peace

Let Peace Begin with Me

Ten seconds on Facebook or any newscast will find one instantly overwhelmed with fear, hatred, anger, sorrow, and hopelessness. For my own health and sanity, I had long ago decided to remove myself from the fearmongering of the media and the one-sided rants on social media. That does not mean I keep my head in the sand and hide from the realities that are happening. It just means I do not allow myself to be addicted to the negativity.

I do need to be informed and I also feel I have a responsibility to help bring a positive change to the world. The question I have is how do I best support the betterment of society. As duality is one of the world’s core issues today, it is hard for me to join any groups fighting for rights because, although their heart is in the right place, they are still caught up in the belief of duality. The question I posed to myself is how am I supposed to bring understanding, compassion, and hope to the world.

I learned long ago that we can not change others. In my coaching, I can only inform, provide objective insight, and introduce new concepts. We can lead the horse to water, but it is not in our power to make them drink. If you speak to any parent, they can tell you well that they are powerless to make their children act a certain way and in fact, their instructions and demands are often ignored or countermanded. I know I have often done the opposite of what my parents demanded, just to prove that they could not control me. In the same way, I can not make anyone change their mind or behaviors. What I can change is my own thinking and behaviors. The answer to how I can help change the world is by living the way I hope the world can be. What I can do is be the image of how we all can act if we choose, therefore encouraging others to join the peaceful bandwagon.

By changing my thinking and my actions, I hope to be a beacon for others. Not that I do it perfectly, but I can do my best to show a different way than hate and attack and separation. I hope that my focus on love, compassion, empathy, and understanding starts a ripple that will help at least one other individual to experience life more positively and at best creates a wave of change.

I can practice the nonviolence of Gandhi who said, “I am certain that if we want to bring about peace in the world, there is no other way except that of nonviolence. . . . The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes till it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might oversweep the world.” When I feel angry, instead of fighting, judging or labeling, I try to find common ground.

I can follow Saint Francis of Assisi who said, “Before you speak of peace, you must first have it in your heart.” My gut reaction is to look to the other – what they are doing wrong and what they need to fix. What is more productive is to look at my own thinking, my own anger, and to make inner peace first.

I can follow Thich Nhat Hanh and be the voice of reason and calm in midst of fear. Instead of focusing on my own fear and worry, I can think of others and make choices that benefit the whole.

In all the crazy that 2020 has brought us, I thought I needed to do. What I am learning is I need to be. Be centered. Be peaceful. Be compassionate. Be empathetic. Be present. My friend often says that waiting is an action and now I am learning that holding space, being present, and exuding peace is a powerful healing action too.

This week stop trying to change how others act and first change how you react and live. Are you spreading the acceptance, compassion, and peace you want to experience? If not, what can you shift to make your own footprint closer to that desired path?

“You may say I’m a dreamer / But I’m not the only one / I hope someday you’ll join us / And the world will be as one” – John Lennon Imagine

which way?

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

This year, I have been learning more about the Enneagram. It is a personality categorization system which has roots in ancient wisdom. What I like about the Enneagram is that it not only defines a person. The system also provides insight into what faults to watch out for, what things to strive for, and how to be our best self in relation to others.

It is no surprise that I am a One in the Enneagram. The perfectionist. We Ones believe our worth is derived by doing things “right” and being “good.” The good news is that means we are often “conscientious, responsible, improvement-oriented, and self-controlled.”  All things I am happy to own. However, as a One I am also judgmental and critical of myself and others, and often resentful.

Living life as a One is teaching me to live by the Serenity Prayer. A mainstay in 12 Step programs, the Serenity Prayer asks for the serenity to accept the things that can not be changed, the courage to change the things that can change, and the wisdom to know the difference. I have seen this prayer play out strongly for myself throughout this year.

Serenity is truly what I strive for; that feeling of being calm, peaceful and untroubled. Yet, my natural tendency is to look for the judgment and resentment which makes me feel anything but serene. What a beautiful dichotomy from which to learn. Here are a couple of points I have noticed:

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

It is rarely either/or

When I first started to use this prayer, I thought the goal was to choose either acceptance or action. As my go-to response is to fight for justice, I thought the correct new response should be to accept everything. What I am finding is that it is not to either accept or change, but both. In every challenge there is something to accept and there is something to change. Usually it comes down to accepting the circumstances or actions of others. Acceptance means that something is currently happening, and I accept that it is the current truth. Then I look at what I can change – usually my viewpoint, expectations, actions, or reactions.

