Tag Archives: Help

Three Truths and One Wish

Right Speech, also called Wise Speech or Virtuous Speech, is speech that gives rise to peace and happiness in oneself and others…the word “Right” is not a moral judgment to be contrasted with bad or wrong, but means “leading to happiness for oneself and others.” ~Beth Roth, Family Dharma: Right Speech Reconsidered

Right Speech is something I think about a lot, something I try to practice in my personal life and in my writing. For example, on this blog I make choices about what to write about, what to share based on the principles of right speech–which means there are some things that are happening in my life that I don’t talk about here. It can be strange for the people in my life who know what’s going on. Just this weekend, my mom asked me if there was something she didn’t know about, something that was worrying me, bothering me, that I’d said something on the blog that made her think there was–and there is, but she already knows about it, it’s nothing new, I simply chose to not share the specific details here in my posts. It’s not because I am trying to be dishonest or less than wholehearted and authentic, but that I am considering the three truths of Right Speech.

1. Truth: Right Speech is true. Sometimes we say something before we know if it’s really true or not, or when there’s no way for us to know if it’s true. Maybe we even preface it with, “well I heard,” thinking that gets us off the hook, but still we are essentially telling a lie, a non-truth. Sometimes we exaggerate or over generalize, saying something about everyone who belongs to a different political party or religion or culture, not really knowing if that’s true and certainly knowing it can’t be true of “all of them.”

image by pittaya sroilong

Sometimes what we say is a belief formed in a state of confusion (or passion, or anger), and even if we aren’t entirely sure if our perception is accurate, we pass it along as fact. I do this to my husband when I’m upset or irritated and I start a phrase with “you always…” or I try to tell him what he thinks or really meant to say, simply because in my confused, upset condition it’s how I’m choosing to see things, to be hurt or to pick a fight, either way casting him as the one at fault, as the enemy. Practicing Right Speech would mean that I instead took a breath, explained that I was upset and not seeing things clearly.

2. Truth: Right Speech is compassionate. It is kind, peaceful, promotes harmony and good will, comforts, encourages, inspires, is gentle. It’s kind of like what your mom always told you: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” That can sound hokey, childish even, but think about it–what is your response when someone speaks harshly or aggressively to you? Does that kind of talk, that tone make you feel peaceful or happy, loving towards the one speaking? Or does it make you want to smack someone in the mouth?

It’s also a common parenting tip: if your child is having a meltdown, ignore them, or if they are yelling, rather than yelling back and escalating the situation, you should try whispering. I see this even with my dogs. If they are barking at something, me yelling at them to “be quiet!” is essentially me barking too and doesn’t really stop them, but if I walk up close to them and quietly say “shhhh,” they usually can be interrupted, calmed down. Compassionate Right Speech means don’t instigate a fight, and don’t get hooked by someone else trying to start one with you. Make an attempt to avoid speech that would hurt or harm.

3. Truth: Right Speech is helpful. Say what is useful, purposeful, necessary, wise. Words can nourish or poison, harm or help, and it’s clear which is preferable. There are situations where I see people I love making the same dumb mistakes, over and over, and I get to the point where I am so frustrated, I want to tell them how dumb they are being, and how irritating it is, to judge and criticize them, but I stop myself, because it wouldn’t be helpful.

image by marc falardeau

And when we offer advice, we have to carefully consider who we are talking to, what their circumstance are, what they are ready to hear and to do. Sometimes, even if we can see clearly what they should do, what would make them happy, they might be too deep in their confusion about their situation, their resistance to reality too strong, and they might not be ready for advice, for a challenge to their current perspective or position. A simpler example of this might be yelling at a homeless person to “get a job!,” (actually, that statement in that situation might fail all three principles of Right Speech).

One wish: That we all commit wholeheartedly to speech that gives rise to peace and happiness in ourselves and others. That we chose our words carefully, making sure that they are true, compassionate, and helpful. And in the moments we can’t seem to do so, we are able to remain silent, quiet with our struggle rather than actively generating suffering or mindlessly chattering. And that we understand the principles of Right Speech should also be applied to our internal dialogues, those secret conversations we have with ourselves, and that we practice truth, kindness, and wisdom there as well.

