Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trusting Your Equipment

"TRUST YOUR EQUIPMENT. " --Cat Saunders, PhD

Today I want to talk more about one of the quotes I posted earlier in the week for #inspireMEMonday because it was a breakthrough for me in terms of understanding why I sometimes struggle more than I need to in difficult relationships.

As I explained in Monday's post, what this quote means to me is something along the lines of, "listen to yourself, listen to your body." In other words, if - after an interaction with another human being - you feel angry or hurt or yucky, don't just dismiss that, listen to it. That feeling is trying to tell you something.

What I realized in my latest session with my counselor (Dr Cat) is that I have not been listening, for YEARS.

When someone does something that hurts me or makes me angry I feel the feeling, but almost immediately I turn it around on myself and start berating myself: "Don't take it personally." "Let it go." "If you were a bigger person this wouldn't bother you." Etc.

On the face of it this may look like an okay way to go. "Letting it go" is very big in our culture right now and I believe that LIG has its place, but that place is not as soon as you feel the feelings. There is a lot of work to do between being hurt and letting it go.

Dr Cat helped me understand by asking me this question: If someone punched you in the stomach would you say the same thing to yourself, or would you allow yourself to feel hurt? I said that I would not try and talk myself out of feeling hurt if someone punched me.

What if someone stepped on your toes? she asked. **

Same thing, I said, I wouldn't try and talk myself out of the pain.

Emotional pain isn't any different, she went on. If it hurts, it hurts and it is trying to tell you that what that person did is not okay WITH YOU.

The WITH YOU is very important here for a couple of reasons 1) It takes judgement out of the equation. You are not saying that what the person did is not okay ever, just that it is not okay with you; 2) It affirms - for you - that this is true even if the other person does not accept it.

Again, very important, because many people out there (most?) are not willing or able to simply own up to what they have done and leave it at that. As soon as you point out that they have hurt you they are looking for a way out:
"I didn't mean to hurt you." 
"I was (stressed, busy, hungry, insert any excuse here)." 
"You (insert attempt to pin the blame on you, bring up the past, etc.)" 
And while all of these things may be true, in this moment YOU are attempting to communicate your hurt and all of these responses are nothing more than attempts to deflect. EVEN IF - maybe especially if - they are preceded by an apology. As in, "I'm sorry, BUT..." An apology that includes a BUT is no apology at all.

So the first thing to do when you have been hurt is to TRUST YOUR EQUIPMENT. If something hurts, it hurts. If something makes you angry, it makes you angry. If something makes you scared, it makes you scared.

This one, the FEAR one, is SO important because this is an area where we really seem to get off on minimizing our feelings as well as those of the people around us. We do this to kids ALL the time, "Don't be afraid." FEAR, like the pain that comes from a slap in the face, is not a choice. How you ACT in the face of fear absolutely is, and one of the keys to acting with courage is acknowledging your fear, letting it have its say, and working to make the situation safe for you so that you CAN act.

Once you have acknowledged your feelings, felt them and taken care of yourself around them (by talking to a friend, meditating, taking a walk, etc.) then you can act to repair the relationship by communicating your hurt to the other person if you decide you want to and that it is safe to do so. It is not always safe.

If you have made attempts in the past to communicate your hurt or anger to someone and they have responded defensively or dismissively with the classic "I'm sorry BUT...." at some point you may decide that it is not in your best interest to keep trying. Or you may value this relationship so much that you want to try in spite of these responses. Either is a valid way to go so long as YOU don't stop trusting your equipment.

Dr Cat explained it this way, If you had a dance partner that repeatedly stepped on your toes and didn't apologize or made excuses, sooner or later you would stop dancing with them. EVEN IF you liked them. EVEN IF they had other good qualities. 

You don't have to hate the dancer to stop dancing with them. You just have to hate having your toes stepped on over and over (and over) again.

