Coaching for Nonprofit Leaders

Based in Austin – Specialized in Empathy and Self-Compassion

A car driver shatters my enemy image

My husband and I are on our daily walk around the block. We do that twice a day, to connect, listen, and hold hands. It’s always the same circuit, more or less 1.5 miles long. It’s drizzling, so I’m extra worried and aware that cars might not be as attentive as I wish.

And heck, for sure: an SUV backs out of the driveway, straight into us. Being alert, we’re already on the lawn of the opposite house by the time it would have hit us.

I feel annoyed. Mainly scared, but it shows up as annoyance. As a committed commuter cyclist, I have had my fair share of almost being hit by cars who don’t look around enough. For the last three years, at least once a month, I have to jump the curb, swivel around, or do an emergency break to avoid being run over.

I confess, I have thoughts of breaking car windows to teach this damn driver a lesson.

Thank God I don’t.

Once the car is out on the street, the driver rolls down the window. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…” I see a fifty plus woman with tears in her eyes. “I’m really distracted, … my mom is dying … I’m off to say goodbye to her …”

She stops the car and sits there quietly, I assume to calm herself, before she drives off.

I feel shocked. And embarrassed. Never in the world would I have expected that.

My enemy image of car drivers shatters in a thousand pieces.

I remember Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice to always ask “Are you sure?”. He invites us to write this question down and put it somewhere where we will see it: a bathroom mirror, the fridge, our calendar. And live by it.

As I regret my quick jump to the conclusion that she was inconsiderate of my need for safety, I stutter “I am so sorry for you.”

She drives off. I ask my husband to confirm which house she came from, and I make a promise to myself to drop off a condolence note.

I go home and write the note.

And a sticky note “Are you sure?”.

It’s up on my bathroom mirror to remind me to not jump to conclusions about someone’s intentions and character.

How does this land for you? Let me know, I would love to hear from you.

Running around, looking for my Buddha nature

I’m up early. Before the crack of dawn. I love it. I feel energized and excited about a new day, about being alive and having the opportunity to contribute, learn, and receive.

I get dressed and make my tea. Green tea. Yum.

Then I hear the alarm on my phone go off. First softly, then loudly. I rush toward the sound, I don’t want my husband to wake up. It gets louder, the closer I get to the bathroom.

As soon as I think I am getting close, the sound fades. Shoot! So where is it? I don’t want it to go off next to his ear. I feel relieved to hear it again, in the kitchen. That makes sense, it must be on the counter, where I made my tea.

And again, as soon as I think I am close, the sound subsides. No! My husband worked late last night and needs his sleep. Where is my phone?!

The sound increases, in the dining room. I look around, more frantic now. Nothing to be found nowhere.

Then it dawns on me. My cell phone has been in my pocket the whole time.

My alarm sounds like ocean waves rolling on the beach: softer and louder with each wave coming in and fading away. The precious thing I was looking for, was right there in my jeans all the time.

It made me think of a story Pema Chodron tells in “When Things Fall Apart”. It’s about a woman who’s sent out into the world with only a coat. She ends up destitute, with no means to support even her basic needs for survival. She complains about her poverty. Her coat goes to shreds, and in the hem she finds diamonds. Plenty enough to sell and support her.

That woman is me, running around, looking for my Buddha nature, my Christ essence, my basic goodness. All the while, I’m stuck in my anger, fear, jealousy, and judge myself for having these feelings.

I hope there comes a moment where I realize that I had Buddha nature all along, buried in my hardened heart. The place where I stop, connect, and celebrate my innate compassionate nature. Where I acknowledge my love, care and gratitude as “enough conditions to be happy”. Where I see my happiness and suffering as expressions of our shared humanity.

Our shared humanity with people I like, and people I don’t like. People who think and vote like me, and people who do the opposite. People whose words and actions are in alignment with my values, and people who speak and act in ways that conflict with my dreams for our world.

I imagine that when I am grounded in my own goodness, I can offer my insight to help others see theirs. To help them pause, take a breath, and smile at life.

I think that thàt is the best gift I can give to others.

Sitting on a meditation cushion is NOT about achieving peace and calmness

“The path of the spiritual warrior is to have the courage to face life.” Geshe Lama Phuntsho talks to a visitor at the Sand Mandala Dissolution Ceremony at City Hall Austin, April 17.

“We have six consciousness: ear, eye, nose, tongue, touch, and mind. Our suffering comes from our desire to see beautiful views, hear beautiful sounds, feel something pleasant, taste something yummy, and have enjoyable thoughts and feelings. We crave what we like, and resist what we don’t. That is the source of suffering. The spiritual warrior accepts all that is, and learns to see reality for what it truly is, without distortion and illusion.”

Image courtesy of Mayusanctuary.comDid you ever sit on your meditation cushion, yearning for a sense of peace and quiet of mind? Did you ever get frustrated, self-critical, or hopeless, because your mind was racing with thoughts you didn’t want, you had the urge to get up, you got antsy, felt uncomfortable? “This is not what meditation is about! Meditation is about calming yourself, having these alpha and theta waves get stronger, being still! This meditation stuff is not for me. Meditation just doesn’t work!!!” And there you go, ready to give up on sitting on your cushion.

