August 30, 2015

We All Struggle


We all struggle. We all experience pain, embarrassment, and loss. But fear isolates us. It whispers in our ear: this is a problem with only you. At times, I want to shout from the rooftops: "I feel sadness, fear, and doubt. I'm not always happy. If anyone out there feels this way too, you're not alone--you're never alone."

We all hide pieces of ourselves, but I want to make space for these in conversation--ample space. Embracing difficulty and darkness requires less energy than pretending it's not there. Shadows enhance the light. They show us truth, compassion, and gratitude. They make us whole.

Yes, we all struggle. In this way, we're deeply connected. As you read this, you're not alone--not alone in your joy, anxiety, grief, or contentment. We're in this complicated, beautiful world together. Our lives are intertwined. When you need it, please take my hand. 

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August 26, 2015

What Gets Lost


A few months ago I taught mindfulness at a local business. On that morning, I did final preparations for class, allowing little wiggle room in my schedule. I left with just enough time to arrive 15 minutes early. I got in the van (we're a one-car family) and noticed the gas tank was empty--completely empty. My first thoughts: "Argh! What was Mark thinking? He knew I had an important meeting. I rarely use the car and this is what happens. Now I'll be late." 

Poof--mindfulness gone. Right away I went to blaming and judging. In my rush, kindness was lost. And this was eye-opening. At that particular moment, I regained my composure, forgave Mark, forgave myself, and moved forward. Yet I saw how easy it was to make a different choice: to stay angry or deny responsibility. Either of these would lead to more suffering--for me and everyone around me.

In a strange way, our culture values busyness. We pack our schedules, allowing little free time for life to happen--for empty gas tanks, long lines, sick days, unexpected repairs, or genuine emergencies. When life feels urgent, important things get lost. We lose kindness, creativity, and compassion. We lose the ability to listen deeply or see anew. We lose faith in ourselves and connection with others. We might do more, but we experience less.

A meditation teacher once asked me two questions: What is most important and what is enough? Thoughtful answers to these questions guide my daily choices. Even small simplification lets my life flow more freely. When I understand what's most important, I invite presence and connection. When I know what's enough, I make room for forgiveness. And when I'm mindful, I stay open to possibility. Even as busyness swirls around us, we can make different choices. We can practice peace and spread kindness. We can be the change we want to see.

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August 21, 2015

Interconnected


When I rush through my day, I feel anxious but I also feel disconnected. It's helpful to pause and look inward. It's equally helpful to pause and look outward--when I really see the faces of others, compassion comes naturally.

Here's a beautiful exercise: look through a crowd, take in people's faces, and say inwardly, "Just like me, that person wants to be happy; just like me, that person wants to be free of suffering." We all want to be happy. And we're all interconnected. In airports, traffic, grocery-store lines, and work meetings, look around; notice people's faces. Just like me, that person wants to be happy. When I realize this, my heart softens and the world widens.

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August 19, 2015

An Embodied Intention


An intention isn’t a goal; it’s a way of being. Intentions live in the present moment. Intentions support what we value most in life. Yet busyness can interrupt intention. It’s hard to live intentionally with packed schedules and scarce space for reflection. But here’s an important truth: we always have choices, even when—especially when—it feels like we don’t. It might only be a micro-choice, a small step toward freedom, but it’s there.

One of these small steps is re-connection with our heart’s intention. Not our mind’s intention—not the striving, judging, doubting, achieving thoughts. A true intention resonates through our whole being. And in doing so, it stays with us always, even in the busyness. An embodied intention is a place to which we can return again and again. Because we forget and then we remember. We’re human and imperfect. We’re also unique and beautiful.

Whether or not you have a current intention, I think you’ll benefit from this short guided meditation. Make a quiet space and gift yourself these twelve minutes. My wish for us all: may we live more moments with intention; may we live more moments with loving presence.


