Tag Archives: Self compassion

The Definition of Kindness

teabag

This teabag wisdom is perfect for me right now. Perhaps for you too? So many women are taught to ‘be kind’ and put others first. ‘To understand before being understood’ is a great concept for people who tend to be self-centered. But those of us who give till it hurts, by putting others’ needs before our own, don’t need this mantra.

Co-dependency is a sickness. It’s learned, usually from a very early age, within a family dynamic. But society as a whole (especially in the South) can push women to support, volunteer, and basically put way too many others’ needs first, at the detriment of their own dreams and sometimes their own basic needs. So many women and yoga teachers (lol) are co-dependent or are people-pleasing helpers. It’s great to be compassionate, but it’s not great to be taken advantage of, is it? So the Universe will keep sending the exact experiences we need to learn important lessons to help us grow into stronger more self- compassionate people who stop letting in, or doing bidding for, pushy or selfish takers.

Breaking old habits is hard. Finding strength to calmly voice myself, set boundaries, or walk away when I am de-valued—no matter what my timing may be—puts me on the right path to self compassion. Most often, in a situation that arises when a person goes back on their word, in work or in friendship, I don’t speak my mind directly due to a fear of confrontation, or maybe an underlying feeling of not being worthy. It’s irrational. It’s likely linked to how I was raised where direct confrontation wasn’t allowed without some sort of punishment. So I often don’t respond immediately when I should, and a few days or a week later, when I have time to think about it, I re-group and find the courage to address a situation. Often that’s in writing. Maybe because I hate fighting and shut down. And maybe because some manipulative or dramatic people might start crying or complaining or making excuses for their bad behavior and I might not finish saying what needs to be said. Other times, I have this knee-jerk fear of being yelled at or hit, which is also irrational. (I’m working on it.) And the Universe keeps sending me situations and people where my ‘kindness is taken for weakness’ like the Rihanna song.

But I’m determined to work on my throat chakra and speak more clearly and directly the moment things go awry, as it shows that I value my time and myself and even the person causing me anxiety if I speak boldly and give them a chance to respond. So, the moment a client says he will not pay me for services rendered and agreed upon and accepted, for instance, I need to speak up and invoice again. The minute an agreement isn’t honored, or a contract not adhered to, I need to speak up clearly and calmly. When someone doesn’t follow through with a promise or lies to me, in friendship, I need to speak up. And if that isn’t received kindly or respectfully, I need to walk away. It’s as simple as that.

Walking away can be so hard when strong feelings are there, but I was reminded today during a conversation with a good friend at the studio, that we lean towards what we are comfortable with. I’ll explain. My friend lamented that so many women still seek bad boys, just like in high school. But I thought about it and said, “No, they seek what they are used to, what feels familiar. When they realize that what feels like home isn’t always good for them, they change.”

Think about it. The man whose mother was overly critical will likely feel at home with, and date, a critical, bossy woman. It’s the same as the gal who might have been verbally abused, or witnessed abuse in the home. She might become attracted to a difficult man who is hot and cold and not always kind. She may become focussed on changing him, understanding him, or earning his love—reflecting unmet childhood needs.

But once people ‘get it,’ they really get it. Maybe the Universe gives us experiences so we can feel those unmet childhood needs and then release them by ‘getting it.’ Once I ‘get’ that someone’s proclaimed love isn’t healthy if their love is neglectful, controlling, confusing, dishonest, shut off, or whatever the case may be, I allow myself to ‘get’ what true kindness is—what ultimately I believe we are all attracted to on a deep soul level.

True kindness is priceless. It gives space to those in your life to be themselves. It gives space to yourself to explore your dreams, speak your mind, be seen and heard and accepted, exactly as you are. True kindness is about strong action, not words. A person that shows up for you, is there for you, who listens without trying to fix, or control or manipulate, is a gift from the Universe. When we value ourselves, we value the uniqueness of others more, honor agreements, are more respectful, and are more accepting and open.