HOW you protect your toes is up to you and depends on the situation. It may involve avoiding certain
situations with this person (the ones in which your toes always seem to get stepped on), or setting a clear boundary for expectations within the relationship. In some cases it may involve ending the relationship. Whatever the specifics of your situation, it all starts with TRUSTING YOUR EQUIPMENT.

~  *  ~  *  ~ 

Next week I am going to write about one technique that works really well for me in situations like this, especially if the "relationship" in question is one you can't so easily get out of (for example with a boss or family member).

** The above conversation is paraphrased and does not include direct quotes from myself or Dr Cat. As such I have italicized it, but have not used quotation marks.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Inspire-ME Monday #3: Eight Gems

This is the first week I chose quotes without a theme in mind - and the quotes reflect this to some degree - but as I read over them I hear whispers of an underlying theme....relationships, interactions with others, communication. I hope these eight gems will help you move in the direction of more awareness, more understanding, and more compassion (for yourself as well as others).

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

"May I know what it is to feel the weight on another's shoulders. May I know forgiveness in my heart. May I be given strength to extend my hand across the divide to pull another from the abyss, though that person has wounded me." --Maisie Dobbs, quoting her teacher Maurice in "Journey to Munich" by Jacqueline Winspear

"Dogen-zenji said, 'When you say something to someone, he may not accept it, but do not try to make him understand it intellectually. Do not argue with him; just listen to his objections until he himself finds something wrong with them.'” --Shunryu Suzuki

"The core of authenticity is the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable and to set boundaries." --BrenĂ© Brown

"...[T]he gasoline in the vehicle of ego is fear." --Judith Lief in Lion's Roar magazine

"Walk away from 'friendships' that make you feel small and insecure, and seek out people who inspire and support you." --Michelle Obama

"TRUST YOUR EQUIPMENT. (In other words, trust your body, trust what you FEEL in your body.)" --Cat Saunders, PhD

"Being aware of our feelings is at the core of it all. Learning to name our feelings, learning to nurture where we are for ourselves, and taking a step back before reacting to others may create ripple effects. I’d like to trust that if we each practice it in our own lives, truly practice it, and show up authentically for others, it could make a difference." --Elisa Balabram in this blog post

"Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith. " --Henry Ward Beecher

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

A post in which I try to understand the First Noble Truth of Buddhism (and probably fail miserably)

As I wrote last month before beginning the 28 Days of Abstinence challenge, I have been reading a lot about Buddhism lately. One of the concepts that has stuck with me is this idea that all life is suffering. I both love it and hate it.
I love it because it rings true to me. I read it and something in me lets go - relaxes - the way you do when truth is spoken: "Finally, someone is saying what I have always thought."

At the same time, this idea scares the crap out of me. If all life is suffering then what is the f-ing point? Not what is the point of being here - I don't think any of us knows this for sure and we each have to figure this out for ourselves - but what is the point of living? If all life is suffering, why not just let go, escape, blow this popsicle stand? (Of course Buddhists believe in reincarnation - as do I - so it really isn't a choice. One way or another, you'll be back here eventually. So it's really an "Enlightenment or BUST" kind of situation.)

So this idea that life is suffering both gives me hope and robs me of all hope at the same time, depending on my mood and state of mind at the time I am considering it I guess. Nonetheless, I am fascinated by suffering.

I am fascinated by my own suffering, particularly when it is of the "created in my own head" variety, which so much of it is. I am fascinated by people who don't seem to suffer, people who are living lives I would find unbearable and yet seem to carry a lightness, a sense of purpose and hope, wherever they go. And I am particularly fascinated  by people who suffer unimaginable horrors and yet fight to live. I don't need to tell a story here, there are thousands, chose one that horrified you and think on it awhile. Do the questions overwhelm you as they overwhelm me? WHY? HOW? WHY? WHY? WHY? 

Such horrible things we do to each other. Such horrible things are done daily, cruelly, casually. Such horrible things happen for no reason at all. Accidents that seem too awful to be true and all we are left with is the suffering and the questions: WHY? HOW? WHY?

