Empathy for Lindsay

I think this post isn’t correctly titled because I’m not sure I can claim to truly be empathetic with what my sister-in-law Lindsay is experiencing. To have true empathy for Lindsay I probably need to have experienced multiple rounds of chemo, steroids and other drugs. But this I do know. I haven’t felt good at all for 2 full days now. In fact, I’ve felt rather crummy and it makes it really hard to do much of anything. I didn’t even want to get out of bed this morning, and it’s all I can do to not climb back into my bed right now.

I wonder if sickness is God’s merciful transition tactic for terminating mortality? Like I have never ever wanted to die when I’m feeling healthy and alive. But when I feel like this, death feels like a welcome gift. Of course, I’m not saying I want to die right now . . . at least not yet. 🙂

I’m able to tough it out knowing full well that this too shall pass. Focusing on the impermanence of everything does help prevent suffering, but it still doesn’t eliminate the pain–no matter how hard I try to transcend. In fact, I wrote yesterday about being “presently sick,” and I’m still practicing that awareness now. When I do focus on the sensations, I am surprised at how un-painful it all truly is. In fact, I’m able to see that my pain and sufferings spring from resistance. And what I mean by that is if I would simply go lie down in my bed and rest, I wouldn’t feel so much suffering. The pain wouldn’t persist once I drifted off to sweet blissful sleep. But since I’m trying to accomplish tasks, and not fall behind in my house work and company work, I’m resisting my body’s need to sink into sleep.

Resistance truly is suffering! So even now as I try to squeeze in one last thing, I’m going to simply stop, fold up the laptop., and go to bed!

Good Night and God bless you Lindsay!

Presently Sick

I’m so sick right now. But I’m remaining present. Hence, I’m presently sick. What’s the difference between just being sick and being presently sick?

First, there is no judgement. I’m not blaming myself for not getting enough sleep, or berating myself for trying to carry too large a load. I’m also not frustrated at my husband and kids for bringing the crud home from school and the workplace in the first place. Nope, none of that going on. Just me feeling every aching muscle from my head to my toe, puking up my lunch, loose stools, pounding head, heavy eyelids, ringing ears . . .actually, I take that back, my ears aren’t really ringing, they are simply on fire. And that’s a slight exaggeration as when I pay closer attention, I realize that it’s not an unbearable sensation, just a hot pressure where my neck meets my cranium and then extends into my inner ears. I can almost trick myself into believing someone is giving me a head massage because I feel the same heat pressure on my frontal lobe.

So now, instead of telling myself my head hurts, I’m relaxing into the pulsing and pretending that Julia (my massage therapist) is massaging my head. It’s kind of trippy how I can convince myself that the pulsing sensation is not pain, but Julia’s fingers rubbing my temples in ocean-like waves.

Even though I’m being presently sick, I did just take 2 ibuprofen. I have an engagement I must keep. I’ve tried to think of how to get out of it, but I concluded it will be easier to stick with the plan and sneak away early. While I’m not going to lie and pretend I don’t wish this would hurry and get over, I am okay allowing my body to take just as much time as is needed. I’m feeling super compassionate about the pain. I’m hopeful to avoid suffering.

Non-Violent Communication

I’m reading the best book right now called Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. I have learned so much and have already applied many of the principles with great success.

My biggest take aways thus far are:

#1) Remembering to use this formula when communicating: State your feelings, followed by your need, and then make your request. For example, if I want my child to pick up her socks, instead of demanding that she do it, I would say, “Jane, I’m feeling frustrated with your socks all over the front room because I have a need for order. Would you be willing to pick up your socks and place them in the hamper?”

#2) People resist demands, but respond to requests. The most powerful change in my language has been to start using, “Would you be willing?” and then make my request. If the answer is no, then I need to try to discover the reason behind why the person does not want to help meet my needs and figure out what their needs are.

#3) After making a request it is a good idea to make sure you communicated clearly. A good way to do this is through the reflection technique. Using this technique means you simply ask the person “What did you hear me say?” They are then able to tell you what they heard you say and you can see if you need to clarify your message.

#4) We always seek to understand others needs and then they will be more likely to seek to understand ours. When we recognize needs and express empathy for others, we can connect. Connection enables effective communication .

#5) Sometimes we will need to use force. But most of the time force can be avoided if we take time to communicate non-violently. If protective use of force is needed (meaning we don’t have time to communicate non-violently, someone is mentally ill or high, or we are in danger, etc.), we should use it, but never punitively.

There is a difference between protective use of force and punitive use of force and punishment. An example of protective use of force would be restraining a child who tries to run into the road. The use of force in this situation is justified and wise for it preserves life. If, however, you turn and spank the child to teach them a lesson about how irresponsible it was to run into the road, you would be using punitive force. Punitive force is unnecessary and does not demonstrate compassion. It engenders fear-based action and not action born of love and compassion. We should seek to persuade others through gentleness and love unfeigned as the Prophet Joseph Smith so beautifully taught in the Doctrine and Covenants section 121:41.

#6) The language we use matters. Eliminating such words as “have to,” “should,” “shouldn’t,” etc. from our vocabulary is wise. The human spirit loves freedom and recoils from anything that remotely resembles force. If there are things you don’t enjoy doing, you should stop doing them, or find a different way of viewing the task so that you can find enjoyment and purpose in doing it.

Everything you do should be fun or give you life. For example, if you hate doing clinical reports in your job, figure out why you do them. When you determine the why, you can then determine if the trade off is worth it. Marshall (the author) is a psychologist and hated doing clinical reports. When he asked himself why he was doing them, he discovered the only reason he did them was to make money for doing them paid very well. He decided that the extra income he made from doing them was not worth the “hate” toll he had to pay. Marshall figured he’d rather scavenge through garbage cans than write another clinical report so he stopped doing them. Over the past 30 years he hasn’t penned another clinical report and that thought brings fills him with so much life and joy.

On the other hand, he also hated driving carpool twice per week. But when he asked “why” he did it, he discovered it was important to him that his children attend a quality school with the values this particular school supplied. He also realized it was precious time he could spend with his children. By simply examining his why, he was able to start seeing the task in a different light. Instead of feeling like he “had to” drive carpool, he saw it instead as a task that mattered a great deal, and he began to enjoy it as a choice. I still have not done this exercise of identifying things I hate to do, and a) delegating them, b) deleting them, or c) figuring out the why, and how or if the action can bring me life. Reframing our actions in this manner helps ensure maximum enjoyment in life.

I am not yet done with the book, and I have had many additional take aways not penned in this post, but the ones I have discussed above are the most poignant. I will be re-reading this book and continuing to implement its truths. I am grateful for this man’s knowledge and understanding of how to communicate non-violently. I feel that the title of his book does not do his teachings justice. He should win a Pulitzer Prize for teaching us all a better way to be.

Eyes to See

What if we could see the needs of others? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have eyes to see the needs of others so that we could fill them? Just imagine what this world would be like if there were no unmet needs? There would be no hurting for bad behavior is simply confused people trying to meet their unmet needs. You can read more about hurting and unmet needs in Hurting People Hurt. 

Now, I’m not going to say much about this picture.

But it means so much to me. I made it so I could always remember how wonderful it is to see and meet another’s need. No wonder God delights in providing us our daily bread. It’s so freaking rewarding to be a meeter of needs!

I also find it interesting that while we each possess basic human needs such as food, shelter, safety, love, connection, etc., we also each possess the need to fulfill needs through lifting, leading, loving, and serving each other.

Isn’t God SO amazing? How could he have designed it any more perfectly? He has created us all to need each other! And what’s even more awesome is knowing that if our fellow brother and sisters fail us, He won’t! He can be counted on to clothe, shelter, feed, nurture and love us. We just must trust. For He who watches over the sparrows and the lilies of the field will surely watch over us. He has eyes to see. And He is the ultimate meeter of needs!

Hurting People Hurt

I know this sounds obvious, but I feel it’s an important declaration and truth to internalize. When we understand that all people are good, innately, divinely good to the core, we understand that there is no such thing as bad people, only bad behavior. People who are hurting, hurt others. They have unmet needs that they don’t know how to meet so they try to meet their needs in sometimes deleterious ways.

Think of all the times you acted less than stellar. You may believe it is because you are bad. But you are wrong. You are good. Good to the core. We’ve all behaved badly in an attempt to meet our needs. Have you ever been argumentative or irritable because you were tired? You aren’t a combative and mean person, but when you are tired and have a need for rest, it’s harder to stay calm and not lash out because of unmet physical needs.

When you realize the truth–that you are innately good–you free yourself from focusing on your badness or “sin,” and instead allow yourself to investigate your unmet needs. Investigating unmet needs leads to real change. Progress becomes possible when you can look upon your behavior with compassion and determine how you will next time strive to meet your needs in a far more effective manner.

Concerning self-compassion, the extent to which you can be compassionate with yourself determines the extent you are able to extend compassion to others. You’ll start to see that they too are innately good and that any ill-behavior is simply a result of unmet needs.

So the next time you fall short in your behavior, or you witness someone else perform poorly, try to decipher what need they have that isn’t being met. And remind yourself that they must be hurting for only hurting people hurt others.

Lord grant me eyes to see the needs of others. And give me strength and wisdom to fill any unmet needs. See my post about Eyes to See here.

The Light of Vexation

I see. I see so clearly. I’ve been on a spiritual journey my entire life and for the first time I finally feel like the scales are falling from my eyes. It’s like a complete awakening. I am seeing things as they really are.

I have been a seeker my entire life, but with all my seeking I’ve never truly found . . . until now. What am I doing differently? The only thing is that I’ve allowed myself to seek where I’ve never sought before. As St. Augustine said:

Seek what you are seeking—but don’t seek it where you are seeking it!

One of the most profound insights occurred early this morning. I awoke in the middle of a dream. It was a true awakening in every sense. For the first time I could see why certain people, their actions, reactions and behaviors bug me. I pondered the phenomenon profusely and am henceforth and forever referring to it as “The Light of Vexation.”

The Light of Vexation works this way:

Someone or something vexes us. Rather than get annoyed, we appreciate the trigger as a signal that we have some unmet need. We use the vexation as a light to discover what our underlying, unmet need is.  People bug us because their behavior or actions trigger something within ourselves that we don’t like.

For example, my child asking me for help when I’m doing something else may bug me because I have so much on my plate and I really feel like I’m the one who needs help, but unlike the child, I’m unable to ask anyone for help. Their asking me for help really bugs me because I have a deep, unmet need for someone to help me.

Of course, this realization doesn’t just happen unless we are “enlightened.” Enlightenment can happen as we pause in the moment of vexation and use the annoyance as a signal to look within and try to find out what their behavior is really triggering in us. As we observe their actions with non-judgement and compassion and turn inward to examine our own needs with the same non-judgement and compassion, we can discover some very deep and profound truths. First, we will feel such a love and outpouring of compassion for the person who was just moments before bugging us, and we will also feel an outpouring of love and compassion for ourselves and the needs we have been neglecting.

In that moment of vexation, we can open ourselves up to enlightenment about what really is bugging us. Our newfound awareness leads to compassion and love, which are the most powerful catalysts for change. We are born anew. Awakened. Enlightened. Repented. Whole.

The Light of Vexation helps us realize how much we need each other. We are each other’s best teachers. You rub me wrong and I become more fully aware of my remaining rough edges. The Light of Vexation helps me see the work I still need doing to continue to transform this rough stone into a smooth, polished shaft.  When I can hold myself in compassion, I can better hold you there too. When I can see my needs, and I know how to meet them, I can better see yours. I see bad behavior as simply what it is.  . . someone with unmet needs seeking to meet their needs in the best way they know how. No one is bad. No one is truly evil. There is only ignorance and darkness regarding how to best meet needs. How sorely the world needs enlightenment. May I be a light to others. May I reflect the Divine light that truly transforms. May I let my divine light shine.

I am light. I am love. I AM all that God is. I am God inasmuch as my light and my love can redeem just as His does. He has bestowed upon me all of His power and glory already. How funny that most of us think we must wait for such a bestowal at some future day and place. We can have Heaven, perfection and wholeness now. We have every power to save, bless, lead and love as we will ever have. I’m not kidding you that my mind and soul are blown away with all my new insights. Completely blown away. Life changing! I have to stop for this keyboard cannot capture the rapture. It’s here though in my head and heart. I will never be the same. I am forever changed. I love my new eyes. I have never before been so excited to see.

Isn’t it amazing what happens when we fix the projector as discussed in this post here. The screen play has always been perfect. It was simply the lens that needed the adjusting.

The Way We See

I’m reading Byron Katie’s epic book “Loving What Is.” And I’m loving it! I’ve come to realize that:

we are both the problem and the solution to our problems

I particularly enjoyed the example Byron used to illustrate how the way we see impacts everything. She shared the example of a projector. If the lens of the projector has lint on it, the movie screen will appear to have the flaw. We can try to remove the flaw from the movie screen, but all our attempts will be in vain as it is the projector lens that has the problem.  So long as the lens features a flaw, it will project that flaw onto everything else. To get rid of the projection problem, we need not concern ourselves with the movie screen. We need simply to clean the lens.

That is so how we live our lives. We try to change others when what we really need to change is ourselves. This truth reminds me of Jesus’s teaching about first removing the beam from your own eye before seeking to remove the speck of dust from the eye of others. It also reminds me of something Stephen Covey taught about how the way we see others is really a reflection of how we see ourselves.

I like to sum it all up this way:

When we finally see that the problem is “me,” we’ve finally found the solution.

The way we see is of paramount importance.

True Religion

I’ve been reading and studying out of “the best books,” and I’m just going to summarize some of my favorite truths surrounding True Religion:

The first is from the Dalai Lama.

My religion is kindness.

The second is from a story shared by Tara Brach in her book Radical Acceptance. She spoke of a deceased Rabbi to whom students had gathered for his funeral. One student asked the other, “What mattered most to our master?” To which he replied, “Whomever he was with.”