Kindness starts inside. And I’m realizing that it may not look like what was shown to me in my youth. It’s not about volunteering all the time at my child’s school or outside appearances. It’s about modeling self-worth, self-discipline, mindfulness and closeness at home. It may mean I have to say no, and remit invoices and stop someone mid-sentence when they go back on an agreement in the future. (And hopefully, less of those experiences will be drawn my way.) It may also mean walking away, yet again, from someone I love whose love isn’t loving or kind. Because if I’m loving and kind to myself, I won’t accept being with someone whose behavior is neglectful or hyper critical or controlling—all making me feel bad about myself. Staying with someone who hurts me, is just a form of procrastination, as it thwarts me from stepping into my dreams and into the highest version of myself.

What I’ve come to believe is that any thing, situation, or person, who constricts another’s heart, is there to teach a hard lesson. When a person keeps returning to those things or situations or people, it’s soul-crushing. The action of returning to abusive situations or people says more than words ever could. It says I’m not worthy of better and I’m going to waste time with this pain and not be able to reach my dreams or live a peaceful life, being authentically me. It is self-sabotaging—even when the intention is one of ‘rescuing’ or ‘helping’ a loved one. Especially then. Even if it’s rooted in fear of the unknown, because that isn’t trusting the Universe to provide or feeling worthy of receiving healthy loving situations and people in our lives. We are all deserving of love, joy, friendship, support and respect, just for being alive.

 

I’m grateful for the lessons that I’m learning. I’m grateful even for feeling and seeing the pain of staying in bad situations and comparing that to the pain of setting boundaries and walking away from them. I can try to work with someone and cringe when I set boundaries and ask for them to honor agreements, or my time, but in the end, it’s what is necessary for me to respect myself and my family. And it’s the same with love. I can love someone dearly and still walk away. I can see their goodness and potential, but realize that they will continue to hurt me because of where they are in life. Walking away is actually harder to do when you still care, but in the end, no one can ‘fix’ another. We can only love each other and love ourselves. Walking away from who hurts (or bad boys, as my friend likes to judge) allows me to make space for someone and for situations that feel good, uplift, is respectful and where I’m valued.

I’m grateful for all of my mistakes and blunders as I try to find my way to a stronger, authentic, self-compassionate space. And thank GOD for the women in my life who are showing me what strong kindness is. You know who you are!

 

Here’s to Love, Light & Bad-Ass Kindness

 

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Creating a Gossip-Free House

laughingbuddha

I decided over the weekend, inspired by Goldie Hawn (yes, Goldie!), to institute a new policy in my house. My home will be a safe, gossip-free zone. Wow. That’s an exciting concept. When I think about it, I’ve been on this path for a while. For years I’ve strived to create a safe, supportive space at home—especially for my boys. Since they were born I make them say ‘gratefuls’ every night. We also do ‘love bombs’ at the dinner table, which is hilarious as my boys have to say something they love about each other. (This has become especially hard for my cool teen!)

I’ve also become more conscious of energy and feng shui. (This is a cool article for feng shui decorating tips.) Three years ago one of my best friends gave me the Chinese coins pictured above. These are to protect from negative chi and bring in prosperity. The laughing Buddha card I have in my bathroom I bought for myself. He seems to say “Yeah! The Universe Has Your Back!” I wanted to raise vibrations, even before meeting Andy Dooley last month—THE vibration master, who inspired all us TUTers in Peru. (Click his name to go to his site. He’s an awesome life coach!) I read that the laughing Buddha inspires happiness, vitality and wealth. Cool beans.

 

For two years now I’ve had this Buddha quote posted on my fridge: “In the end, 3 things matter the most: 1. How deeply you loved. 2. How gently you lived. 3. How gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.”

 

I even feng shui’d my bedroom…So…I thought my house was in positive order. But as I was reading Oprah’s book, What I Know For Sure, I realized that I have to practice what I preach to really create a positive and safe vibration at home. I often remind William, my oldest, to stay away from people who are gossiping at school. I tell him that if they will put other friends down, they will put him down too. Just walk away from that. But do I always follow my own advice? The answer, if I am brutally honest, is no. But awareness, self-compassion and an open heart can be a conduit to change. I’m ready!