I want you to believe yourself

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. ~Anne Lamott

For the past week, I have been a mess. I am dealing with a health thing, an imbalance that is making me anxious and depressed and tired and cold and heavy, (if you have a functioning thyroid, thank it right now for all the good work it does for you). I don’t want to get out of bed, and if I do, I certainly don’t want to leave the house, sometimes can’t trust myself to open my mouth, and a lot of the time, I feel like I’m about to cry. I have a doctor’s appointment early next week that will hopefully begin the process of getting that balance restored.

Then there’s Sam. He is sweet and goofy and I love him so much, but he’s also a challenge for me. We had our training session yesterday with the amazing Sarah Stremming from Cognitive Canine, and while I’d hoped to feel better, lighter, more confident and calm afterwards, instead I felt overwhelmed and shaky and discouraged. Watching him be frustrated and anxious and feeling like I don’t quite understand how to help him navigate that just makes me so sad. Sarah gave me a lot of new information and I was trying to process and remember, what to do and what not to do, but I felt myself sinking lower and lower. I went to bed at 8 pm, because I could no longer keep myself upright and I needed to have a good cry. I know that a lot of this is due to my thyroid being out of whack, and because of that I can’t completely trust myself right now, but when you are in it, it’s hard to be rational, to remember that there’s that thing that is distorting your perception–you just feel what you feel, and it doesn’t feel good.

On Kind Over Matter’s Friday’s Lovelies list this week, there’s a link to Tanya Geisler’s “Thing Finding Thursday,” (you might remember, I wrote a post about “The Thing” before), which she describes as “stories of people who found their Things, and how they did it — so you can do it, too.” I looked through Tanya’s archives, and found two videos I wanted to watch: one with Dyana Valentine and one with Jennifer Louden, two of my favorite women.

Dyana Valentine talked about rooting what you do, your thing, in your strengths and core values. And she reminds us that “just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you have any business doing it.” Towards the end of the video, when Tanya asks her “what do you want for the people watching you right now?” and Dyana’s answer had me in tears. She says:

I want for you to believe yourself. And I don’t mean believe in yourself but I want you to believe yourself. I want you to believe what you experience. I want you to believe what you say to yourself and to other people. I want you to believe that you are on the planet and we are happy that you are here. I want you to believe that if you know something is not working for you that you can make that change–you don’t have to make it now, but I want you to believe that you know the difference between right and right now.

Jennifer Louden said of The Thing in her “Thing Finding Thursday” video with Tanya “it’s okay if you found it and abandoned it and found it and abandoned it and found it and abandoned it. And we can be ashamed that we’ve given up and we’re here again, or we can celebrate and get support.” She finishes up by saying:

Sometimes the things that you most care about are the things that you’re most afraid of, so you may know very well what your thing is and you may know that you may not be able to bring it to life the way that you want and that may break your heart, but don’t let that heartbreak stop you from trying.

“Warriorship means that when there are obstacles, we do not back off,” (Sakyong Mipham). So, as I feel discouraged, brokenhearted, and messy, I choose to get support and help rather than to give up. I believe myself. And I don’t let the heartbreak stop me from trying. This is my dog, my thing, my life. “I know the more I embrace My Thing, the more exciting and dangerous the adventure of life will become,” (Brandy Glows on Thing Finding Thursday). I am challenged and afraid of failure, and more than a little tired, but I am not broken, I am not done. I am already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who I was born to be.

Shadow Comforts and Time Monsters

I mentioned yesterday that I had watched “Wise Person Call with Brene Brown,” a video of Jennifer Louden talking with Brene’ Brown.  In it, they talked about Shadow Comforts and Time Monsters, who, from the sounds of it, are the younger siblings of these two:

Picture by Cubby

Jennifer Louden wrote her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, when she was 25. “I had no idea how to take care of myself. I wrote the book to discover how – and as I learned about self-care and self-nurturing, I realized how much of the time I comforted myself in ways that actually made me feel worse…I discovered that healthy comfort and shadow comfort are different in how they make you feel. More alive, more centered, more you? Healthy comfort. Dull, self-hating, anxious? Shadow comfort,” (from an interview with Jennifer on Marianne Elliott’s website).

