What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger (blech!)

From the title of this post, I reckon you can tell I am not a fan of this well-known and often used aphorism. I watched an old episode of Hell’s Kitchen the other day with my husband and one of the participants in the show said it to another participant who had broken down crying, which is what prompts me to pen some words on this particular thread.

For whatever reason, this aphorism seems to me to be close cousins of another unfortunately common saying: If I can do it, you can do it.

At face value and generally speaking: both sayings are nonsense.

Have I mentioned lately: words matter?

It would be much more accurate to say: What doesn’t kill us may make us stronger. Because the thing is: sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, the challenges/hardships/struggle/turmoil/or trauma we face serves as a means to shut us down, and armor us up against a world we deem as out to get us.

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Words Matter

Yesterday morning, I found myself in line with my favorite cashier at a local store I frequent. As she was ringing me up for my purchase, she asked me if I was ready for Thanksgiving. At first, I was confused by her question. Given that it’s 3-weeks away, T-day simply isn’t high on my mental radar. But I re-calibrated quickly and responded in a lighthearted tone: Yep, I’m ready.

It’s important to mention that her question was front-loaded with a tone that clearly relayed not only her own lack of readiness but also a thick air of obligation. It felt very much like she was fishing for a certain stock answer she was looking for – an agreeable party that could share her own sense of misery inherent in the upcoming holiday. I then went on to tell her that we were hosting a community potluck gathering at our house, like we do every year, to which she replied: Oh, that’s good. That way you don’t have to do all the cooking your self. She then told me about how her kids now have kids and even though it’s just her own family attending, her family is growing and it’s a lot of work to host Thanksgiving. Part of me wanted to say: don’t do it, my friend – if you don’t enjoy cooking and hosting, don’t do it. But even though she and I have a lovely rapport together, it’s not like I know her well enough to say something like that.

It seemed very much like she was putting herself in an obligatory state of relationship with Thanksgiving, rather than a choice-state. And having a fondness for her, my heart went out to her, wishing she didn’t feel as though she had to cook and host if that really wasn’t what she wanted to do and could find joy in.

Switching.

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Truthful & Loving Speech

The Ninth Mindfulness Training: Truthful and Loving Speech

Aware that words can create happiness or suffering, we are committed to learning to speak truthfully, lovingly and constructively. We will use only words that inspire joy, confidence and hope as well as promote reconciliation and peace in ourselves and among other people. We will speak and listen in a way that can help ourselves and others to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. We are determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people, nor to utter words that might cause division or hatred. We will protect the happiness and harmony of our Sangha by refraining from speaking about the faults of other persons in their absence and always ask ourselves whether our perceptions are correct. We will speak only with the intention to understand and help transform the situation. We will not spread rumors nor criticize or condemn things of which we are not sure. We will do our best to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may make difficulties for us or threaten our safety.

To read the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, which are the foundation of the Order of Interbeing, click here

I’ve been reading the Ninth Mindfulness Training every day for the past week, as part of a ongoing practice I’ve been doing with a friend of mine. And in rare form, I don’t feel as though I have much to say in added commentary in regards to this training. What I can say is this: I am committed to embodying this training as much as I possible can, for the sake of all beings (myself included). And, I’m a work in progress for sure.

Moral Landscape

A few weeks ago, my husband Mike and I were talking about morality and ethical codes of conduct. He described himself as being morally ambiguous and described me as being puritanical – but when I scrunched up my face in disapproval, he adjusted his word choice from puritanical to wholesome, which I was much more on board with.

He spoke about how his lines of morality differ than mine, which he felt was largely due to the fact that he’s a recovering addict and can traverse slippery slopes rather adeptly. He has the ability to rationalize to himself a wealth of tricky thoughts, which then lead to unwholesome, harmful actions. And while we all potentially have this capacity, I am not personally a frequent flyer – or even much of a visitor at all – of the slippery slope. I have and uphold very clear lines of distinction between what I feel is moral and what isn’t. My moral landscape is steadfast and relatively unwavering. This isn’t to say I don’t make mistakes of course, but more to say that my ethical compass is always close at hand and keeps me pointed in the direction of thinking, speaking, and acting in such a way that generates authenticity, skillfulness, and mutual benefit for myself and others.