I do not recall which book I read this one in, but a Buddhist monk gave two of his students a chicken and told them to go and kill it where no one could see. The first student took the chicken out behind his shed and chopped of its head. The second student wandered around for hours before returning to the teacher and confessed, “I couldn’t do it. Everywhere I went he could still see me.” The second student recognized the chicken as a living, breathing somebody. Do we see others as real?

Finally, Christian Mystic Richard Rohr teaches that with God everything is a contradiction. He is hidden yet revealed. He is the light, but is found in the darkness. He is infinite, yet somehow finite. He is in charge, but allows us the control. I especially LOVED that last line.

Finally, I will add mine. Why are always in such a hurry to arrive? We rush about in a mad race to accomplish more, achieve more, and acquire. We are confused about the whole point of existence. All the striving and desiring to arrive robs us of the enjoyment found in the journey. Joy in our present endeavors is lost when we view our pursuits as a means to some end. Tis much better to relax and enjoy the experience, whatever it is, than to strive to arrive.

These are all profound teachings. And seriously just a small sample of some of the powerful truths I’ve had the opportunity to study the past few days. Whereas the Dalai Lama proclaimed kindness as his religion, and while I claim the same, I also declare that “Truth is my religion.” For both are worthy of my devotion.

Death and Time

I’ve been listening to Pema Chödrön’s audio book “Getting Unstuck,” and I really like this thought she keeps reiterating:

Since death is certain and the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?

I’ve been incorporating that thought along with these:

What matters? What really matters?

and

Love

Regarding the latter, I like to spiritually create my day. I run through my to-do list and all the activities I know I am going to engage in and I visualize myself doing everything on that list with love. As I “spiritually create” my day, I keep this question top of mind concerning every action, “How does love interact with my children in the morning as they wake up and I prepare their breakfast and pack their lunches? How does love greet my husband and send him off for work? What does love look like as I head to my workout? How does love move through slack and my interactions with my KickFire Crew, etc?”

This single practice alone has had a most profound impact upon my daily living. I cannot even begin to express the great equanimity I feel. I am driving slower. I am exceptionally patient. I feel so much love and compassion for everyone I interact with. I am slower. My days, which used to feel so relentlessly pressing with all their demands, have become much more manageable and enjoyable. I am still very busy, but the crushing urgency is thankfully gone. I don’t feel like I’m rushing about so much. There is such an inner calm. I cannot express how grateful I am for this awakening. I have these brief moments of anxiety where I fear this newfound peace will not last or will suddenly be taken from me, but then I notice the thought and allow myself to experience it fully and I confidently move on knowing that I can only regress if I choose to abandon my mindfulness practices. So long as I continue my morning and evening meditations and continue to immerse myself in the dharma and other helpful writings, I shall maintain this Nirvana.

As a side note. . . or maybe as a major note, I wonder if it’s possible to be a Buddhist Mormon. Or a Mormon Buddhist? I am loving the teachings of the Buddha. I’ll leave you with this final thought as it will hopefully ring as true to you as it did to me:

Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism teaches that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their own way (Buddhanet.com)

The first bolded part reminds me of Jesus’ teaching:

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)

and the second bolded part leads me to believe that I can indeed be a Buddhist Mormon or Mormon Buddhist haha. 🙂

Likewise

I read The Parable of the Good Samaritan today. It’s one of my favorites. The closing line penetrated my mind:

Go and do thou likewise.

What exactly does likewise mean? It means “to do the same.” I find it fascinating how much easier it is to do certain things because God does it first. For example, I find it easier to forgive when I remember how much God forgives me. I also find it easier to be patient because He is so patient with me.

Furthermore, we love God because He first loved us. This love even extends to our fellowmen. The principle of likewise works with tithes too. How can I protest in giving back a tenth of my increase when I remember that ultimately all comes from Him? Consecration is likewise no different. I have been gifted talents and am subsequently asked to share. My every breath is a gift from God–a gentle reminder of his loving-kindness, sustenance and watchful care. Can I even think twice about not surrendering my soul in His service?

And so we see that the Lord asks us to do nothing that He hasn’t already done and is currently doing. He doesn’t just show us the way, He is the way.  His acts were not just tasks performed in the past, but are tender mercies being performed in the present that bless and guide us in the very here and now.  It should not be very hard for us to “go and do thou likewise,” when we remember all that he has done and is doing.

In closing, I am thinking upon the lawyer who’s question precipitated the great Parable of the Good Samaritan. And while I truly have no idea concerning his inner motives surrounding why he questioned the Lord about who exactly was his neighbor, I do love the piercing gentleness of Jesus’s instructive reply.  His great parable left the posturing lawyer as stripped, naked and beaten as the unfortunate Samaritan. The difference, however, was that it wasn’t the Lord who did the beating–the lawyer’s conscience did.

Indeed, it is not very hard to love Jesus.

We love him, because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19)

Likewise, it is not very hard to love His Father, and our Father, as well.