In her published books, she describes shadow comfort this way:

  • A shadow comfort is anything that masquerades as a cherishing self-care technique but in fact drains your energy”
  • Shadow comforts are encumbrances like eating too many sweets, watching too much TV, shopping for things we don’t need, surfing the Internet for hours, reading too much — numbing out. Another word for these behaviors is soft addictions or buffers [or counterfeit comforts],” and “Shadow comfort doesn’t nourish you, it diminishes you. It’s what many people think of when they think of comfort. They are actually punishing themselves instead of nourishing their souls.”

In my attempt to learn self-care, this is an important distinction.  When I was looking up more definitions for it, looking into it further, I found an old article by Jennifer Louden in which she provided an exercise to help you identify your shadow comforts.  In a continued effort to be brave and vulnerable, to be public and accountable, and thereby hopefully some kind of inspiration to someone else wanting to do the same, and as a way to help you understand shadow comforts if the concept still doesn’t make sense, here are my responses to the exercise.

1. List your favorite shadow comforts.

  • EATING, and eating, and eating.
  • Feeling sorry for myself, depression, worry and anxiety.
  • Sleep.
  • Illness.
  • Mindless TV watching, internet surfing.
  • Mindless chores, busywork.
  • Doing for others, taking care of them.
  • Working out.
  • Shame, blame and anger.
  • Smashing myself to bits.
  • Shopping online, buying books or signing up for classes.
  • Alcohol, sugar.
  • Procrastination and avoidance.

2. What are four or five situations or feelings that trigger a shadow comfort response in me?

  • My job.
  • Family problems that I feel helpless to fix.
  • Fear of failure, fear of success.
  • Shame, feeling not worthy or not enough.
  • Poverty mentality, a sense of scarcity, that there won’t be enough.

From Jennifer Louden about shadow comforts, “We often choose to do things that numb us or distract us because we are afraid.”  Based on my lists: um yeah, yup, okay, I see it, “whoomp there it is,” duh.  She goes on to say:

I know, cue smoting of forehead! How obvious but still, like many obvious ideas, huge when you get it.

We eat sugar or check email for the 1000000000000 time because we are afraid.

Afraid of our feelings, our power, our desires, our longings.

Afraid of intimacy, change, beauty, joy, the sweetness of life.

Afraid of anger, disappointment, judgment, shame.

Afraid of being afraid!

Sure, we choose shadow comforts for other reasons too (being tired, not knowing what we really want, being revved up, lack of self-permission, not thinking). And yet, behind even these, often lurks fear.

Then, there are the Time Monsters. Jennifer describes them as “Closely related but slightly different from shadow comforts are time monsters – anything we pretend is a creative, generative use of our time but is actually a way to dodge doing what we really want to do…I’ve coached many women whose lives consisted almost entirely of time monsters because they were too afraid to do what they really wanted to do – for fear of failure, for fear of what their mother/husband/children might think, for fear that when their long-held dream was realized, it would become tarnished by daily living…We spend our lives doing things that don’t matter, and meanwhile, our desires are sobbing, locked away in the basement.”

WAH!!!!  This is what I have been doing for at least the past 20 years.  20 years!  My good grades, my good behavior, my generosity, graduate school, in many ways my job…bleh. Time Monsters. Not a waste of time, just a manifestation of a basic confusion, a huge misunderstanding. I bought into what I thought I was supposed to do, what I thought would make people accept and love me, what would make them like me, think I’m cool or special.  I wanted to be smart, pretty, and popular, and I sacrificed the work that really mattered to me because I thought it would get me there. 

Photo by Toni Verdu

Again, I want to sink into thinking “what a waste of time,” but I remind myself that it was all necessary, that “It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now, and now is right on time.