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August 9, 2015

Living with Questions


Imagine a typical conversation and a question asked. Do you imagine a pause and internal reflection? Probably not. We don't often sit with questions. Because uncertainty is uncomfortable. And answers seem certain. 

I'm trying to live more with questions; to not know. This process is difficult--it goes against my long-held habits. But it also feels alive. When I sit with a question, my mind is exposed: a flood of judgment, doubt, or longing, followed by "the answer." When I make more space, in an honest yet gentle way, I settle down. I find an answer that feels genuine, and might change as I change.

Each night, I reflect on my day. I gauge whether my actions were in-line with my bigger intentions. I see where I make mistakes and how I can start again.  And I often sit with questions. 

This practice is described beautifully by poet Jeanne Lohmann:
"Questions Before Dark"
Day end, and before sleep
when the sky dies down, consider
your altered state: has this day 
changed you? Are the corners 
sharper or rounded off? Did you
live with death? Make decisions
that quieted? Find one clear word
that fit? At the sun's midpoint
did you notice a pitch of absence,
bewilderment that invites
the possible? What did you learn
from things you dropped and picked up
and dropped again? Did you set a straw 
parallel to the river, let the flow
carry you downstream?

Today my corners are more round. I lived a few powerful moments with death. I found no clear word, and that feels okay. I allowed for possibility. I learned bits of patience and self-kindness. I occasionally let things flow (my life is layers and layers of letting go). Tomorrow, who knows?
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July 31, 2015

Slow the Pace


As you view this post, you might have an uneasy feeling, a thought in the back of your mind: I have a lot to do; will this take long to read? These nagging thoughts can plague us on the busyness treadmill, where everything feels urgent.

I know that urgent feeling. It can happen as I prepare a mindfulness class. It can happen when I take a photograph. It can happen in my meditation. It can even occur when my schedule is open and free. 

On Tuesday I wrote these words on a piece of paper: slow the pace. This resonated with my whole being. I'm tired of the striving and judging--old habits that sneak in when I'm not looking; when I don't fully see my life. Instead of striving, I want to slow down and be patient: while in the car, I slow my speed; while walking, I notice sounds around me; when washing my hands, I take my time; as I write this, I deepen my breath. Each of these reconnects me with myself and the present moment--reconnects me with gentleness. When I rush, I tend to judge. When I rush, compassion is hard to reach. But when I physically slow the pace, I'm gentler with myself and others. In this way, the quality of my work improves, because I work from a place of love.
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July 27, 2015

Working with Difficult Emotions


It's human nature to resist pain. Evolution trained us to push away the difficult, to just survive. These habits are well-grooved, but they're no longer necessary. And they block true healing. As Carl Jung concisely stated, "What you resist, persists." 

When I resist pain, I only create more pain. If I resist my grief, anxiety, shame, or fear, I strengthen the hurt not the healing. But when I make space for difficult emotions--when I invite them in and look more closely--there's a release. It's counter-intuitive, but it works every time. After years of practice, I have a new relationship with fear. It's no longer a scary monster in the corner. Now it's a known companion. It's a signal: look inward and be gentle.


Michele McDonald created an acronym for this process: RAIN (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Non-identify). First we must recognize our situation--what is my direct experience in this moment? Exactly how do I feel uneasy? (This takes time and inner-reflection.) The second step is a big leap: allow for the feeling; allow for the experience, as is. Here, we release our grip and let the feeling flow. (This can be done in small, safe ways; it's a gradual process.) Investigation is the third step. Once we allow for the emotion, we bring curiosity--not in a heady way, but in an embodied way. How does this emotion pulse in my body? What are the sensations and how do they change? (This investigation is worthy of a lifetime.) The last step is resting in awareness, in presence. Our emotions don't define us. If we allow for difficult feelings, eventually they morph and settle, and we sit in a centered place.

This path is both brave and beautiful. It takes strength and kindness. If you'd like to try, I'll be your guide: