Friday, December 30, 2011

Preparing For Our Breaking Point

When I reach my breaking point, sometimes I don't feel like there is any valid "reason" for it.  I just feel plain terrible and have this feeling in me that nobody should feel happy if I'm feeling so miserable.  Or I feel an irrational sense of control towards those around me.  Wednesday, December 28th, those who crossed my path were innocent victims to the seething anger I was feeling.  I had lost control of this emotion and despite all my attempts to be mindful, I felt such an overwhelming sense of frustration that I couldn't hear my own mindfulness bell. There is a feeling I get when I know I should make another choice, when I know I should let go and change my current course but on Wednesday, I wasn't listening to it and pushed it aside, clinging to my hurt and frustration.  I even left the house and tried to calm myself in nature.  This helped a little but there was something in me that was rigid, firm, unbending and unwilling to compromise.  It wasn't until after raising my voice at my sweet little girl and seeing the fear in her eyes that I began to soften.  I remember having that same fear and disappointment when I was yelled at as a child and it had such a severe affect on me.  I vowed I would never do it to my own child.  And here I was, again.  It has been very few times but they are there.  My highest self may be present when I have these outbursts but she's not in the driver's seat.  It felt more like the child in me who needed to be heard and listened to was behind the wheel, making all the decisions.  The biggest problem is that I am not a child anymore and must find it within me to be the adult, functioning from my highest self.

I do believe that repair is critical after moments like the one I had on the 28th but I don't think it's enough.  Or we could walk around treating people terribly and then apologize and think that's ok to do over and over again.  I am determined to work on myself and look into my core to see what it is that is brewing inside of me so I can have a deeper understanding and make the changes I need to.  This might be through therapy, healing on a physical level or noting if lunar-menstrual cycles have anything to do with it and plan accordingly... awareness of self, mindfulness of self.  Preparing myself for the moments when I am unable to hear the mindfulness bell.

I have been repairing with my daughter for the last few days, being kind and attentive but not giving in to our regular rules.  Trying to be more understanding when she acts out, who knows, maybe she's imitating my own behavior.  She is a vivid mirror.  I am trying to breathe into the sensations I have within me to see where they are coming from and how I can move forward so that I can minimize and ultimately eliminate these breakdowns in mindfulness. It doesn't mean I won't get angry or have these feelings again, but I don't want to inflict pain on those I love.

I remind myself of my imperfection.  I take responsibility for my actions.  I breathe into my core being and promise to do my best.

Breathe. Smile. Understand Yourself. Have Patience.

The photo for this post if from Graur Codrin's profile on Free Digital Photos.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Learn to Stop

"In daily life, there is so much to do and so little time.  You may feel pressure to run.  Learn to stop! Touch the present moment and you will touch peace and joy" - Thich Nhat Hanh

I know for a fact I have blogged about this quote before but it seems quite apropos right now with the bustling of friends and family and presents and parties... which I LOVE!  I love being with the people I love, friends and family.  I love planning activities, menus - especially the sweet treats involved, though I often make the healthy, gluten free, low glycemic version.  But what I always forget is how exhausting it can be too, especially if we don't take time to recharge - also something that I've written about many times.  

Now, right now, during the holidays it may seem impossible to slow down, especially if there are multiple young children involved in the festivities but I am trying to do two things.  When I'm in a social gathering to relieve myself of any pressures (self-imposed or otherwise) to do too much or go beyond my capacity.  And it takes being fully present in the moment, the second thing I'm trying to do, to stay aware of any self-imposed pressures to do too much, or to be aware of when I've reached my limit and to know when, where and how to STOP and let go.  Even if for a short moment, so that I can release the pressure that been building up, unwind even just a little, and recharge for the rest of the holiday festivities! 

Whatever holiday you are or are not celebrating these last few days of 2011, I wish you peace, joy and a beautiful present moment!

Breathe. Smile. Stop. Laugh. Wink. Exhale. Enjoy!

The photo in this post is from Chris Sharp's portfolio on Free Digital Photos.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Humble Request

We are busy, busy getting ready for family to come in town but had a simple request to those of you who already follow via email if you feel so inclined.  I just upgraded my blog to allow for people to follow it more easily so, please "follow" the blog by going to the follow box on the right sidebar of the blog... and to anyone stopping by and checking the blog out, it would be GREAT to have new readers!!!