In Oprah’s book What I Know For Sure, Oprah describes how Goldie Hawn created a safe house, a gossip-free home as part of her work with Words Can Heal, a national campaign to end verbal violence. Goldie asked her family to exchange words that belittle with words that uplift and encourage. I love the idea! Oprah’s powerful video really sheds light on how easy it is for women, especially, to hurt one another.

Now my fridge has another quote on it, placed underneath the picture of one of my yogi soul sisters Angie Hall ,who also has this on her fridge!

B4Uspeak

We all gossip sometimes. But I’m going to work hard not to. And every time I go to my fridge, and every time my son embarks on his midnight munchie raids, we will both be reminded of the power of the spoken word.

With that in mind, I’m challenging my yoga students this week to join me in creating gossip-free houses. It’ll be hard. I mean, how many of us watch TV and say things like: “What was SHE thinking?!” But as Oprah Winfrey says, gossip creates negativity in the house where you want to feel the most at ease.

Oprah also explains that gossip is poison. Whether you are a social columnist writing about wardrobe malfunctions and which celebrity is cheating—or whether you are a person in pain by a loved one’s actions or betrayals—it all boils down to the same thing. Gossip is a negative hex. It shows that the person engaging in it isn’t trusting and is not trust-worthy. It shows that the person engaging in it is insecure or can’t find the courage to speak to a person directly. (That’s my issue, a fear to speak up directly.) Or that he feels like a victim. Even if you don’t intend to cause another person harm when you gossip—say you are trying to garner advice over a hurtful situation—most of the time you will. Clearly if something is weighing on you terribly, talk with your therapist, priest or trusted friend.) But in most cases, I believe talking about others nearly always causes harm, most of all, to yourself/ myself. Maybe you can join me in pausing, even during a conversation, to ponder these four questions before speaking:

Is it Kind? Is it True? Does it Need to be said? Does it need to be said by Me?

And maybe you—and I—will become more mindfully conscious with our words.

Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?! ((( ❤ )))

Love & Light,

L. xoxo

Sailing Into the Light of Compassion

photo-40

I took this photo on Monday evening, after an emotional weekend. My nearly 5-year-old son was sitting on our deck singing his favorite new song: “I Have Peace Like a River, I Have Love Like an Ocean” (so cute!). I looked up and saw this sailboat sailing into a tiny spotlight of light, breaking through rain clouds over the Pacific Ocean. I knew instantly that it was the perfect metaphor for me as of late.

Perhaps it’s all the long hours of yoga teacher training? Or, maybe it’s all the hip opening we’ve been doing lately? But something is breaking down walls. I find that in this past month of intensive training, I’m opening up my heart more than ever and releasing a roller coaster of emotions and long-lost memories. During a particularly long hip opening called frog pose (not advisable for newbies!), a memory of my ex-husband popped into my head. It was in the middle of the night four and a half years ago. He had gone to the nursery, changed our infant baby’s diaper and was humming as he walked back into our room. He handed the little burrito to me in bed so I could nurse him back to sleep. He kissed the baby’s head and mine, before turning back in. It was such a sweet memory.

After our six hour training session this Saturday, I thought about what other memories had been popping up lately. Some have been hard, from my childhood that was an ever-shifting alcohol-fueled tide. But some sweet too. One was of my dad, laughing and teasing me and one of my best friends he liked to call Beastie. I had forgotten how he would tease my girl and boy-friends in such silly ways.

What I’m realizing, as I mellow, is that it’s just as critical to recall the good along with the bad memories from those who have let me down. We are all such multi-faceted beings. Even those who have hurt me tremendously, have also been kind, silly and tender at times. This can be confusing, but for me, it helps as I piece together my past that for the longest time felt like shifting sands. It’s hard to leap forward with confidence, when the past resembles a shaking, evolving platform.

I think the hard part of recovering from a divorce, or any betrayal or lies,  is the internal confusion that grows. As I discovered the truth about events in my marriage, and even in my childhood, I started to question my ability to discern just what is real, or what was felt, or what can be trusted by others.

That’s why light bulbs flashed for me while reading an article by psychiatrist Anna Fels on Sunday. Apparently, many other people felt the same way, as her New York Times editorial Great Betrayals was the fifth most viral news article on the Internet that day.

