Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Gratitude

Giving Thanks - a beautiful practice.  A practice that can bring us closer to the abundance in our life, closer to our loved ones, closer to our true selves.  I have tried in the past to practice giving thanks everyday.  Even Rishi and I have taken the time to express gratitude each day to each other, though, as busy as life gets, it tapers off and isn't done as often.  I think that we should take more than just one day out of the year to stop and express our deep gratitude for what we have in our lives and those loved ones we have to share it with.

At the same time, though there is much that I am grateful for, I struggle deeply with the holiday that is before us - Thanksgiving!  I love gatherings of people that I love and even more so when there is great food involved.  But just as I believe that we must look deeply at our own personal pain and suffering, I believe the same is needed to look deeply at the pain and suffering that exists in the history of this country.  Over the past decade and a half, as I've learned the stories that make up the beginning of this nation, stories of it's formation that are the foundation of all the systems, processes and deeply held attitudes and beliefs, I see tragedy, betrayal, lies, deep suffering and much much more.  We must acknowledge that this holiday, even though it presently embodies family togetherness, deep gratitude, warm connections and sharing and love, and wonderful food, it is based on a dark, greed filled tragedy and masacre of the native people who were living here when the founders of this country arrived.  If we do not embrace the true nature of this holiday, we cannot embrace ourselves wholly.  I will link to a few other blogs and articles that explain in much more detail, not for the faint of heart, so that we can face and embrace the truth that lies beneath the sugar coated holiday we all know about.

I do NOT mean that we cannot enjoy being with our loved ones, enjoy delicious food (in mindful moderation!) and create fabulous memories on Thanksgiving.  BUT, I think a great practice, even if it's just our own personal practice is to take a few moments of silence or in meditation, giving deep thanks to the millions of souls that lost their lives tragically as part of the formation of this country.  I also plan on expressing hope for the souls in the present day who are currently forming this country into what it will become to find deep mindfulness.  Ultimately, I think having conversations with our families and others about the true history of Thanksgiving will lead to a transformation of consciousness that could ultimately lead to a transformation in how we honor our past.

I am grateful for everyone who takes the time to read this blog!  For my amazing husband and daughter!  My parents and sisters.  The family that I gained through my wonderful marriage!  My extended family!  I have so much gratitude for our house, my husbands employment, the food on our table and the love in our hearts!  I give thanks for the universe and all the gifts I have received!

Breathe.  Remember.  Embrace.  Love.  Give Thanks!

In Gratitude, to the native people of this land who lost their lives, their land and part of their heritage and spirit as it was stolen.  In Gratitude to the African slaves torn from their homeland forced to work to build this country from the ground up.

This is one of the best articles I found that express and explain what I am referring to in this post:

You could also check out Howard Zen's A People's History of the United States.

The image for this post is from Michelle Meiklejohn's profile on Free Digital Photos.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Peace, remaining calm in your heart!

"Peace is not the absence of chaos or conflict, but rather finding yourself in the midst of that chaos and remaining calm in your heart," Mr. John Mroz.

I have read this quote a few times and it keeps coming back to my mind, especially when I cannot find the calm in my heart, like when Anjali slaps me three times in a row for not letting her play in the car, or when there's crazy traffic and I'm running super late... I think living this quote wholeheartedly is what I am striving to do in this life but it might be this entire lifetime that I need to learn to practice this.

I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on myself, I can remain calm a lot of the time but there are certain things, triggers, that just push my buttons so hard that a switch is flipped and the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde syndrome is activated, turning me into an evil villain..  or at least that's how I feel on the inside and many times how I act on the outside.  Of course, we all have a little Mr. Hyde (the 'evil' one) in us... perhaps evil is not the most mindful of terms, but that part of us that isn't as skillful in loving kindness and compassion.

Often it's the little hurt girl/boy inside of us that didn't get heard or it's because we are not living our lives to their fullest potential, or we just haven't taken the time to really cultivate deep mindfulness, loving kindness and compassion!  Or it's all three or more reasons.  Whatever the reason, we have a part of us that has a knee jerk reaction that isn't always the kindest. And this part of us may be the part that rules our behavior the majority of the time.  Or just part of the time.  Regardless, that part is there, perhaps just a seed, or perhaps a fully sprouted plant in our consciousness!  Meditation is one of the most powerful tools that we have at our disposal to quiet that side of our beings down so that the loving kindness can flourish!

I know that I have tried to pretend that part of me doesn't exist off and on over the years but it's during those times that it seems to gain more power and control.... I have also tried to avoid conflict, pain, discomforts, anger, etc because wow, how hard are those things to face!!!  VERY!  And we usually feel about as chaotic as those feelings themselves!  or the situation!  Facing conflict and pain means facing our darkest side and that same side in those around us, even in our closest loved ones.  And this is definitely uncomfortable, perhaps even shakes up our reality in a way that disturbs us.  Mindfulness comes into action so that we don't behave with that knee jerk reactive part of ourselves but that we are able to take an objective perspective.  See what role I am playing in creating the situation and to come up with a solution.**See disclaimer below.  And mindfulness also lets us see that we are not the only ones that feel this way, that darker side of ourselves and our lives isn't bad, it just is.  It's there and ignoring it just makes it a monster.  Confronting it helps us to realize that it's just as scared as we are!

Mindfulness is the tool to remaining calm when in the middle of a hurricane, giving us the awareness to approach the conflict peacefully so that we can share in the solution without guilt, shame, fear or any other negative emotion or if those emotions arise, we are more equipped to manage them!  And meditation is the technique that is very effective in attaining high levels of mindfulness!