Breathe. Smile. Celebrate. Love.

The photo for this post is by Topstep07's profile in free digital photos.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Imperfection is perfect

I am often surprised by the tone in my voice especially when I've reached my limit.  Maybe surprised isn't quite the word, more like embarrassed or ashamed.  Often I may say words that would normally convey a kind or neutral message but the tone in my voice carries with it annoyance, frustration, anger or some other emotion.  Yet I want to be able to temporarily mask my real feelings until a later time when I can feel more 'in control' so that I might spare my loved ones from further pain or discomfort.  The worst time to express myself is when I am engulfed in strong feelings of anger.

But what do we do then, when we have to interact with those involved in the moment?  I'm not sure I have THE answer, nor do I think there is any one answer.  And it is in this circumstance that I find my tone gets curt and just not so nice.  It is in the moment(s) immediately following the stimulus and before our reaction that we make a critical decision about how we want to play out the scene.  Those moments are what Elisha Goldstein calls the "space" between stimuli and reactions.  It is in that space that we 'should' try to calmly inform our loved ones that we are feeling frustrated and need some time before we can talk about it.  And this is my dilemma,  is it ok to have a curt tone of voice?  I often struggle with the tone and energy I exude even if the words out of my mouth are not mean.  I have a lot of judgement towards myself for the moments I speak with a curt tone with my family.  When I'm with my daughter, I often cannot take time "out" to cool off or rather it's not the most practical thing to do, like when we are in the same room, at a friends house or in the car together.

I suppose that a terse, low tone is better than all out screaming (which I have done for brief moments). I think the issue really for me can be that of dealing with the negative emotion and feelings swirling inside me and then accepting my imperfections and that I will not always say the right thing at the right time.

Recognizing the mistakes I make and rectifying them seems to be far more important than trying to not make them at all.  And as I write all this, it seems so clear and simple. Ideas I've read elsewhere and have heard over and over.  Yet here I am still trying to understand the nature of human interactions, my own internal workings and how the drama of life plays out.  I am determined to slow down, especially in the space between stimuli and reactions!

Breathing. Feeling. Swirling. Smiling.

The photo for this post is from Evgeni Dinev's profile on Free Digital Photos.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Loving Speech: A Deeper Look

I was recently asked by a friend and reader of this blog to write on honesty and doing so even when what we have to say may not be easy for the other person to hear.  This has also sparked a great idea to incorporate YOUR ideas, meaning you who read this blog, into my idea pool.  I would love for you to write in with topic ideas as it helps me get inspired!  So send me your topics and I will try to feature one reader suggestion a month!

I touched on the topic of Loving Speech in a previous post.  I think the term loving speech explains itself but I myself often struggle with determining what loving speech looks like in practice.  I have determined that there is no step-by-step procedure that we can plug into every circumstance but there are some things I have tried to do in the past that have been successful and hope they can assist some of you in your loving speech endeavors.

If I am the person who has some feeling or truth that I need to share with a friend or loved one and I sense it may be difficult for that person to hear it, I will first look VERY deeply at what it is I am feeling, thinking, needing.  One of the best ways to do this is to journal about the "issue" I have so that I can clearly understand my feelings around it, clearly see the most important parts of it, especially those that will need to be communicated, and look at the part of my being that is involved with this issue. When I say 'part of my being' I mean, is this issue related to the child in me, the adolescent or the adult. This can often help us see who inside of us is in the "driver's seat" as it relates to the issue because let's face it, sometimes it's that little girl or boy who's making those snap reactive decisions or that feisty teenager who was so rebellious is the one who yells at our loved one today.

Doing this kind of writing can also help us prepare for speaking with our loved one.  In the past and even still I have had to share my difficult feelings with my loved ones first in writing, for several reasons.  When I am in the moment talking, I often forget things that I need to say so writing them down helps remind me and having my loved one read about it first helps ease the tension I have around the issue and around any fears I have about talking.  Also, I often forget my mindfulness when I am speaking, especially when the discussion is fresh or raw, so writing keeps me mindful as I can do my best to ensure that the message is delivered mindfully and lovingly.  So I think that writing a letter is a more than acceptable first step to engaging in Loving Speech with our loved ones.