I haven’t written about divorce or betrayal in a long, long time. There’s a reason for that. I’m focussing on my kids and my writing and moving on in positive ways. But Dr. Fels’ compassionate explanation of the psychological effects of  lies has resonated deeply with me. I don’t think I’ve read a more thorough article on the topic ever—and trust me, I’ve read plenty. Here’s why:

Dr. Fels explains eloquently why it’s so hard for those of us who have had been lied to, to move on successfully. We no longer have trust in our memories—in the narrative of our life. This erodes into a patchy, mental foundation, as we begin to mistrust what we see or hear or even experience in the present. In order to move forward, we have to put together the narrative of our past. And this takes courage and time to put the whole story line back together. It takes courage to own the good and bad times—regardless of what else might have been happening. And perhaps that part can only come after forgiveness truly settles in. At least, that’s how I see it.

Dr. Fels simply explains that the person who does the lying or betrayal can recover more easily as they have an intact past. This person knows exactly what she or he did and felt. And if remorseful, can recover faster and step forward refreshed and determined to begin a new. Typically, they garner more support, too, as everyone loves a come-back story. The psychiatrist gave many examples of betrayal, including a client who hid a massive debt from his partner for years.

The part of betrayal that hurts the most are always the lies. They eat away at the fabric of your past reality and the ability to trust what you sew in the future. For instance, a friend who has been divorced several years is still discovering more lies and betrayals from her ex. The continual drip of new information from friends and family keeps her on edge. Just what was real from their marriage? When they were on vacation did he mean what he said? They had a lot of fun times, did he not share them? Were they not real? When he wanted to venture into another business abroad, was another woman in the picture then, too? And what about their many friends who knew? Should she trust them now?

Dr. Fels explains:

“Insidiously, the new information disrupts their sense of their own past, undermining the veracity of their personal history. Like a computer file corrupted by a virus, their life narrative has been invaded. Memories are now suspect: what was really going on that day? Why did the spouse suddenly buy a second phone “for work” several years ago? Did a friend know the truth even as they vacationed together? Compulsively going over past events in light of their recently acquired (and unwelcome) knowledge, such patients struggle to integrate the new version of reality. For many people, this discrediting of their experience is hard to accept. It’s as if they are constantly reviewing their past lives on a dual screen: the life they experienced on one side and the new “true” version on the other. But putting a story together about this kind of disjunctive past can be arduous.”

As I read this article, I felt a wave of compassion roll over me like a mother rocking her child and saying “there, there.” Piecing together the past is arduous.

I loved that Dr. Fels reminds readers that the people who are lied to are NOT naive for trusting their partners and they were not” in denial and knew on some level”—both sentiments that misguided friends and family often say to the person in pain. The psychiatrist explains that friends become queasy about the lack of control victims of betrayal have—often making them to be less supportive or critical.

“But the betrayed are usually as savvy as the rest of us. When one woman I know asked her husband, a closet alcoholic who drank secretly late at night, how he could have hidden his addiction for so long, he replied, “It took a lot of work.””

Dr. Fels’ article, (without specifically stating it) reminds ALL of us to seek compassion. Life is messy. We are all multi-faceted and none of us are perfect. The person who is struggling to piece together their own narrative, especially, needs to find compassion for themselves. It’s okay if you don’t move on immediately or always behave with grace and forgiveness. This is hard work.

I feel blessed to finally be on the other side. And as waves of good memories start flooding in, I’m starting to own them. At first it confused me into thinking I wanted to return to my old life. There were many good times, after all. But now I know it’s just a way for me to be grateful for what I had and how I’m growing in my awareness and in my capacity for forgiveness and compassion. (And this includes for myself.) There were plenty of times when I might have been overly critical and less grateful than I am now. I’m owning them too—and moving on. But most importantly, when I recall a memory where I felt love and security, when in light of discovered events, it likely wasn’t reciprocated, I now allow it to be ok. I felt it. I lived it. And that memory can be owned, too. One person’s actions doesn’t necessarily negate your own feelings or hopes. And they shouldn’t be an excuse to shut down, and not trust or dare to love again. But it just takes time—and more importantly, it takes compassion.

I’ll leave you with this quote from one of my favorite Buddhist authors:

“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
― Pema Chödrön