Have you ever wondered about that voice in your head? The one that seems to be there all the time. A helpful analogy I learnt from Lama Marut is that that voice is like a radio station. Sometimes it is tuned to a pleasant enjoyable radio station and other times there is a lot of static and unpleasant talk going on.
Another helpful analogy Lama Marut taught, related to this self-talk, is that is it is like having a couple of little people perched on each of our shoulders. On one shoulder is the critical, nagging, negative, task master voice (that is the unpleasant radio station) The second voice is the kind encouraging friend voice. (that is the enjoyable station or the angel voice).
At times that critical, negative voice is so loud and bossy we can't even hear the friendly, kind voice on the other shoulder over the din! We get so habituated to believe and reinforce that critical voice (that is not true) and that is how it gets so loud, attacking and bossy.
Angels have always been a bit of a mystery to me. I love seeing them depicted in religious painting, yet have felt confused by their meaning. Harvard Theologian Meggan Waterstone's definition of an angel has helped my understanding. She says 'an angel is simply a thought that lifts us up from out of ourselves, from out of those cages the ego would prefer for us to remain within". For me that kind, encouraging angel voice on the left shoulder is the one that lifts me up by speaking the truth of love. It is the one I want to turn the volume up and listen to.
So how do I turn up that kind, encouraging voice so that it becomes the radio station I love to listen to instead of letting that the destructive, unkind one that seems out to get me dominate?
Awareness is key. I had the experience a couple of weeks ago where I was onto this self-critical, destructive habit. I was feeling unsure about a discussion group I was leading that evening. I had done all the preparation and was seemingly ready. About an hour before the class I had doubt about my ability to teach the class.
I was aware that the inner voice, the destructive one on my right shoulder was getting louder. "Do you think you are qualified to take this group? You are not an amazing teacher like ........" There is more but I will spare you the details. I was working myself into a nervous wreck.
Woooo, such unhelpful habits - judging myself as not good enough', unrealistic expectations, and comparing myself to others. How are any of those judgmental, attack thoughts of any use? And they are simply not true.
So I remembered to be curious and use the formula I have been finding useful.
1. ACCEPT the feeling - stress, doubt are happening
a). UNHELFUL REACTION.............
This is terrible, I am not qualified, good enough ....Letting that destructive attacking voice take over.
b). SUPPRESSION THE FEELING
Ignoring the anxiety. Instead accept and Remember it has come as a reminder to .....
2. BREATH and tune into the kind, encouraging angel voice
3. Kindly ask ....What do I need? (to be of benefit)
I need to give myself what is missing - the encouragement and kindness! (I would give it to a friend, so why not give it to myself?) Brene Brown says 'Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love'.
So, I know it may sound a little crazy but I tuned into and turned up that kind friendly, angel voice gave myself some kind, friendly encouragement. I said to myself 'you have done your best to prepare for this class, how it will be received is not in your control, you have no need to compare yourself to others.
This kind talk meant I could get on with what I needed to do - teach the class. We will explore some more helpful self talk slogans to replace some of those unhelpful ones next blog!
So it is just a matter of changing those untrue, destructive thought patters into more helpful ones. A work in progress that takes practice. With awareness we can remember to insert a new soundtrack, a much more helpful one, to replace the self criticism.
Amazingly as I was preparing for this class my daughter was playing a song by Michael Hurley entitled 'Be Kind to Me' . The song begins with lyrics 'Why be mean when you can be nice'? This was a very timely reminded to 'be kind to me'.
With love and my very best well wishes to you all
Have you ever done something kind for someone and not been thanked or maybe even be told off for it? This happened to me a couple of times this past fortnight and I had to remind myself of some very helpful advice I have received from Lama Marut and Cindy Lee over the years I have been studying with them. It may be a helpful reminder for you too.
What happened was I had made some meals for a relative of mine and she told me she did not want them as she had gone back to eating her favourite meals and could get them from a local food shop. Ouch, I felt hurt I had done something kind and it was rejected! Fortunately I remembered to play my kind, encouraging friend soundtrack and not the unhelpful ones.
So what did I find helpful
1. Accept the feeling - ouch, hurt happening.
NOT UNHELFUL REACTION.............
'I am so hurt and offended - this is not fair - I did a kind thing and she is unappreciative. (lots of 'I's' in there!)
AND NOT SUPPRESSION EITHER
'Oh it doesn't matter I should not be upset, my meals aren't that good anyway. I should not say anything she has been sick.
2. Kindly ask myself ....What do I need?
I need to give myself what is missing - the appreciation and thanks! So, I know it may sound a little crazy but I gave myself some kind, friendly encouragement and said 'Good on you Maree, it was kind of you to make those meals - thank you.
