Who Wins? The good witch or the bad?

We moved here about two years ago.  Many of our neighbors are second or third generation here, others are more recent, but we are definitely the new kids on the block.  You remember what it is like to be the new kid.  When I am going into new situations I often begin with fantasies of hopeful promise that this will be a new haven….I paint pictures in my mind of a place where I’ll feel like I belong, they’ll feel like they (and I)  belong, we will all get along…Then I start to meet people….

So there we were on our new property, which has the outstanding characteristic of a creek running through it. Something else that is unusual about our new place is that there is a road both in front and in back of us.  The house came with a fence in front but not in back where the creek and the second road are. The house has a wall of windows that exposes most of the house to the street.  As we err on the modest, private side, we put a fence up.  But not for long.  The neighbors, these people who were supposed to be my new best friends, were, it turns out very entitled, nincompoops. They protested our fence!  They said it blocked “their” view of the creek (and of our back yard, living room, dining room and kitchen might I add).  The city even came out to inspect and after seeing how exposed our house was to the street Okayed the fence.  But the neighbors, who were obviously not my new best friends, kept pestering and complaining. We were forced to take our fence down.  Now everyone who walks and drives by can see what I am eating for breakfast, oh joy!

I was so mad I could spit.

And I stayed mad for a long time! I dreamt mad things about my neighbors. I told everyone I know how mad I was about it.  I could not stop thinking about it!  I felt exposed and vulnerable.  I felt like my family and I had no privacy and that everyone in our neighborhood might be looking into our yard and house all the time.

Right around Halloween time, as this whole conflict (and my anger) was at its climax, I had visions of hanging a Halloween witch in the tree, by the neck, with a sign that said, “It was the fence that led me to this.”  I know that is just crazy, but that is how […]

It feels so WRONG, when it’s not RIGHT…

Sometimes my mind loves black and white thinking.

And sometimes I hate that it does.

And no, the irony of this is not lost on me.

If I am thinking “mindlessly,” meaning without mindful awareness, my mind loves to decide right/wrong, good/bad, like/don’t like.  Not only do I gravitate to this way of thinking myself, but I also can project this on to others.  I often “return to mindfulness” only to find that I am in the middle of a story about whether “they” think I did something right or wrong…

It seemed like just another day

Late afternoon, long day, pulled up to the grocery store.  Suddenly realize I don’t have my wallet. “Did I leave it at the library yesterday?  Is it in my other bag at home?  Did I lose it? Damn, I need a few things for tonight’s dinner.”

“Okay, I have my checkbook. They don’t need ID for a check, right?  Not if it’s small.” I convince myself that I can write a check without ID and I head in.  I quickly get only what I need for that night’s dinner and go to checkout.  The feeling that I am trying to get away with something is lurking beneath the surface. I am unaware that I am slowly sinking into the world of right/wrong.  My “mindlessness” has caused me to miss that I am putting myself on trial.

The nice cashier asks for my ID. “I don’t have it. I left my wallet at the library, or maybe in my other bag…,” I start to ramble. Then I think, “this makes me look more suspicious, like  a fake check writer”. I blush. My black and white thinking kicks in with, “You are bad for not having your ID,… for being a fake check writer, a broccoli thief.” (I actually have money in the bank, but my unconscious good/bad thinking can convince me of almost anything if I’m not paying attention.).

The checker’s eyes are saying, “What is wrong with this person?”  She calls over the next checker, the bagger joins in, then the next bagger comes over and finally the manager… all five women staring at me and asking me questions, “Why didn’t I bring my wallet? Have I written a check here before? Do I come here often?” I am imagining all the judgments they are having about me and they are piling on all the judgments I am having about myself. I am starting to sweat. Then my feet are glued to the floor.

One of them vouches for me, “She […]

What If I Don’t Feel Nice Today?

Kindness. It sometimes feels like a “have to” or a “should.” Forced kindness can feel terrible and can evoke the thought of laying myself down at the feet of someone harsh and uncaring, and saying, “No, really. I don’t mind.  You can walk on me–I like it…..”

Mindfulness philosophy teaches a different version of kindness.  This approach to kindness is described as “one of the most beautiful aspects of our nature,” meaning it is something we all innately have and can enjoy.  It is also called a “divine abode” a.k.a “a super nice way to feel.”

To truly feel kindness in my own heart feels…well, it feels great.  “Mindful kindness” is a felt experience.  It grows from an internal connection to one’s heart rather than any external “should”.

Kindness has the potential to melt our hearts so that we can feel the connections we have in our immediate circles and beyond.

Recently I enjoyed a wave of authentic kindness while hosting a special “fairy party” for my daughter and her friends.  For lots of different reasons I was feeling tapped out as the party was beginning, yet I could still feel a true desire for my little one to feel celebrated and loved. So I dug deep and brought forth kindness from far inside myself.

As we all danced and sang fairy songs together her smile beamed with unmitigated joy. When we sat down in our circle to hear a fairy story, she leapt into my arms with a big hug and said, “I love you mama”.  This was one happy little girl! While her words were saying “I love you” I could see that she was also expressing (in three year old body language), “I feel celebrated, I feel loved… I feel the kindness”.  I felt absolute delight — another outcome of kindness practice.

