Category Archives: Compassion

I’m Angry.

angerI’m angry.

Here’s a sampling of what I’m angry about, in no particular order:

I’m angry that mother Orcas are starving to death in Puget Sound, leaving their babies to die. Chinook salmon are getting harder to find because of overfishing and dams, and the salmon the Orcas do find is laden with toxic chemicals.

I’m angry that people are chaining women like dogs inside storage containers.

I’m angry that kids who aren’t white are getting crappier educations than their white counterparts.

I’m angry that assault rifle-toting militia members get acquitted while peaceful Native protesters are set upon with dogs and pepper spray.

I’m angry that there are still climate change deniers, and that they’re still getting air time.

I’m angry that I’m complicit in climate change because I’m embedded in a society that doesn’t really give a rat’s ass.

I’m angry that Donald Trump can say what he says about women, minorities, the disabled, immigrants, and others, and he still might get elected.

I’m angry that Hillary Clinton did dumb stuff with her State Department email.

I’m angry that people think “Dump that Bitch” is an appropriate way to talk about anyone, and that those same people think Hillary’s email is in any way equivalent to Trump’s hate speech.

I’m angry that poachers kill rhinos for their horns.

I’m angry that we’re killing cougars and bears and wolves. I’m angry that wolves are being shot from helicopters. I can’t imagine how frightening this must be.

I’m angry that we spend so much time and money in this country watching professional sports (Yay Cubs!), and we can’t seem to solve big problems.

I’m angry that anyone is still killing elephants, let alone boasting about it.

I’m angry that the Episcopal Church and other mainline Protestant churches are still calling God “He.”

I’m angry that we’re still clearcutting old-growth forests.

I’m angry about so f**king much these days.

I don’t like being angry. I’m angry about feeling angry.

I’m not sure how to handle my anger and still be a kind person.

I feel more powerful when I notice what my anger says about my values. What values are being infracted by these things about which I am so f**king angry?

  • Compassion for all living creatures.
  • Respect for women.
  • Respect for ourselves.
  • Living on Earth reverently.

For a start.

“Nice” and “kind” aren’t the same thing.

How do I want to change my behavior to more closely reflect my values?

How do I want to speak up for the defenseless and powerless?

How do I want to be a more compassionate and thoughtful Earthling?

How do I speak respectfully to disrespectful people?

Now I’m back in what I have control over: myself.

And here’s a dog dressed as a minion, so we feel a little light. Thank you for reading.

dog-in-minion-costume

 

 

We Shine Like the Sun

wabi sabi BuddhaThere was once a large ancient Buddha, made of clay and plaster, resting in an old temple in Sukotai, Thailand. Over time, this Buddha found its way to a minor temple in Bangkok, but it was so big it was housed in a shed covered only by a tin roof. Eventually, a larger building was constructed to house this Buddha. When the Buddha was being moved to its new home, the plaster cracked. Inside the plaster and clay, which had covered the Buddha for centuries, the people found a statue of solid gold. Speculation is that during the time of war with neighboring Burma, monks covered the gold Buddha with clay to protect it.

Over time, the people forgot that their Buddha was in fact made of gold.

Jack Kornfield tells this story in The Wise Heart, his book about Buddhist psychology. He uses the story of the clay Buddha that’s discovered to be precious gold to illustrate this core idea of “Buddha nature.” He says, “The monks believe that this shining work of art had been covered in plaster and clay to protect it during times of conflict and unrest. In much the same way, each of us has encountered threatening situations that lead us to cover our innate nobility. Just as the people of Sokutai had forgotten about the golden Buddha, we too have forgotten our essential nature. Much of the time we operate from the protective layer. The primary aim of Buddhist psychology is to help us see beneath this armoring and bring out our original goodness, called our Buddha nature.”

Dr. Kornfield refers to American monk and mystic Thomas Merton’s experience, one ordinary March day in 1958, as an example of a Western mind experiencing Buddha nature. In Merton’s words: “Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the Divine. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed …. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other….

There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

I notice that Merton takes many words to describe what Buddhists can do in two. This Buddhist starting point and core belief – humans are fundamentally good and shiny – is a radical, revelatory experience for Merton.

I disagree with Thomas Merton. I want us to go around telling each other that we’re shining like the sun. Let’s treat ourselves and each other like the light- and life-filled beings we are.

A Mother’s Day Manifesto

There's no such thing as other people's children.

Love Lives Here

Overheard at the Bend Post Office a couple of days ago:

“My mom will be shocked that this is on time!”

“I used Amazon for a few Mother’s Day things, so I won’t be in trouble if this is late. Plus, they gift wrap.”

The guys behind the counter were learning new software so our line moved slower than usual. Because we live in Oregon, we were chatting. The conversation tended towards Mother’s Day. My fellow postal line-standers seemed to be victims of our relentless commercialization of Mother’s Day, far far from Julia Ward Howe’s vision.

Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation (you can read it here), written a few years after the Civil War’s terrible carnage, called on women to act politically in the revolutionary causes of feminism and pacifism.

Her vision of Mother’s Day was never enacted.

Instead we have this lovely, sweet celebration consisting of cards and flowers and brunches and full church pews. (Mother’s Day is usually a high church-attendance day, presumably due to conversations like this: “Mom, what do you want to do for Mother’s Day?” “All I want is my children with me in church. *gentle sigh*”)

May I suggest, instead, a donation to a cause more in line with Julia Ward Howe’s vision? Women and children bear the brunt of war and poverty. These are three trustworthy organizations creating real change in women’s and children’s lives.

The Compassion Collective (which I found through Marie Forleo)

Heifer International

Episcopal Relief and Development

On this Mother’s Day, let’s empower women around the world with the resources they need to care for all our children.

Let’s honor our moms by making a tangible difference in the lives of our most vulnerable kids.

Let’s be revolutionaries and take back Mother’s Day.

You can still take Mom to brunch.

I’ll give the last words to The Compassion Collective.

Mother’s Day IS about Love. But it’s not about commercial, comfortable love that snuggles up and stays home—it’s about love that throws open the door and marches out of our homes, beyond our fences and neighborhoods and into the hurting world to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the hurting, mother the motherless. Mother’s Day love is dangerous, revolutionary love that unites our one human family and reminds us that we belong to each other and that there is no such thing as other people’s children.

Loving is Listening. Loving is Feeling. Loving is Embodied.

Feelings (vantagephotography.com)

Feelings (vantagephotography.com)

“Loving is listening. Loving is feeling. Loving is embodied.”

I wrote these words in my journal this Valentine’s Day morning. I had woken up with a feeling of trepidation about an event I had on my schedule today, and I felt myself push that feeling away.

I noticed myself not listening to my heart.

I learned not to “do feelings” as a kid. I grew up in a family where feelings weren’t especially welcome.

Growing up in a family that “doesn’t do feelings” is common.

I think many middle-aged Americans grew up in families that greeted our feelings with irritation or even hostility. My mom used to say, “If you’re going to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about.”

I learned from my parents, and from the culture, that my feelings were best ignored. What I felt was both unimportant AND something to be feared, controlled, and sequestered. Very confusing.

Over time, I learned to ignore my emotions myself before anyone else got the chance to tell me they were silly, and I got really good at it. Why have feelings, or desires, if they only cause pain? Ignoring my feelings, or judging myself for my feelings, is probably the most common way that I’m mean to myself.

Unfortunately for me, and for all of us who have learned to ignore our feelings, they don’t go away. Feelings exist to be felt, and when they’re not felt, they do all sorts of damage.

What I’m finally learning, in ripe middle age, is that my feelings are precious pearls of wisdom. My feelings are jewels. My feelings are signposts. My feelings are priceless.

My word for 2016 is “heart,” and the Lenten discipline that chose me this year is to listen. (Is it a coincidence that the first four letters of “heart” spell “hear”?)

I’m feeling led to further refine my Lenten discipline. I’m committing to listening to other people with intention and presence. I’m also committing to listening to myself with compassion — to hearing and honoring my feelings.

I’m finding two tools very useful in practicing compassionate listening to myself.

The first one is Dr. Tara Brach’s RAIN processRecognize the feeling. Allow the feeling. Investigate the feeling. Non-identify with the feeling.

The second tool I’m finding useful is the Awareness Wheel, a tool developed to help couples communicate more effectively. I find “doing a wheel” an extremely helpful tool for clarifying what’s going on with me on many levels, and to help my brain talk to my heart. Here’s a link.

If you, like me, have gotten really good at being mean to yourself by ignoring or belittling your feelings, I invite you to join me in giving yourself the gift of feeling what you feel. You’ll survive, and your life will be enriched beyond your wildest hopes.

Loving is listening. Loving is feeling. Loving is being in this miraculous body on this amazing Earth with gratitude and compassion.

 

If You’re Worried About Food

Kundalini Original Art

Kundalini
Original Art

Are you worried about food? I am. I know I’m not alone, because I’ve been talking to a lot of women these days who are worried about food. We women are often worried about food, and the holiday season is just a scary time when you’re worried about food.

So, let’s take a collective deep breath and investigate with kindness this thing we have about food, okay?

First of all, is it true that your eating is a problem?  Do you have data that you eat too much, or the wrong things? Here are some questions to ponder:

  • How’s your blood work? Do you have elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, or blood sugar?
  • How’s your waist to height ratio? This is a better indicator of obesity and health risk than BMI, for most of us.
  • How’s your fitness level? Do you get through your day without too much fatigue or a lot of caffeine? Can you do what you like to do?
  • Do you often eat when you’re not hungry?
  • Do you often keep eating when you’re full?
  • Does thinking about your eating take up too much mind space?
  • Do you feel anxious about food and eating?
  • Do you make food rules and then break them?

The answers to these questions will help you decide if you’re actually overeating, or if you just think you are.

Secondly, whether you really do overeat, or if your diet is actually fine and you’re just in the habit of worrying about food, it’s not your fault. There are SO many reasons why we can feel like a mess around food:

  • Our survival brains are wired to love sugar and fat.
  • The chemical cascade that happens in the brain when we eat sugary fatty salty crunchy foods is identical to the cascade that happens when an addict takes a hit. These foods are addictive and they act on our brains like street drugs.
  • Food is everywhere! And we have to eat.
  • Our culture encourages us to live in our heads, so we lose touch with our bodies. We forget what “hungry” and “full” actually feel like.
  • We don’t eat in a vacuum. We experience social pressure to eat and drink certain things at certain times. This is especially true around the holidays.
  • There’s so much choice, and so much conflicting advice, about food.
  • and on and on and on…

Third, if you do habitually overeat, overeating is almost certainly a “treatment plan” to handle discomfort.

If you worry about food, it’s not your fault. However, your eating is your responsibility.

Your body is your responsibility.

Your health and peaceful mind are your responsibility.

Feeding yourself well is your responsibility.

Reclaiming ownership and taking grown-up responsibility for ourselves requires two things: mindfulness and compassion. So for the next week, notice with gentleness and kindness what’s going on in your heart and mind and body when you eat:

  • Notice if you’re hungry, and what “hungry” feels like.
  • Notice what you really want to eat.
  • Notice if you’re full, and what “full” feels like.
  • Notice what emotions you’re feeling before, during, and after you eat.
  • Notice how your body feels after you eat.

Just notice and attend, with gentle kindness. Keep a food and emotion diary if that floats your boat, recording what you ate and what was going on with you internally and externally when you ate it.

Next week we’ll dive more deeply into the power of mindfulness and compassion. In the meantime, here are some resources:

Happy Eating!

~Barb

(Wondering where I’ve been since July? I took a break from my blog and coaching practice to catch up with myself, emotionally and physically, after this last year’s transitions.)

Being Messy

Postman with gift

I want my learning to happen like this!

I met my friend Heidi today for lunch. I was kind of dreading it as much as I was looking forward to it. (Sorry, Heidi. Lunch was great!) When I asked myself why I was feeling dread, I realized that I didn’t want to tell her how incredibly messy I feel these days. It turns out I firmly believe these things about messes:

  • Messes are unlovable.
  • Messes are ugly and disgusting.
  • Messes are supposed to be hidden and private. No one wants to see my messes.
  • Messes are just bad. Oh, and people that make them are bad, too.

Wow! No wonder I didn’t want to talk about my messiness!

Confession: This blogging thing feels really scary to me. Why? Because I’m exposing my mess, somehow surmounting my belief that only products that are perfect and shiny and polished and elegant deserve public airing. (Why am I doing this again?) I can appear good and worthy only if my messes don’t show. But because I believe messes are bad and I know that I make them — a LOT of them — I’ll NEVER really feel okay/good/worthy. No messes — emotional, or project-driven, or shitty first drafts — allowed here. I must follow external direction and do it perfectly if I want to be loved and respected. Because following my internal compass leads to messes (again, a LOT of messes), and they’re obviously MY messes. I can’t claim I was just following directions. This accountability and the seeming inevitability of screwing up scares the hell out of me.

I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one with this particular constellation of beliefs hiding out in my neurons.

So, using the four questions of Byron Katie’s The Work, I’m sharing with you what I came up when I worked the thought “Messes are ugly and disgusting.” (Note that there are many thoughts I could have chosen. This one felt the most “charged.”)

1. Is it true that “messes are ugly and disgusting”? Yes.

2. Can I absolutely know it’s true? Well, no. Not really.

3. How do I feel and behave when I have the thought that “messes are ugly and disgusting”?

  • I feel hard, closed, resentful, and tired.
  • I sit on the couch and read a lot or watch TV.
  • I stop a project as soon as it looks like it’s getting messy.
  • I hide my interior mess from others.
  • I don’t ask for help.
  • I eat too much.
  • I strive compulsively for protection.
  • I don’t acknowledge my hard work.
  • I envy those who can do what I want to do without making messes. It’s not fair!!!
  • I look outside myself for direction and approval.

4. Who would I be, how would I behave, if I were somehow unable to think the thought “Messes are ugly and disgusting”?

I would be free to play, experiment, and step into the arena. I would be much calmer and accepting and joyful and grateful and brave. I would feel warm and open and floaty, like a butterfly in a sunny field of wildflowers.

A couple of turnarounds for “Messes are ugly and disgusting”:

  • Messes are precious jewels of awesomeness! (Messes are evidence of growth and change, stepping stones to what will eventually be elegant and functional, and the byproducts of play.)
  • Perfection is disgusting and ugly. (Perfection is dead. It can’t change and grow. There’s no air, no light. It’s a closed system with no room for anyone else, needing nothing from anyone.)
  • Other possible turnarounds: Messiness should be public. Everyone wants to see my messes! Messes are lovable and beautiful.

I feel so much better!! The four questions of The Work, along with turnarounds, are ways to start building new neural pathways in my brain, creating thoughts that feel better. With practice, my brain will think “Messes are beautiful” with alacrity, and I’ll feel better about making them. Maybe I’ll even come to celebrate my messes.  And that’s such a gift, because I can see a LOT of messes in my future.

So, there’s my mess. Thanks for being here with me!

I’d love to know what you think about messes and perfection, and about The Work.