Wake-up, beloved friend! Meditation and mindfulness are not about trying to be this smiley, peaceful Buddha. Mindfulness is about having the guts to acknowledge all the places where we are stuck, all the places we feel hurt, and all the places where we want revenge, slash out, hide, disappear, disconnect, possess, hold on to, and be reassured that everything will be okay. Mindfulness is about opening up to what is true for you in each moment, engage with your very own, personal experience, accept that that’s your reality, and embrace it with care and compassion. That is what it means to be alive, to be a full human being, and to walk around on our precious Earth in your one wild and precious life. Your feelings, thoughts, sensations might not change on your meditation cushion, AND your compassionate and courageous heart can grow in the experience!

Isn’t that what we all want?


You want help to embrace your experience on your cushion with compassion? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see if and how I can help you.

Compassion for our jealousy

HumanityA letter from my jealousy to me

“Dear Elly,

I am so sorry I exist. I wished I had never been born. I see how much pain I bring to your life, and I certainly see the havoc I create when I go berserk.

I often do.

I wished I didn’t.

I wished I could ask for help, when I feel hurt and scared your husband will leave you for a better version of you: bigger boobies, flatter belly, more compassionate. I wished I could ask for help, when I feel scared and upset because your colleagues in Nonviolent Communication get more ‘likes’, participants and acknowledgment.

I don’t.

I feel ashamed and desperate that I am ruining your life the way I do. On so many occasions. I do try to hide as much as I can, but sometimes something overwhelms me and I need to get out of the closet and smash everything to pieces. I don’t know why. Forgive me. I know how ugly and disgusting my face is.

Jealousy”

A letter from me to my jealousy

“Dear Jealousy,

I feel so touched and moved as I read your letter. I feel tears in my eyes and tender with love. There is nothing to ask forgiveness for, my sweet child. Nothing.

I didn’t take good care of you. I locked you away in the closet, because I was afraid that I would be rejected if someone saw you. I so desperately want acceptance, that I don’t want to jeopardize that, even a little bit. I have always been sure that you were a liability to that need.

I see I was wrong.

I am so sorry for all the pain I created. I am so sorry.

I won’t lock you behind bars anymore. I want you out in the sun. I want you here with me and see your pretty face.

Will you go for a walk with me this afternoon? Maybe we can talk about how we can support each others’ need for acceptance? I would love to.

Elly”

Shared humanity

Jealousy says ‘yes’. We spend the long walk talking about our needs for love, belonging, acceptance. For who we are, not for what we do or what we have. We hold hands, and come home happy. We see the shared humanity in each others’ behavior, and these all too understandable needs for love and acceptance.

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You want help to embrace your jealousy with compassion? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session 512-589-0482

May we all write magnificent stories

Leaf on a riverI joined a virtual writers community

884 Members. Bloggers who encourage, inspire and help each other get their books published.

I read that you should join a writers community if you want to have your book published.

And I do!

I want hundreds of people standing in line, waiting to get my book autographed. I want the phone ringing like crazy with publishers dying to publish my book. I want to be the most wanted guest in any important talk show.

You get it? I want to be famous, meaningful and influential.

So I joined a community, as suggested.

I now have 884 co-authors who will applaud me, cherish me, and promote my work.

884 Authors who want the favors returned

Competitors who want to sell their stuff to the same audience. An audience who can only read so much. One book at a time. Their book.

Scarcity

I feel scared. There is not gonna be enough fish in this ocean. Someone is gonna starve. Me.

This whole writing ambition triggers my sense of scarcity. I have been repeating “I am enough. I do enough. I have enough”, over and over again.  At least a couple of minutes a day. I loved singing it.

Now I feel how I don’t believe it is true. How my system reacts “No, you don’t. You can certainly pretend you are enough, but you most certainly don’t do enough. Let alone have enough. Don’t fool yourself! Go for a walk in the woods, and feel happy and contained. But remember: once you’re home, you’ll crash with two feet on the ground and face up to reality: there is not enough for everyone.”

My thoughts float like a leaf on the river

Steven Hayes and Spencer Smith write about having your thoughts, not being them (Get Out of Your Head & Into Your Life, 2005). Creating a little space between your thought and your identity. No attachment to having  them, or not having them. Just seeing them as they pop up in your head.

I can do that. I can watch the thoughts of scarcity drift by, like leaves on a river. I don’t need to jump on the leaf, nor do I need to push it away.

I can just watch the thought. And see the beauty of it. It’s monstrous, consuming presence. How unique! Fascinating. I am a tornado chaser of thoughts. I am so excited to watch it, that I don’t even think of running away from it. Bring it on, baby!

Nothing to be scared of. Nothing to resist. Just a thought. Rising and floating on a river. It is a thought, not me.

Commitment to my dreams

In this non-fighting that arises, I experience space and freedom to pursue my dream and applaud others do the same.

I am happy I joined this group of fellow-travelers. I am ready to cherish, inspire and encourage them. May we all write magnificent stories. For magnificent readers.

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You want help observing your feelings and thoughts, not being them? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session. 512-589-0482