Monday, August 5, 2013

A Little More Forgiveness

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes

The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance declared Aug 4, 2013 as world wide forgiveness day. What would it take to have a little more forgiveness in our lives?

I knew a person who held a grudge for over 50 years. She was disappointed in the man she married. He hurt her feelings,left her at home with the babies while he played golf and he violated her trust by taking money from the family savings. As a consequence, she carried anger, bitterness and resentment for 50+ years. She felt very justified in her feelings. She never noticed that she had created 50+ years of living in a toxic soup of negativity. It impacted her well-being and leaked into other relationships.

I know several others who headed the same direction… so consumed with how they were hurt, so angry at someone's behavior. It overshadows all that is good in their life and inhibits their ability to be present.

Getting hurt or disappointed is almost inevitable. Someone criticizes your parenting, comments on the weight, violates your confidences, hurts you intentionally, drinks too much, lies to you….

What would it take to bring a bit more forgiveness into our lives?

The Mayo Clinic website says;
“Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.”

“Often, we think that by having compassion for someone, we are excusing his/her behavior. This isn’t true. Compassion provides us with a lens that helps us understand—not excuse—people’s actions.” ~Bethany Butzer

There are many ways to open our hearts to forgiveness. We may need professional help, time or healing practices (like the loving kindness meditation). It is worth learning. Forgiveness serves OUR well-being. As the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance says, forgiveness is the greatest healer of all…

Monday, July 15, 2013

Grandma Bench dedicated in my mother's honor

We recently held a small memorial for my mother who passed away 2 years ago.
It has me thinking about legacy and what we bequeath those who follow.
How do we, as Max Lucado says, "outlive our lives"?

For my mother it was launching her children. Though not a nurturing woman, she was tireless in her dedication that all of her children get an education like herself and her parents before her. For my father, who passed away about 20 years ago, it was a life of service. As a committed volunteer and councilman, he touched many lives. It was not only what he did but how he did it - with respect and gentleness. For others the legacy is creating art, how we raise our children or healing ourselves (so we do not pass on the family wounds to another generation).

So I ask myself, how am I living and what would be my legacy as of today?
Would it be getting my 'to-do' list done? What makes a life well-lived? What forms a legacy? I think the first step is to live as Parker Palmer says, an undivided life (where what is on the inside is reflected clearly on the outside). Gandhi said, "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." Gandhi was committed to living a life with integrity, to always assume responsibility for his actions. He did not back off in front of authority figures and he was ready to die to uphold his principles.

I am not Gandhi. And I am unique. I have a precious life-force; energy to create my next chapter. How do I use it?

My mother left the following quote in a file marked "upon my death". I would be thrilled if this was my legacy:

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to leave the world a better place, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded."
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Competition That Hurts

This week I noticed I was feeling crummy. I noticed I was doing lots of negative self-talk. When I thought about its' source, I realized it came from hearing colleagues talk about their success. One has received a great deal of work and one is living her dream. Now why did this make me feel crummy? Because I compared myself. Even though I have enough work and my Life’s Work is my work, I thought, “Oh no, they are doing better than me.” It was as if somehow that made me less than.

Can I be OK if others are smarter, faster, or make more money? Can I be OK if others meditate more, seem more present, more grounded or more loving? We have such a competitive culture it is easy to get confused. We confuse excellence or being our best self, with being better than other people. It a silly way to feel OK about ourselves.

In the March/April issue of The Intelligent Optimist magazine, there was an interesting article entitled “Life is Not a Contest”. It seems there is a growing body of research that shows competitiveness can interfere with both performance and well-being in the classroom, workplace and amazingly – on the playing field.
This makes sense, when we are focused on others; we give our power away. Elipting (at term coined by aikdo master, Wendy Palmer) is when we lose focus on what we want to be about and what we want to create; our attention elipts onto others.

So what to do if you catch yourself comparing yourself, like I did earlier this week? No Contest author, Alfie Kohn, recommends monitoring yourself and catching yourself in the act of comparing or focusing on beating others. If my boss praises a co-worker in a meeting that does not mean I am not doing good work. I need to remember what I have been focused on, what I have accomplished. If I don’t do well or we lose, it is not a sign I am a loser. It is feedback for me to reflect on, to learn from.

“Take someone who doesn't keep score,
who's not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing,
who has not the slightest interest even
in his own personality: he's free.”
― Rumi

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Appreciating My Community

As I rode in a shuttle from Guelph to Toronto last week, the woman seated next to me started talking about the Ontario landscape. She had sold their farm in Guelph and moved to Alberta because of a sick son. They bought a ranch out there, but, she didn’t imagine she would stay. She had deep roots in Ontario. She shared many stories about the wild life and the beauty of her ranch in Alberta. However, she said, it was the community that convinced her she had found her permanent home.

Early on, a new neighbor came over and introduced himself and invited them to dinner. She said they almost did not go as they were exhausted from unpacking, but they thought it would be rude to turn down their first invitation. So they went to find he had invited about 100 of their closet neighbors gathered to meet the new family. Through her neighbors, she has learned about community. "You never have to ask for help." she said. For example, she checking the fields with a neighbor. They stopped for coffee and the neighbor casually mentioned she was dividing calves the next day. My seatmate posted this news on Facebook and the next day 30 people showed up to help. What would have taken days was done in 6 hours. “Now I know what a community is and I am not leaving”, she said.

