The Power of Empathy

Enjoy this re-post about the power of empathy, especially in difficult relationships.


One of our fundamental needs as human beings is to be heard and to be accepted as we are. Take a moment to recall where you were going through a hard time and someone empathized with you. How did it feel? Pretty good I expect.

When someone empathizes with us we don’t feel judged; we no longer feel alone; we feel understood; we become calmer; we usually feel better and are more able to handle a difficult  situation.

empathy babies

Empathy is a powerful tool for connecting to another person in an open loving way.  It feels good to us, yet how often do we intentionally or mindfully empathize with someone else … especially when someone is angry or frustrated?
Marshall Rosenberg writes in his book “Non Violent Communication; a Language of Life“ how it can be especially difficult to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status or resources and those who are closest to us.
One of my favorite take aways is:

“Empathize, rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person.”

When we want to help we tend to jump in with a “but” and a “fix” for the other person. Yet empathy is more powerful and empowering.

He writes: “I continue to be amazed by the healing power of empathy. Time and again I have witnessed people transcending psychological pain when they have contact with someone who hears them with empathy.”

Why not increase your ability to empathize with this exercise:

frustrated man at work

Over the next few days see if you can empathize more with those people who are closest to you, your children, a colleague, or even your boss.

Really tune in to what they might be feeling and reflect back what you are sensing they are going through. Here are some examples of reflecting feelings statements:

It sounds like you are really frustrated about this

I can see that this is tough for you

I can’t imagine all that you are going through. It must be so hard

I’m sensing that this is scary for you

I hear that you are concerned

It sounds like this is a real challenge for you

but in your face

 It sounds so simple, yet can be hard to do in that moment. So instead of putting your “but” and point of view in the other person’s face, empathize with their situation and reflect what they might be feeling.

Give the gift of feeling heard and understood.

Find Balance After Being Triggered – 6 tools to use

This is a re-blog of a post that I found helpful to come back to. As we continue through these difficult times, more and more stress and distress will impact us all. Over the next few weeks, I will share practical posts to help us navigate the lows of life. May we all find our middle ground.

There are many tips in this post. As you read through this mini course, choose a couple of tools that resonate with you and let that be your focus, rather than trying to apply them all.

To bring about positive change, we must go past the intellectual understanding and embrace the experience. It is a practice. For many of us, it is the most important practice of our lives.


It is part of our human nature to become annoyed and angry when we feel threatened or things don’t go our way. Irritation and frustration seem to go hand in hand with the demands of life today.

We humans also have a “fight or flight” response when we feel threatened. It helped our ancestors survive when facing sabre toothed tigers. Nowadays, we can have the same response when someone cuts us off on the road, a colleague takes credit for a piece of our work, or we feel we are being treated unfairly…

Whether the threat is real, or in our imagination, the mind and body reacts in exactly the same way.  Our brains and bodies are flooded in a chemical bath. There is a rush of adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream, blood is sent to the extremities and the heart, digestion is put on hold, muscles tense. We are ready to pounce or run!

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“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness” ~ Viktor Frankl

“You can’t stop the waves but your can learn to surf” ~ Jon Kabat Zinn.

ooOoo

Here are 6 tools you can use to calm the body and mind’s response to center yourself:

1. Breathe. At the first moment you realize you are experiencing annoyance or anger, bring awareness to your breath. Take several full breaths focusing on the exhale to release that tension and energy. Then slow it down. Making the inhale and exhale long and even.

This will help invoke the body’s relaxation response and give you time to access your higher brain for making a decision on how to proceed.

deep breathing

2. Calm Body and Mind. Try these calming techniques for body and mind.

  • Bring a hand to my belly, to encourage fuller breathing and to feel more grounded. I also like to put a hand on my heart to initiate a mammalian soothing response. Try it and see. Feel the warmth from your palm and allow it to calm and soothe your heart.
  • Bring a finger tip to your lips can also have an immediate calming affect on the body
  • To create a new neural pathway in the brain . You may also like to add a word to say or phrase on the exhale. For example “release” or “let it go” or “have patience” or “be calm”.
  • If you are more visual, then bring to mind the image of someone you love or a place that calms you. Have it on your smart phone, ready to be accessed in a moment.