This helps me not to feel resentful or unappreciated. If I am able to supply the thanks that appears to have 'gone missing', I don't need to get it outside of myself and can be compassionate to my relative who is unable to be appreciative at that time. As Pema Chodron says "Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves'.
I have even embroidered 'loved and appreciated' onto my apron to remember to thank myself for my cooking efforts. This helps when I expect thanks from the family and feel resentful when it does not come or even when the response is 'I don't like Lasagna' after I have spent all afternoon making it!
Another thing I find very helpful to remember here is the principal of karma. This term is often misunderstood as a way to get what we want to as a punishment for not doing the right thing. Another way to understand karma is 'what goes around, comes around' or 'you get what you give'. So, as I understand it putting kind, positive energy out into the world will always result in some returned kindness. But the trick to remember is both.......
1. - How this kindness will be retuned is unknowable
2. - When this kindness will show up
In Buddhism they say that a kind deed or positive energy put out in the world will always result in positivity retuned. And that something unpleasant cannot come from a kindness. The converse is also true.
They say the result of action can ripen in one of three lifetimes - this lifetime, the next lifetime or any lifetime after that! Often we do a kind deed and there appears to be a gap or 'thanks gone missing', or even unkindness. This throws us for a loop, as Lama Marut would say. So, what do I do based on that?
Keep putting positive kind energy out there without expectation of immediate reward, knowing that any lack of appreciation or unkindness cannot be coming from a kind deed done. As we know kindness done will always result in kindness received we just don't know where and when. So, relax and trust kindness will definitely be returned in some way, at some time! And remember we can give that kindness and thanks to ourselves anytime!
As Aesop reminds us 'No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. The best way to receive kindness is to give it out with a kind gesture, word or smile, sharing something helpful or a well wish for someone in need. And remember to be a kind and encouraging friend to yourself too.
With love and my very best well wishes to you all
In last fortnights blog 'Working Together to Promote Calm an Peace' we explored some ideas on how to foster calm and peace amongst all the uncertainty and fear that surrounds us all.
I wanted to explore this further and have been drawn back to foundations. I have been reminded of 'Lama Marut's Components of a Sane Life' and have been doing my best to put them into practice. I seem to have more time to do this which is nice. So what are these nine components
'Lama Marut's Components of a Sane Life'
1. Every night get a good nights sleep
2. Every morning wake up grateful
3. Meditate each day (prayer or contemplation are forms of meditation)
4. Keep track to you morality all day
5. Practice kindness to others (and yourself)
6. At days end bring to mind all the ways you were a positive force in the world and feel happy about that. Rejoice in all the ways you were better FOR others today (this includes maintaining social distance, hand washing and staying home)
7. Do some form of physical exercise
8. Every day spend some time studying something uplifting
9. One a week take a day off (we have lots of opportunities for this - time to rest, relax and replenish)
It is like this now! What is my Wisest Response?
Another thing that has really helped me is Lama Marut's saying 'It is like this now' which reminds me to accept what is happening right here and now instead of protesting that somehow it should be different from what it actually is!
Jack Kornfield has an extension of this particular phrase for more extreme times. 'Even this!' Once we have accepted how things actually are we can then ask ourselves - What is my wisest response to how it is now? When we take time to consider your best intention, our heart will know the answer and encourage us to enact kindness to ourselves and others.
3 Foundational Practices
I have also been reminded of the importance of our three foundational practices
2. Kindness to oneself and others
3. Meditation and contemplation - The Breath
Look after yourself (for you and others)
Take this time to replenish, restore and rest. Fill up your tank so you have plenty to share with others. As we explored last blog taking time to look after ourselves with those balanced self care activities is important for our own welfare allows us to be available for others.
Our Pith Instructions
As Cindy Lee reminded me the other day - following the pith instructions given to us by the government is the way to stay safe for ourselves and others
1. Stay at home
2. Wash your hands
3. Maintain social distance
4. Do it for others
I have been reminded of the importance of not letting fear and worry take over in my mind. Lama Marut says 'if you can do something about it, do it and relax and don't worry' and if you can't do anything about a situation, relax and don't worry! So either way worry is a waste of time and relaxing into what you can and can't control is much more conducive to our peace of mind.
Jack Kornfield says 'This is a time of mystery and uncertainty. Take a Breath. We have needed this pause, perhaps even needed our isolation to see how much we need one another'.