I try to feel and imagine and empathize with the suffering of others (refugees, victims of terrorist attacks and natural disasters, etc.) but I know I fail miserably. Sometimes I try to imagine that I myself am in a particular situation and I soon have to look away from the images in my own mind. I cannot bear to imagine what others have endured in real life. So what to do?

What can I do? Pray? Donate money? Try to be of service? Write about it? I do all of these and still, the suffering continues. Of course it does. That is life.

Understanding this at its deepest and most unimaginable level is what made Buddha the Buddha. And I know that if I want to become enlightened someday I must too. But sometimes it just seems like too much. Too overwhelming. Too sad. Too hard. Too much.

So the question becomes: Can absorbing the truth that "life is suffering" be the beginning of a greater understanding? Buddha goes on to unravel the mystery of life and to explain it in this way:

"...[D]eath comes from birth, birth comes from deeds, deeds come from attachment, attachment comes from desire, desire comes from perception, perception comes from sensation, sensation comes from the six sense organs, the six sense organs come from individuality, individuality comes from consciousness. --From "Wake Up," by Jack Kerouac

By death here he means not just death itself, but any kind of suffering that stems from the transitory nature of life, “'People from the beginning have erred thus,' he said, 'binding themselves in society and by the ties of love and then, as after a dream, all is dispersed.'" --From "Wake Up" by Jack Kerouac

So if I understand it correctly, it goes something like this: We suffer and die because we were born; we are born because of the things we do (presumably to hurt others or at least to keep ourselves entangled in the illusion of life); we do the things we do because of our attachment to things as we would like them to be, which comes from our desires for these things; our desire comes from our perception, which is our interpretation of something as "bad" or "good" (or perhaps "pleasant" or "unpleasant"). The thing which we are interpreting is a sensation in our body and these sensations come from our six sense organs (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, and mind thoughts), which come from individuality (thinking we are separate from all other people and things) and individuality comes from consciousness.

This last part stymies me a bit - consciousness is supposed to be a good thing, right? But in this case, it isn't. Somehow becoming conscious led us to recognize our separateness (our individuality), which in turn created (or led to an awareness of) our six sense organs through which we feel sensations which we then judge as good or bad and desire those things which make us feel good and then become attached to them and therefore we are born and suffer and eventually die.

This actually makes a lot of sense to me (and is very similar to the interpretation of life taught by the New Thought community of which I have been a part and not all that far removed from the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden). We were all a part of the primordial soup and then somehow (the Big Bang?) became conscious.

Once conscious, awareness of individuality arose, which somehow created the six sense organs. (I get lost at this part a little bit - how did we have six sense organs before we were born? - but perhaps there was sight, taste, hearing, touch, smell and mind thoughts before there were "bodies" as we now know them?) Through these sense organs these individual "beings" that came before us (and yet were us) began to feel sensations and to interpret them as "good" or "bad" and to desire the "good." They became attached to the "good" (and to aversion to the "bad") and this attachment led them to perform deeds which somehow led to birth (was this Adam and Eve and was the "deed" sex? One possible interpretation perhaps), which led to suffering and then death.

So how do we get out of this?

"Not by anxious use of outward means had Buddha unveiled the True Mind and ended suffering, but by resting quietly in thoughtful silence." --From "Wake Up" by Jack Kerouac

By resting quietly in thoughtful silence we may eventually - in the words of the Buddha (through Jack Kerouac) - Wake UP! If we all wake up we can end this cycle of birth and death and presumably end consciousness and return to the peace of the primordial soup where there is no suffering. 

This sounds impossible and I am not sure how long it will take (so far it has been a few billion years it seems ~ 4.5 billion years since the Earth first formed and ~14 billion years since the Big Bang), but it's the best idea I have heard so far to end the suffering, "This valley of darts, which we call life, a nightmare." --From "Wake Up" by Jack Kerouac

[As I read this, I am afraid it sounds a little dark and hopeless. And maybe it is to some degree, but I hope you will read it not as a hopeless rant, or an opportunity to wallow, but as an attempt to understand. That is the spirit in which it is written anyway.]

