This week I have been reminded that when people act out in prejudice, discriminatory, and outright ignorant ways…they are being driven by fear. It may be fear of themselves, fear of uncertainty, or such a deep fear they don’t even realize it exists within them. My response will either give fear more power and promote separation or provide the antidote and guide us towards unity. It doesn’t mean I accept behavior and ignore the consequences of their actions…it means that I generate something that is impossible to exist in a state of fear: love. When we respond in kindness, patience, understanding, and generosity we promote a strand that connects us a human beings and reminds us that we are all the same perfectly imperfect and beautiful being that is.
Category Archives: Kindness
Strength training for everyone.
If someone asks you how your week is going, what are you most likely going to focus on? Too often we get caught up in the things that we didn’t do well, the tasks we didn’t complete, or simply the daunting things piling up in front of us. And sometimes, all of those things start to sound like a negative committee in our head that is communicating that we are not good enough or working hard enough to celebrate exactly who we are in this moment.
What if you paused today and simply asked the question: “What did I do well this week?” There is something powerful about this question because it holds the answer to where our strengths are found. Through examining this question, we can reveal what we do automatically, and sometimes with little to no effort. Herein lies the key to what really makes us strong.
Now for those of us who have a particularly loud inner critic, this exercise may prove to be more complex and require careful attention to avoid the desire of focusing on deficiencies. However, if you follow these simple steps, you will be on your way to a stronger you:
- First, gather your writing paper/pens (this is better than the computer to decrease the likelihood of distractions).
- Next, sit and allow yourself to feel calm. This will look different for everyone, but do what works for you. It may include abdominal breathing, remembering self-compassion, smiling, soothing music, or even just thinking positive thoughts. Whatever works for you, take as much time as you need. Being calm and present is the most important part of this task.
- After you feel calm and relaxed, reflect on your week and think about all the events from the past 7 days. You may want to jot down certain names/places/things that happened.
- When you have brainstormed for a minute or so, begin documenting the things that you did each day that you enjoyed, brought you satisfaction, made you smile, and/or you want to repeat.
That’s all. Don’t worry if you had one great day and then one really crappy day….you are focusing on the positives. If you woke up early one day, had a good workout, connected with a friend over dinner, and noticed a beautiful sunset, then you write it down. However, and this is VERY important, if you find your mind wandering to the day that you overslept, had a conflict at work, ate all junk food, or argued with your partner; take a deep breath and focus on listing out only the things that you feel good about. Sure, maybe you had a crap day for the most part, but can you find something that was positive? Maybe it was the fact that you got up and dressed that day? Or maybe it was that you decided not to go bed angry. If you sincerely look for the best parts of your day, I believe you will find it.
Every day we do something that supports us, that makes us feel whole, that motivates us to try again the next day; but we can get so caught up in the one or maybe five things we did ‘wrong’ or not quite good enough that we overlook and even forget the small awesome moments. Please do not think any act was too small….if you smiled at even one person one day; that is something work celebrating and acknowledging.
The whole exercise should only take a few minutes and the most time-consuming part may be the getting to calm but it can be incredibly powerful to consciously acknowledge all of the good things you did this week. And as with any exercise, you will need to repeat it often to reap the full benefits. So start today, see how you feel, then try it again next week. Hopefully with a few intentional exercises of highlighting your own strengths you can start to recognize that you really are stronger than you realized and that you have incredible potential to become even stronger.
Be happy, be healthy, be strong.
Complaint free day
What if you spent an entire day without complaining? How would that change your perspective? How uncomfortable would it be to refrain from voicing a complaint and accept the reality of a situation and continue to move forward? I’m not suggesting that we all become passive and not speak up about unequitable, unjust, or unacceptable behaviors, I’m suggesting we think about how to voice our feelings and thoughts in a more productive and healthy way that result in either a reasonable solution or follow up plan of action.
We all have our moments of complaining and it’s totally understandable. Especially when we feel frustrated, upset, fearful, confused, and overwhelmed. At the end of the day we have to ask, what is the point of complaining? Are we seeking validation from other people? Maybe. Do we need to complain about how tough our day was in order for people to understand that we are struggling? Or are we looking to excuse our own behavior through the fault of something/someone else? Maybe we complain to connect with others. I’m sure many of us have complained about another person or event to someone and it made us feel closer and more connected than before. Are we complaining often because we don’t feel that anyone hears us otherwise? Or are we complaining because we are fearful? The next time you hear yourself complaining or feel the need to air out a complaint, ask yourself these questions:
–What is the purpose of my complaint? Or What do I need right now from this situation?