It is not you, it’s me

My gut reaction is to want to change you. If the government, my neighbor, the world was only different, then everything would be ok. Wrong. Change begins with oneself. I first need to change how I see and approach situations before I can make any positive changes for myself or others. It is easy to see what is wrong with someone else and what they should do (or at least we believe it is easy to change them). The truth is we need the courage to take a self-inventory and clean our own house before we presume to be able to change anyone or anything else.

Importance of action

The importance of action is another key lesson for me this year. The courage to change the things we can does not always mean attending a rally or fighting for the disenfranchised. Sometimes it may just mean doing something a little differently. If we normally turn right, the change may be to turn left. Action also means getting out of one’s head and doing something, not just ruminating on the issue. Real change happens in the physical world, not between our ears.

Using the Serenity Prayer

A recent example of the serenity prayer in action is in dealing with one of my husband’s vendors. I handle much of the ordering and billing for my husband’s business. One of the companies used frequently has issues with shipments and billing. At first, I was angry and resentful as if this company was purposefully making my life difficult. That line of thinking did not make me feel calm, peaceful, or untroubled. I began to accept that I could not change the way the company created their ordering and accounting systems. I accepted the employees that company chose to hire. These were things beyond my control and I needed to accept that reality. Then I looked at what I could change. If I could not count on the company to provide the information, tracking and clarity I needed, then I needed to change my expectations. I created my own spreadsheet to track orders, backorders, and charges. I took control of what I could control and released what I could not. Not only did I find more peace, but I improved efficiency.

As you go about your week, look at your challenges. What parts of the challenges are beyond your control to change? What do you need to do in order to accept this fact? Next, explore what is in your control to change and then actually take action. See if you can’t improve your relationships, your stress level, and your ability to make things go smoother.

season 6 winner Bianca del Rio

Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent

First it was What Not to Wear then it was Queer Eye, now my latest uplifting guilty pleasure is RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix. I love the show not just for the amazing creativity and quick wit, but it never fails to show how we are the reason – and the solution – to most of our problems.

To win the competition, the contestant must have charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. RuPaul believes so much in charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent that he even wrote a song about it. With the help of Merriam-Webster for definitions, let’s look into each one these terms in a slightly different order.

From PhillyMag.com

Nerve is often what his missing and holding back a contestant on the show – or us in life. Nerve is our fortitude and strength. Every time I have failed in life, this has been missing. When I don’t have the guts to really own who I am and what I have to offer, I fail or miss opportunities. I always thought I needed to be tougher and more egoistic to have nerve and success. What I am learning is that humility not willpower is the source of nerve.

I love that uniqueness is valued in the show. To win, there is not an ideal to match. It is not like school where there is a right answer with which to respond. What makes a contestant amazing is when they stop trying to emulate someone else or when they stop searching for perfection and instead embrace what makes them unique, distinctive, and amazingly different from others.

Following uniqueness is talent, and again it is not some preconceived definition of talent. It is a one-of-a-kind skill that person has. In the show, there are amazing dancers, lip sync performers, singers, comedians, and visual artists. The show does not proclaim one talent more important or better than another. The show encourages the performer to own and maximize their unique talent.

Charisma is “a special magnetic charm or appeal.” The word’s roots are in a favor or gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit. To me this is what happens to us when we have the nerve to embrace our uniqueness and talent.

In watching the show, I love to see two transformations which happen almost every season. First, is the contestant who is holding themselves back. They lack a belief in their abilities and stop trying before they begin. Once they can release their fear and embrace their strengths as well as their weaknesses, it is amazing to watch them blossom.

The other transformation is the overconfident, aggressive, or chip-on-their-shoulder contestant. Without fail, those who move forward in the competition finally learn that they are not going it alone. Even though this is a competition, the contestants need to work together, lead and follow. The winners are not filled with ego but humility.