After the letter has been read or instead of a letter, we should always schedule a time to actually discuss the issue.  It is crucial that we speak when we are not heated with anger and that we inform our loved one that we are having a hard time and that we would benefit from having a Loving Speech conversation about an issue.  I cannot stress enough that we cannot speak when we are heated with anger as our perspective will be tainted and we will likely say something we regret, I've done it and it doesn't feel good for anyone involved.

I find that speaking from the point of view of how I feel vs telling the person what he or she is doing wrong also helps bring to light the issue in a lovingly way.  So I might say one of the following:

"I feel very frustrated when...."
"I find that I have a difficult time when..."
"I notice that I don't understand..."
"From my perspective it seems like you're...."
"When you said, 'XYZ,' it made me feel...."
"Can you help me understand why you..."
"It would help me if you could...."
"Is there something one your mind..?"

These statements reinforce that it is MY perspective or feelings and that I am trying to find out more about the situation or my loved ones perspective so that we can try to come up with a solution.

Along with Loving Speech also comes Deep Listening.  So, even though I may be the one that has a frustration with my loved one, I must do my best, my very, very best (this can be very difficult) to listen deeply to what my loved one says and ask questions when I don't understand or explain myself even more in reaction to what he/she says but we must also let our loved ones speak fully too!

Finally, we should always try to have Loving Speech conversations about positive things too, on a regular basis, so that we are not always sitting down to focus on the negative.  Something Rishi and I have done in the past, which I think as a result of this post we may need to start up again, is to sit down with each other a least a couple of times a week and share things that we are grateful for about each other and note the things that we each did that helped us or that made us happy so that when we have to sit down and discuss our grievances we can feel strong and secure in the positive foundation that rests on all the things that we love about each other and that we are grateful for.

I think that this way of speaking is pertinent to almost all relationships and can really help us clear the space and energy.  Something I often struggle with is determining for myself what issues are serious enough to share and with whom.  Do I do this with an acquaintance, unlikely, but possible.  Coworker, should but may not.  Friend, more likely to but it might not always happen. Husband/Wife/Partner, definitely.  Child, absolutely.  Do I tell them every single annoyance and frustration, probably not unless it's frequent, reoccurring or turning into resentment/anger.  So I am NOT perfect with this.  These are things I have tried to do but do not necessarily do to perfection, but hopefully this can give guidance and ideas for the next time you need to discuss something difficult with another person.  Clear, positive, compassionate communication can enhance any relationship!

Breathe. Speak. Love. Listen. Communicate!

The photo in this post is from Prozac1's profile on Free Digital Photos.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Being Wrong Can Be Right

So my family has an "I'm right" gene where we really stand this ground til the bitter end.  I carry this gene too.  I have in the past been so stuck on being right, perhaps to prove my intelligence or worthiness but it was years before I realized how tremendously frustrating this trait can be.  I can remember 3 people in my family hurrying through the door into my house to verify who was right about a piece of information they had been arguing about during the entire ride over and what struck me the most was the energy that I sensed about it not being so much about finding the true answer but about someone being right and the others being wrong.  So, I'm not trying to say that we shouldn't search and discover the truth, or point out huge fallacies such as racist based wrong doings because that is indeed very important BUT I'd like to take a deeper look into the attitude and energy behind being right, especially on the one-on-one personal level.

When I think I'm right whether it's about a fact, belief, opinion or philosophy and so does the other person in the conversation, one of us is very likely not right and possibly even both of us may be wrong or we may both be right, all depending on the topic and circumstances.  When I make every possible attempt to show you how right I am it means I'm showing you how wrong you are, which doesn't necessarily make you feel very good.  I noticed that this can even happen when my showing my rightness is meant to relieve someone from discomfort.