However what I was happy about was not what I expected to be happy about. I wasn’t happy about the party exactly, I was happy about my daughter’s happiness. Anyone who loves another knows about this. My story is about my daughter. Yours may be about your partner, friend, parent etc.. The potential for kindness and delight to arise is in all of us.

BUT what about when I/we don’t feel kind at all?

What about when all the thoughts running through my/your head are… well, UN-kind…?

When I/you are with the kids and they have been yelling (whether in excitement or frustration), just yelling for what seems like hours on end, and we are NOT saying it, but we are thinking […]

Intimacy Near the Interstate – you can have it too!

I am running errands, driving to REI to return some uncomfortable hiking pants. It is a very average day.

I’m listening to a talk about mindful parenting with Jack Kornfield.  He is telling a story of a mother speaking very harshly to her child.  The mother in Jack’s story is threatening to “give her son something to cry about, if he doesn’t shut up…Now!”.  My eyes fill with tears as I think of that little child and his little blameless soul… Without wanting to, I picture my own children and the last time I scolded them, (my own memory is nothing like the story Jack was telling, but still… we all know sometimes we loose our patience… and I’m sure after we are calm again, we all wish we hadn’t …).

I find myself parked in front of REI fighting back tears and suddenly silently praying…. praying that my children feel loved, helped, connected and respected…. I wish for them to feel this even in the moment that their mama losses her patience over the spilled milk, the grabbing of toys, the refusing to put a sweater on, over whatever…

I take some deep breaths and remind myself of all the moments, in which I just know, they felt celebrated.  Then (because I have to, because my heart hurts for the inevitable pain they have and will experience), I remind myself of the theory that when children can experience conflict in a supportive relationship and “recover” from it with the support of a loving adult that this is actually helpful to them.

I remind myself of all the things I/we all know about mindful parenting.  And yet my heart still aches for this little boy in Jack’s story and for the moments when my own children seem sadden by their mama’s words or tone.  And my heart aches for all the children who need more kindness in their lives. And I recommit to being as kind as I can…

I remember a quote Sylvia Boorstein often shares, “Life is so difficult, how can we be anything but kind”.  And I cry in the parking lot for all the times I wasn’t… And I cry a little to for all the time I was.  Then I recommit to trying again and again to be kind, to be the kindness I seek.

And there I am, having a moment with my children, my own childhood, the other young one in my life now and those yet to come into it. I’m just off the interstate, in the […]

Stare Down That Dog

I overheard some women talking in a café. They were swapping stories about their neighbors. Apparently one of the women has a neighbor, as she described it, with “a slight case of obsessive-compulsive disorder”… “She keeps her yard immaculate”.  She continued to say.  “I actually like her obsessiveness though, I mean her yard is perfect… while my other neighbor never tends to her yard at all, I wish she were a little more obsessive.” Her café friend responded, “ Yes I wish I had a little OCD myself, think of all I would accomplish”.

My heart sank a little at the familiar perspective that being obsessive and compulsive is actually something we WANT for ourselves (and our neighbors) because it motivates us to do a really REALLY good job at…. whatever we have on our to do lists.

Do we have to be obsessive and compulsive in order to…..-take care of our yard, -clean our house, -complete our projects at work, -find the right mate, -eat well, -be on time, -return emails, -xyz….. fill in your own blank_____.

Do we really have to watch ourselves like a guard dog who is ready to bite? Do we have to note our every move, waiting for our next screw up so that we can pounce on ourselves?

When I heard these women wishing for obsessive-compulsive disorder for themselves (and their neighbors) I began thinking, “Is it compulsion and guard dogs that we really need to keep us in line? Or is there a deeper motivation that comes from something else?  Like maybe our own true desire and basic goodness?”

What I have seen is that for most of us, the growl of the guard dog or the repetition of our obsession is so loud and constant that we can’t really hear the calling of our basic goodness.

I am certainly no stranger to guard dogs, in fact I’ve know these so called “ motivational tools” in just about every shape and size.  I’ve stayed up all night obsessing and trying to appease that dog. Searching for scraps of meat to toss his/her way, anything to placate him/her so I can just GO BACK TO SLEEP!  I’ve spent entire days (really fun days, with really fun things happening) in negotiations with that guard dog.

Luckily this story has a happy ending.  Well mostly happy (mindfulness is NOT a miracle cure for all that ails us). But mindfulness sure did come through for me where this guard dog is concerned.  It was through the process of watching my mind, sensing […]

Tug of War for Peace

I spent “a week in paradise” over the winter holidays… you might think, as I did, that this would be a week full of relaxation and Peace and a general feeling of “everything is great”.  Well it was… some of the time… other times it was a tug of war in my mind and the question for me was who will win, Discontentment or Peace?

Day One: The warm air is like medicine, I am intoxicated and everything feels great!

Day Two: The game of tug of war begins and as I walk down the beach it feels like negative thoughts are pulling at my happiness, trying to yank this happy carpet out from underneath me (…Maybe I should be staying at this hotel instead of the one I am staying in;  Oh god look at all this beauty I have been missing, I can’t believe it has been so many years since I have come; Hey that is a nice sun dress, I would like one of those…)  As I watch the sun set over the ocean I am catching onto this mental game. I am able to remind myself of what I know to be true about the mind:

Science shows that evolutionarily our brains are programmed to scan for danger or problems. Think of yourself living on the plains, and you need to be constantly vigilant to look out for a lion in the distance coming to eat you.  Our brains (thousands of years ago) had to get very good at looking out for trouble. And here we are today with a lean mean trouble seeking machine in our heads.

As I walk down the beach I see what is happening in my mind. I recognize this mental habit and see it for what it is, an evolutionary habit. Once I am aware, it loses its power over my mind and I am able to once again settle into the truth of the moment, which is, there is no lion approaching, nor a modern day problem either (hotels, frequency of visits, dresses to be had…).  Everything is really fine. Better than fine. Everything is great and ahhh… now I feel in touch with that truth again.

Day Two: Yay. 1 point for Peace

Day Three: Cruising along in “my happy place” taking in the sights and sounds, feeling very alive and aware of my experience. I notice each juicy bite as I have my lunch from “taco trucks” on the street. I feel the glorious, warm ocean on my skin as I […]

Super Stressed? Be an “Underachiever”

My friend joked with me recently, when I told her about a big project I am working on, “Don’t you think you are being an overachiever?”  I bet that many of us can answer “YES” to that question about some, or maybe even many, areas of our lives. Is this striving habit spilling over into your self-care? Well I say, let’s not let our self-care be yet another area where we tell ourselves we have to do more, better, faster.

I mean doesn’t it sound just a little silly, “I HAVE to take care of myself faster…better…NOW!” I know I’ve rushed at questionably unsafe speeds to get to a meditation and Yoga class, haven’t you? I don’t think that pedestrian would really appreciate if I “killed them with kindness?!?”

So if you want to feel more relaxed and be kinder to yourself in the New Year (and who knows maybe even right now) then why not try being an “Underachiever” and see for yourself what it is like to “slow down” and “chill out” even while you are taking care of yourself. I bet you will start to feel a little (or maybe even a lot) better.

Try it yourself.  3 Ideas to “Underachieve” at self-care:

1.  Instead of rushing to your third meditation or yoga class in a week, replace one with a 20-40 minute home practice. Then you can use the rest of the time to relax with a magazine, listen to a radio show you enjoy or call a friend you really like talking to.

2. Instead of pushing through the day to cram in an hour of “serious” exercise, let the day unfold at it’s own natural (and manageable) pace and take a short and brisk walk in the starlight at the end of the day.

3. Take a moment right now to tune into you own wisdom and ask yourself, “What do I really need right now?  What would help me feel balanced and centered?” Once you get your answer, you can make time for it, in an easy, relaxed way.

p.s. remember we’re experimenting with being Underachievers, so don’t overdo it.

Rebekkah LaDyne is based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she teaches Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga.

She teaches group class, individual sessions and retreats. She has published 2 Instructional Yoga and Mindfulness CDs for home practice.

3 quick ideas for staying centered during the holidays and New Year’s.

Many of us feel stressed during the holidays. We feel family pressure, social pressure, stress about gifts, stress about resolutions…

Just last week, while at a holiday gathering I felt the familiar feeling of what I call “leaving yourself” this is when my inner critic has taken over and I am more concerned with what others think of me then what I think of myself or even more importantly feel about myself.  Here are a few tips for what I call “returning to yourself”.  I have used them for years and I used them that evening last week and they work!

1. Is the conversation inside your head is louder then the conversation outside your head.  If it is, take a “time out”, a few minutes break from the conversation to regroup. To get a “time out” you can excuse yourself to (whether it is your home or not) go check something in the oven, to the bathroom, to do a few dishes, to get something from the garage. During this time out take a few deep breaths, feel your feet on the floor or your hands on whatever they might be touching, soapy water, the door of the oven, a box in the garage. This will keep you in the moment instead of in your head with that loud conversation that usually only has critical things to say.

2. Appreciation inside and out.  Appreciation feels good to give and to receive.  And it is very important you give it TO YOURSELF as well as others. Try this out; Each time you extend appreciation to someone else take a quick moment to inwardly extend it to yourself too.  Is can be for something small or large don’t get stumped looking for something big enough or important enough to appreciate.  It can be as simple as appreciating yourself for making breakfast for your family, for showing up positively to your last meeting, for emailing your group of friends or family with an idea for your next gathering.

3. Breathe, Breathe, Breathe.  When you feel scattered, anxious or overwhelmed just pause for a moment. Take a small break from whatever you are doing and just deeply breathe.  Remind your adrenal glands that they can slow down…. Let yourself be still for 30 seconds and I think you will feel different afterward.

Remember these practices are SIMPLE but NOT EASY! It takes time to develop the “muscles” of self kindness. But it is worth the effort!

Good luck!

Rebekkah LaDyne is based in the San Francisco Bay Area where […]


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