As you go about your week, see where you are:

Holding yourself back – Are you shooting yourself in the foot? Why are you keeping yourself small? What would it take to believe in yourself?

Not embracing your uniqueness and talent – How is holding back your gifts hurting yourself and denying others? What could you bring to the world if you embraced what you are here to give?

Letting your ego run the show – Do you need to learn a little humility? Who do you depend on and who depends on you? Step outside of your desires to see how you can gift and join with others.

And remember, as RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?”

the journey is on

It is the journey not destination, but how?

I hated the phrase, “It is not the journey, it is the destination.” I was all about the destination. It was all about achievement. I was all about making things happen. Overtime, I have learned the power of focusing on the power and purpose of the journey. I am learning that how we reach our destination is as important, if not more important than the destination itself. How we play the game of life – our strategies, each move, each interaction – is what makes the game worthwhile. It is where and how we learn. It is how we grow and improve. And it is where joy comes from.  It is not that we shouldn’t have goals. It is not that we shouldn’t celebrate accomplishments. Nothing is wrong with having a target destination. But the key to life is in how we take the journey, not where we end up.

And it ain’t always easy. When life is filled with rainbows and unicorns, managing life can be easy. When we are met with challenges, we really discover who we are and who we can be. Every day can be a struggle as well as a chance to grow. Certain challenges we may resist because we are not ready for the change. Every week I share big picture ideals with you. What happened lately is that life has shown me that ideals without action serves no one. My own hypocrisy slapped me in the face when I noticed myself getting aggravated with my neighbor, just after writing a pithy post about the world needing love. Let’s walk the talk Melissa.

Photo by Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

Here are a few tools I realized I needed to really make the most of this journey.

This Moment

As I take my own journey, I constantly remind myself to return to the moment. I want the checklist and the well-worn path to follow. Unfortunately, a definitive how-to of life is not available. Instead I am realizing that in every moment I am meant to choose and learn, resist and accept, release and grow. It is not about following a path but having the courage to cut my own path. It is our journey that creates the destination, not the other way around. This concept helps me to focus on making this moment peaceful and to focus on being the best me right here and now. I steer away from my desire for the big picture knowledge of how things “should” be and instead focus on the trees. Focusing on the moment is the only place I can affect and experience life.

The First Time

Another aspect of being in the moment, is seeing every issue as if it was happening the first time. I had shared before how my neighbor’s smoking had been an issue. I was thrilled that just after that article, she moved. Unfortunately, the new neighbor smokes too. For me this is the 50th-million time this is an issue. For the new neighbor, it is the first time. When I can let go of my previous experience, I can let go of my anger and resentment so I can approach the challenge with less stress and a more open mind.

Take an Action

In a funny episode of How I Met You Mother, Barney shows Ted how he thinks too much and how he should just do. I don’t recommend what happens in the TV show, but I do agree with the concept. Don’t think, just do. Lately when I get stuck in an issue, when I am angry, confused, not sure what to do – and I catch myself trying to think myself through the issue – often replaying the same scenarios I have for decades, I stop thinking and do. I find one small action, usually one new action to take – and then I take it. Einstein is quoted as saying that we can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them. I agree. By taking a new action or at least getting out of my brain and doing something, I stop the old way of being and open up to new opportunities.

As you go about your day, be in the moment, treat every moment as if it was the first time, and stop thinking and start doing. Enjoy the journey!!

coin

Rise Above: The Journey from Black/White to Gray

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” To me this is the root of many of the social and political issues today. The mind that created racism, sexism, divisive politics, elitism, and a host of other problems was born out of duality. It was born out of a way of thinking that perceives everything as split, separate, and opposite. It is a way of thinking that is competitive and self-centered. This way of thinking leads us to fight for our side of the coin. The problem is that we think only our side of the coin is right and, the larger problem is that we think there are two sides of the coin. The problems we have today were built upon and are trying to be solved by a thinking that sees the world as dualistic.

The solution is not to decide which side is right. The solution is to see that there are no sides.

