Sunday, March 29, 2015

Softening the Blow

The other day the blinds fell off my window. They landed in such a way that nothing was broken or harmed – no small task considering my desk sits in front of the window and is littered with knickknacks, a monitor, my computer, my printer, etc. When the blinds, fell it got me thinking about the unavoidable, uncontrollable things in life.

Those blinds? They had to fall because the tab that locks them into place became loose and I pulled them in such a way the entire contraption crashed to the floor. However, it was pure luck that kept those blinds from hitting me in the head, or smashing into my computer monitor, or destroying my trinkets. But was it really luck? I don't think it was. When I reflect on my life, it's clear there is some kind of benevolent force watching out for me – call it higher power, call it God, call it a guru, a guardian angel – but there is definitely something.

I'd like to think in some ways I'm wrapped in yarn.
I'd like to think in some ways I'm wrapped in yarn.

Contemplating the blinds, I started musing about the not-so-pleasant things that are also out of my control, like getting hit by a car or broken into or mugged or anything else. Maybe for whatever reason (fate, karma, samskaras) certain things must happen, they must take place, but a benevolent force is softening the blow for us, keeping it from being as terrible as it could be.

When I got hit by a car as a pedestrian in November 2013, all I could think was, “Why me? Why did this happen to me and why didn't any benevolent force stop it?” All the faith-oriented people around me kept saying, “Your higher power is the one that kept you from needing to go to the hospital!” but I didn't buy it. Why should I put my faith and trust in some unseen force to keep me safe if I'm not going to be safe? If I'm going to get hit by a car anyway? What I'm coming to here is acceptance – I cannot keep someone from hitting me again or breaking into my home anymore than I already am by cautiously crossing the street and locking my doors. I've spent a good chunk of my life worrying about these things and it certainly hasn't been beneficial. In fact, it's kept me in a lot of fear.

I said to a friend the other day I struggle with turning this safety stuff over to my higher power, but I can at least give it a shot. If need be, I can always start worrying again, but I'd like to try this trust thing. The blinds are a small example of being taken care of, but I've seen larger examples too, like trees that fall in such a way they avoid houses and cars. So maybe for today I can affirm my higher power will keep me safe when possible, but when something must happen to me, at the very least higher power will soften the blow.

I dream of a world where we turn over our fear of future negative events. A world where we trust that some things are inevitable, but there is still a benevolent force watching out for us. A world where we have faith the blow will be softened.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hear Me?

More and more I'm noticing that what we all want is to be seen, heard, and understood. We want people to empathize with us, to recognize what we're going through and trying to express.

This week I had some angry interactions with others. They became upset over something that involved me, but wasn't really about me. My first reaction when someone explodes in my direction is to cower, to take it in. My next reaction is to become angry in return, to meet anger with anger. Finally, I turn to empathy and say, “I hear what you're saying. It sounds like you feel _____.” When I'm able to get to that empathic place, the person cools down and says, “You're right, that's exactly how I feel,” and then we're able to have an honest conversation. The honest conversation is where the solutions come from.

Are we hearing each other the way we listen to a song?
Are we hearing each other the way we listen to a song? 

A friend told me recently the hardest part about relationships for her is going deeper when she's wounded. That instead of running away from her partner when he gets upset, or trying to hurt him back, is getting to that empathic, vulnerable place. I found that to be true for me too, especially when I'd much rather throttle the person's neck. I'm not saying anger doesn't have its place – it absolutely does – but sometimes its better to express anger to a neutral third party. Instead of escalating a heated situation, it's often better to call up someone else and vent.

I find this to be true for other emotions too. When I'm sad, sometimes I want someone to tell me things will be OK, or to help me problem solve, but oftentimes I'd rather someone said, “I hear you. That sucks,” and then let me cry. I usually know what I need to do so I'd much rather have support than advice.

I first wrote about empathic listening or nonviolent communication in 2009. I've been using some of the methods I picked up ever since and find it just as inspiring now as I did then.

What I find so encouraging about empathic listening is its potential for huge and lasting change. It's been used to reduce violence in hospitals and curb bullying. Plus Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of nonviolent communication, negotiated peace deals with terrorists using the method. I can't help but wonder how much of the violence in the world is because people are not getting their needs met? How often are we resorting to angry words and louder voices in an effort to get people to understand where we're coming from? Not everything can be solved with empathic listening of course, but I honestly think some problems can.

I dream of a world where we make an effort to see, hear, and understand each other better. A world where instead of firing off an angry invective, we try to access an empathic place. A world where we bring more love into our conversations, especially the hard ones. A world where we can honestly say we do hear one another.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Care Less

Yesterday, I watched a woman park in the bus zone for 15 solid minutes. Her car was off, she got out, put her shoes in the trunk, and basically couldn't care less that she was doing something illegal. I kept thinking she parked in the bus zone because she had car trouble but no, eventually her friend sauntered out of the BART station and the woman started her car – slowly, I might add – and took her sweet time leaving.

I was floored. In that same situation, I know I would have been fidgety, glancing over my shoulder every two seconds waiting for a bus or a cop car to pull up. I can't help but contrast this woman's behavior with mine, someone who cares too much.

Look at this dog! This dog couldn't care less.