We got to the airport before I could say, I know what you mean." I could share many lessons about community from our 19 years in Cook County. We can be hard on each other at times, call each other names and disagree. But when the need is great, this community will surround you with love – the kind of love that heals.

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don't need a lot of money to be happy--in fact, the opposite.”
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

Monday, June 3, 2013

"To be awake is to be alive." ~ Henry David Thoreau

I have been listening to different friends talk about what is going on in their lives and looking at their patterns. It is so much easier to see patterns in someone else, much easier than seeing them in myself. I can see where they continue to date the guy who breaks their heart or sacrifice their well-being for the job.

Have you heard the story of asking the fish what water is like – and the fish responds, “what is water?” That is how our patterns are, invisible like the water in which we swim. This is why I value reflection and self-observation. I ask myself what story am I telling myself? What do I do to keep myself safe? I used to think reflection was of no value. Only when I got a glimpse of my own contradictions did I add some reflection into my life.

In my practice of reflection I have noticed some of my patterns
* I tend to live in tomorrow or yesterday.
* I expect a lot (too much?) of myself and others.
* I assume that there is not enough time for all I want to accomplish.
• I assume obligation is more important than self-care.

None of these stories serve me, but they are they were directing my choices and behavior – almost invisibly. And they are embarrassing. Silly when I name them.

What story are we telling ourselves about how we “have to live our day?” If we don’t observe ourselves, we will never know our choices.

“Waking up is not a selfish pursuit of happiness, it is a revolutionary stance, from the inside out, for the benefit of all beings in existence.” ~Noah Levine

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Love in Action

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action." ~Mother Teresa

I was inspired to talk about love by a few things that happened this week. Even though I do it with hesitation. I am such a learner in this arena. I was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend who went to a conference on love (particularly self-love) and heard an "On Being" episode Krista Tippet talking about the civil rights movement with Rep. John Lewis.

From the On Being transcript:
Rep. Lewis: Well, I think in our culture, I think sometimes people are afraid to say I love you. But we're afraid to say, especially in public life, many elected officials or worldly elected officials, are afraid to talk about love. Maybe people tend to think something is so emotional about it. Maybe it's a sign of weakness. And we're not supposed to cry. We're supposed to be strong, but love is strong. Love is powerful.

The movement created what I like to call a nonviolent revolution. It was love at its best. It's one of the highest form of love. That you beat me, you arrest me, you take me to jail, you almost kill me, but in spite of that, I'm going to still love you. I know Dr. King used to joke sometime and say things like, "Just love the hell outta everybody. Just love 'em."

Rep Jon Lewis references an African proverb – “when you pray move your feet”

What are the different ways we can show love in action:

• How we listen
• Empathy
• Attend or remembering what is important to others
• Hospitality
• Acceptance of the whole person (shadow)
• Forgiveness
• Self Care

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. ~Mother Teresa

And the best smile starts on the inside or as Mother Teresa said,… “love begins at home.”

What is the source of our love in action? Is what people think? Is it to make others think you are a nice person? The most powerful love in action is because you are so full of love it overflows; where you love, forgive, and are kind to yourself.

What would love in action look like for you?

Friday, March 1, 2013

The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.
~Bruce Lee
Planning for our trip to New Zealand, I thought I should schedule a personal retreat for myself; it would be helpful to be on the other side of the process once again. I started searching for options. I kept coming back to one that had both bodywork and the enneagram. Perfect! But after several email exchanges, I did not get information I wanted. How did she work? How to get there without a car? With no more information, I felt dis-ease about going. Still I thought I should commit and submit myself to the process. Only when I asked to sign up did she tell me that getting there was very difficult (2 buses and a ferry). I had limited time and more importantly, I felt she was not forthcoming to a question I had to ask 4 times "how would I get there". I asked myself, "was I afraid to go?" No, it felt right to let go of this option. I did not sign up.

Around the same time, my sister told me I could stay at the retreat center in Auckland for free. My flight there was less than 1 night’s lodging in Christchurch. So, I followed the path that was opening. The Auckland retreat would be self-managed. I still wanted to learn from someone too. It turned out what I needed was just over the fence in Kaikoura (where we are spending most of our time). The first day, our host offered to set up a massage for us with the woman literally over the fence. Sure. It turned out she is not only a massage therapist, she is an “Integrated Breath Therapist” and wasn’t I just saying I wanted to learn more and work more with my breath? After all of my effort, what I needed showed up. It is helpful to be reminded; I don’t always have to make it happen.

And I did learn from my earlier efforts to book a retreat in Christchurch:
1. I need to put more on my website to let folks know who I am and how I work so they can assess the fit.
2. I need to describe the structure of retreats. The structure provides a bridge to enter into relationship and build trust. Then allow for what emerges to guide us.
3. AND, I need to let potential retreaters know how to get to Lutsen.

Put your heart, mind, intellect and soul even to your smallest acts. This is the secret of success. ~Swami Sivananda