Photo by ZSun Fu on Unsplash

In my book, From Type A to Type Me, I talk about each one of us having alternatives. That we did not need to stay in dualistic thinking. We do not have to choose between black and white, stay or go. In the middle of black and white there are an infinite number of shades of gray. For those who feel stuck in situations, “Using the infinite number of shades between black and white frees us from being stifled between selecting only two less than desirable options. Releasing the bondage of black-and-white thinking, and opening oneself to the limitlessness of gray, is the root of empowerment.” What I did not realize at the time was that the metaphor did not only show a plethora of choices outside of dualistic thinking, but it showed that black and white are not separate. They are both just shades of gray. There is no duality. There is just oneness.

The new way of thinking we need to solve our problems is to see things wholly, not dualistically.

According to Franciscan Mysticism, there are four ways we split from reality and our journey in life is to release and heal these splits. Boiled down the concept is we are born thinking holistically, we shift into duality, and then we spend our lifetime trying to regain the knowledge that we are united not separated. We return to wholeness.  

This year is forcing us to re-examine our lives, our relationships, our goals, and the meaning of life itself. We are shifting in consciousness. Some of us are ahead of the curve, some catching up, and some resisting. No matter how we are approaching it, I feel we are all being called into this journey of remembering.

We can not control others’ journeys, but we can control our own. When you feel in conflict, angry, or frustrated:

  • Explore how you are seeing the situation. Do you see right/wrong, good/bad?
  • Step back from the situation and see if you can find the wholeness. Can you find the shades of gray that connect the two extremes?
  • Step out of the duality and see what solutions rise out of seeing things from a unified perspective.

And hang in there. This is an important point in civilization, and like any great change, it may be a bumpy ride.

smoke window

A Need for Empathy

Lately I have been gifted with some terrific teachers in my life.  The cat that used to sneak into our house, who I had found a home for, is back – and has commenced sneaking into our house.  She is teaching me boundaries with compassion (instead of compassion with no boundaries). The other prominent teacher for me right now is the young woman next door.

Multiple times a day, my neighbor sits on her patio and smokes. Sometimes tobacco, sometimes other plants. As our patios are connected, when she smokes, without fail, the fumes make their way from her patio into my house. I understand that she does not want to smoke in her house and have the smell inside where she lives, but neither do I. Thankfully I never said an unkind word to her, but I have to admit that I have frequently closed my window with extreme prejudice. My angry indignant mind loves to play its tape. “She is so rude. She is purposefully doing this to me or at least doesn’t care about how her actions affect me. It is unfair that she is keeping me from having the fresh air I am entitled to.” The tape stopped the day I spoke to her.

Photo by Taylor Young on Unsplash

We were having some work done on our home and like I good neighbor, I wanted to forewarn her of the noise and mess it may cause. I hardly got the words out of my mouth when she apologized for the smoke. She said that she tries to control how much comes our way, but the wind is not always helpful. She apologized for the weekend before. I had thought she was having a party with a few friends. What I learned was her 20-something friend died unexpectedly and she and her friends were chain-smoking to help them through the trauma.

I felt like a heel. Here I spent weeks making my neighbor into the bad guy. I focused only on myself and my suffering – which I made worse by the stories I told myself. Never in all that time did I tried to get to know her. Never did I have a conversation with her to see if we could problem-solve her right to smoke and my right to clean air. Never did I consider what she may be feeling or what was going on in her life.

Many of us have like me temporarily, or fairly constantly, lost the power of empathy. We look at our goals and our needs. We see people as taking from us or denying us. It takes a figurative slap in the face like I received, to awaken us from our self-centered coma. This experience has helped me remember:

We don’t know what someone else is going through:  Before we get angry because someone cuts us off in traffic or is curt with us on the phone, it helps to pause and consider that maybe the person is having a bad day or is rushing to take care of an emergency. Instead of focusing on our inconvenience, we should look beyond our self.

There is no absolute right or wrong: Just because we have expectations of how things should be, does not mean that is how they will go or even how they should go. Who are we to judge what is right and wrong?

We are all in this together: No matter how much we try to isolate or be independent, we need one another. Peace, understanding, compassion, and empathy can be found when we stop thinking “me” and start thinking “we.”

If you want more inspiration to embrace empathy, watch this terrific talk by Simon Sinek about the need for more empathy in the workplace.

Now more than ever, at work, in our relationships, and in our government, we need more empathy, compassion and understanding.