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.

Haiku – cycles and seasons

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

~

Cycles and seasons

no endings or beginnings

Embrace nature’s way

~

At the turn of each calendar year, I feel more and more distanced from the expectations around the New Year and New Beginnings. I feel I’m being sold on something I should be doing or bringing into my life. It runs contrary to how I feel in these cold, dark and damp days. I just want to hunker down and snuggle in until the natural surge of Spring. Its nature’s way after all.

We are entering the depths of winter and a time for hibernation and inner nourishing. It’s a time to take care of ourselves and limit our impact on others as the pandemic rages on. Let’s face it, nature seems to be in charge right now. We are harnessing our intelligence and scientific skills to take back control and protect human life, yet the world around us has turned to violence. There is much to learn in these times.

It’s easy to be caught in resistance, anger and negative emotions, but in order to make it through these turbulent times, we must take time to step away and pause. Now more than ever, we must cultivate time to Find our Middle Ground.

As you take time to pause today, perhaps consider these words from Eckhart Tolle.

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

~ Eckhart Tolle

Namaste

In the Hands of Man

Photo by Gantas Vaiu010diulu0117nas on Pexels.com

“He who creates a poison, also has the cure.
He who creates a virus, also has the antidote.
He who creates chaos, also has the ability to create peace.
He who sparks hate, also has the ability to transform it to love.
He who creates misery, also has the ability to destroy it with kindness.
He who creates sadness, also has the ability to to covert it to happiness.
He who creates darkness, can also be awakened to produce illumination.
He who spreads fear, can also be shaken to spread comfort.
Any problems created by the left hand of man,
Can also be solved with the right,
For he who manifests anything,
Also has the ability to
Destroy it.” 

― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

Once the horror and grieving is over, let’s get to work with our right hands to bring balance and peace.

Namaste

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.


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

Joy and Twinkle Lights

This is a timely re-post for the Holidays. Whenever you see twinkle lights, let your joy in that moment come to life … and share it ✨🙏✨

twinkle


“Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments.

Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments. Other times we’re so afraid of the dark that we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy the light.

A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable.

I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith.”

~ Brené Brown

What a lovely reminder to find some twinkle today ✨

New Vision for Winter Days Ahead

Last week I found myself feeling weary about the ongoing confinement and fear of infection so close to home. I realized I had to shift my perspective and find some light for the dark days ahead.

Photo by Gantas Vaiu010diulu0117nas on Pexels.com

It was a week of “letting the dishes sit in the sink” in order to allow the stuck bits to release themselves rather than being forced. (This phrase is one of John J. Prendergast’s that he shared in a Zoom meeting exploring his latest book The Deep Heart. – Highly recommended!)

I went to sleep asking how I can make the most of the time ahead… and I woke up one morning with these words: Imagination. Creativity. Enthusiasm. Connection. These traits are available to us as human beings, and are essential for personal transformation and advancement of societies around the world. These are the gifts to use to take us through challenging times.

Imagination

Imagination isn’t just for our entertainment but for our survival. If we cannot imagine a different way of being or a better way of doing things we would never be able to change, relate to, and adapt to the world around us.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

~ Albert Einstein

Take some time and ask yourself. “At this time, what is my imagination curious about and eager to explore?”

Creativity

Matthew Fox writes in his book “Creativity”:

“Chaos reigns in our world today … What do we do with it? Creativity has an answer. We are told by those who have studied the processes of nature that creativity happens at the border between chaos and order. Chaos is a prelude to creativity…

We are creators at our very core. Only creating can make us happy, for in creating we tap into the deepest powers of self and universe and the Divine Self.”

Pause and ask yourself. “What is calling to be created out of this chaotic time?”

Enthusiasm

“Enthusiasm means there is deep enjoyment in what you do plus the added element of a goal or vision that you work toward. When you add a goal to the enjoyment of what you do, the energy-field or vibrational frequency changes. A certain degree of what you might call structural tension is now added to enjoyment, and so it turns into enthusiasm. At the height of creative activity fueled by enthusiasm, there is enormous intensity and energy behind what you do. You feel like and arrow that is moving towards a target – and enjoying the journey.”

~Eckhart Tolle from “Oneness with Life”

Begin by making a list of the things you enjoy. Then ask yourself “What do I enjoy doing that I can set a goal around?” Feel the energy shift and go with it!

Connection

At the beginning of the pandemic, I slowed down and stepped back. It was an opportunity to Find my Middle Ground and find contentment within myself. The Spring and Summer were times of inner connection, retreating from the world and spending time in nature. This practice of being alone, however, can lead to a sense of isolation, especially when we can’t meet in person with those we love.