There’s hope, there’s a plan, a practice, a way out. You can learn self-care, real and true “I love myself and I am worth it and I am going to show up” kind of care. In another article, Jennifer gives a strategy:

When I look at my habits or practices as something I am teaching myself, instead of as fatal flaws that I can never change, I create enough space to identify what I am doing that doesn’t feel nourishing. Then, if I choose to, I can move into the mood of being a creator, of shaping my life, by asking some of these questions:

Is this teaching me what I want to learn?

Is this helping me live my truest life?

Is this giving me energy?

And the most powerful question of all:

What do I really want?

I have to admit that right now, it feels like I really want a cookie, or an entire chocolate cake, but I know that would be a shadow comfort. Instead, I am off to see Ira Glass, the host of one of my very favorite radio shows “This American Life,” one of my very favorite things, with a good friend.

Starting Over, Again.

I got an email today, someone I love talking about being “45 and starting over.”  It made me think of all the times I have done it, called a do-over, begun again.

Photo by Steven Depolo

  1. I married at 18 and moved to Arizona.
  2. I moved back to Oregon and got unmarried.
  3. I moved in with my mom and dad and went back to college, (a change inspired by the loss of my friend Heather).
  4. I moved to Colorado and married Eric.
  5. We moved back to Oregon and I went back to school, again.
  6. We moved to Colorado, again, and I went to graduate school.
  7. I got out of a bad work situation and started working on myself, (inspired by the loss of my dog Obi and my friend Kelly).

Lucky seven?  There are a few things after all this practice that I know are true when it comes to making changes, starting over:

  • I am already whole, (all of us are).  I am not a problem to be fixed, or a project to take on.  “Improving” or healing are about becoming what I already am.  My friend Courtney wrote a blog post the other day about the same kind of thing, “Not Fixing.”  In it, she says “Say goodbye to the wrench and screw driver approach to your healing. You don’t need fixing. You have all that you need inside you for your healing to take place.” Thank you.  Amen.
  • To practice “self-help” does not mean that I have to change who I essentially am, but rather be true to who I am.  To change, I make a commitment to manifesting that which is fundamental about myself, my basic goodness and wisdom.  What I do let go of in this process are habits, and actions or thoughts that no longer serve me, (that probably never served me the way I expected, the way I needed). “The purpose of our practice is just to be yourself.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

I get daily emails from Jo Ann at The Receiving Project and today’s was “You cannot run away from yourself. The sooner you stop trying, the sooner you can begin to bring love and compassion to yourself. The sooner you can embrace that which pains and transform it into that which loves.”

Brave Belly

So, what am I looking to change? In a post that seems full of them, here’s another list, the list:

  • To eat in a way that feeds a healthy body, not a sick and starving heart.
  • To continue to write daily, with the intention of eventual publication, (beyond this blog).  The daily practice and public forum of my blog will manifest this in an organic manner.
  • To be more settled, satisfied in my current paid work, or be financially able to let it go.
  • To be financially fit, debt-free, simply living.  To have the ability to take care of needs, save, provide, share and gift, take the occasional vacation or bigger purchase without depending on long-term credit.  To have freedom without too much sacrifice.
  • To become craftier, more hand-made, learn the skills of “my people”–farming, gardening, canning, baking bread, sewing, quilting, knitting, carpentry, car repair.
  • To be vulnerable and brave, to let go of shame, pleasing, performing, and perfectionism.
  • To repair my relationship with myself, and through that, repair my relationships with others.
  • Learn the ukelele and take voice lessons, giving my creativity and voice another outlet.
  • Be more green, more simple, more careful, more mindful.
  • Continue to develop my yoga and meditation practices, remaining open to the possibility of teaching, but not forcing it, allowing it to manifest naturally.
  • Slow down, continue to be mindful about how I spend my time.
  • Keep my eyes and heart open to great work, as I continue to do good work.
  • Be aware of the ways I can grow deeper into myself, seek out those opportunities with kindness and wisdom.

My Mondo Beyondo class taught me that there is power in dreaming big, making a list of all the things you want and sharing it. “What happens when you give an unspoken wish a place to become a dream come true?