Take a moment and reflect on what would work for you…

3. Release the Tension Our body also needs to release the energy build up that is part of the fight or flight response. Animals naturally shake off this tension after conflict, but we humans have lost that natural ability to release it. Moving your body is important. Get out of your head and into your body to deal with the physical response.

stretch

Here are some examples:

  • Find a private place to practice sun breaths (full movement of the arms with the breath)
  • Stretch the body! Stamp your feet into the ground then reach for the sky. Imagine the energy being released downwards and then upwards.
  • Run up and down stairs
  • Get outside for a walk or a run.
  • Practice “meshing”. Visualize yourself as porous as a mesh screen. As you encounter strong feelings welling up (for example, anger, fear, resentment), let the feelings pass through your body. Observes the intense feelings moving through.
  • Pretend you are in a sitcom, and appreciate the humor in every absurd situation. The challenging times are often similar to scenes in a bad comedy, especially if they are of our own making. Laugh about it. Laughter releases physical tension too!

Take a moment and consider what would release tension for you…

man reflecting

4. Reflect. With blood now accessing your higher brain you can reflect on what has just happened.
Where is the emotion coming from? Is there a history behind it?
Explain it to yourself. “I’m annoyed right now because ….” This reflection may be enough to detach yourself from the emotional reaction. Don’t be quick to judge, based on your own reaction. You don’t know what the other person might be struggling with, or what is going on in their life. If you are cut off in the car, it may be that that person really does have an family emergency.

5. Switch Perspectives. Be an observer of the situation. Imagine you are an observer and play back what just happened. Let go of judgment or getting caught up in your side of the story.

Be the narrator of the scene that just occurred. Notice when emotions come up and try to step back into the observer role again. Keeping a detached distance will allow you to find your center and balance. 

Try to see the other person’s point of view. Don’t be quick to judge, based on your reaction. You don’t know what they might be struggling with or what is going on in their life. If you are cut off in the car, it may be that that person really does have an family emergency.

6. Have a Mantra or Axiom. Choose a go-to phrase that means something to you that will help you maintain this observer mindset: Here are some examples:

  • Everyone wants to be happy.
  • This person is acting this way because he thinks it will make him happy.
  • People who are a pain are usually in pain.
  • Recite the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
  • Remind yourself that this too shall pass. Trust in time. What seems bad now will not always be so.
  • Lighten up. Things happen. Don’t take it all so seriously. What really matters here?
 Ask yourself “Is this worth fighting for” or is there something more important here.
  • Which is more important – Being right or this relationship?
  • Move from reaction to action. What part have I played in bringing this about? What can I do to make this better?

Take time and reflect on what would work for you…

ooOoo

Having a set of tools to use in the heat of the moment is really helpful, but will only help at that moment. Research has shown that having a regular practice of meditation helps us to step back and access this observer mindset so that we find our balance more and more easily.
 With practice over time, we will not react so strongly as we accept all our emotions as our teachers and friends.

Namaste

Love, Relationships and Triggers


This is a re-blog of a post that I have found helpful to come back to. As we continue through difficult times, more and more stress and distress will impact us all: from our health and wellbeing, to our relationships and ability to focus and work. Over the next few weeks, I will share practical posts to help us navigate through these times and the highs and lows of life. May we all find our middle ground and live from the center of our being.


In the highs and lows of life there will always be more challenging days. This can happen when a colleague lets us down at work; when our partner disappoints us or when our mother criticizes what we are wearing….

Today, I dipped into John Welwood’s book Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships.  He has such interesting and compassionate insights from a fusion of Buddhism and psychotherapy.

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John Welwood talks about the wounding of our heart that takes place when we are very young. This is when we realize that our parent cannot love us unconditionally and cannot meet all our needs.
The time comes when we cry and noone comes, or when we want comfort and there’s noone there.
We suddenly become insecure and very fearful about not being fully loved. We feel wounded and vulnerable.

This leads to what he calls a mood of unlove, when we don’t feel fully loved and believe that there is something wrong with us.
When we don’t feel worthy, appreciated, accepted, respected, acknowledged, valued or good enough, the mood of unlove shows up. He calls this the wounding of our heart.