With love and my very best well wishes to you all
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As I mentioned we are all facing very difficult times. I have been contemplating how to promote calm and peace amongst all the uncertainty and fear that surrounds us all. I believe it is important to firstly acknowledge the real danger and the enormous loss and suffering evident everywhere and secondly to honour our associated feelings. It is important to work with our feelings with as much kindness, compassion and wisdom as we can muster.
When feelings of fear and anxiety come up I try to remember to accept and acknowledge them and not push them away or suppress them. I also try to remember not to indulge such feelings and go into panic, victim or blame mode either. Very tricky to do currently! Somewhere in the middle is to work with ourselves and our feelings of fear, sadness or overwhelm, kindly. What do I need? What has my friend stress popped up to remind me to do? I have written some blogs in the past regarding our friend stress and what it has to teach us. You may want to read Meet my Friend Stress or 'Another Gift Our Friend Stress Brings" . These blogs were written with regard to minor stresses in comparison to what we are facing now, but they may provide some ideas regarding dealing with stress. I am sure you can adapt with creativity the ideas presented regarding maintaining connection with others given the current advice on keeping safe distance. .
I certainly don't have answers to the complexities of the current situation we all face. I am trying to do my best to deal with my feelings of fear and sadness. That said, I would like to share some things that have helped me. As our need for social isolation increases some ideas I have found useful to maintain my sense of calm, connection and peace of mind have included......
To Adapt, be Kind, Calm and Creative
Today I imposed a social safe distance restriction on myself so that I can remain healthy for my mum who has an upcoming cancer operation. So, I am looking at ways to adapt and be creative. I just did my first zoom yoga class which worked really well. We even had our regular post yoga coffee and chat via zoom. I am spending time at home studying, creating, and cooking. With the need for social isolation I have been seeing lots of adaption and creativity around me .......
In gratitude, love and appreciation for you all
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I have been noticing I have been somewhat impatient of late. My perception is that things are certainly not happening as fast as I would like and I have been feeling somewhat frustrated by things not seemingly going the way I think they should be.
The definition of Patience I like is "a calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order that the one you had in mind". I was reminded recently that patience in not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.
So what is a good attitude while waiting? I believe a good attitude always involves kindness, a calm acceptance and trust. An acceptance of what is happening and not a protest about it not being the way I want it to be. And a trust that things are unfolding just as they are meant to be. Often I look back on times I have been impatient for change or wanted something to happen in a certain way and I am relieved that it did not go the way I thought it should have. With hindsight I can see that things have unfolded for the best, just as they were meant to.
Like all feelings, frustration and impatience come and go. Again like all feelings, they will persist if we do either of two unhelpful habits. Firstly attempt to suppress the feeling, bottling it up inside so it is primed to explode out. And secondly, indulge the feeling with all sorts of justification, blame and criticism of self or others. If we can calmly accept the feeling with that detached awareness, breathe and relax it will pass allowing us to know when and how to act wisely.
The person I am most often impatient with is myself! When I am unable to get things done in time (like writing this blog) I become impatient with myself and have an unkind soundtrack going on in my head. Where is the patient, 'good attitude while waiting' soundtrack - the patient friend internal voice that is accepting, kind, encouraging and trusting?
My husband told me about a kind, encouraging strategy to help overcome blocks to getting things started, many years ago. I used it to help overcome the impatience I had with myself when I had not written the blog on time! The strategy is to sit down for 10 minutes and make a start. I did this and here I am an hour later and nearly finished my blog.
I read an interesting analogy regarding patience that has helped me maintain a good attitude while waiting. The analogy involves imagining you are a surfer. You work hard to get out to the wave break and then you have to be patient and wait for awhile until the right wave comes along.
So waiting with a good attitude - calmly accepting the wait, breathing and relaxing into the wait. With this attitude you are then ready for the right wave when it comes along. You can then paddle like mad to catch the wave and have a great time riding it into shore.
With patience we are able to be mindful of when we need to wait and when we need to act. We will sense when there is a great opportunity and we can go for it. Stay patient and TRUST what you feel and you will know when to be stay patient and when to paddle like a professional surfer and catch the ride of your life or complete this blog on patience!
In appreciation for you all. Have a great fortnight!
I tripped over while doing a morning plod around the block last week! It was a rather spectacular fall which resulted in a lump on my forehead, graze on my knee, a black eye and sprained wrist!
This fall reminded how easy it is for me to slip into the whole blame/judgement habit, both of myself and others! I hit the concrete, let out some expletives and watched my funny mind go to all sorts of unhelpful places. Firstly, I looked for something or someone to blame! The curb, the dog, or my runners!! Then I turned on myself to give me a hard time for being clumsy, rushing and not being mindful! Was any of this true, kind necessary or helpful? NO! So, what did I need? What was a more helpful habit to replace this blame/criticism with? Kindness is the answer, it always helps. When I blame and criticise myself or others, I become a victim. However with kindness I empower understanding and positive change.