Monday, June 20, 2016

Inspire-ME Monday #2: Buddha & Buddhism

"When people asked the Buddha why his followers were so joyful and healthy when they lived so simply, he replied: 'They do not repent the past, nor do they brood over the future. They live in the present. Therefore they are radiant. By brooding over the future and repenting the past, fools dry up like green reeds cut down in the sun.'” --From Why I am a Buddhist by Stephen T. Asma, PhD

"Everywhere is here." --Prince Siddhartha in Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha by Jack Keruoac

"During deep meditation it is possible to dispel time, to see simultaneously all the past, present and future, and then everything is good, everything is perfect, everything is Brahman. Therefore, it seems to me that everything that exists is good—death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my ascent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me." --Herman Hesse from Siddhartha

"Your enemy is your greatest teacher." --Buddhist saying

"I thought if you could run 100 miles you'd be in this Zen state. You'd be the fucking Buddha, bringing peace and a smile to the world. It didn't work in my case - I'm the same old punk-ass as before - but there's always hope that it will turn you into the person you want to be, a better, more peaceful person." --Jenn "Mookie" Shelton in Born to Run

"You're bound to become a Buddha if you practice. If water drips long enough even rocks wear through." --Shih-Wu

"When we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe. When we discover the Buddha that we are, we realize that everything and everyone is Buddha. We discover that everything is awake, and everyone is awake. Everything and everyone is precious and whole and good. When we regard thoughts and emotions with humor and openness, that’s how we perceive the universe." --Pema Chodron

"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly." --Buddha

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Being Ordinary

"This is the Zen approach: nothing is there to be done. There is nothing to do. One has just to be. Have a rest and be ordinary and be natural." --Osho

Turns out, I had kind of a hard time RESTING. I kept finding myself DOING. DOING some writing. DOING some Twitter. DOING some marketing for my book. Luckily I had a silent retreat planned for the upcoming weekend.

On Friday afternoon I drove to St Andrews House retreat center to participate in a 40 hour do-it-yourself silent retreat with a group of women from Seattle Unity. We had been planning the retreat for a few months and I was really looking forward to it.

I arrived a bit harried on Friday night, having hit quite a bit of traffic on the way over, just in time for dinner. I threw my things into the last available room and went right to dinner. After dinner was the ritual to begin the silence and it wasn't until this ended that I could really relax and think about what I wanted my 40 hours of silence to look like.

I have done two previous silent meditation retreats, one in 2012 and one in 2013, both at the NW Vipassana Center in Onalaska, WA and both very structured so this is kind of what I had in mind. I was going to be very strict with myself and use this time to my advantage.

I started to plan...I would make a schedule of meditating and breaks and meals and I would stick to it. I would squeeze as much meditation time as possible into this weekend and make a lot of progress on my journey to enlightenment.

The great room at St Andrews. A great place to just BE. 
As soon as I stepped out of the chapel, however, and into the great room at St Andrews, I was hit with the knowledge that this was not a place to DO; this was a place to BE. And after all, wasn't RESTING the theme of the week?

What was needed here was a total lack of structure. I am so good (some would say too good...) at creating structure for myself. I needed a way to let go of structure, to let down the carefully constructed format of my life. To breathe every moment, to BE every moment, no matter what I was doing or not doing.

And it led to a wonderfully unstructured day:
"Hiking Meditation"
  • Drinking tea meditation at 9:00
  • Napping meditation at 10:00
  • Sitting on the porch staring out at the Sound meditation at 11:00
  • Eating meditation at noon

The view from my favorite chair

And it went on from there. There was hiking meditation and reading meditation and listening to the rain on the roof meditation and even some "real" meditation. And it was ordinary. And it was restful. And it was good. 

[NB This post was backdated and posted after the events described occurred due to the whole RESTING thing :)]

Monday, June 13, 2016

Inspire-ME Monday #1: RESTING

Today I am unveiling a new feature on the blog: Inspire-ME Monday!