ScribbleIf you are looking to begin again, start over, “be the change you want to see in the world,” you might want to read:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

Something Good.

I think I might have already mentioned this, but when I am feeling bad, I will often ask Eric to “tell me something good.”  When I need something to hang on to, to make me feel better, something to show me that it’s not all bad.  When I am in that dark hole, way down at the bottom, and the mean things with teeth are down there with me–“tell me something good.”

Picture by Cubby

He’s really good at it, because even when all he can think of is “I love you,” it totally works.  I mean, how great is it that the person that you picked and who said “yes” eighteen years ago, and knows you better than anyone, knows all the embarrassing and ugly stuff, continues to love you?  He usually is able to give me a whole list when I ask him, followed by a hug and “what can I do for you, how can I make you feel better?”

But wait–this isn’t a post about how great Eric is, even though that’s true.  This post is about a new Monday feature I’m starting today on this blog: Something Good.  I like the idea of gratitude generating joy, and the opportunity my gratitude has to spread joy when I share the good things.

Here’s today’s list:

  • Monday Morning Yoga. For the past four and a half years, I have been going to a 6:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning yoga class.  The teachers have remained the same, and there are two other people, along with a rotating cast of about 10-15 others, who have also attended for all that time.  It is a constant comfort, while it continues to challenge me to keep changing and evolving.  These classes were the beginnings of my yoga practice, and I am so grateful.
  • My Dogs. I promise I won’t list them every week, but I totally could.  These furry boys are at the center of my life, and live right in the middle of my heart.  And Obi might be physically gone, but he is still with me, with us.
  • Kind Over Matter.  This is on of my favorite websites.  It is a collection of daily goodness that comforts and inspires me.  There was a guest post today, “Be the Rabbit” that was so great, made me think of my dogs and helped me to think of another strategy for taking better care of myself.  “Kind Over Matter is a place that is filled with kindness, inspiration, creativity, truth, gentleness & love.” Amen.
  • Blogtoberfest. This event challenges bloggers to post to their blog every day in October.  It was perfect timing for me, because I had just started this blog, and committing to daily posts gave me the discipline and inspiration to really get this thing off the ground.  I might have already faltered if not for Blogtoberfest, but with it, I feel settled and connected to this practice, and can already see it’s value, shared and internalized.
  • Writing This Blog. Writing publicly and daily is really good writing practice, and as I have mentioned before, people like Malcolm Gladwell (who wrote Outliers: The Story of Success) would argue that it takes some 10,000 hours of dedication to a craft or profession to become an “expert,” so the more practice, the better.

And also, a few times in the past weeks, as I have been writing a post, a line emerges that shifts things for me.  Yesterday, it was this one: “it’s actually my heart that is starving and this is not going to feed it, never going to satisfy that hunger no matter how much I eat.”  Holy Wow.  It feels like there’s this deep wisdom bubbling up, and this practice gives it space, power, a voice.

  • A moment of gratitude from one of my favorite movies, Joe Vs. the Volcano: “Dear God, whose name I do not know – thank you for my life. I forgot how big… thank you. Thank you for my life.”
  • Your turn: tell me something good.

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

I met a friend for coffee yesterday afternoon, and we got to talking about the difference between awareness and mindfulness.  I was explaining how I am more aware now, can see myself as I start to enact old habits, practice old patterns, specifically of numbing out or perfection, but most of the time, I am unable to stop myself.  Instead, I watch it happen, the same way it has thousands of times before.

For example, I make the chocolate zucchini bread with an awareness that I typically can’t eat it like a “normal” person, that I have trouble stopping because the more I can eat, the more numb I feel.  I feel bad and want the bad to go away, and this works.

But I make promises to myself that this time will be different, I will control myself, I will “be good,” but get into a heated argument with the one that needs the zucchini bread, as much of it as I can stand to stuff in.  It needs to feel better, now, and this is how to make that happen, so “you” aren’t going to stop me–I am doing this.

