Where is the we in me?

Where is the We in Me?

Probably not in my thought that he abuses his power to exclude others. Nor in the thought that she should listen before she speaks. And certainly not in the thought that they should change their minds at minimum, if not their hearts.

I recognize all those thoughts as us-versus-them thinking. Right-wrong. Better-worse. More compassionate versus less compassionate (ouch, how can I think that as a student of Thich Nhat Hanh?).

And yet, my life would be so much simpler if I see myself as the protector of the underdog, and “THEM” as the bullies. What can I say? I fight for all that is good and pure, for inclusion and compassion, for mindfulness and loving speech. And they? They want more power. They want to exclude anyone they don’t like. They want to operate in secrecy. It makes all my anxiety, anger, and self-righteous indignation acceptable. Who wouldn’t be upset in the face of such ill-intent?

I am pretty sure that, since I have such an abundance of compassion, mindfulness and empathy, I should teach them to open their hearts, listen, and include everyone. I should show them how to transform our community in a delightful place of peace, harmony and joyful connection. I, me, Elly van Laar, the compassionate one, has the wisdom and they should listen.

Hum…

So in my quest to make sure that everyone is heard, even those that speak in pretty unpleasant terms, I shut others up? In this mission to see us all as one, I am actually seeing us as the “we” party and them as the “them” party? In my care for the underdog (at least, in my view) I forget to care for the perceived bullies?

What if they are not the enemy? What if there are no underdogs and no bullies? What if I drop the compassion competition? What if there are just people who do their best  within the limitations they have? Who sometimes act and speak in ways I don’t like, and who always deserve a chance for understanding, support, acceptance, love, and belonging? What if I try to expand my inclusion to those I see as the bullies?

Gosh, I imagine I start listening to the “bullies”. I imagine I move over to their side and try to get what it’s like to see the world through their eyes. I imagine I see the beautiful, universal needs behind their feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and exasperation. I imagine I understand the values behind their unwillingness to enter into yet another dialog.

Yep, that’s where I should start. With listening.

Listening to understand. Not to reply. Just listening.

That is where I find the we in me


You want to learn to see the we in you? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

Self-compassion when we are suffering

Listening to the bell, I feel my afflictions

begin to dissolve.

My mind is calm, my body relaxed.

A smile is born on my lips.

Following the bell’s sound,

my breathing guides me back

to the safe island of mindfulness.

In the garden of my heart,

the flower of peace blooms beautifully.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Great Bell Chant, Youtube

Image courtesy to FlickrI sit on my meditation cushion. I breathe in and feel my somberness, my listlessness, my lack of purpose and meaning. Who cares whether I live or die? I’m not sure I do. Do I even like my life? I don’t know. Do I even like myself? I don’t think so.

A wave of shock rushes through me.

I would never talk to my clients, my friends like that. I would never judge them as losers, failures, nobodies, when they experience this much despair, this much existential fear and sadness.

I would sit with them, listen carefully, opening up to their pain. I would embrace their suffering with compassion, letting them know that I am here for them. My heart would soften as I listen to their despair, their struggles.

I feel tender as I see myself sit on my cushion. A woman with such a sincere intention to contribute, to relief suffering, to bring joy, love and harmony. A woman who’s just trying, really trying and sometimes feels overwhelmed by her inner demons. Her sadness and despair, her regrets and sorrows.

This woman doesn’t need disapproval and rejection. This woman needs a tender, loving embrace. Someone who tells her how special she is and how much happier their life is with her in it. I feel a tenderness growing. Like a little daffodil, arising from the dark earth into the sunny meadow.

I can do that. I can hold myself with that gentle love, accepting all parts of me.

A smile is born on my face.

I don’t have to be happy and cheerful all the time. I can accept myself as I am, right now. And in that tender, safe embrace the flower of peace blooms in my heart.

—–

You want help to embrace all parts within yourself? To bring loving-kindness to yourself, because it is such a miracle that you’re here? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session. I would be honored to help you bring self-acceptance and compassion to yourself.

Deep listening is a present

Image courtesy to Wikimedia, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Butterfly_transparent.jpgCan listening be too slow?

I giggle. It is like saying that meditation is too slow. “Hey, can’t we meditate a little faster? I can meditate in five minutes, what you need 20 minutes for!” Or: “Can’t we admire these paintings a little faster? I can admire this Van Gogh in ten minutes, where you need 30 minutes!”

Some things are not about speed, how much you accomplish, or the results you create, or the insights you gain. Some things are just about the joy of being present. Just sitting and watching a butterfly: the splendid colors, the way it flies, the delicate balancing on a flower. And then watch it fly off again.