As you know if you have read my Blogger Bio (see right) I am a collector of quotes and photographs. For the past few weeks I have been trying to come up with a way to share more of both with YOU, my fabulous readers. Inspire-ME Monday is it!

Every Monday I will be posting a series of quotes along with a photograph I have taken. Some weeks the quotes will have a common theme; other weeks they will be a totally random selection of my current favorites.

Starting today I am also taking a one-week break from the "business" of writing and indulging in a little "pre-summer vacation" vacation. (If you are a parent with kids about to be out of school for the summer, you know what I mean ;) So the theme for this week is RESTING.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about taking a REST:

"Not by anxious use of outward means had Buddha unveiled the True Mind and ended suffering, but by resting quietly in thoughtful silence." --Jack Kerouac, from the book "Wake Up"
 ~  *  ~ 
"DO BE DO BE DO" --Amit Gosmawi, PhD, from the documentary, "The Quantum Activist"
~  *  ~
"Sometimes...the most urgent thing you can possibly do is...take a complete rest." --Ashleigh Brilliant
~  *  ~ 
"Daydream more; work less." --Caeriel Crestin, from his horoscope column in MauiTime
~  *  ~
"Physiologically we were meant to be restful with periods of activity, not active, active, active, with periods of rest." --Dr Mark Dunn
~  *  ~
"This is the Zen approach: nothing is there to be done. There is nothing to do. One has just to be. Have a rest and be ordinary and be natural." --Osho
~  *  ~
"How beautiful it is to do nothing...and then rest afterwards." --Spanish Proverb
~  *  ~

If you would like to receive inspirational quotes and photographs in your email inbox automatically, please SIGN UP in the sidebar (on the top right) to RECEIVE POSTS VIA EMAIL. I will also be posting quotes on Twitter (@be_and_become), Instagram (be_and_become) and Facebook (Being & Becoming). 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Write Your Life! - May 2016 - Bonus Week: DOING - Wisdom from Dawna Markova

For this final post of the Write Your Life! online mini-session, I would like to share a prayer with you. I don't remember where I first read it, but it was written by a three-time cancer survivor and I think it gives great advice. Don't live in fear. Open your heart. Become who you were sent here to become. I hope it inspires you to continue the work you have started by writing your life.

"I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. 
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me, 
to make me less afraid, more accessible;
to loosen my heart 
until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. 
I choose to risk my significant, to live
so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom, 
and that which came to me as blossom, 
goes on as fruit." 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Write Your Life! - May 2016 - Bonus Week: DOING - Wisdom from Lao-tzu

"A journey 
             a thousand miles 
                                with one step." 


Don't forget to take 
your "one step" 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wisdom from Jan Phillips

"Our job is to convert the darkness to light. Life is waiting for us to convert the cruelties to light. When faced with darkness, ask yourself: How can I convert this to light? Our job is to convert whatever we encounter to light as quickly as we can." --Jan Phillips

Alternate post for June 7th

"It's not a question of better or worse. The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you're supposed to go up and down when you're supposed to go down. When you're supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you're supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there's no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness." --Haruki Murakami

Taking a break from posting happy, happy posts about manifesting. There seems to be so much darkness in the world right now. Just going to let that speak for itself. Feel it. Not to let it take over or to overwhelm, but to have its voice. Maybe the darkness just needs to speak and be spoken and be heard and be shared and be felt by all of us in order to dissipate and be replaced by the light. I don't know, but I do know I can't just post happy, happy today. I just can't do it.

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

To see the previously scheduled and planned post about writing your life, please scroll down. 

Write Your Life! - May 2016 - Bonus Week: DOING - Wisdom from Mary Morrissey

"IF I believed it were possible, what step would I take next?" --Mary Morrissey

How did it go? Were you able to take your first step, or did you get stumped or sidetracked? Either answer is ok. 