We had my uncle and his girlfriend in town and they were over for our 2nd Indian take-out dinner with my mom and sister and niece.  Most of the group have a hard time with spice so we ordered raita, a yogurt based side dish that can help ease the pains of spiciness.  Well, after everyone was sweating from the fire in their mouths and even the raita wasn't helping, I remembered that sometimes restaurants have been known to spice their raita.  I tasted it by itself and it did indeed seem spiced.  I had my sister and husband try too to make sure I wasn't sensing the spice from another dish.  Then I began spreading the news, so the really sensitive mouths might spare themselves from further burning.  My mother insisted the other bowl of raita next to her wasn't spicy but tears were streaming down her face due to the fire burning in her mouth.  So, we did another 3 party taste test and that raita was indeed spicy.

But in the process of proving my rightness, even though it was to be for the benefit of all those in the room, I proved my mother wrong which based on her reaction didn't make her feel better - even if it was going to put the fire in her mouth out.  She still had a sense of irritation by my needing to prove my rightness.  But you may be thinking, "But you were right!"  Well, I was right but that doesn't mean I needed to loudly and brashly prove my mother was wrong (a beautiful mother daughter tradition ;-)  This is a dangerously slippery slope that doesn't have the same approach each time.

In my 20-20 hindsight, I think next time I may simply say, "Maybe I'm wrong.  It seems spicy to me but it's possible that I'm wrong."  Or I could have said, with a sincere tone, "I'm sorry for offending you, I really was only trying to spare you further discomfort."  In other circumstances we could also say, "I think this is right, but I'm not 100% sure.  Shall we look into it together?"  or "I may be wrong."  Even if we feel like we are 100% right, the attitude can really make a difference in how we make others feel.  There is a certain level of humility that we attain when we realize we are not always right.  I have learned to admit being wrong as well as reduce the need to prove my rightness, though I'm not perfect so it does happen.  But I do notice I feel better when I'm not out to prove myself right and admit that I can make mistakes!  Allowing others to have some rightness and accepting our wrongness can actually have an amazing affect on our relationships...

Breathe.  Be Right and Wrong.  Be Wonderful.

There's an interesting TedTalks by Kathryn Schultz on this and Richard Carlson's Chapter 12 on pg 33 of his "Don't Sweat the small stuff" book also has a great perspective too!

The photo for this post is from Exsodus's profile on Free Digital Photos.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I am often amazed at the little voice in my head and how negative and surprisingly judgemental it can be.  That little voice is our self talk, that which we are often not even fully aware of and even less in control of.   Many, if not most, of us are engaging in frequent negative self talk that often involves judging ourselves based on millions of preconceived ideas we have for how we are supposed to be.

During one of those 70 degree November days we had a few weeks back, I decided not to sit at my computer during Anjali's nap but rather to go out and clear our vegetable garden of the falling leaves.  And it took me the majority of the time that I was out there to finally stop pointing out in my head all the things that weren't good enough about the garden, the way I planted the seeds, how it was growing, how I could be tending to it better.  And then I looked around our back yard, and the judgement went on and on... and instead of simply noticing all these things, for example that there were millions of leaves everywhere that needed to be cleaned up or that I could take better care of the rest of the yard, make it look nicer.  Instead of simply being aware of these things, there was a negative, judgemental gremlin attached to every thought I had and everything I noticed.  The lack of landscaping, the weeds that have taken over the yard, the toys strune about.  Those of you who know us, know that our yard, especially the back yard, tends to be pretty low on our list of priorities.  Long story short, the things that I noticed were not really the "problem" but the judgement carried with it could become one.  We have chosen to focus our time, attention and energy on other things and we do not want to use chemicals to kill weeds, so our yard doesn't look nearly as nice as others.  But the birds come and hunt their worms, the squirrels eat our acorns and the chipmunks scurry about too!  But I still judge myself!

Luckily, after getting my hands in the dirt and really giving the plants lots of love, the clutches of negativity and judgement began to soften and finally release and I really began to relax and be present with all the beautiful life that surrounded me.  The lovely green plants that we cultivated and have allowed to thrive.  I noticed the beautiful blue sky and soft clouds floating by... all things I wouldn't have noticed if I'd kept myself locking in my negative self talk.

Positive affirmations are key to reversing any negative self talk.  Meditation helps us to become aware of it.  Love, Nature, Kindness also help!

Breathe.  Affirm.  Soften.  Let go!

The photo for this post is from africa's profile on Free Digital Photos.