This is the point where my awareness–awareness of the danger, my understanding of the ineffectiveness of this strategy, the knowledge of how ashamed I’ll feel when it’s over, that it won’t actually help in the long run, that it’s actually my heart that is starving and this is not going to feed it, never going to satisfy that hunger no matter how much I eat–slips away. 

The next thing I know, I’ve eaten two huge pieces and I feel sick to my stomach.  It’s like when you get in your car to go to work, aware that you are getting in your car to go to work, and next thing you know, you are there, and have no memory of the drive–complete mindlessness.

My friend and I also talked about how sometimes it is like watching a movie of ourselves doing the thing.  There’s no moment when we aren’t aware, we see all of it, but still, we do like we always do.

This can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging.  And yet, there are so many reminders that this is how it happens, and that’s okay, that it’s worth continuing to try.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”
Leo Tolstoy

It is the “Half Step that Will Change Your Life.”

Pause and Deepen Your Attention.”

image via Demetri Martin in 'This Is a Book'

This afternoon, rather than going to City Park to walk the dogs, Eric and I drove up to Mount Margaret, one of our favorite places. I relaxed, breathed, heard and felt the wind, took many steps, and let go. This is what it means. You practice, you keep showing up, you stop “smashing yourself to bits” when you see yourself doing the same old things, instead you love the suffering, you accept and lean in, and you promise to keep watching, being aware, for as long as it takes.

  • What are you attempting to balance? What are you trying to break?

Do the Hustle

I was so busy thinking about work yesterday morning, and then going to work and working, that I forgot to go to a class I had registered for, “Managing Personal Stress.”  It was a three hour class intended to “help you develop a personal stress management plan to help you reduce the worry and stress you feel from life changes, challenges, and situations, and find new ways for moving through stressful circumstances.”  And I missed it. It’s very telling when the efforts I make to manage my stress fall apart as a direct result of one of the main things that causes me stress.

And by the end of the day yesterday, my head hurt, my stomach was upset, my back was cramping, and I felt dizzy.  I was frustrated, irritated, and sad. Tension and yuck was flooding my system.  I have dogs and I meditate and I do yoga and I write, every day, and yet I still seem to falter, push myself too hard, don’t get enough rest–I don’t take care of myself. 

This week in my Ordinary Courage class, we watched Brene’ Brown’s DVD “The Hustle for Worthiness: Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough.”

In the DVD, Brene’ talks about the conflict between who we are & what we believe and who “you” want me to be & believe. We end up working so hard to fit in, to be deemed worthy and in that way get the love and belonging we need, we assess each situation and assimilate, we hustle for worthiness (we perform, please, try to be perfect)–which does not work to get us what we need.  Instead, we lose our sense of meaning, purpose and joy because we are utterly disconnected from ourselves.

She also talks about how “you better be able to tell the truth about who you are and where you came from and what you are up against, and love yourself in the process.” In the class, our challenge this week was to browse Dr. Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion website and take her Self-Compassion Inventory.  Having already read one of Brene’ Brown’s books, I had taken this test this summer.  The results were not good.  Taking it again three months later, they were worse.

Considering the life-rehab I’m involved in, you might expect that three months later, I’d be better at this.  I am more cognizant of the issue, even as I continue to falter and stumble.  Most likely I was more honest, more aware of how I really am with myself when I took the inventory this time.  The way the scale works, the average is 3.0, with 1-2.5 being low in self-compassion and 2.5-3.5 moderate, and 3.5-5.0 is high.  I tested at 2.48 this summer and 1.56 this time. Not good.

But I am working on it.  It’s really all I can do.  Keep showing up, keep trying, and know that it’s going to take time. Our habitual way of being with ourselves, when it has been with us for so long and we are so good at it, will take a long time to shift. At first, all you can do is see it for what it is, even as you watch yourself behave in those same old ways.

As for today, I napped with the dogs on the couch and cried a little, watched Brene’s DVD, took a walk, made Eric hug me extra.  I made casserole for dinner (comfort food) and rented “Bridesmaids.” Tomorrow, I can try again.

  • “You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha