Wellness Wednesday – Throw away the manuals

How many of you have “manuals” for how other people should behave? 

Whether they are family members, or co-workers, or just other people encounter during your day, we tend to have “manuals” for how we want them to behave. Here are some of my example thoughts related to this principle:

“They shouldn’t talk about people in such a mean way.”

“He should not behave that way.”

“They should say something nice instead of always criticizing.”

Those are some negative “manual” thoughts that sometimes appear in my own head. But they are actually false! How do I know that? Because they DO talk about people, he DOES behave that way, and they DO criticize.

We have no control over others’ behavior. But sometimes we think “if only they would behave differently then we could be happy.” \

Photo credit link 

This is actually a position of powerlessness. When we realize that we can respond to people from our own cleaned-up thoughts about the situation, we free ourselves. We cannot control the world. (Those of us who are control freaks find this a little hard to accept sometimes.)

Separate out what a person is saying (or how they are acting) from the thoughts and interpretations in your head. Then you realize it is not related to you, it is more about THEM.

This does not mean you should be a “doormat” or that you should not make requests of them (like “please stop”). That is totally fine. But you have to accept that people will choose to behave however they behave. Sometimes you need to have proper boundaries if they are mistreating you. 

But the only person who’s thoughts, emotions and actions you can manage are yours. This is incredibly liberating, the more you practice awareness of your own thoughts and feelings, the more you take back the true power in your life. 

Is there anyone in your life that is bugging you because they are not following your manual? Consider whether it’s time to trash that manual. Thanks to Brooke Castillo for first teaching me this principal. It has been a game-changer. 

Allowing space

On the holiday yesterday I was reflecting a bit on the notion of space.

I learned through some reading (and probably a podcast as well) about a Japanese concept called “Yutori” and it caught my attention. It describes a notion of spaciousness. It’s leaving time between appointments so you can get there early and look around. It is allowing time for meditation or mindfully and slowly engaging in a quiet practice of some kind.

I really love this notion. The more I learn about this concept, the more I realize I have been actively trying to embody this notion in my daily life. From the desire for a more minimalist space to my conscious efforts to increase my meditative practices, I am pursuing this desire for Yutori. 

Photo taken from the Coastal walk between Cremyll and Kingsand (Cornwall) in England

As I allow for more spaciousness in my life, my creativity seems to open to ideas I might not have considered before. My days “resist” too much scheduling, but invite just the right amount of activity and rest to feel more integrated. 

Though I am far from perfecting this notion, the concept and its appeal for me is driving me toward my next venture. I can feel that, as much as I occasionally feel I must accelerate things. Somehow I firmly trust that giving the spaciousness enough soil, air and water, I cultivate an amazing garden of inner richness. 

Where and when do you find spaciousness in your life? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

That scared little boy

The next time you see a man belittling a woman or talking down to her, ask yourself what experiences might have shaped that man as a little boy.

Ask yourself whether his scared self was seeking attention and love from a mother or father figure. Imagine whether he might still be reacting in fear and a need to belong when he engages in this habitual behavior. While it is not an excuse, it may help us exercise compassion.

Perhaps his father taught him that his worth was derived from being superior to women. Perhaps his religion taught him that women are inferior beings in need of protection and discipline. He may have learned that vulnerability was weakness so he wanted to be sure never to show that to even his partner. Perhaps the patriarchy reinforces all of these messages.

In fact, it does.

Our fundamental sense of belonging is shaped when we are young children. Around age 7 or so once we have passed through stages of attachment, exploration, identity and competence, we develop an awareness of others. We develop a need for belonging. When we experience early “wounds” at any stage of our psycho-social development, they may later manifest themselves in our relationships, until we are able to become aware and heal them.

scared little boy
Photo credit link

In reading some of Harville Hendrix’s work on relationships, I have come to have greater compassion for dysfunctional behaviors I observe in myself and others. I realize that there are certain patterns we develop to self-protect, and to preserve our identities.

Men who are secure and comfortable with their masculinity have no need to put down powerful women. They celebrate strong women, and they are fine with sharing power. Indeed, they may be relieved at not having to be solely responsible for all important decisions. They can embrace more collaboration and shared leadership.

Women who are secure and comfortable with their own femininity and power can ask for what they want. They know that they are worthy of respect. They take care of themselves. They ask for help when it is needed. They receive and accept help graciously. They believe their desires can be honored rather than repressed.

I am starting to understand that my spiritual journey is a process of learning to trust in my wholeness. I also realize this runs counter to our culture, that nudges us toward buying and consuming one more thing, or many more things. We all seek a sense of belonging and fulfillment in our daily lives. And people are trying to “sell” that to us all the time.

At the root, we must accept ourselves as we are. We must embrace the light and the dark, realize they comprise beauty and complexity. We are part of a divine mystery. It is that unfolding to who we really are in our present moment that is holy. That does not mean we do not work toward improvement. It simply means our worthiness is not conditioned on being anything other than what we are now.