Connection inwards has shown me how important relationships with others are. We are all in this together, and will get through it together. There is hardship, illness and death for so many people. For those of us who are secure and well, we must reach out to others who may be struggling and let them know that we care. They are not alone.

This quote from Brene Brown comes to mind:

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Moving forward into Winter, I plan to use my imagination and creativity; to inject enthusiasm into what I enjoy, and to connect authentically with others.

I’m curious to hear what this may have sparked in you.

Namaste

Haiku – change perspective

Photo by AaDil on Pexels.com

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When the chips are down

be grateful for the journey

Nothing has gone wrong

~

Change your perspective

Breathe in acceptance and love

Find your Middle Ground

~

When something goes wrong in our lives, we often spend a lot of time going over what happened. Our ego-mind goes into analytical mode, trying to figure it out, so it can fix it, or come up with a story that is acceptable. I found myself in this state earlier this week.

After two sleepless nights of going over an unexpected and disturbing event, and trying to come up with the answer that would make me feel better …. I woke up with the answer. In the calm of the dawn, there was no answer other than to breath in love and acceptance. To allow the heart to open and the mind to let go of trying to fix the unfixable.

When we move from our heads to hearts, transformation happens. Embracing loving kindness and simply allowing the things to be that we can’t control, shifts the energy and brings about balance.

I came across these words from The Deep Heart by John J. Prendergast

“It is enough that we listen and follow moment to moment. It is enough that we are open, are available, and take the next obvious step and see what happens. It is enough when the ordinary mind bows down to the wisdom of the heart and trusts the movement of a wiser current. When we surrender to it, a natural authority in the core of our being guides our life quite beautifully”

It is enough to trust our hearts and come from a place of love. When we do we are living from our Middle Ground.

Follow this link to find out more about finding your middle ground.

Haiku – fortress

Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock

~

You think you are strong

Walls build by hand, block by block

Find your Middle Ground

~

Break down the fortress

Dismantle and declutter

Find peace beyond ruin

~

If you are new to this site welcome!

To find out more about finding your middle ground, please click here

This photo is of Tantallon Castle with Bass Rock behind it. Its close to where I grew up and is a stone’s throw from my Brother and my Mum in East Lothian. I haven’t seen them in person since July 2019.

I’m someone who built the blocks to be strong, but I also need to let go and acknowledge the sweet sadness of not being able to be there. I miss Scotland and the family, and hold them in my heart.

What is the Purpose of Meditation?

man meditating under rock
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I enjoy dipping into the words of the great sages, usually at bedtime. Right now, “I Am That” – Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj is at the top of the bedside pile.

Here is his wisdom about Meditation:

“The primary purpose of meditation is to become conscious of, and familiar with, our inner life. The ultimate purpose is to reach the source of life and consciousness….

We are slaves to what we do not know, of what we know we are masters.

Whatever vice or weakness in ourselves we discover and understand its causes and its workings, we overcome it by the very knowing.

The unconscious dissolves when brought into the conscious. The dissolution of the unconscious releases energy; the mind feels adequate and becomes quiet.

When the mind is quiet, we come to know ourselves as the pure witness.”

Meditation allows us to become a non judging witness, and to develop our ability to step back and see ourselves without the stories that make up our lives.

“We are slaves to what we do not know, of what we know we are masters”. This really has stayed with me.

This approach to meditation crosses the bridge between self improvement and spirituality. It is the most important step in our evolution as humans and conscious beings.

Namaste

Inspiration – Cultivating Joy

pexels-life-of-pix-2469
Free photo from Pexels.com

“This is the path we take in cultivating joy: learning not to armor our basic goodness, learning to appreciate what we have. Most of the time we don’t do this.
Rather than appreciate where we are, we continually struggle to nurture our dissatisfaction. It’s like trying to get flowers to grow by pouring cement on the garden.”

~ Pema Chodron taken from “The Places That Scare You”

Do you find yourself thinking about the things that aren’t going the way you want and complaining about circumstances, other people … yourself?

Next time you catch yourself resisting or resenting, imagine that you are pouring cement on your garden. Take a deep breath and appreciate simply being here and being alive. 

Open your heart
And put away the cement mixer.
Feel the load lighten.
Let this nurturing space
Bring joy and loving kindness
To nourish every part of you.

Spring will come again

Let the world keep turning.

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Namaste

A Prayer for our Times

Always Into Love

On this voyage of
the soul, may we be
bridge builders,
our common ground
visible beneath the
surface differences.

May we braid the
threads of reconciliation
into a chain of possibility
that joins, heals, and
includes what once
seemed separate.

May our shared prayer
be answered: to grow
so open that there is
no “them” or “us,”
only the One, moving
always into love.

~ Danna Faulds