–Is this something that serves me well or can I let it go?
–If this serves me well or I feel strongly enough about it, what can I do to positively impact the situation or create change?
Once you realize those answers you can more easily determine how to frame your thoughts and feelings in a productive and helpful way instead of simply complaining about it with no means of appeasing your emotions tied to the situation.
The challenge is not about complaining, it’s the discovery of what is driving the complaint. Ultimately if we approach our struggles with more self-understanding and awareness we are more likely to find a solution that not only helps our own sense of well-being but promotes more peace and contentment within our immediate environment. I do not envision a world without complaint, but I love the idea of changing our personal space and space around us to a place where complaints are less frequent and ideas of action/resolve are the common theme.
There is an important disclaimer about increasing your awareness of your own complaining: once you become aware of how often (and honestly, how easy) it is to complain within yourself….you will start noticing it much more in everyone else around you. This is not an easy thing to navigate because as you begin living with an intention to complain less and act more, it can be incredibly taxing to be more attuned to everyone else’s complaints. The best advice I can offer in those moments is to practice love, understanding, compassion, and kindness for both the other person and especially yourself and to remember that it is not your place to learn lessons for other people. After all, lessons can be helpful but the models of those lessons are way more powerful. Be a model of Love, Understanding, Compassion, and Kindness and enjoy the space that you create around you.
Presence for Presents
I love the holidays. I love anything that brings people together and nurtures connection with each other. Unfortunately, a by-product of all this connection is the much dreaded gift exchanges and holiday purchases that sometimes overshadow the spirit of the season. This post is created in the spirit of including some presence in the presents of the season. 🙂
Here’s the deal. The best presents for people are rarely advertised on the front of a store ad. There are not “limited quantities” of an honest expression of love and gratitude. Yes, you can put objects in a package and tie a pretty bow around them, but when you are truly celebrating another person it is less like a chore and more like an opportunity. An opportunity to express yourself and the meaning of your relationship and an opportunity to engage in a delightful experience of kindness.
The catch is that it may take more than a few minutes of late night online shopping to find a true reflection of all these things. This is where the idea of presence comes in. I’m not suggesting you spend hours in meditation to figure out the perfect gift. But maybe spend a few minutes figuring out what each person likes, what words represent their personality, what activities do they enjoy, or what dream have they ever expressed to you? Sometimes if you can just write down the person’s name and jot down the first 6-10 descriptors that come to mind when you think of that person…it could be helpful in you figuring out something that would truly celebrate who they are.
Another exploration of your presence is to reflect on something that you really want to share with people this holiday season. What has inspired you lately? What has made your heart sing? Is there a way to share that with the people in your life?
Consider this an invitation for all of us to include a sense of presence for the presents we all buy/make and distribute this year. This comes naturally to some people and not so naturally for others. If you are needing a little inspiration to get your creative ideas flowing consider these strategies to incorporate presence this season:
-Gift an experience instead of just a ‘thing’. This could be in the form of movie passes, a coupon for a painting class or workshop, or tickets to a musical concert. Depending on the experience, maybe you can even share the experience with them!
-Gift positivity. Create affirmations for your friends. There are a ton of sites that include affirmations for all sorts of categories ranging from love, friendships, workplace, and spirituality.
-Gift inspiration (in the form of famous quotes, calendars, or photography). Take your own photo and frame it or type up your favorite quote on cardstock.
-Gift music. Burn a CD with your favorite songs from this year or something they may not normally listen to.
-Gift gratitude. Make a gratitude jar/container. Label it and create a starter kit for them. If you are feeling particularly grateful, include notes of gratitude from you to them and place them in the jar for them to read later.
-Gift silly. Create coupons for ‘night off from cooking/cleaning the kitchen.’ or “all day pass to watch sports on tv without complaint.’
-Gift practical. If you know someone writes a lot, gift them notebooks and pens. If you know someone who drinks tea every day, pick up a variety pack of flavors for them.
-Gift connection. If you are missing someone, gift them cards with envelopes and stamps so you can stay connected.
-Gift your gifts. If you make the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever…gift them to people along with your secret recipe. This works for any food item that is your claim to fame. 🙂 Include an uplifting movie and you have a family gift ready to share.
Whatever you do….make it fun. Make it goofy. Make it real. And make it personal. Those are the things that make it meaningful. Not only do I believe that is the true spirit of the holidays, but I believe it is the core of our spirit each and every day.
Wishing you peace, love, and good health this holiday season.
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