciousness of these needs, even if our strategies sucked. This appreciation of the needs we were trying to meet, allows us to empathize with the needs we did meet with these choices.

In this place of mourning needs unmet and celebrating needs met, we can come up with solutions that support all these needs. We can use our understanding and acceptance, to learn from our mourning and celebration.

I went to an event with two friends, where I evaluated their energy and way of showing up as unhelpful. Instead of speaking up, I went quietly into distress and disconnection. This is what the process looked like for me. “Hum, not speaking my truth doesn’t support my need for authentic self-expression, transparency, and connection. It did meet my needs for safety and social acceptance. Shoot… I want all these needs to be supported… Hum.. Let’s just focus on my breath, my physical sensations, my feelings… Hum… I want some forward movement… I want to live in integrity with my values… I long to express truthfully. I want to care, contribute, cultivate compassion… Hum… What can I do to support all those needs?… Maybe I can schedule three empathy calls? To process what triggered me in this event, so I can transform my enemy images and blame into connection, support, and understanding… Yes! Then I can speak my truth with care, compassion, and contribution. Openly and honestly. Then I can be authentic and maintain connection.

It is that simple.

And it takes intention, consciousness, and effort to transform blame, judgment, and evaluation into learning and new choices. I would be honored to help. Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.


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Conflicts are opportunities to learn

footstep“My marriage sucks.” She looks at me with tears in her eyes. “I give it a 2. I’m ready to leave. I’m sick and tired of the bickering and squabbling. I want peace and love and joy. Just a friendly face in the morning, someone who greets me with a smile ‘Good morning, my love, what a delight to see you today.’”

Tears roll down her face. She feels lonely, sad and hopeless.

She started her marriage with such excitement. A match made in heaven. She thought this time it would be a ten, or at least a nine, and for certain a consistent eight. Now she is ready to give up.

We sit together in silence.

I see her sadness and respect her pain.

Taking one little step at a time

“You know what?”, she says, with a sudden twinkle in her eyes. “I could see it differently. I could strive for a 2½, instead of being frustrated it is not a 10. Just a little improvement. One thing that works better today than yesterday. Just one little step, and then stabilize it. And then a next little step. And stabilize it. And then a next little step. Till I am where I want to be.”

Conflicts are opportunities for better understanding

She seems relieved. “I could see our conflicts as learning opportunities. ‘Oh, we bumped into each other. Hum. Maybe he needs help to make his life more wonderful. Maybe he has a unique request for me, something I could never have guessed, unless we bumped into each other. Maybe if I listen, instead of demanding that he asks differently, we will get somewhere.’ Hum.”

She ponders.

“You know what? I have actually been telling myself that what he wants is not valid. That he should not want the dishes to be put away, that that is a ridiculous thing to want. That the dishes are fine in the sink.”

Another silence.

“Isn’t that strange? I would never do that with my plants. I would never tell my bougainvillea ‘Don’t be a sissy wanting less water. Don’t demand more nourishment. Don’t complain you don’t get enough sunlight. The other plants don’t do that! They do fine in the shade, soaking in water, in barren soil. Just grow up and bloom!’ I don’t do that with anyone. But I do it with him. As if I am the judge of what is reasonable and unreasonable to ask.”

Making life more wonderful

She straightens her back. “I’m gonna see all our conflicts as opportunities to learn a little bit more about this unique man. As a privilege to understand more about this unique manifestation of life. And then try to accommodate that little request. Just one request. And then another.”

She gets up and empties the dish rack. I can tell her marriage is already at an 8.

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You want help to see your conflicts as learning opportunities? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.