communication in relationships

I've been doing quite a bit of communication coaching with dyads lately -- romantic partners as well as parents and offspring -- and finding it to be an incredibly rewarding and thought-provoking experience.  Thought I'd post a few observations about interpersonal dynamics that seem to pop up often:

 1)  Underneath the impulse to attack there is always fear.  Most often, in relationships it's the fear that someone we care about and who knows us very well is correct in their assessment that we are wrong, bad, selfish, mean, critical, impulsive, weak, un-evolved or whatever.

one simple question

I felt drawn to google Ho'oponopono again this evening, and quickly stumbled across one simple question attributed to Dr. Hew Len that could revolutionize the way we relate to each other:

"What's going on in me that's causing this person to bug me?"

Radical, eh?  Don't we normally ask ourselves what's going on in the other person that is causing them to bug us? Gee, why is he being so mean to lil' ol' innocent me?

beyond lessons

I just heard for the umpteenth time that we humans incarnated to learn spiritual lessons.  Since that paradigm is SO pervasive, and in my opinion often leads to people feeling icky about themselves and their lives, I'd like to put some alternate proposals on the table for your consideration.

Of course I don't know sh-t about the true purpose of life, but I have noticed that almost inevitably, when I hear the 'learning lessons' concept from someone, it's laden with self-judgment, as in, Well, I guess I haven't learned my lesson yet,  or, If I had figured this out earlier, I wouldn't be going through this divorce/illness/crisis.

I hate to see people beat themselves up like this.  What if the starting premise is inaccurate?  What if there was a way of framing the human experience that was not about learning or progressing?  What if any situation you find yourself in is perfect, not as a means to an end, or a lesson to be learned eventually, but perfect in this moment in and of itself?

helping with problems

Loved this simple rule for helping from Alan Cohen:

If you are upset about their problem, it's your problem.
If you are not upset, you are in a perfect position to help. 

Upset or "ain't it awful" energy is not typically very helpful.

When we are triggered into upset, outrage, urgency, or rescue-mode by someone else's situation, we would do well to refrain from intervening until we have taken whatever steps are required to return to our own center of stillness and trust.

For some of us that might involve a meditation, breathing, mantra, or mindfulness practice.  For others it might be prayer, a run, a kickboxing workout, or petting the dog.

However we get there, when we take the time to return to a calm, clear, and conscious state of mind, we are best able to discern whether our assistance is truly needed and how to provide it.

embracing the sandcastle paradox (or not)

Part of me really does understand that the awareness that Everything must someday come to an end changes the quality of my experience.

Knowing that anything could change at any time keeps me humble, attentive, and grateful, and reminds me not to take anything or anyone for granted.

And yet, I also notice that there's another part of me that just wants to close my eyes to this fact of life, and pretend that there is something solid, dependable, and trustworthy to lean on.

Unfortunately, I can't get away with that anymore.  The illusion of physical and emotional security has become so flimsy and transparent that I can't even pretend to rest in it.

prevention vs punishment as a litmus test of conscience

I'm doing some criminal justice research online tonight and just came across this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

and as always, because I just can't leave anything alone, I propose a small tweak:

We will know that our consciences have evolved in wisdom and tenderness when we prefer the prevention of suffering over the avenging of it. 

I wonder if I'll still be around when this evolution of conscience hits critical mass and becomes the prevalent sentiment in the collective consciousness of humanity.  It would be very interesting to witness ...  

we've come a long way, baby

I got choked up today seeing the pictures and reading the stories of couples in New York who were bursting at the seams with joy about being able to get married. Every once in a while a headline like that will send me into a reverie of appreciation for the dramatic changes I've seen in our culture in my lifetime.

So much of what was considered 'fringe' 20 years ago is now integrating into the mainstream. Back when I gave birth at home, it was seen as freakish and dangerous. I took plenty of heat during my vegan phase - tofu, soymilk, and veggie dogs were barely seen as food in mainstream culture back then. "How you gonna get any protein if you don't eat meat?"

why ask why

for no apparent reason, after months of feeling apathetic and low on energy, for the past few weeks I've found myself feeling deep and abiding contentment and acceptance of What Is. 

the situations and dynamics that my mind had been chewing on before I was even totally awake for many mornings in a row have not changed, but now I am awakening peacefully, listening to the birds and squirrels chatter instead of my own thoughts.

to what do I owe this grace?

the tenderness experiment

So far, I am actually remembering to tune into tenderness at least once or twice a day.  Which may not seem like much, but for me, it's a lot; I'm the queen of thought experiments that never make it to 3D.

here's what I've noticed so far:  it's possible to walk, talk, chew, scrub, fold, breathe, listen and think with tenderness.  On my morning walk I picture myself moving through the air with tenderness, and meeting the earth with tenderness in each step.  I can tenderly wash dishes and water my plants.  When I am listening, I can imagine my attention as a soft pillow upon which your words can rest.  I can speak in tones that will nurture and comfort those who listen.  When I fold laundry, I can intend love into each crease, so that when the garment is worn, joy will be released like a fragrance.  When I bake, I can add loving intention just like I add the eggs.  I can sense my heart before speaking or acting, and intend to express compassion. 

I'm becoming aware of what makes tenderness different than mindfulness for me - tenderness is an active extension, whereas mindfulness seems to be receptive.  Each has its place, and its charm.  The experiment continues. 

try a little tenderness

this is my five hundredth post on this blog, if you can believe it.  gee, I sure do have a lot of opinions ...

After a week of vacation and a few more days at home with minimal work to do and a lot of fresh air and sunshine, my body and mind are finally beginning to relax.  As usual, contrast inspires clarity, and I am realizing that the speed of my thoughts and movements is a very good barometer of my inner state.  The more internally settled I become, the more slowly I am able to move as I do the tasks of daily living.

I've learned so much over the years about mindfulness, which I'll arbitrarily define as paying conscious attention to what is happening in each moment.  And although I get it and I know how to do it, I don't find it all that satisfying for whatever reason.  Maybe I am missing some important part of it?  In any case, I've found something else that I like better for now:  tenderness.