Learning From Life

Every encounter we ever have has the possibility to bring with it learning and positivity… Every. Single. One.

Even if you aren’t aware at the time, do what you can to reflect – for in this reflection you will find a many beautiful gems with which you will become a stronger person, more in tune with you truths, and more fit to live the richest life imaginable.

Respect

For a long time I believed that respect was earned – its value is simply too high to just hand out, I thought. But over the years I’ve changed my tune. Why suddenly such a shift? Well…it wasn’t really sudden at all…

I grew up believing that doing unto others is the appropriate way to behave – I certainly have my moments of deviation, but they are – by a long shot – the exception and not the rule. I’ve always, therefore, subscribed to the notion that what we give out comes back to us, multifold – Karmic law, Law of Three, whatever you want to call it…I’ve seen it far too many times to have any doubt at all. Add some painful and challenging experiences – and don’t we all have our stories? – my subscription to the idea that “rising above” is the right way to be has multiplied exponentially.

Hate is a good example. I don’t sincerely “hate” anything – in my mind it is a wasted emotion, and it gives far too much power to something I really don’t like (people, places, OR things.) Hate takes as much – or more! – energy than love. . .so if I’m giving that kind of attention to a “dislike,” I’m wasting precious resources, time included!

It took some time to understand that, though. As children we love to say, “UGH! I HATE HOMEWORK!” or “I hate so-and-so!” “Hate” just falls into the two categories of #1, a word, and #2, a negative. Over the years, however, I learned that it was an extreme expression, that it carried too much of a negative vibe to carry around, and that the act of hating in and of itself reflects poorly in my own conduct.

As with hate, respect is something I am putting out – it is part of my conduct and behavior.  It occurred to me, then, that believing that respect was something other people had to earn was a really narrow-minded view. I can go around being a tyrant but that reflects on me only. I could also go around being a sycophant or victim-worthy subservient…but that too reflects on me (not to mention gets me into trouble.) 

Treating others with respect doesn’t mean I have to give out free passes or put people on pedestals, let’s be clear. What it means – to me – is that I treat others with decency and kindness.

Now…let me also say… I live in a tough city. Even MY buttons are pushed at times, and that says a lot! But I am constantly checking back in with myself when feeling irrational, upset, frustrated etc… If I can’t be respectful (and in certain moments, I don’t feel I can live up to it) I simply do not engage. Easy as that. The only person accountable for what I put out is me, and if I put out something negative…it’s going to get me into trouble in one way or another.

As my behavior is my own, how other people behave is their business.  In the modern world (and in a tough city), people might argue that others “don’t deserve respect.” Conducting myself in as positive a way as I can doesn’t mean I don’t see the poor behavior of others, that I dismiss it, that I allow it, or that I’m saying “go ahead and continue acting that way.” It just means that I am putting a positive energetic spin on myself. 

When dealing with someone I see often, simply rising above allows me to move forward through my day without the burden of taking on his or her attitude, and neither the weight of being a nasty person (which I don’t want to be.)  If, however, it’s someone I’ll likely never see again, I still can move forward knowing that I’ve been upstanding in spite of someone else’s conduct.

Do I do this perfectly? Hell NO!  I’ve learned that I’ve got plenty of limits, and that I’m just as subject to bad moods, grumpiness, and don’t-play-well-with-others as some serious offenders. BUT…I know that, deep down, I don’t want any part of drama or negativity. That fact in and of itself means that I can do a lot to avoid it – namely, work on my on attitude, and approach interactions with respect. How others respond to that is totally on them (and the great news there? TONS of freedom not having to take that on!)

It is always up to us how we want to feel, what we associate with, what we allow… Acting disrespectfully reflects negatively in every possible way, and speaks volumes about one’s character. To show respect even when it doesn’t feel warranted, however, also says rather a ton about a person. I aim to be the latter, if for no other reason than to me it is a noble pursuit energetically, as in terms of self development. I have a ways to go too but you can be sure I try to check myself. Often. 

 

Never Regret Being A Good Person

There are certain tenants by which I live my life – though I may fall short of my own (somewhat lofty) standards at times, I know that gratitude, kindness, acceptance, patience, respect, honesty, and empathy will always be at the top of my list. 

I’d rather be kind to someone who isn’t in return than meet them on a lower playing field. The Universe has a way of righting paths without my intervention…so I allow it, and Karma, to do their thing.

I am 1,000% responsible for my behavior – good, bad, and otherwise. But I will never have to own anyone else’s. 

Introvert Humor – Spotting the Introvert

I usually bring a scarf, wear a hoodie, and an eye mask, myself. Oh…and earplugs. I ALWAYS have earplugs. This will be me on my flight to Japan in May…

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Surrounding Yourself With Good People

The people with whom you choose to spend the most time can have a huge impact on your life and well-being…

Look to those who love you for exactly who you are. For they are the ones who will have patience, respect, and understanding when you need it most….and, more importantly, at all times.