Listening can be like that too. Just being present with what someone is saying, feeling the tone, sensing the meaning, hearing the energy. As if you’re on the bank of a river, seeing all these thoughts, feelings, and needs float by. Calmly. Peacefully. Sometimes not so calmly. Sometimes wildly. Your friend may get scared by everything drifting by. He may be afraid the objects will grab him and drag him in the river. Harm him. He may be scared he will drown in the river.

You just bring your presence to the fear, the anguish. “I see you’re overwhelmed, caught in the grasp of your feelings and thoughts. Your needs don’t seem precious to you at all. They seem harmful. You’re afraid. You want help to maintain your calm, so you can watch your feelings and needs float by, and maybe even enjoy watching them.”

This kind of presence may be enough for your friend to calm down, and experience her feelings, thoughts, and needs as something she is having, not being.

I have found this kind of listening healing, especially when emotions run high. Giving space to them -without fixing- is a message of unconditional openness and acceptance.

I don’t consider that slow. I consider that empowering.

—–

You want deep listening and unconditional acceptance to explore your inner world and heal yourself? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session to see how I can help.

How can I help?

Team

I wake up this morning, ready for my conversation with the director of an organization I want to work with.

 

Ready? Well. Not exactly. I feel grumpy, unmotivated and confused. It takes some effort to get moving. I take a shower and put on my snazzy outfit. My shirt looks shabby, my pants baggy. I put on my mascara. My eyes start tearing, the mascara gets smudged. I work on my eyebrows, they resist and keep hanging like downward dog. I look like a mess. And that’s just the outside.

The inside is even worse. I am anxious. I am sure I’ll screw up. Stutter, talk too much, be too pushy. Forget to ask the right questions. And sweat. Of course, sweat in my arm pits, for everyone to see.

And I need the income. I cannot afford to lose this lead. She has to hire me.

Then I hear this voice in my head “How can I help her? How can I help her help her clients? How can I add value and be part of the solution, how can I focus on serving her needs, instead of mine?”

A peace comes over me. This is not a sales conversation. This is a discovery session. Of two people figuring out if collaboration makes sense. She needs to assess whether she knows, likes and trusts me enough to engage me as a solution. I need to hear what her goals and challenges are to know if my services are a good match for her needs.

I remember an Irish saying “There are no strangers, only friends I’ve never met.”

I always loved that attitude. Just friends I’ve never met. She is not the big judge of my competence. She is a friend I’ve never met. She is a woman who might want my help to achieve her vision, dreams and goals. I am a woman who wants to contribute the best I can.

I left the conversation joyful, excited and honored that she asked me to write a proposal. She thinks I can help.

—–

Do you want help with your team to achieve your vision and goals? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session. I would be proud and honored to help. 512-589-0482 

Our breath, our soul

Breathe

In the last Kabbalah class our rabbi, Monty Eliasov, talked about the five levels of soul in Biblical Hebrew. The third level is the breath-soul. The soul of our breath, the breath of our soul.

Isn’t that interesting? I practice with my Buddhist community for years now, sitting in meditation and bringing my attention back to my breath, over and over again. In Hebrew terms I am connecting to my soul, again and again.

Whom would have thought that something so basic and simple as our breath is so profound and unique at the same time?

Connecting to our breath, and being inspired

My meditation has become more sacred now that I realize I am actually connecting to my soul. It is more than bringing my focus to the here and now. It is about listening to what my spirit is telling me in the quiet of the moment. It helps me to be inspired.

Did you know that spirit and soul are etymologically related? Spirit stems from the Latin “spiritus”, which actually means breath, soul. Just like the Hebrew Neshamah. The Romans must have learned with the Jews.

I always thought of inspiration as being full with the Spirit, being full with something outside myself. Now I understand inspiration is being full of me, of my breath, of my soul, of my spirit. My assignment in life is to connect to my breath, nourish my soul, and trust my own inspiration.

Even as I sit here, I have no clue what to write next. I just sit, and feel my belly rise. And fall. And rise again. I put down my pen. I look out the window. I see the trees. I feel the sun, and bring my attention back to my breath. And whatever thoughts come up (and there are many, many!!) I label them as ‘thinking’ and bring my attention back to my breath. To my soul, my spirit. Till I feel inspired and know what to write again.

Bring your attention back to your breath, to your soul

Traffic, of course, provides a perfect opportunity to connect to your breath. Someone cuts me off. I startle. I get angry. I blame. I yell. ‘You idiot!’ I want to slash back. I catch myself. I drop the accusations and retaliations, and feel my breath. I feel it stuck in my chest. I feel it relax with my attention. My breath goes slower, deeper, and I notice how scared I was. The anger is just a cover up for my fear. I get that. Instead of blame, I need to comfort myself. ‘Gosh, sweetie, that was scary. You almost got hurt in a car accident. Thank goodness, you are safe.’ And instead of tailgating, I slow down, and pay attention to traffic.

It was just a little moment of disconnection with my soul. Let’s bring her back in.

A cry a day keeps the doctor away

A friend of my teacher Kit Miller once asked her “Did you cry today?”, and upon Kit’s surprised “No.” “Well, you should. Crying once a day is good for you.

A sort of variance of “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

I agree with Kit’s friend. Every time I call Silent unity, I cry. Whether I call in with a sense of calm and peace, or a sense of anxiety and fear, I cry during every phone call.

It is refreshing, releasing, relieving. I call them, they pray for my abundance, prosperity, they tell me that all good comes from God, through Go. They reassure me that He will show us ways -both known and unknown- to make enough money to keep the house. And all this time I cry.

I love it. A safe haven to let go off my anxiety, my worries, my tiredness. No questions asked. They describe the picture of what I want so much, affirming I have everything I need and that God provides for us. And I can rest in that trust and redirect my energies to that which is positive and within my circle of influence.

The first thing I do, is ask God to take away my negative thoughts. This is new for me. Usually I empathize with my negative thoughts. I connect to the feelings that come up with these thoughts. I explore the universal, human needs underlying these feelings. I follow Pema Chodron‘s advice to lean into this experience. To use this experience to expand my compassionate understanding of what it’s like to be human.

Not these days. These days I ask God to take away my negative thinking, my looping, habitual, reiterative thoughts of scarcity, lack, not enough. And I happily have energy to do what needs to be done. Creating the conditions my husband and I need to be able to concentrate on generating income. Joy, love and harmony. My mom’s motto: Rust, reinheid en regelmaat. (rest, cleanness, and regularity).

So far, I am successful. My husband is chunking along on a deal that will generate our abundance and prosperity. I am expanding my web presence, so I’m easier find to by potential clients. We’re eating well, sleeping peacefully, exercising enough. We’re in it for the long run. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We’re prepared.

Crying certainly cleans up the inner space to be ready and run.

My trees, my business

Trees
Trees (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I venture out in the woods. I walk slowly. Carefully. Joyfully. I feel my feet touch the earth, and let the energy arise through me. Every step a connection to the earth. I enjoy the sun. The bright colors of the leaves: red, green, orange, yellow. My friend told me how rich she feels this time of year. The golden leaves fall on her, fill the streets with it’s riches. It’s golden abundance is available to everyone. I feel cherished and welcomed in the woods. Nurtured.

I have no plan. Just to spend 30 minutes in nature. I see a little creek I have never seen before. The heavy rains created it on the rocky path. Small, tenderly dripping away. It is quiet. Just the sounds of my breath, my footsteps, the breeze.

I hear a tree. It calls out to me. A juniper. It’s branches spread out wide and evenly. Inviting.

I hear my heart. Climb!

I hear my mind. NO!

I climb. One branch. Looping to the other side for the next branch. Avoiding getting stuck in the twigs. A next step. Taking a break.

My heart starts racing. I’m scared. I’m here on my own. I have no belay. If I fall, it might take hours before I’m found. I can’t afford a broken leg. I hug the tree. Lean into it. I feel how solid I am, how strong. I trust my body, myself. I take a next step. I feel fear. I rest, connect to my belly, to my heart. I respect my fear. I treat it with great reverence. It takes minutes. Then I take a next step. I see out over the tree tops. I see the valley, and all the autumn trees celebrating fall in splendid colors.

I rest. I celebrate. My agility. My trust. My strength. My fear. My steps.

This is how I run my business. One step. Feeling my fear. Leaning into life. Finding my balance. My solidity. My trust. Then a next step. Let fear arise, loneliness. Worries. Give them space to talk. Listen. With empathy and compassion. No fixing, reassuring, arguing. Just listen. Listen to life and how it supports me. Then a next step. No fighting the branches for being to far apart. No impatience with my fear. No comparing myself with other, faster climbers. That’s not my path.

My path is to experience what it is like to be me. My path is to experience which conditions support me. Take a step. Connect to what’s alive in me. And then a next step.

New business plan!

 

 

Business Plan in a Day book (Photo credit: Raymond Yee)

 

Do you ever force yourself to chunk along, because you think you have to? Do you ever find yourself on a path, that will probably lead you to the top, while not bring joy climbing it?

 

I did. With my business. I told my friend about my new business plan. Organized and tidy. Just two marketing strategies. Improving my website presence and finding speaking engagements. No more trainings for organizations, no more workshops, no more tele-classes, no more fun stuff for the sake of it. I felt satisfied. I liked the clarity. No more ambiguity, no more confusion about next steps.

 

My friend responded surprisingly different: “Elly, the last time you told me about your business, I heard such aliveness and enthusiasm. I heard such tenderness and care for this insecure Elly, taking beginners steps on the path of her unfolding business. Compassionate and accepting of herself. Now you sound forceful -structured for sure-, but not alive and you. It sounds as if your inner critic took over. He compared you with “successful” coaches and trainers and found you the lesser version.”

