Expressing Empathy

When my kids were young I just wanted them to be happy. When they were crying, agitated or sad, I immediately attempted to fix whatever was troubling them. I scrambled to change their focus and turn their attention to something positive. I would reassure them that everything will be better soon and it will all turn out okay. In fact even now as a parent of adult children, I still struggle with wanting to fix their problem.

There is nothing wrong with the desire to bring relief to someone who is suffering. It’s a natural response. However, insisting that a person come out of their immediate experience and into the one you believe they ‘should’ be having can be more damaging than helpful. Remember, “fixing” has a lot to do with what remains uncomfortable within YOU. You can’t keep your child or anyone else from being upset. Continue reading “Expressing Empathy”

The Optimistic Pessimist

My father loved to tell a story of the two twin brothers. One was a pessimist, the other an optimist. On their ninth birthday, the father led the pessimist son out to the backyard and presented him with a beautiful pony. The boy fretted, “What if I fall off and hurt myself!”

The father went to the optimist son and led him to a room. When the boy looked inside the room, he found a pile of manure. Delighted, he exclaimed, “Oh boy! Underneath all this manure, there must be a pony!”

How do you explain the events in your life? The lesson here is that it makes a difference how you respond to whatever life presents you. To cope with the unpredictability of life, some of us think optimistically. A positive mental attitude empowers you to be aligned with your goals, values, and dreams. For others, with a pessimistic mindset they think of what did or might go wrong and only consider the downside. In both cases, the optimistic and pessimistic mindset is the driving force to protect against future disappointment or hurt. Continue reading “The Optimistic Pessimist”

Wanting Something Different

As the Buddhist teachings say, “to live you must experience suffering.” Throughout life, it’s natural to endure sickness, injury, tiredness, and old age. However, when we look at our emotional suffering, such as loneliness, doubt, frustration, fear, embarrassment, anger, jealousy, disappointment, etc., these feelings are more difficult to accept. When we feel upset we often get impatient and want to rid ourselves of these unpleasant feelings.

Many personal troubles involve being preoccupied with wanting something different.

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Welcoming Our Struggles

Life is filled with countless emotions and experiences. When things are going well, we tend to glide easily through life. However, when suffering arrives, we struggle with it. Our difficulties usually bring us to a redefining moment. They challenge the way we look at ourself and our life. Our unfulfilled plans, mistakes, doubts and disappointments are all part of sorting through our life. All our experiences are valuable in some way.

Each day, we have the opportunity to welcome whatever emerges. Life is a full range of emotion. They arise when we arrive at a place in our life that fills us with joy, happiness or laughter. Or, we could reach a crossroad in our life that is filled with sadness, tears, and discontent. Sometimes, our pain gives us reason to wonder whether we will ever be OK again. A wounded heart can be just as alarming and unwelcome as a broken arm or an illness. However, just like physical pain is a call to action, our emotional pain needs to be welcomed and given attention. Give your hurt feelings, your physical healing and your unmet needs the kind of support that allows you to more easily shift your approach in how you look at your circumstance.

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Let Your Self Shine

The other night in preparing for my youngest son’s wedding, we sat looking at old family pictures in my living room.  After my son left, I went outside to reflect on my feelings.  Looking back at the pictures, I was overcome by my beauty, but also a bit saddened by the fact that I didn’t feel attractive internally as a young girl. Then I felt a surge of gratefulness for my life and the lessons I’ve learned. I am no longer compelled to hold onto the emotional influence of my past and when it does surface, I am able to manage it. I’ve come to an age where I know real fulfillment comes from self- acceptance, from daring to be just as you are and expressing it. The sooner we are aware of our reactions the sooner we can find balance.

To grow and expand as a person of strength, we need to validate our feelings, fears, and struggles that we had. Understanding is the key to balancing and managing the experience of who we are. It’s a worthy endeavor to be familiar with those precious wonder children!

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Being Rattled

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow  into your heart,  it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person.  It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow  in your heart…” Pema Chodron

Have you ever had someone talk AT you?

Thinking
Words coming at you!
There are times when people harbor frustration, then, without warning they harshly express what’s on their mind.  Their fighting words can catch you off-guard and ignite a rattled feeling.  It strikes an inner-core of familiar yet uncomfortable feelings; feelings of unworthiness or helplessness.
When you aren’t prepared for this type of criticism,  you instinctively react to protect yourself. Either you get agitated and verbally retaliate, or the opposite can happen–feeling hurt and overpowered, you respond with silence.

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Thinking the Worst

 My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes . . . most of which never happened.  MARK TWAIN

The human imagination is quite creative and can take us on an emotional adventure.  We imagine going into space and make it happen. We have the ability to create stories, put them on film, and engage millions to dream along with us.  Imagination unlocks the door to endless possibilities.

The problem is, sometimes we think up the worst possible scenarios for our own lives. These scenarios cause our self unnecessary worry.  The good news is, like Mark Twain suggests, most of these scenarios never come true.  Unfortunately though when we continually think the worst, it will cause us unnecessary suffering.  “What-if” questions are usually only possibilities and not reality.

Buddha has taught us that the mind is everything; what you think you become. Every moment of the day, we are faced with the choices of our own thoughts.

Being able to imagine the worst can be useful. It enables us to gather information and to make contingency plans so that we are prepared to deal with the ‘what-if’ if it does happen. However, often times, we don’t just stop there.   Instead of just laying out alternative possibilities for us to consider, our thoughts make a great drama out of the ‘what-if’.  Before we know it, we are drawn into the intensity of the scene, and the feelings are as if it is all happening now. And our body responds.  We are in it as if it is already happening.
It is natural that we do get caught up imagining the worst from time to time.  After all, we are only human. But the trick is to catch ourselves in it so that we can find our way out. Mark Twain said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”  So how can you bring your imagination under control and make it work for you  rather than against you?

Moving Past Disappointment

Whatever path we are on in our life, along the way, we are bound to encounter disappointment. An old proverb says, “Every path has its puddle.”  In life, disappointments are bound to happen. It’s natural to have expectations of ourselves, and the people and situations in our lives. Unfortunately, when we rely too heavily on the expectations, and they become especially meaningful, the resulting disappointment can overwhelm us.

We become so focused on our desired outcome that we lose our footing and get caught feeling ill-equipped when it doesn’t happen.

Disappointment makes us feel that we failed somehow, and we are left disillusioned.  In disappointment, we feel at a loss of an idea of ourselves and what would be. We were expecting to arrive at an intended destination and when that doesn’t happen we begin to question ourselves, our abilities, and our worth.  As a result, we need to regain our balance.

How do we ease our disappointment? How do we sustain ourselves through let-down?

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Embracing Transition

It can be frightening to let go of the familiar  when we don’t know what is on the other side.   I recently  saw a Facebook post  written by one of my mentors. She briefly  posted about the moment of letting go and reaching out to the gap between two  trapeze bars.

There is a moment when the trapeze artist  must release their  hold from one bar and  reach out for the other.  Despite all the training  and practice, that moment is filled with  uncertainty about what will happen.There  is the space of letting go of the known and  reaching out for the unknown-it is the place  of transition.

In our everyday lives, soaring across this dark void  of uncertainty can bring about unrest.   Nevertheless, I have come to believe that transition  is the only place that change occurs.   Transition zones are incredibly rich places.   They should be honored and savored–yes,  even when filled with struggle and feelings of  being out of control.   We must stand with courage  in our vulnerability.

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