So with awareness, I stuck a spanner in the blame/criticism habit cog, the spanner or kindness! So I picked myself up told myself 'that can happen, and did'! I was very grateful I was not wearing my glasses and did not appear to have done any serious damage! A man appeared from a house opposite with his bowl of muesli. He had been having breakfast on his porch and had heard the fall and my expletives. He kindly asked if I needed help and offered me a drink.
I have found it interesting to think about the difference between judgement and discernment. As I understand it judgement is an opinion about a subject or situation based on the information you have. With judgement it is tricky to know whether we have the correction information about a situation or know the whole or true story. It is certainly not true that I am always clumsy, make mistakes, and am not mindful. So when I watched my mind go straight to blame and judgement when I fell I could question the truth and helpfulness of this habit. Judgement implies someone is at fault or to blame.
Discernment, on the other hand is based on a knowing or understanding. So we know or understand something as a result of some training in ethics, compassion and wisdom, which allows us to make a wise decision. And the wisest response is always kindness.
In Buddhism they talk of 'things to take up' and 'things to give up' in order to be a happier more positive force in the world. We require discernment to know what habits are helpful and what habits could to with a rejig.
When I notice this habit of blame and criticism of myself or others I try to remember ........
It can feel overwhelming to know what to do in times of disaster or loss. We are often at a loss to know how to help those in need. I am reminded of the 'act locally, think globally (or even nationally, in your own state, town, or wider community). This reminds me that to stay open for ways to act locally - to serve and to practice kindness right where I am and when I am!
The overwhelm of sadness and loss is made easier by noticing the of love and kindness of others which is so evident everywhere, especially in times of tragedy. We see this in the amazing efforts of our firefighter superheroes from both here and overseas and so many acts of kindness to all those in need. It is so uplifting to see how people display such compassion, kindness, strength and support of each other. Let's focus on those and be inspired to practice kindness ourselves wherever and in what circumstances we find ourselves
Opportunities to practice kindness to others around us (and remembering to include ourselves too) are everywhere if we stay open to see them. Not only will this help others but it will also help us with the feelings of overwhelm and distress we can feel at times of tragedy, sadness and worry. What can I do for others? is much more helpful question to act on than to waste time and energy on stress, overwhelm or worry.
I often think that my kind acts and help needs to be on a grand scale, to be of any effect. The truth is I can act with kindness right where and when I am. A smile is a powerful kind act!
Some things that have helped me with feelings of overwhelm and worry and to remember the power of kindness and love are........
I love this poem and image from Leunig, and have found this a timely reminder of late that contentment is a mindset we can cultivate by simply being content.
For me this poem reflects Lama Marut's very helpful slogans
Giving -More about Presence and Less about Presents blog
Wishing you and all those in your world a wonderful festive season and beyond. I look forward to connecting in 2020
Much thanks, love and best wishes to you all
I have written lots on gratitude. Gratitude includes both an appreciation of, and a willingness to pay back kindness. It is important to bring awareness to gratitude for Mother nature - our sustainer and supporter of life. How do we repay the kindness of our Mother Nature? It seems to me that making efforts to protect our environment is the way to go!
I have been watching 'The War of Waste' which has been giving me lots of insights into the environmental impact of waste and some valuable suggestions about how to reduce waste. While the enormity of the problem of waste can be overwhelming, I am calmed by the fact that 'peace begins with me'. In Buddhism there is a truism which says you cannot cover the earth with leather for protection, but you can cover your feet with leather to protect them and the earth both!
So, how do we care for the earth, tread lightly on it and reduce our environmental footprint? And how do we return the kindness of our precious Mother Earth? One in the same really!
Here are a few suggestions. I am sure you can think of many more, but here are a few I am trying to put into practice...
As I write this blog from this beautiful spot, I am surrounded by the wonders of Mother Nature and reminded of how she sustains, supports and lovingly takes care of us all, so perfectly. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to restore and appreciate the wonder of my life. It has been fun to think about ways to be mindful to appreciate, return kindness and care for such wonderful, gracious gifts Mother Nature provides.
No matter where you are, especially at this potentially busy time of year, try to remember to take some time out to let Mother Nature replenish you, be thankful for Her sustenance and support and put into practice some ways to repay that kindness by caring for Her too.
Have a great fortnight. Thank you all.
Kind Regards and Best Wishes,