Monday, November 28, 2011

Radical Kindness Reboot

As part of my holiday survival-thriving kit - I've been beefing up on listening to all my teachers who remind me:  Elizabeth, stop being a knucklehead. It's my way of preparing for the emotional weather systems that inevitably blow in during this time of year. Pushing the pause button and getting more mindful is my number one priority these days.

Here's my latest keeper: "Between the stimulus and the response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom."
~ Viktor Frankl 

This comes by way of a great talk by Tara Brach on Mindful Speech.

It's a meaty talk - but essentially she asks us to get curious about the way we talk to each other.
The difference between interpersonal heaven and hell is determined by our capacity to speak to each other with great care, respect, and kindness. Even when we are emotionally triggered, even when the other is being a knucklehead - we can pause and suss out what's up with us and be more mindful about how our words will impact another. Will they bring healing or will they bring wounding; will they create connection or disconnection?

Tara offers a 4-step process to help us skillfully use the space between stimulus and response to shift into the habit of mindful speech: 
1. PAUSE when we notice we are getting emotionally triggered (the biggest challenge!). This can be quite subtle. Even when we think we aren't triggered, but simply have a burning passion to say whatever we want - come what may - that's a moment to get really-really curious and PAUSE.
2. IDENTIFY our intention. Does our intention for speaking come from our heart (kindness, respect, care) or does it come from a pattern of needing to prove our worth, assert our opinion - or some other manifestation of urgency, control, and/or fear.
3. CONSIDER the outcome of our words. Again, will they create connection or disconnection, healing or harm?
4. REMEMBER what matters the most; what we highly value. This puts us in touch with our core values and supports us to truly, madly, deeply live from our deepest truths.

Oh - and don't forget to add a 5th stepRefrain from JUDGING yourself in the process of getting mindful and curious about your speech. It's a process; learning to tame old habits of reactivity; learning to calm down our justifications for speaking in a mindless and habitual way.
Patience and a sense of humor keep us out of the self-judging zone. If you blurt out something unkind, go back to #1 and PAUSE and apologize and begin again from a more mindful, loving place.

So - after hanging out and gathering information (in this space between stimulus and response) go right ahead and speak!
Notice what happens.
Hopefully it will be something new and enjoyable - for all.
You'll notice that the outcome feels good; you feel good; others feel good.

I know this sounds like too much to do in that space - but with practice it kicks into autopilot and requires less time. I guess it's kind of like that old adage: Take a deep breath and count to 10 before speaking. The difference with the 4-step process is that it gives us something tangible to do during that deep breath. The more we practice this, the more we will naturally be mindfully loving with our speech and actions.

This neat little internal inventory has the potential of preparing us to speak with the utmost awareness and kindness. I have committed it to memory and plan on recalling it when in the heat of the holiday season. I invite you to do the same.

Here's to LEAPING into radical kindness with every word we speak!


Monday, November 14, 2011

The Spin Cycle of Life

Monday morning is my usual time for writing. But for the past two mondays  - no inspiration, no words.

Sometimes when this happens, I use my will to push through and stay the course until the damn breaks and words begin to flow. Other days I just let the non-flow be, get up from my chair and walk by the water. I trust that something is gestating.

Well, two mondays have passed - and whatever gestation I was trusting to bring forth words - just ain't happening. So, it's pushing through time.

Since my silent-retreat and the realization that less is more in terms of words - the empty page/screen seems less beckoning. All my ideas about what will 'help' and be inspirational to others seem to have gone on a temporary hiatus.

Or perhaps my inspiration is lopsided and needs recalibration and rebalancing.

I like to think that we have a rebalancing mechanism that skillfully detects lifeless psychobabble. An internal warning alarm, telling us when we are getting stuck on autopilot, recycling tired old beliefs, thoughts, emotions or soullessly parroting the same old story lines, advice, and life-philosophies.  This internal alarm is like the annoying washing machine beep that keeps going off until we take the time to open up the lid and rearrange the load, which has mysteriously lopsided itself during the wash cycle.

Yes, I'm suggesting that life is sort of like an ongoing wash, rinse, spin cycle. The metaphor isn't that elegant - but the point is - our thoughts and emotions are bound to get lopsided in the everyday wash and rinse of life.  We usually don't notice our lopsidedness - until we are in the spin cycle (when circumstances get a bit more challenging). 

Sometimes we breeze through the spin cycle, all balanced and happily arriving at a point of rest. Other times, the spin cycle brings to our attention that we are off balance. These are the moments when we are banging around like an old washing machine, alarms going off, hoping that someone will lift up our lid and rebalance our load (the contents of our thoughts/feelings/beliefs). At these times we usually feel inarticulate and a bit clueless. Not a comfortable or ego-boosting state to be in - but that's what psychobabble busting is all about - getting less ego-centered and more heart-centered.

Once again, I find that recalibration is best supported by using the difficult but sublime tool of pushing the pause button. Instead of cursing the old washing machine for not being able to handle the spin cycle, we can affectionately appreciate the occasional off-balance state and beeping alert as part of the wash/rinse/spin cycle of life. We can pause and gradually, with patience, suss out what needs rebalancing.

So right now my alarm is going off and I'm lifting the lid and rebalancing my load. Again, this takes patience and doesn't produce too much inspiration to pass along. I'm just intently, curiously perched over my washing-machine-self, putting my hands into the cold rinse water and shifting things around a bit.  This particular load is filled with thoughts about what inspires, what helps, what heals, what keeps confidence, courage, and joy flowing in our lives. All my old notions about these queries are up for recalibration/rebalancing.

Most importantly, I'm not rushing to get that spin cycle up and running again until I've carefully balanced my load. I'm getting comfortable with some quality washing machine buddha time.

But since I don't want to leave you with just this somewhat incoherent ramble about washing machines and my self-indulgent obsession with wanting my inspiration groove back - I will pass along to you a very coherent, balanced bit of inspiration about how to KEEP LEAPING during an out of balance spin cycle: My 5 Secret Tips to Managing the Storm by Brenda Bomgardner. I trust it won't sound like more lifeless psychobabble.

And... KEEP LEAPING - even when your spin cycle has come to a dead stop.