Dancing in the Winds of Change

Although my previous post on compassion discussed how to practice the habit, it only lightly touched on why.  Tonight I want to start exploring why.

Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.Uncertain origins

and a related quote, from a book called Courtesy:

This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.

Do you know the kinds of burdens that others carry?  Do you recognize the burdens that you carry?  Can you name your filters and judgments, the things that separate you from others and from experiencing the world?

To become acquainted with kindness one must be prepared to learn new things and feel new feelings. Kindness is more than a philosophy of the mind. It is a philosophy of the spirit. – Robert J. Furey

Through personal growth and emotional healing workshops, I’ve had the experience of listening to many people discuss their wounds, their struggles, and their shattered dreams. I’ve faced my own dark years, both alone and as a caregiver for another.  It’s given me a quiet seriousness about the hard times in life.  It has also given me perspective on the unseen lives of others I bump into throughout my days.

So what are the burdens people carry?

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Play is Valuable

Live and work, but do not forget to play, to have fun in life and really enjoy it. 

– Eileen Caddy, The Dawn of Change

To be willing to play in the midst of difficult times can be a great blessing.   Even if you feel it necessary to keep a somber mood until it’s over, what next?  How long is enough grieving?  How much is enough sadness?

If you are struggling with grief, please understand that there is no right answer to “how much” to grieve.  It will happen in its own time, and differently for each person.  Don’t let others pressure you into shortening your process.  If you grow concerned that grief may have become depression, consider whether you might benefit from professional help.  It’s not disrespectful to eventually move on.

Sad times come.  Stress happens.  Life can be hard.  When life is a struggle from one day to the next, it can be hard to remember to take a break and just play – without feeling guilty.

From Wound to Play

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In interpreting daily life, we often take mental shortcuts, predicting current and future situations based on past experience.  When that’s realistic, it’s a form of learning – and when it’s unrealistic, it can blind us to what’s actually happening.

A new person I meet dresses and acts a lot like my friend from grade school, so I find myself assuming she will behave like that friend on new things too.  A social event involving lots of unfamiliar people reminds me of my discomfort at being an outcast in childhood, and so I get nervous before the party and consider not going.  A new lover reminds me of a bad ex, and I find myself unable to shake off that ghost of fear.

What’s going on there? And how can I change it?

Four Levels Model

We can look at experiences as if there are four levels of reality happening at once.

Diagram of the four levels, numbered and explained, with Physical at the bottom, Emotional stack on top of it, Mythic Story above that, and Essence Beliefs at the top. An arrow labeled Understanding points from bottom to top, and an arrow labeled Changing points from top to bottom.

Four Levels. Click for bigger view.

  1. Physical – The observable events; what a video camera would see.
  2. Feelings/Sensations – How the body reacts, emotions, adrenaline, skin shivers, freezing up or relaxing at ease
  3. Mythic Story/Explanation – A story in words about the meaning of what just happened. Interpretation.
  4. Essential Beliefs – What we fundamentally believe about the world and ourselves after many experiences; safe vs unsafe, trust vs fear.

By examining my situation at each of these four levels, I can figure out:

  • what is happening inside me,
  • where I am making incorrect assumptions,
  • which of my past experiences might be causing me to misunderstand the current one,
  • how I can check in verbally with other people to clarify the situation,
  • and how I can avoid similar reactions in the future.

This is a powerful way to change how I relate to life experiences, as it helps me change my inner responses, reduce misunderstandings and knee-jerk reactions, and avoid drama.  Let’s look at how the four levels apply to a fictional situation, and then how to use that understanding to change behaviors and reactions. Read the rest of this entry »

Practicing Compassion

This blog will be largely a philosophy blog.  As I come to understand and practice my values in my life, I find I want to share what I’ve learned, for others seeking a similar path.

I often find that blogs end an interesting topic too early, and I want more.  So at the end of some articles, I will provide links to other related websites for deeper study. I am not a paid sponsor, nor am I trained by or endorsing any particular groups. I am just pointing you towards resources that I find relevant.


Holding Hands shadow on sand

Image via Wikipedia

Loving-kindness and compassion are the basis for wise, powerful, sometimes gentle, and sometimes fierce actions that can really make a difference — in our own lives and those of others.  – Sharon Salzberg

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. – Howard Zinn

The major block to compassion is the judgment in our minds. Judgment is the mind’s primary tool of separation. – Diane Berke

Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength. – Frances de Sales

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Polished Stones

From Flickr

Welcome to my new blog! I hope you will let yourself be touched by life.

At a personal growth retreat program, I encountered the idea of letting life touch me, change me, and reshape me like a stone tumbled in a river.

A stone that breaks off of a larger rock starts with sharp edges, jagged shapes, and doesn’t stack smoothly. Let that stone tumble around in a river for a few years, and the river will wear and polish it. It will be easier to stack and more beautiful.

My rough edges are the things that make me prickly.

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