 

I love my friend! He is one of these people who see straight through me and embrace what they see with compassion.

 

I feel an excitement growing. What if I grow my business organically? What if I trust my own intuition? What if I take one step at the time? With a clear vision of whom I want to serve, why, and maybe less how? Just like I climbed the tree? I might never reach the top, but I’ll love the journey. A journey into self-connection. Into my vision and my fears. Into experiencing my business as an experiment. No attachment to results. Just learning. I feel the fear of failure arise in me. “I won’t make enough money. I’ll starve.” Yeah! The experiment is working!

 

I have a plan for my business. I venture out into the woods once a week. I bring my meditation bell, my crayons and my writing pad. I sit and listen. To the trees, the birds, the grass. To the wind, the silence, God. To my heart, my soul, myself. And then I’ll hear what to do for that week. I’ll do this for six months. Thàt’s my plan!

 

Freedom and Choice

F. Dostoevsky
F. Dostoevsky Русский: Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский Suomi: Fjodor Mihailovitš Dostojevski (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saturday was my day off. It is the day of the week that I have designated for “me” time. It is the day without schedule, without ‘have to’, without commitments. It is the day that I only do what I want.

Usually I love these days. I have time to read books, call friends, hang out with my husband. I play “Jesu, joy of men’s desire” over and over again. I go for long walks in the woods. It is my weekly mini-retreat.

Last Saturday I hated it. It was horrible.

Dostoyevsky writes about the burden of freedom and choice in the Brothers Karamazov. One of the three brothers, Ivan, tells his younger brother Alyosha the tale of Jesus and the Great Inquisitor.

Jesus returns to Sevilla, during the time of the great Inquisition. He shares His compassion, He listens, talks, helps and heals. People all over follow Him.

At the peak of His ‘popularity’ He is put in prison. He is sentenced to death by burning. The Great Inquisitor visits Him the night before His execution. He offers Him life in return for His willingness to perform a miracle, forsake God, and accept power over the kingdoms of the world. Jesus refuses.

I have always loved this story. I feel compassion in how Dostoyevsky writes about both.

The Great Inquisitor cares deeply for ‘his’ people. He blames Jesus for offering freedom. In this freedom people have nothing to hold on to, nothing to hide behind, no excuses for their choices. They are the only ones responsible for their thoughts, speech and actions. And for the results they create. If they fail, that’s their responsibility. If they succeed, that’s their responsibility. Jesus takes away their scapegoat, and the people are left naked in their vulnerability of ambiguous conscience.

The Great Inquisitor claims that he offers the people a more compassionate alternative. He presents himself as the authority and judge of good and evil. He tells the people how to live. As a result people are free from the burden of choosing. They are free from second guessing, doubts, and regrets. Within his constraints, they can live happily ever after.

In return, the Great Inquisitor carries the burden of choosing, and accepting responsibility and accountability for his choices. He thinks that better than Jesus’s alternative of letting people make their own choices and suffer from regret, doubt, self-blame and insecurity.

As I sit on the couch, wondering if I should participate in the teleconference, or not, if I should go to the Hanukkah celebration, or not, as I end up just sitting, I am reminded of Dostoyevsky‘s parable. I feel consoled. Making choices is tough. Dostoyevsky says so.

Playing business

Smile!
Smile!

Want to boost your business? Create a package. Something unique, something special. Offer it at 10x your normal price. Suggested by Patrick Schwerdtfeger. (More suggestions at Write Nonfiction Now!)

What? My heart starts racing. My armpits start sweating, I’m getting excited.

I imagine a retreat center. In the mountains, beautiful and serene. Eagles fly in the sky, trees stand tall. The theme is failure applause. To celebrate our efforts, and accept our failures. To free us of attachment to results, comparison with others and to life now. Building blocks: Individual coaching. Healing work. Group sessions. Silent meditation and creative arts.

And ask $2000 for it? Are you kidding? I don’t think I add enough value to ask that! I don’t think I am better than any of the other fantastic coaches out there! I don’t think I am worth that money!

And yet… Something tickles me. No one needs to sign up for my package. I can see it as play. To play being a successful, confident business woman.

I giggle. I think of a game my sister and I played at my grandma’s house, when we were young.

My grandma lived in a park, opposite a castle. There were trees around the house, a lake, rhododendrons. Visitors strolled on the premises, enjoying the beauty.

My sister and I would get dressed up in long, white dresses. Fancy shoes, lace gloves, brimmed hats. Then walk up and down the balcony, waving at people passing by. Graciously. Self-confident. Happy. We are princesses. We smile, and they smile back. What I never had the courage to do in normal life, I am perfectly happy to do in play.

Life is play. My business is play. I create a unique offer and ask 10x of what I feel comfortable with. Just for fun. I smile. I see people smile back.