Kindness and Compassion

Kindness and compassion are two traits that I personally value high up on the proverbial moral list. I have the great fortune to be close to many individuals who posses both of these, and the absolute honor to work with children with disabilities and among their communities where they are found in spades.

I sincerely believe that each generation has seen the progression of our species and discovered with it an innate and creeping fear – we manage to embark on new territory with frightening (and seemingly increasing) speed. As a Martial Artist part of me feels that the world has become more dangerous, and there is ever more opportunity to abuse and to bully – the forums are countless, whereas…once upon a time…they did not exist. (Think social media, internet chat rooms, cell phones etc…) It’s hard not to see the glaring negatives.

But…my mind is admittedly wired to be overly optimistic. That doesn’t mean I am not based in reality, or that I don’t take life seriously (whether it be bills or the threat of being car jacked.) But I see the immense value in keeping a positive outlook as much as is humanly possible because I have seen the tangible impact it can have. This week I am completely down for the count with a kidney infection – couldn’t say where it came from, but I confess it has been quite painful and body-rocking. I’m a dreadful bore to be around, slow-moving, and probably not smiling a ton… But I feel thankful. I see the good.

For one thing, I feel blessed to have the help and care that I do from my husband and appreciate feeling love from my family. As importantly, I recognize that I’m not terminally ill! I have all my limbs. I have all my senses. I haven’t been jumping for joy, certainly, but I have not lost sight of the fact that this is a short bout. I have nothing to complain about, and certainly no right to be yelling at anyone, nor taking out my frustration in a negative way. This was an out-of-the-blue lesson, as often they seem to be.

I also think sometimes the Universe wants to say, “I really think you need to slow down for a minute because YOU won’t on your own!” Frustrating that may be for a personality type like mine, I have to accept it. It’s not a fun stroll in the park, but there is value in having to slow down (or flat out rest.) There is an additional benefit in that it reminds me that I need to be kind and compassionate to myself – it’s okay to rest.

Even when I feel horrendous, I know how blessed I am. It’s important to say thank you to my loved ones to express my gratitude for the kindness they show me, or others along the way. For instance, I appreciated that the ladies at the blood lab were as sweet as they were – it was a little thing, but they were kind, and I noticed. I even appreciate the people who make the amazing whole wheat english muffins I’m eating.

The world is a tough place – whether more or less so than the past, who knows… I think each era comes with some pretty challenging circumstances. But we don’t have to be bitter, or treat others unkindly. We don’t have to abort compassion to buffer ourselves, or lash out in response to someone else’s poor understanding of proper human interaction. Lofty it may sound, and perhaps also unrealistically utopian, I truly believe that the more compassion and kindness people show one another, the better off we all would be.

I live in a tough town. Some days I really notice the effect… My DNA defaults to seeing the world from someone else’s lens (or trying to), and to coloring everything with an empathetic heart. But there are days I feel like an angered animal in my own skin and I sincerely chalk it up to the environment (40 years of living with me gives me good insights when engrained M.O.s are changing.) It’s an interesting experiment in a way – incredibly enlightening, and I’ve welcomed the learning. It has taught me just how valuable it is to maintain my own standard of airing on the side of kindness. Why? I don’t want to contribute to the downfall I see around me (and I don’t want to be pulled further into the depths with it.) 

My recent travel was also quite a fiasco, between cancellations, unexpected delays, missing connections… I was tired and frustrated but yelling doesn’t help anyone in a situation like that – it wasn’t the gate agents at the airport who were responsible. It wasn’t the pilot or stewardesses… Various people kept asking why I was smiling and it occurred to me that I guess most people don’t (a fact that actually made me feel sad.)

I didn’t really know who was to be held accountable in all cases (two planes themselves for breaking? A mechanic long gone who maybe could have done a better job? A supervisor who should have triple checked the panel work?) But would it matter if I did know who was at fault? Not really… There was no sense in getting crazy because at that moment all I could do was be resourceful and figure out my next move. I couldn’t control the external circumstances, only how I was going to react to it. I wasn’t trying to catch a flight to Tokyo, I wasn’t stuck in a hostile territory (well…that can be debated!), and I knew I’d figure out a way to get to my destination at least in 24 hours.

Having compassion and kindness for the players involved encouraged them, also, to have the same for me. And they did. They took care of a lot for me, including arranging a long drive to get me to my destination and sending me a credit for inconvenience – I saw them feverishly trying to get my bag pulled at one point… They were legitimately putting in the effort (which we should be honest doesn’t always happen these days even if it is at the common core of a job description.)

I spent 20 minutes on the phone after the fact waiting for a manager so I could commend the key people who helped – I could tell that acknowledgement and appreciation would matter to them, and a kind word can go a long way. I sent an e-mail doing the same just to be sure it got to the right people. Will I ever see those agents again? Probably not. Does it matter? Absolutely not. To spread kindness and compassion doesn’t take a lot – in fact, I’d argue it takes less than to hate, to be angry, and to yell. But it changes lives. It makes people want to return the favor, to work hard…it helps them to feel good about their contribution and to, therefore, continue making a positive one.

If everyone could do the same, the environment would shift dramatically. Though it isn’t realistic to expect everyone to eagerly jump on board with a “love more, hate less!” hippie-like mantra, it doesn’t hurt to live that example as much as we can. And it doesn’t mean we can’t seek out environments which are more in tune with these principles – it is impossible not to feel the shift when compassion and kindness are blooming in spades around you, and when you recognize that there is a choice about what we do with what’s presented to us. 

The Best Revenge

We’d all be lying if we said we didn’t plot revenge at some point in our lives (internally, in our minds, of course!) It seems to be human nature (and I daresay ONLY human-kind’s nature) to want to “get back” at someone for what we perceive as injustice. Doesn’t matter what it is, or frankly WHO it is…the tantalizing prospect of nudging the Universe from its perch and taking our own karmic control of the situation has a way of rearing its head in distress.

Remarkably, animals don’t appear to have the hangup…though they also fail to drudge around much of the human baggage our brains insist we do. Complex creatures, indeed! We can, as much in this case as countless others, learn from animals about how to best manage an anger-provoking scenario…

Ever notice how animals just carry on? I raised two jungle cats and inevitably there’d be several stand-offs a week with my female. Oh yes, she’d test the boundaries with a fierce and unrelenting gaze in effort to see if she could assert full dominance in our argument-du-moment (for example, removing her giant self from atop my computer cupboard so I could work without any distractions (e.g.: a flying and sharp paw.))

Well, I had to stare HER down to ensure she knew who (momma!) was in charge. And after the showdown when she submissively averted her eyes? Life went on – right back to normal. She didn’t hold a grudge for my stern assertion of I’m-the-bossness – she loved me just as much as before (and in fact, likely had more respect.)

While this is a substantial departure from a person-to-person tango (at work, at home, with a close friend etc), it does offer us another example of fine behavior. There’s no stewing or festering. She isn’t running false scenarios though her mind that I don’t love her, or that I deserve to be bitten in the face. There’s no lashing out because she didn’t get what she wanted… And there’s no toddler-type tantrum (the kind human adults pitch all the time.)

If you think about it, it really IS as simple as that – and it’s applicable. We may be upset about a situation, or feeling hurt (which, by the way, animals can certainly feel too – they aren’t devoid of emotion!) but wallowing in misery or replaying the “how-can-I-retort?” loop isn’t going to help us.

What will…?

MOVING ON. 

Even better? Moving on and being happy.

If someone in our life is toxic, hard it may be, we have to exit stage left (why left? I have to look that up again. I have no idea!)

If someone has lied or wronged us, we need to let it go and move onwards-and-upwards. (It’s not easy to let go sometimes – I too have been known to struggle with this. The moving ON, however, was always the plan. Chin up. Smile on. Seek out the new and better opportunities.)

When we lessen the burden we carry around – such as the plethora of injustices done to us (and I am sure we could all enumerate at length!) – we make room for more joy, love, and fulfillment in life.

Not everyone IS as nice as you are. Not everyone understands what might feel to some of us like common-sense manners, or decencies. Not everyone, let’s be honest, really cares about others…or if the impact they’ve had on your life has been negative all around.

But…

We have choices.

  • We DO get to choose or partners and friends.
  • We DO get to choose how we manage situations
  • We DO get to choose our behavior, our actions, and our responses (note that I didn’t say reactions…which are often quick and less measured than a response. Semantics, yes, but an important distinction.)
  • We DO get to choose how we carry ourselevs
  • We DO – big one – get to choose happiness (it’s the ultimate DIY! Read other posts on this here, here, or just browse the rest here.)

And finally… 

We get to decide to detach. To let go. To let Karma do what she does best…and right a situation of her own accord. I was taught that people “fall of their own weight” and boy…I’ve seen it time and time again. We don’t need the burden of weighing in. It is neither our right, nor our responsibility. And ooooh, the freedom in getting to focus on our own happiness instead? Talk about a GIFT!

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The Sun Always Rises

As they say, worry is a not a present emotion, but a future projection (potentially horrendously false!)

Remember your strengths, and stay in the moment – often when the world is said to be ending, the sun comes up unhindered the next day (along with the birds joyfully singing.)

 

Why “Be Positive” Isn’t the Best Advice When You’re Down, By Michael James

This article – Why “Be Positive” Isn’t the Best Advice When You’re Down, By Michael James – came to me via Tiny Buddha and I had to share.

To add a spoiler, I’m not necessarily backing up the article because I think meditation (specifically) is the end-all-be-all necessarily – phenomenal it can be, everyone is different, and meditation is both a highly individual, and incredibly varied practice.  But I DO like a lot of what is said (and do like meditation personally), and I appreciate that Mr. James is willing to say “positivity” isn’t always what’s needed.

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I’m a positive person but that does NOT mean:

  • That I’m peachy 24 / 7
  • That I don’t make judgements
  • That I’m not an inherently flawed human being

Trust me, I am.  I make mistakes ALL the time.  I * try * to see sun and roses, but there’s plenty of rain and storm clouds too.  While I’ve been mistaken as someone who presents only that happy image, I’ve never been anything but honest about the fact that I am as much a tempest as Mother Nature – some days you don’t know what you will get.  I’ve felt badly enough about it in the past to land myself in some very abusive situations, but. . .  While I have a long way to go, I no longer fundamentally think there’s something “wrong with” me because I feel so deeply.  

As an Empath I respect this idea that some days the LAST thing you want to hear is “BE POSITIVE!” (*insert friend with annoyingly feigned smile here*)  While of course I (and anyone who might chime in with the phrase) am *trying* to be helpful, it may not necessarily be the best default. . .

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Sometimes you just don’t damn well feel like it, and that’s MORE than okay.  I’ve had a problem with minimizing, justifying, and avoiding the act of “feeling” in the past – some days it’s more important to sit with the discomfort to get to the root of things. 

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Two of the things stood out most for me from the article: 

“Like Instagram and other forms of social media, this “positive thinking” movement seems to be about living up to an ideal standard of perceived perfection all the time. Not satisfied with looking “perfect,” now you’ve got to think perfectly, too.”

True.  Scary.  Thank you for putting this solidly in verbal terms!

and. . .

“…authentic masters understood that negative thinking is part of the human journey, and that it’s okay to feel less than your best sometimes. And they also knew that it’s a quick route to self-hatred to expect any more of yourself.”

Thank you, again, for reminding that it’s okay to feel whatever emotions we feel.  There is not right, and no wrong.  We are allowed.

So yes. . .I love the designation of “professional cheerer-upper” that some friends and family have given me.  I feel honored and blessed by the compliment – right or wrong, I identify with bringing joy to others.  BUT…  BUT.  I’ve got my sad, grumpy, frustrated, gloomy, and altogether dark days too (article on that, by Madisyn Taylor.)  I’ve had to do a TON of work to recognize that it is not only okay to feel those things…but also to not want to “be positive” for a time.  

If all we ever saw was the sun (or that was all we were TOLD to see) then it wouldn’t be such a glorious thing, would it? There’d be no special positivity associated with its warmth or energy at all – so then what’s the point?  

No….I’ll take some showers along the way, and expose my soul to the rain when I need to.  Sometimes, that’s exactly what it needs – the positivity will find its way, not to worry.

 

Heading Off “Angry”

No but really…

There are certain words that you just can’t say angrily.  

Even if you manage the tone…after an arduous (murderous!?) day…you can’t possibly mean “bubbles” as angrily as you *try* saying it.

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Oh yes, little things CAN diffuse stress – you mustn’t underestimate the power of absurdity and silliness!

No one will know that when you leave the room for a moment it’s because you are going somewhere where you can *attempt* angrily spewing the word “bubbles” (knowing full well, of course, that you CAN’T, and that you will be returning to your meeting with a giggle in your step.)

Pissed off?  

Try it.

Really. 

One

Two..

Three…

“BUBBLES!”

 

7 Lessons to Remember When Life Seems to Suck, By Benson Wong

I really appreciated this article by Benson Wong – it just came through to my inbox today via Tiny Buddha, a site I adore.  I get their e-mails regularly, and generally find myself nodding along in agreement – or simply in shared experience – as I read the various stories and entries presented.  What I like is that the authors are real people, from all over the globe, sharing honest experiences…many of which you may find you can relate to.  

I enjoyed Benson Wong’s post because I’m the kind of person who tries to air on the side of the positive.  ALL the time. I can be a real pain in the ass, I have as many flaws as the next human being (if not more!) and I most DEFINITELY have bad days…

BUT. . .

The thing is, as an Empath, I don’t HAVE the luxury of dwelling on the bad – a perpetual focus on the negative (or – FAR worse – adding to it) is a quick trip into depression for me.  I’m okay to admit that – my sensitivity is absolutely a gift, but it’s something I must always remain mindful of, lest my overactive mind, and ultra compassionate heart pull me into some quicktar.  Yes, you read that right (and I made it up!)  It wouldn’t be sand for me.  It would be flat-out TAR.  

This would be me - trying to see the positive, but sinking into a black abyss! http://nachoabyss.com/page/6

This would be me – trying to see the positive, but sinking into a black abyss! http://nachoabyss.com/page/6

But life is stressful some…er…MOST of the time.  There’s a lot going on, ALL the time, and there always will be.  There’s always going to be SOMEthing to feel anxious about, frustrated over, or peeved by.  So having the reminder – or several – in your arsenal is incredibly valuable.

We ALL need to step back, breathe, and remember…especially during those down-in-the-doldrums moments…that things aren’t as bad as they seem, and that we DO have a choice about how to move forward.  

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Changing our focus to the positive can move mountains.  Okay…maybe not literally, that would be a hefty challenge (and frankly highly impressive on a superhuman scale), but you know what I mean.  A positive mindset can shift the energies in your life rather dramatically, and settle your nervous system down enough to realize that villainous “mountain” is not only scalable, but possibly a lot less threatening than you thought.

(C) Jantoo

(C) Jantoo

Why So Serious?

I have a little bit of trouble taking things to heart too much – when I discovered I was an Empath many moons ago, it was like sudden illumination in a very dark and confusing place.  I feel I am often too hard on myself, and there is no question that down and dreary things pull on my heart strings more than most.

Still, I don’t feel badly about my sensitivity anymore – what can leave me incredibly vulnerable is also a phenomenal gift.  I am acutely aware of my shortcomings but I also know that I am doing the best I can and, at the end of the day, I actually DO care about being better than I was yesterday.

For me, it’s important to laugh as much as possible – the mind of an Empath is particularly active and loves to take the reins (not always a good thing.) So staying active, and looking for the positives when Life isn’t always so peachy, keeps me from taking the heaviness of the world on my own shoulders.

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Evenings with my fiancé always light me up – for more reasons that I can express.  We went to dinner – off the cuff – in a neighboring town recently, and it was a blast.  Why? Presence.  Staying present allows you to enjoy everything that is going on around you, as well as appreciate those who are with you!  No worrying about the million wedding plans that are going on, or the stressful boss, or the near-100 degree heat.  Just us.  Not taking ourselves seriously, and enjoying being together.

There was a lamp on our table and while he was looking something up, I took these positively ridiculous selfies.  When he wasn’t looking I sent them to him for a laugh.  They ended up also going to our parents, which made the silliness of the whole thing even funnier.

The small little laughs you have can make such a difference in Life.  It’s important we remember to stay focused on what is in front of us  – at that moment – and to not take ourselves so seriously all the time.  Your heart could use the break, as much as the rest of you (maybe your brain most of all?)

Intuition

Trust it.

Without hesitation.

Don’t make excuses.  Don’t justify, internalize, or minimize. That “feeling” you have – great, bad, or otherwise?  It’s dead on.  

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That elusive, evolutionary mechanism residing within your center – brimming over with feeling, and yet altogether “emotionless”. . . That space JUST KNOWS. Humans may indeed be flawed and fragile, but we have been designed – by whomsoever you chose – to survive against the odds.  Our “gut” tells us when things may be tipping in our favor, and when they might go awry (there actually IS a sabretooth hovering in that bush behind you.  RUN.)

Modern life has someone drowned to reflex, but it hasn’t gone anywhere.  No, it’s still there, jumping up and down with red flags a-flying trying to tell you that guy isn’t good for you on any level…that the job relocation actually IS what you need…or that maybe you need to rest today instead of pushing yourself to the point of immune shutdown.

These days life is fast-paced and all-consuming – here I am typing these words, with a cell phone plugged in next to me, texts coming through…and three other windows open, one of which is e-mail.  What happened to the “down time” of old?  What happened to actually FEELING and be aware of our own physiologic sensations?  Technology?  Maybe… It’s certainly sped up the planet to a spin that’s hard to keep up with – forget about time for a coffee, let alone having a moment to catch your breath and re-calibrate with your gut. Meditation?  What’s that?

Still…despite the onslaught of time-robbing “stuff,” the intuition is ever at the ready to guide you.  That split second flutter you feel is trying to tell you something.  So even if life has gone on warp speed…take a moment to LISTEN.  As best you can.  You don’t have to take a five-minute time out…just take a breath and listen to what your body, gut, and intuition is saying.  It’s got your back 1,000% – think of it as your personal, built-in radar, programmed to keep you alive and well.

And if you are one of those people who ARE aware but choose to ignore it?  Do a little test and listen next time… Making excuses or turning our cheek the other way?  It only hurts us in the end.

I do believe that things happen for reasons – many of the lessons I had to learn stemmed from deliberately overriding my gut (consciously and unconsciously.)  Neither, I suppose, is the better teacher – one just happens to be a lot less painful.  Especially after the fact when that flutter says – in the deep recesses of silence at night – “I told you so.”

Yeah…  You did.

 

Coincidence

I have never believed in coincidence…not even as a little girl.  Instead, events felt more to me as if something grander conspired to have them occur.  As if fate somehow knew one thing would lead to another (with the infinite multitude of permutations already calculated and accounted for.  Naturally!)

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I have always leaned towards optimism, believing that all experiences in Life have some positivity inherent within them – as the saying goes, “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”  Learning for me is ever and always a positive.

Lest I go too deeply into hypotheticals…  For one, I believe that we meet the people we are meant to meet, and when we are supposed to.  Each person is a piece of a much larger, much more complex puzzle, fusing the ends of one lesson with another, or perhaps leaving another section open for something new to fit in.

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After a long run of abusive and painful relationships I fell into a situation far worse than the others… Without realizing, I spiraled into a state much like being brainwashed, forfeiting my own passions, my own joy, my own Life for someone who couldn’t possibly appreciate it, much less see it. 

It was, without question, the most devastating and painful of all of the traumas I’d been through, sending me into a state of non-function.  But for the first time in my Life, the lights went on – ALL of them.  Born of all that suffering, though, came the most critical lesson of all – the gift of knowing I am worth so much more.  The gift of knowing I deserve love, respect and goodness.

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Praise be the light switch…!

In my mind the prospect of coincidence is too far-fetched.  The idea that there is some meaning, some reason, some benefit in circumstance, however, is one I can embrace more readily.  

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No matter how bleak the landscape became, nor how dark and oppressive, I believed I was on a path which would lead to others, PTSD be damned.  

I believed my end was neither assured, nor imminent.

I had choices.  But so too were those choices given to me, as there was something more elysian at work, guiding me to a reality so much brighter.  

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The moment my thinking changed, my Life was altered…for good…and for the better. That one snowy day at the beginning of Spring, the love of my Life walked through the door.  I knew then.  I knew immediately.

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There was no coincidence in our meeting.  No coincidence in our mutual friend wanting us to get together.  I am wholly and utterly convinced that it was meant to be – divined by the Stars?  A conspiracy of supernal magnitude?  

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Nothing that moment felt new – it was as if I’d known him forever.  It was as if, on a much higher plane, my Spirit breathed a sigh of relief.  

Or perhaps it was that it breathed for the first time in my Life…?

It is easy to say things are uncalculated, sometimes fortuitous, other times not…but then Life seems so much more Magical, mysterious, and purposeful to me…

I’d rather believe, right or wrong, that those diamonds which illuminate the velvet Night sky whisper and conspire…weaving dreams with possibilities, and bringing gifts into our Lives.