Breathe.  Look Deeply.  Smile.  See the Dark.  Breathe in the Light!

(**Disclaimer - this is NOT possible if there is any form of abuse going on, verbal, emotional or physical!  People who are abused do NOT play a part in their abuse, even if they have done something to anger the abuser, the fact that the abuser cannot control him/herself is not their fault!)

The photo in this post is from a staff member from Free Digital Photos.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Self Care: Make the Time!

I was reminded by a great friend of mine recently the precious value there is in self-care and I've touched on this topic in at least one or two earlier posts.  I've been running around trying to get my mom settled in her new apartment and offering my moral support to another family member who is going through a really hard time... and of course, I am happy to do so and usually have the energy and time too, when my faithful babysitters are free, but taking care of others does utilize our own energy so it's crucial that we take the time to rejuvenate ourselves!  I definitely want to be clear that we can take care of ourselves AND support those around us as long as doing so doesn't hurt anyone else or ourselves!

I was remembering when I worked in San Diego for a non-profit law office taking in the stories of immigrant women survivors of domestic violence - literally translating their stories of abuse as part of their legal case to get their immigration papers in order without the help of their citizen abuser husbands and it weighed terribly on my heart.  So I had to take a permanent reprieve from working day in and day out with that sort of trauma.  It is very easy to make other people's stories and stress feel like our own, especially when we care deeply for them.  There is a way to keep our energy from being drained - self-care!  We also can work on grounding ourselves through deep breathing, meditation and imagining a protective energy around us when we know we are going to be interacting with people going through a very hard time or for those people who work with trama survivors or who are in very difficult situations.

There is always going to be something to do, someone to help or somewhere to go - and we should do it as our lives and time permits.  Supporting those around us and in our community can serve us at a deep, core level where our heart, mind and souls meet.  BUT, if we are running on empty, then we are no good to anyone.

Please, please, please let us vow to take time to calm our minds, release all heavy energy from our heart, focus on some simple beauties in life like the sunset, a beautiful flower, an autumn breeze, relax in our own way and refuel ourselves so that we can continue on our life path and be support for those around us!

Breathe. Smile. Release. Rejoice. Rejuvenate!

The photo for this post if from Elwood W McCay's profile on Free Digital Photos.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Setting Boundaries: Kind but Firm

I remember when someone suggested years ago that I didn't have healthy boundaries set up with a particular relationship.  I didn't even really know what that meant - and through my cultural studies over the years, I learned that it can mean very different things in different cultures!  Even to this day, I struggle with creating healthy boundaries within my family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues.  Theoretically, I think I have it all figured out.  In practice, that is a much different story!  I can remember thinking as a child that if I avoided all conflict and never made my own needs more important than those around me than all would be well.  That notion right there may give some insight to the environment that was my childhood home.  (**Disclaimer - I LOVE my parents, but as with all humans, they are not without their faults, as I am not either, and thus have given me many opportunities for reflection, growth and to see how I might try to do things differently)

Well, I have definitely realized that being the kind of "yes-woman" I thought I should be is NOT the way to go as it leads to passive aggressiveness, untruthfulness, unresolved feelings, etc.  And luckily, it never got me into too much trouble - though my husband would beg to differ on that as it relates to my high school days!

So, then, how do we set boundaries without pushing people away, being mean/rude, or without seeming like selfish, ego-mongering jerk?  Well, I don't have one nice, neat answer but here are some ideas worth sharing...

Something Rishi and I learned in our parenting class can be a GREAT guide in setting boundaries - Kindess with Firmness or Firmness with Kindness.  When interacting with my 2 year old, this sounds like, "I hear you that you want to play for one more minute, but it's nap time.  I love you but we are all done."  I can guarantee I do not always get kindness back in return but I actually do sometimes.  (I also get angry screams and loud "NOs" too, as she sometimes gets from me when I'm not on top of my game!)

We should also check in with ourselves and make sure we are taking care of ourselves and to make sure that our commitments, relationships, responsibilities, etc are nourishing us in some way for the better/in a positive way!  Now this is the tricky part, especially as it relates to our families.  I am known for not always being so kind with my words and tone when it comes to speaking with my own mother.  But I have also been known to toggle between giving and giving to her and having to back off big time to get some reprieve.  I have found that I feel the best when I can control my tone and keep it kind but be clear on my boundaries for what I can do and then offer some suggestions for how she can figure out the things that I either can't do or am not willing to do at that time.  Of course there is guilt involved for not wanting to do everything for my own mother, but I truly believe that if we do everything for another person - both people ultimately lose out because one is exhausted and the other hasn't learned his/her own lesson is self care and personal responsibility.  When I've told my mom that I can't do something - she often does it herself, hmmm and probably earned a rewarding feeling of accomplishment too!

I do think there comes a point when we can give so much to others that we have to be sure to take care of ourselves and it is up to each of us to figure out what that limit is and what it is we can do to feel taken care of.  I firmly believe that TRUE nourishment and self care comes from a non-commercial, natural source.  Buying a new pair of $200 boots, not the best nourishing self care, but definitely not the worst.  Getting into nature, getting a massage, spending time with a nourishing friend, these are some great, non-commercial, natural ways to take care of ourselves!

Breathe. Smile. Take care. Be Firm with Kindness. Love!

The image in this post if from prozac1's profile in Free Digital Photos.