If you DID take your first NEXT EASIEST STEP in the last twenty-four hours, pat yourself on the back. Great job! Cross that one off and pick your NEXT EASIEST STEP from the list in your journal. Do that within the next twenty-four hours.  

If you DID NOT take your first NEXT EASIEST STEP, pull out your journal and answer this question: What happened? 

Be brutally honest with yourself. Why didn't you do it? Are you afraid? Are you still unsure about exactly what it is you want to do? Do you not believe that what you want is possible? 

Whatever the answer, write it down and then decide what to do next. You may want to redo your life map, or spend a few days repeating the heart-centered meditation. Maybe go back to your list of next easiest steps and choose a different one as your new #1. 

Whatever you do, try to do something every day until you feel like you are ready to take your NEXT EASIEST STEP. 

And remember: I am always available to help via the comments section below or on Facebook

Monday, June 6, 2016

Write Your Life! - May 2016 - Bonus Week: WHAT'S NEXT?

"You are never given a wish without [being given] what it takes to make it come true."   --Richard Bach

This week is a bonus week - one I hadn't really planned on doing - BUT as I sat and finished the posts for last week on Thursday, I felt like things were incomplete. Like I was leaving you hanging. And I didn't want to do that. 

There IS a fifth chapter in my book and it's called, "What's Next?!?" because it's all well and good to WRITE YOUR LIFE - to draw a new map and listen to what your heart really wants - but after that you have to figure out how to LIVE this new life you have imagined. And that, my friends, takes ACTION. 


Stepping out, putting one foot in front of the other and starting to move in the direction of your dream whatever it is. 

So that's what we're going to talk about this week: the DOING.

First things first, grab your journal or a piece of paper. Find a comfy spot to hang out for twenty or thirty minutes and start to brainstorm all the things you need to do to make the life you want to live a reality.

At this stage don't censor or cross out because something seems too big (or too small), just make the list. (I always think it is ironic that I started down this road because I was too addicted to my "TO DO" list and ended up suggesting that people make a, well, basically a "TO DO" list, but I promise this one is a little bit different.)

When you are done, take a look at the list. What jumps out at you as the FIRST thing, the NEXT thing, you need to do? Put a #1 next to this item. This is your NEXT EASIEST STEP. Do it before this time tomorrow.

That's it. Take the first step in the next twenty-four hours.

If you are going, "WOAH, wait a minute! I can't do THAT!" maybe this isn't step #1.

Look at your list again. Does something else need to come first? Or maybe this is the first step, but it needs to be broken down into a bunch of smaller steps. If so, do this in your journal and then put a #1 next to the step that needs to come first.

Now this is your NEXT EASIEST STEP. Do it before this time tomorrow.

Good luck. I know you can do it! Talk to you tomorrow.

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

If you have questions, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Community Page, Being & Becoming. And, don't forget to SIGN UP in the sidebar at the top of the page to receive posts via email. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Write Your Life! - May 2016 - Week 4: BECOMING - BONUS QUOTE - Wisdom from Shakti Gawain

"We...attract into our lives whatever we think about most, believe in most strongly, expect on the deepest level, and imagine most vividly." --Shakti Gawain

Friday, June 3, 2016

Write Your Life! - May 2016 - Week 4: BECOMING - Wisdom from Robert Fritz

"If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want and all that is left is compromise." --Robert Fritz

At first glance, this quote may seem to contradict the one from yesterday, but I hope you will spend some time meditating on them as a pair and find the part of each of them that is true for you. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Write Your Life! - May 2016 - Week 4: BECOMING - Wisdom from Rob Brezsny

"The key to in figuring out 
exactly your place in reality, 
and occupying that. 
Attempting to full bigger shoes than yours, 
or cram yourself into tinier ones, 
is just setting yourself up for misery. 
Look at who you really are, 
and be realistic about how much space 
you actually need. 
From the outside it may look rather small 
(or oversized), 
but I guarantee that once you're inside it, 
it'll fit perfectly."