Since we had this conversation, I’ve been mulling over the topic of ethics and values and moral codes of conduct. Both on an individual level and on a wider collective level. Mostly, I’ve been investigating this topic by asking myself questions, such as: What does it mean to have a high moral standard? What collective values does our western society promote (DOES it actively promote values?)? Is there/can there be a universal set of ethics which will ensure a healthy, happy, well-contented life? Is there such a thing as right and wrong when it comes to ethics and values?

Most people would readily agree that killing a human being just for the “fun” of it is wrong. But what about animals? There are folks out there who are just fine with killing animals for sport. Most people would probably say that lying isn’t cool, however most people do it. There are a sea of rationalizations that people use for telling white lies, bending the truth, hiding and deceiving others, or even telling outright untruths. Most of us would probably agree that adultery isn’t kosher, but many folks skirt lines of improper attention seeking and sexual behavior. The list goes on and on.

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Social Media + Mindfulness

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I used to be really against delving into the social media realm.  It used to be something I felt a bit self-righteous about as well, as in: “I’m better than you because I’m not on Facebook.”  It’s a little hard to admit, but it’s true.

But after a recent writer’s conference and having the message of: If you want to be a writer you need to be on social media drilled into me by all of the published authors I saw in different workshops (yes, they ALL spoke to it) I dove head first into the waters of social media.  In the span of only one or two days I formed a personal facebook page, a twitter account, pinterest page, and looked into creating my own website.  If I had a smartphone I would’ve started an instagram account as well, but I don’t so I didn’t.

I’ve been operating a facebook page for our local sangha (Be Here Now Community) for the past 4 years or so but without a personal page of my own the functions available to me on facebook had been quite limited until recently.  So when I opened a personal facebook page it was rather overwhelming figuring out how things worked.  And twitter was, and still is, rather a mystery to me.  I don’t pretend to understand really what I’m doing on twitter and what I “should” be tweeting about.

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Mindful Speech & Deep Listening, Part 2

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This is part 2 of 2.

Deep listening is the ability to listen without judging or reacting.  To be able to focus our full attention on someone when they are talking is a great gift.  Oftentimes we are only partially listening when someone is talking due to internal or external distractions or waiting to offer our input, experience, or advice.  It is easy to interrupt and talk over others.  Deep listening involves allowing space and slowing down.  Allowing space for the other person to express themselves and to feel heard and understood – slowing down enough to be able to offer our full presence.

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Mindful Speech & Deep Listening, Part 1

Listening

For the last 5 weeks I’ve been teaching a class I call MIndfulness Matters through our adult learning center here in town.  I’ve been teaching these class series for the last 4 years or so.  I focus on a different element of mindfulness each week and this week’s topic is mindful speech and deep listening.  In order to help prepare I thought I would write out some of my thoughts and subject matter here.

The greatest gift we can offer someone is our true and full presence and two of the most important tools that we can cultivate in order to do this are mindful speech and deep listening.  Mindful speech is the use of words that help inspire self-confidence, joy, inclusiveness, and connection.  Deep listening is the ability to listen in such a way where we are free of judgement and a need to react.

If we don’t know how to practice mindful speech and deep listening towards ourselves we will only be so effective when we direct these skill sets towards others.  Many of us have a very negative internal dialogue that is directed at ourselves.  This internal voice is often operating on an unconscious level and can be very active throughout the day.  A few common examples of negative self-talk include statements like, “I can’t believe I just did that, I’m so stupid!” or “I look awful today, I’m so fat.” or “Gosh, what is wrong with me today, I can’t do anything right.”

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