Last week, I flew home from Vienna where I sat in a window seat. Luckily, there was no one in the middle seat, but there was a woman in the aisle seat. I have to go to the bathroom approximately every hour, and on a six-hour flight, it can be obnoxious for the people who have to keep getting up for me. I noticed the woman started getting huffy and I began caring about what she thought of me. A stranger. A person I will never see again. I wanted this woman to like me, to not get upset with me, to hold me in positive regard, and so I resolved to use the bathroom less. That is, until I realized my bladder wasn't having any of that and got up anyway in as polite and gracious a way as I could muster.

The experience got me thinking about how I care sooo much about how other people are responding to me. I'm over being judged for how I look, speak, and dress – for the most part – but I'm still sensitive to how others react to me. If I'm doing something that causes someone any negative emotion, I want to modulate my behavior immediately to please them, even if it means discomfort for me. Um, this is nicht sehr gut, as they say in German. I can't spend my life constantly trying to please other people. The very act of being alive means I'm going to ruffle some feathers.

I can't try to shrink myself or shirk my own needs in order for other people to like me. I can't disappear or live in a bubble. I'm an adult and as an adult I need to take care of myself, even if that means disappointing someone else, or annoying someone else, or angering someone else. To make that process easier, I need to care less. I'm not saying we should all start parking illegally in bus zones or acting like jerks in order to get our needs met, but maybe those of us who care a lot need to care less. And vice versa.

I dream of a world where we each find the sweet spot between caring too much and caring too little. A world where we're considerate of each other, but not overly so. A world where we take care of ourselves to the best of our capacity while also taking care of those around us.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.   

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Opportunity Keeps Knocking

This post comes to you from Vienna, Austria. That’s relevant because I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to practice my German. “Rebekah! How often are you given the opportunity to go to a German-speaking country? You need to take advantage of this!” Nevermind the fact I only speak about three words, have a terrible accent, and am unclear about the sentence structure. Nevermind that speaking to strangers makes me nervous and I’m already stressed about doing my job well covering a conference -- the reason that I’m in Vienna in the first place. It seems like a good idea to pile even more on and berate myself for not speaking German, no?

Right. What it boils down to is fear of missing an opportunity. I’m scared that if I don’t take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way they’ll never come around again and be gone forever. Except, that’s not really true. I mean, it is for some things -- if a relative is on her deathbed and there’s an option to go see her, yes, do that, but little things like practicing German or attending a concert? That stuff comes around again.

Opportunity will keep knocking at your door.
Opportunity will keep knocking at your door.

In fact, in my experience, if something is meant to be, it will definitely come around again. The things, experiences, and objects that are meant to be in my life will come into my life and I don’t need to worry about missing them. Here’s a small example. Everyone and their mother has recommended the book to me, The Highly Sensitive Person. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, “Do you know you’re a highly sensitive person?” I’d be a millionaire. Finally, a friend gifted it to me so now I’m reading it. I know it’s a small example, but I have larger examples too (see: Just a Girl from Kansas).

One of my favorite quotes, which I’m paraphrasing, comes from Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith who says, “Opportunity doesn’t knock, it will beat down your door.” I’ve found that to be true for me. Perhaps I can relax then about not speaking German frequently while I’m here. Perhaps I can calm down with all the carpe diem-ing I’m doing. Perhaps I’d be better off staying present with myself and showing up authentically instead of forcing myself to do something because I’m scared I won’t get another chance. Maybe it’s time for me to relax into the knowledge that opportunities I’m meant to have will beat down my door and it’s my job to say yes only when I mean it.

I dream of a world where we realize opportunity keeps knocking. A world where we don’t pressure ourselves when it’s unnecessary. A world where we relax and show up authentically for ourselves allowing our true desires to shine through.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Thought is Just a Thought

I am en route to Vienna so I'm reposting this blog from April.

A million years ago I saw a refrigerator magnet that said, “You are what you think so choose your thoughts wisely!” I obviously agree with this sentiment – up to a point. A very wise friend said to me once, “The only true thing about a thought is that it’s a thought.” Yes.

I can get very attached to my thoughts, especially the negative ones. I can start to believe the ugly voices in my mind and it’s not always so easy to flip them to positive ones. Sometimes it’s easier to remember I am not what I think and I am not what I identify with. Giving myself some distance allows me to feel better because it’s true – I am not my thoughts, I am beyond my thoughts.

The point of the meditation I practice is to remind myself I am an expression of an infinite loving consciousness – I’m trying to reach a point beyond thought, beyond drama, beyond anything other than pure and perfect love. So no, I am not the insecure child within me, I am not the drama queen, I am not the writer, I am not any of the labels I adhere to because ultimately I am beyond them, I am more than them.

I really can’t express that in words because who I am is also beyond words, so instead I will leave you with a picture as a reminder. Whenever I look at images of space I am reminded I am more than this body, this mind, this life. I am that.

I looove space (as I think you know). It helps me feel expansive.
I looove space (as I think you know). It helps me feel expansive.

I dream of a world where we remember we are not our thoughts. A world where we remember a thought is just a thought. A world where we detach from our mind’s dramas. A world where we frequently put ourselves in a place beyond words and beyond time. A world where we feel with utmost certainty who and what we really are.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.