Look to those who push you to look deeply within yourself at the things that maybe no longer serve you so well – sometimes it’s hard to face ourselves alone. 

Look to those who challenge you to internally and externally step up your game. There are those who will support and encourage you, and remind you of all the “wonderful” you have to offer (and you deserve to be reminded. OFTEN!)

Look to the people who remind you that “failure” means “lesson,” and nothing more. The people who will remind you that have the strength, the courage, and the wherewithal to get up and fight…because you’ve already done it with success so many times before.

And look to those who will not only look for the bright side no matter how grim the circumstance, but who will do everything in their power to BE the “bright” when the lights go out. 

Life is full of ups and downs – when we have the right troops in our corner it’s not only easier to weather the storms, but the joys and celebrations are also multiplied many, many fold.  

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Without The Darkness, And Without The Storms…

Some days are good, many are great, and some feel insurmountably uphill. I really do try my best to see the world as “I’m thankful I have a glass” as opposed to “it’s half empty or half full,” because I actually do harbor that much gratitude – life is a gift on every level.

On the tough days, though, I give myself so hard a time it’s nigh unconscionable. While I have uncovered the part I had to play in some disastrous situations of the past, it is also important to remember that I didn’t deserve bad things…and neither was I the cause. It is important that we ALL remember that – we are nothing more than a bundle of experiences and lenses colored by those experiences. It isn’t always easy to step back – recovery takes a lifetime, not just a handful of years.

It’s also important to be gentle with ourselves for our shortcomings – many of which, I daresay, we are neither proud of nor want! Frankly, I’d love to not have some of the conditioned responses I have. As a person who knows I have a choice in everything surrounding ME (my attitude, my actions, my inactions, my REactions, my responses…) it frustrates me to the hilt that I am unable to “will away” the things I do that I can’t stand. That said, I’m also not less of a person because I struggle…and neither are you.

While I am acutely aware that without a “yang” there is no “yin,” I sometimes need a reminder. A friend today gave me one such virtual hug… Without the storms and darkness, we aren’t able to have or appreciate the calm or the light in life. I really believe that both are necessary, and that product of both is a life that is collectively more (far more!) beautiful than it is not. . .


“Progress, not perfection” as it goes… I don’t have a right to judge myself or anyone else – I know deep down that I try to be better each day, and I know (in advance) that I won’t always be able to make that mark. In spite of human flaws and fragility, I see so much good in the world. Through the words and support of others, I also have the comfort of knowing I am not alone, and that the personal difficulties I have weathered in my own life (or how I have been affected and altered by those experiences) are also not so strange and unusual. In fact, far from it…

Some days I need a spiritual hug. Others, I require room to breathe… Overall, though, patience, positivity, and understanding are always welcome, and I’m thankful to have that in my life. What a joy to know that the journey is one we never have to make alone, and that the darkness will always give way to light.

The Art Of Communication

This week a lot of friends have seemed to have had their share of communication breakdowns – on their side, or on the part of another person….parents, children, instructors, training partners. . .and it prompted me to think about it.  You’d think Mercury was in retrograde! (Don’t worry, it isn’t for some weeks 😉 ) 

It never ceases to amaze me, though, how similar situations can be, even when involving vastly different topics, completely different areas of Life, and totally different players.  Communication, however, is the underlying thread weaving it all together. . .

Communication isn’t relegated to one type of relationship, nor to specific people – it isn’t just about friendship, or marriage, or work, or family. . .  Communication is what sets us apart – it’s what binds our species, allows us to function at high levels, to accomplish collective goals, to learn, to love, and to live. Communication isn’t in and of itself horribly complicated, but humans ARE. . .and that’s where it gets tricky. (Modern life does bring a few challenges as well…)

shoeboxblog.com Chuck & Beans

Emotions, preconceived notions, previous experiences and conditioning. . .it all plays a part in how we respond to stimulus.  While humans are capable of incredible strength, that doesn’t mean we aren’t also highly sensitive (I know I am!) – the way in which we communicate is therefore as important as the words we are using.  Words, keep in mind are defined differently, even among those were are most similar to – in this case, the nonverbal, the tone, and the delivery makes a difference.

A HUGE one.

 

Everyone has had their fair share of “stuff” – we’ve all been marred by life’s rough edges, nature’s unpredictability, and lessons we needed to struggle through in order to fully learn (I’m still learning quite a few, including the topic at hand.)  As a result, most of us walk around with what I call “walls-at-the-ready” – we are kind of like collapsible fortresses just waiting for the moment to erect our barricades, and employ our moats.  

Seriously…

So communication then can become a very delicate – and powerful – affair.  

There is a true art to navigating what could easily become choppy seas (at our own hands – or our chosen communication.) There are tons of articles, books, seminars out there (such as this one) but no matter which relationships they are intended to better, they speak to the same key principles.  So it doesn’t matter if it’s your child, a new co-worker, a parent, a friend, a spouse, a sibling – the keys to communicating well focus on the same fundamental ideas, and can apply across the board.