“The mood of unlove often shows up in the form of sudden emotional flare ups in reaction to any hint of being slighted or badly treated. It’s as if a reservoir of distrust and resentment were ready and waiting to be released, which the tiniest incident can trigger. Even caring and compassionate people often carry within them a fair share of unlove and righteous grievance, which can suddenly erupt under certain circumstances.”

To bring it into everyday life. When your boss asks you to re-write that presentation you have spent hours working on, or your spouse criticizes you for not doing it right … you may get triggered!

What John Welwood is saying, is that at these moments the wound of our own heart opens up along with the mood of unlove. We react and try to protect ourselves from this feeling of being unloved and that there is something wrong with us, so we lash out and blame or retreat and find ways to numb and soothe ourselves.

When we become defensive and lash out or withdraw or try to escape,  we may feel better, but the original hurt will be there until we acknowledge and embrace it. We will continue to be triggered until we fully accept and understand ourselves and let love blossom inside.

Could it be that simple … that all we long for is to feel fully loved?

Yes is the answer lies within each of us.

By taking the time to see this in the heart of these moments, we can learn to give ourselves empathy and love and begin to heal old wounds.

Namaste

What you Resist Persists

“What you resist persists.” Carl Jung

lonely woman standing on rocky coast
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

This is a such a simple, yet powerful message that I keep coming back to again and again. Today I decided to set aside time to understand the WordPress block editor instead of resisting it and clinging to the old version.

Have you noticed when others have been caught in this struggle with what is happening? Have you noticed it in yourself?

When we want “what is” to be different, we are resisting. The more we resist, deny, criticize, complain and fight the truth … the more internal struggle we will have.

A part of us is conditioned to resist what’s happening to us, especially when things don’t go the way we had wanted. We don’t accept the feelings of annoyance, disappointment, hurt, sadness or distress that come up, and we want them to go away.

We want things to be the same as they were before. A part of us still thinks that by resisting, the uncomfortable feelings will go away but they won’t. They will become stronger, and can take over our minds, and cause a lot of suffering.

So, this is what I have to say to you:

Recognize if there is a situation in your life that you are resisting or denying is happening.

Ask yourself. “Am I ready to face this now?” If it isn’t the right time, that’s okay. Keep coming back to it until you are ready.

If it is something that is very upsetting, center yourself with slow deep breaths. Perhaps bring a hand onto your belly and another above your heart center.

Feel that sense of touch, and perhaps the connection to your inner self. The part of you that is hurting right now.

Recognizing when we are resisting is a powerful practice. At the beginning we may wonder what the big deal is …. after all resisting feels normal … until we are able to see that resisting is a conditioned response that has become as habit.  A habit that brings us suffering.

  • Let go of how you expected things to be.
  • Take control of what you CAN do to keep moving forward.
  • Make space for it.
  • Don’t hold on to anger or blame others. This will only cause you more hurt.
  • Embrace the highs and lows of life as they come along, and go with the ever changing flow of life.

And now you have a choice.

Stages of Life

I came across this poem from Portia Nelson and wanted to share it with you today. It’s a perfect example of how we deal with challenges as we go through life… and how conditioned we are.

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THERE’S A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost …. I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

It takes us so long to change our thinking and break our conditioning and habits. The ego-mind always wants to be right about the way it sees life.

Portia Nelson wrote this about the relationships in her life. How she kept falling for the same kind of man. Perhaps you can see a parallel in your life? I certainly can.

The shift happens we take responsibility and can see that our actions or conditioned beliefs no longer support our well being.

We can also look at other aspects of our life, and how we relate to changes and challenges. For example: the jobs we take, the food we eat, the friends we choose, the places we go, relationships with family, the party we vote for etc.

Taking this to a macro level, we can begin to see why society takes so long to change… and why our planet is in such jeopardy.

It begins with awareness, shifting perspectives, letting go of the old and choosing a new way.

May we learn from our mistakes and start down a different road together.

Namaste

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Haiku – beyond thoughts

calm young woman with shadows on face

Photo by Anderson Martins on Pexels.com

~
You are not your thoughts
Discover what’s beyond them
Find Your Middle Ground

~

One of the biggest steps towards awakening is to realize that we are not our thoughts. When we sit quietly we begin to notice that our thoughts come and go. We are not the thoughts themselves, so we can come to witness them, our beliefs and the stories we create about the world, our ourselves.

As long as we believe that what we think and believe is the truth, we will stay in an unawakened state. In yoga this is called Avidya, or ignorance.

This is especially hard right now, with all the conflicting stories, beliefs and versions of the truth that we are being exposed to.

Taking time to pause before reacting to whatever you are reading or watching is key. This is when you can step back and see if this is true or not. It may be contrary to what you believe, and therefore you think it is wrong. Or it may be exactly what you think, and it becomes the truth.

Be discerning rather than judging right or wrong.

This is a time to become a witness to our thoughts and stories, and our own susceptibility and gullibility as human beings.

Namaste

Resisting and Waking Up

adult-alone-dark-girl-191139

“It may look as if the situation is creating the suffering, but ultimately this is not so – your resistance is.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Wow – these are powerful words to read in a time of pandemic, when so many of us are desperately trying to come to terms with living in a fearful changing place filled with the unknown.

We are all human beings with ego-minds that are ready to resist whatever we see as a threat. Our minds can deny and duck… push back and dismiss… defend or withdraw… lash out and blame… whine and complain… in order to avoid feeling the pain of being out of control and feeling the fear.

If you are thinking “It will pass and its not a big deal” then please re-read the last paragraph.

Seriously. This is the new reality. One of external threats and being out of control.

We are waking up to a new reality where we no longer believe that we are controllers of our small world. We are realizing that we are part of the bigger world, and it’s darn scary.

This transition time is hard. If we are to survive and thrive, we must change the way we see things along with our behaviors.

We must get with the new program!

Noticing our resistance to what is happening is a very good place to start.

It’s time to waken up and become a witness to our unsettling thoughts, our conditioned responses and the incredible attachment to our routine and habits. What we have taken for granted may no longer be part of this new reality. What we think we have had control of, is simply a mirage.

This is a time to pause and reflect. To find our middle ground. Bring awareness inwards and notice everything that is coming up insight of you.

It’s not a comfortable place to be, and if you are not ready you may find yourself defaulting to distractions and ways to medicate yourself and dull the feelings. If you notice this, good for you! You are developing your ability to stand back and be the witness.

Here are some questions to ask, and to take time to journal on:

  • “What is it that I am not accepting?”
  • “What am I resisting?”
  • “What can I do that is in my control?”
  • “What do I have to let go of?”
  • “What can I do differently here?”
  • “How can I take care of myself and others?”
  • “How can I contribute to the change for good?”

Be kind to this awakening part of you.

When we are able to accept what is, without judgment and blame, then we can open our hearts and minds to a new way of connecting to the bigger world.

Already I am seeing the generosity and compassion of others. The ability to give freely to those who need it the most. Unconditional loving of humanity and our true nature.

We can all do this when we go beyond fear and find our middle ground.

Finding Grace When Triggered

I came across this earlier post … and boy did it take me back. May we all find grace by connecting to the most vulnerable part of ourselves … our heart.

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The Argument

“How dare you!!” 

Come into the present moment and notice

the pounding head, the clenched jaw and hands in fists

the thoughts that spark like fiery daggers

“Don’t control me! I don’t want this! I don’t need you!”

Feel the tears and absolute frustration

the vulnerability at being in this place of hurt and loss.

Loss of control. Loss of connection. Loss of understanding.

Become that wee girl too young for words

crying girl

She knows this place. This sheer frustration. Hurting and not knowing why.

Let this rage turn into one of your biggest breaths ever

Open your mouth and gasp like a fish

take in the air that nourishes and calms

Let it out with a cry from your very soul.

Let the tears roll. Feel their heat running down your cheeks.

Breathe

Feel the energy dropping through you like a stone

allow it to release and pass through the mesh that’s your body

Feel the unburdening and letting go

notice the softening  in your body, your thoughts and your being

Say hello to this vulnerable part of you

Feel the relief and the love

You are still here.

And now you are ready to talk about what just happened.

Namaste.

Quick Relationship Tip

Its fun to look back and find the right advice on my blog.  Enjoy this re-post!
doggie butt

Don’t put your “but” in the face of an angry person.

Angry people are in a triggered reactive state.

The ability to listen or think logically diminishes with the rise of  strong emotions.

The animal or limbic brain takes over control from the reasoning pre-frontal cortex.

Evidence also shows that when we grip our jaw, we are less able to listen through our ears.

Be careful of those buts.

Wait until the person has calmed down before trying to use reason.

 

 

Confidence is Very Attractive

Today’s mantra is for when you want to make a positive impact. If you are heading back to work after a break, or starting something new, this one is especially for you.

confidence is very attractive

Confidence is very attractive

This photograph reminds me of the times when we move from trying to become something, to embracing it fully. When we move from doubting or being insecure and then begin to own our abilities.

To me this puppy has progressed from learning to walk on his leash to knowing how to do it. He is owning it… and boy does he look good … and happy!

What a great lesson for all of us.

He is radiating joy in what he is doing and feeling good about himself.

He isn’t needing validation saying “Look at me.”

He isn’t doubting himself saying  “I’m not sure if I am any good.”

He’s saying “I am me.”

This kind of “knowing” self confidence is so attractive – to others and to ourselves.

Knowing who you are – your strengths, needs and core values – are the foundations for building confidence, and becoming attractive to yourself and others.

Inspiration – Resisting

person wearing orange hoodie

Photo by Ekky Wicaksono on Pexels.com

“It may look as if the situation is creating the suffering, but ultimately this is not so – your resistance is.”

~ Eckhart Tolle

Have you ever had a reaction of “What do you mean I’m resisting? … They are the problem!”

We are all human beings with egos that are ready to duck and weave… push back and dismiss… defend or withdraw, in order to avoid feeling the pain of being wrong, not being accepted or not being good enough.

This is one of those seemingly simple statements from Eckhart Tolle that has a greater depth of meaning.

When we get frustrated and unhappy, instead of resenting what is happening to us, wishing things to be different and attacking the nearest bystander or ourselves for being stupid, we can step back with awareness.

We can ask ourselves questions such as “What is it that I am not accepting?” “What am I resisting?” Then “What can I do to change the situation?” (Bear in mind that you cannot change an other person, only yourself.) “What can I do differently here?” “Can I bring about change or accept the way things are”.

An other way to look at this is to recognize that the resistance is already within us. It’s usually in the beliefs that we hold about ourselves and life in general. When we come across something which threatens how we see the world, our ego will react to protect itself. We get triggered.

Every time we are triggered, it’s an opportunity to learn and to educate ourselves on what we hold dear to ourselves and our values. It’s also an opportunity to explore those beliefs and see if they are meaningful, or are based on early conditioning. Perhaps the other perspective is actually worth considering!

It really is all about us and our inner world.

When our ego defends and attacks the outer world; when we blame the other and create enemies in our mind; when we become judge and jury for everything that doesn’t comply with our thinking, then it is time to stop, take a few deep breaths and begin to search inside ourselves.

Self inquiry is the work of our lives.

Be Present to Negative Emotions

Go ahead and embrace the importance of negative emotion. Your emotions and the way you feel is your guidance system and it is telling you everything you need to know.

If you feel negative emotion, then you are either resisting how things are in the present moment, resisting something that was in the past, or resisting something that you think might be in the future.

Take a moment to reflect on this and see if this is true for you.

As human beings lost in our own stories, we immediately point to the outside world to create excuses as to why we can’t be happy and at peace right now.

We tell ourselves ”If that had turned out differently, then I’d be happy.
If he/she hadn’t done that to me, then I’d be happy.
If this goes the way the I want it to go, then I’ll be happy”

The moment you stop resisting life and pointing fingers at the outside world, the more a deep sense of joy and inner freedom will arise within you.

You’re an eternal being. Your consciousness cannot be destroyed. The greatest joy that you can feel is when your being comes into alignment with the very deepest, eternal, aspect of your consciousness.

What’s the one thing that you can do to allow your soul to come into alignment? Resist nothing. Surrender to everything that arises in the present moment without judgment.

Everything that you are searching for will arise from within you at a deeper and more profound level when you stop resisting what is happening.

Namaste