April 25, 2016

Try Something New: Do Nothing

Meditation has taught me many things. One lesson: refrain. The most skillful action can be non-action; the wisest speech can be silence; the best “doing” can be being. To refrain implies self-control, which quickly morphs: improve yourself, do more, achieve. But that’s not my message. True refraining is open and wise. It’s an act of self-kindness. It’s a gift: pause, stay, and be. Do nothing. Look inward. Be kind.

What is enough? This moment is enough. I am enough. You are enough. We’ve arrived; we're at home in our lives. When can we stop? Right now. It’s an act of self-kindness.

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April 18, 2016

Morning Routine

Scenario 1: I wake up, make coffee, and while the coffee brews, I meditate. Post meditation, I prioritize my workflow. Then I put my full attention on the first task: I use my alert morning energy for an hour, focusing on what's most important; working from intention. After an hour, if I choose, I check email or social media, but I return to what's most important. And at the end of the day, I feel satisfaction and ease.

Scenario 2: I wake up, make coffee, and turn on the computer. I check email and look at social media. I'm distracted into an activity that may or may not be important; I put out a fire that probably isn't urgent; I lose touch with my intention. (Email can be a rabbit hole.) Later in the day, I meditate, and I notice I'm off track, lost in trance.

Morning routine sets a tone for the day. Our morning habits create conditions that either support or deplete our intentions. It's always possible to begin again (like when I enter through Scenario 2, realize I'm off track, and start anew), but it's most helpful when I meet the day with awareness and intention. This needn't be grandiose. It can be a 5-minute pause as the coffee brews, deciding what projects are most important. It can be a 3-breath pause as I sip my coffee, even in front of the computer. It can be a short walk around the block, noticing the sights and sounds of nature.

What do you most need in your life? Reflection, focus, ease, quiet, connection, or meaning? Try to bring that intention into your morning routine. Start small. Think of one small change you can make to your mornings. If you forget one day, try again the next. And know this: I'm right beside you in the practicetrying to remember to remember; trying to bring presence and mindfulness to more moments.

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April 13, 2016

Healing the Poverty Within

Last week, a friend shared this Mother Teresa quote: "Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." Giving someone food is easy. Giving someone compassion and care is hard. When life gets busy, it's easier to write a check. It's harder to volunteer our time, compassion, and willingness to listen. But care and compassion are desperately needed. And small, kind actions make a big impact.

Today I see this quote through a different lens: Consider the unwanted, unloved, uncared-for parts of ourselves. Self-kindness is not our natural habit. But if we ignore our needs, push away difficulties, and speak harshly to ourselves, we create poverty inside our psyche. A poverty that cannot be helped with food or material goods. 

My new perspective on Mother Teresa came while driving.  After supporting a friend, I was overwhelmed by emotion. Sobbing, I stopped by the side of the road. I paused to feel. And what I felt was resistance. It was like a 5-year-old tantrum: I want this pain to stop! I want my grief to go away. Grief: the unwanted, uncared-for place in myself. So in the car, on the side of the road, I put my hand on my heart, and spoke aloud, "Oh, dear, sweet, Joy, this grief won't go away, and that's okay. Let's stay here as long as you need." 

Here's an equation: pain x resistance = suffering. Here's a different equation: pain x self-compassion = healing. It's possible to develop self-compassion. It's a practice, which needs patience and commitment, but it really works. And it doesn't require scads of time. Too often we're driven by scarcity of time. ("I don't have time to take care of myself.") Time is a big deal in our culture. So many wholesome practices we don't have time for; so many meaningless activities we make time for. But this is just resistance, and resistance can change. (I didn't always say, "Oh, dear, sweet, Joy" in moments of difficulty. This came gradually, with practice.)

You can start exactly where you are. You can start in this moment. Six minutes to begin a practice of self-compassion. With my whole heart, I invite you to try:

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April 8, 2016

Not Knowing

Poet Jeanne Lohmann writes: "Two more words to let go: never and always, and through the space they leave I look out on possibility where categories become boulders beside the trail." What if the trail was covered in possibility and not knowing?

There's so much I assume I know: the way a person (always) acts, how a situation "should" be, or the conditions I need for happiness. But these aren't the truth, they're just expectations. And when I expect things to be a certain way, I invite disappointment.

Though it challenges me daily, I'm trying to not know; to allow for possibility. Because people change, surprises happen, and curiosity opens my heart. After years in academia trying to analyze, understand, and know, I open to the mystery of this moment: Who knows what might happen? This question makes space for possibility, surprise, and wonder. It softens my heart and opens my mind.

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