LISTEN

Listening matters – listening with the intent to reply is not the same thing.  We need to listen to hear and understand from the other person’s perspective. Whether or not we agree, feelings are just that – as such, they are valid even if we don’t “get it.” 

EMPATHIZE

Everyone wants empathy and to be understood – no matter how much you may disagree, recognizing that the person speaking has a valid and true reality – for them – helps to bring them down a notch. Or several. 

MAINTAIN CALM CONVERSATION

People are open and responsive to calm conversation – the second the heat of anger is turned up, or promise of threat implied . . .POOF! . . .Barricades!

AVOID ATTACKING, BLAMING, SHAMING

People are (at least generally) open and responsive to discussion provided they aren’t in a corner – the slightest attack, criticism, blame, there go those walls again.  What you want to convey will be shut out like an enemy coming in full force. No bueno, as they say…

STAY FOCUSED

Keeping the focus on the issue at hand makes for a cleaner conversation – muddling the mix with outlying topics that really have no part to play make a mess, quickly.  Not to mention a full suit of armor on the other side!

Usually communication is only difficult when it’s controversial – when it may cause discomfort (like embarrassment, anxiety, self doubt etc), when it’s about a touchy subject, (embarrassment, shame, etc), or it provokes a fear-based response (as in “fright or flight” – resulting from directed anger, frustration, for example.) At those times, that’s when we LEAST want to be gentle and “follow guidelines of effective communication”!!  

But, as they say, a moment of patience can make a lifetime’s worth of difference.

Adorable! Seven Deadly Sins Cartoon: Anger
Written by Bearman Cartoons

Listen to the other person and, whether you agree or not, make the effort to recognize their view.  Keep yourself calm, avoid blame and attacking, and stick to discussion mode – people will be far more able (and willing!) to receive, and are less likely to block you out. If you feel like you can’t contain the disappointment, anger, frustration etc, do something else until you can be calm. 

People are complicated, and so is Life.  Even your best friends and closest family members meet discord from time to time (if they didn’t they wouldn’t be breathing!) that’s okay – it happens!  We aren’t always going to see eye to eye, we aren’t always going to define terms the same way, and people aren’t always going to behave exactly the way we want all the time.

You say you’re a Martial Artist and I might take you at your “word.” (schoolofdisney.com image)

One of my favorite expressions is “how important is it?” It’s one I heard growing up, and it’s one I hear frequently today.  As spoken at a dear friend’s wedding recently – in fact, by a very wise and learned woman – you can be right, or you can be happy.  Again, this applies to all areas of life, and to all kinds of relationships…

For example, I’ve seen a marked change in my own relationships with family members over the years, and every so often I catch myself really thinking about how our interactions have (or haven’t!) evolved since childhood – sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it feels down-right painful. . .but Life doesn’t stop because I don’t agree with something, or I feel hurt. 

The more I can communicate effectively and in a kind way, the healthier all my interactions will be, and the better I – and others – will feel.  That means learning to do things that maybe I’m not so great at, or challenging my mood at that moment, or, even tougher, changing things I’ve done my whole life – sometimes what used to work for us doesn’t anymore! I know I’m a work in progress…but I am working at it, because there are areas in which I know I can do better.

I loved this excerpt, read by a friend recently, as it captures the essence of the idea perfectly:

” Today being aware of the words I use, I am learning to communicate more responsibly.  I not only share in a more straightforward manner, but I also argue in a healthier way.  There are better was to express myself than to say ‘you did such and such to me.’ I can talk about myself and my feelings.  I can explain the way I experienced something rather than telling the person how he or she made me feel… 

“…We learn in time that it is not the subjects which are controversial, but the manner in which we communicate about them and the elements of personal blame we add to them in anger.”

CTC by AFG p 176.

Effective, healthy, and happy communication can be accomplished, but it does take a little work.  We are thrown to the wolves in many ways, and learn to swim in the deep end by trial and error – there aren’t structured courses in school about interpersonal relationships, and workplaces don’t exactly help you along either! Unless we seek out our own kind of learning, it feels a lot like a shot in the dark, especially when we meet new people, are navigating a new job etc… Even when it comes to parents and children who’ve been together for a lifetime – life changes!  I recently was reflecting on how I could do a better job of understanding, as well as responding to a parent differently.

If things aren’t being communicated as smoothly as you’d like, or you feel it’s complicated and overwhelming, know it is NOT a lost cause. The phrase “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE TO YOU” works really nicely – that’s basically the gist of it.  So if all else fails, just think about how you’d want to hear criticism, or how you would want someone to convey some tough news.  When we are in that kind of a mindset, we usually are off to a great start.

Here’s to the journey of Life! ❤ 

 

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