If that scared little boy or girl within us still seeks approval from others or feels unworthy, then we have work to do. For when we truly love ourselves and then may love others fully, we forgive ourselves and others. We accept that we are doing the best we can, and then we can begin to fulfill our true potential.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – judgment vs acceptance

Once in a while I find myself tempted to tell other people how they should live. I get all “judgy” about what they should do, or what I would do in their situation. You don’t do that, do you?

Oh, who am I kidding? Many of us spend our lives judging other people. This is human, perhaps. I must extend myself compassion for the tendency to insert my opinion into other people’s business. One of my favorite wise teachers, Brené Brown, talks about how good it can feel to judge other people. It’s like a pig rolling in mud, she explains in one of her audio books. “Doesn’t it just feel so good?”

Our need to judge and criticize other people comes from our desire to mask some type of shame about the way we feel about ourselves. If we feel bad about our inability to keep our space clean at home, it is SO easy to become judgmental about some other person’s difficulty. We think: “Sheesh, how can they live like that? Do they have a hoarding disorder? Narcissism? (insert criticism here)” We may be bad, but at least we feel we are better than someone else.

While I feel embarrassed to admit how often I judge people, I want to come clean here for the sake of exploring this tendency and understanding what this judgment says about me.

When I first learned to meditate, I was astonished at the thoughts that seemed to flow rather continuously through my fevered brain. Now I react with more curiosity rather than with admonishment or shame. Thoughts appear. Then we react to them, or just observe them and let them go. It takes a lot of practice not to judge ourselves, or judge and evaluate our thoughts, but just to observe them with curiosity instead. I am far from perfect at this, and I’ve been practicing for 556 days in a row.

Judge Judy
TV personality Judge Judy – photo credit link

I realize that holding space for people, particularly those that you love, or those who can easily push your buttons, can be a sacred act of mindfulness as well. It is difficult to withhold judgment and just meet people where they are. It requires great compassion and self-awareness of our own internal critic and the ways in which we constantly compare ourselves to others.

In the case of family, friends or people we care about, sometimes we long to give advice to “help”. But often our best option is to listen, to care and to ask if we can be of service, rather than to offer unsolicited advice how to solve the problem.

If we simply tell people what to do, they often sense our judgment and discomfort. If our advice comes from a place of love and compassion, they may be able to hear it. If not, I think it is best for us to “clean up” our thoughts before launching into our opinions about the issue. Often we gossip to others about what these people should do instead of confronting the issue directly. That is not a good idea either.

Adults can behave however they wish, and we cannot control them. This is a radical idea for some of us. But we can only control our own thoughts and emotions. Trying to control other people is typically a recipe for disaster. While we can sometimes have a positive influence, typically we must lead by example rather than judging, condemning and shaming.

This is a lesson I write to remind myself. I have learned and re-learned it many times. When I focus on things I can control, my own actions and results (and generally the preceding thoughts and emotions), I have more peace, freedom and equanimity.

But oh, sometimes judgment is so very tempting…

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Sunday AirBnB

Now and then the hubby and I escape to Bemidji in order to visit family. But I am a little bereft when I have no place in which I can escape for solitude. So I sometimes search out an AirBnB so we can have a retreat. This time around, it’s a cute little two bedroom apartment. I really love the plaque over the headboard (which is crafted from a refurbished piano, very creative in itself)!

AirBnB plaque

Since I love the message, I decided to post and take a holiday from writing my usual Sunday haiku.

Happy weekend, amigas/os! Enjoy your limited time on this earth. Treat it as the precious resource that it is.

Lies we tell ourselves

Last week after my coaching session, I began considering my the original motivations for entering into this process. One big one is that I want to make a career change this year. Another one is that I want more alignment and intimacy in my relationships, including my relationship with myself.

I have been doing a lot of work on this areas in the past couple of years, and I am proud of the progress I have made. But there are always more layers to peel back, it seems, and I was kind of shocked to catch myself in a lie that I’d been telling to myself, and also speaking out loud.

The lie was “my job is killing me and I may need to leave it.” In truth, my job is not killing me. My job is paying me good money. The tasks I am responsible for are becoming less palatable to me, that is true. But it is MY THOUGHTS about the job that are causing pain, not the job itself. When I admit that to myself, I feel less desperate and graspy about finding something new. And I dig deeper to find the sources of that pain, and unearth a more true set of facts that are driving my unhappiness about the current reality.

It occurred to me though: how did I not catch that lie to myself before? One of the homework assignments I am working on with my coach is to review my “Mary the Martyr” voice in my head that plays sometimes when I am making decisions. In working on the dreaming assignment, I realized I was a little “blocked” at even coming up with dreams in some areas. I had a whole list of things I am supposed to do, supposed to want. All those (probably parental figure) voices say to: “you should be grateful for what you have. Wanting more is greedy.”

fingers crossed
Photo credit link

But wanting more is what we do as humans. For me, it is not always in the material sense. I want more in the sense that I want satisfaction and fulfillment in the work I do. My husband and I eventually want to buy a house. I want to go on that 1-year anniversary honeymoon that we started planning last year. I never stopped wanting that, but I put in on a shelf thinking “I need to do the responsible thing” instead of getting what I want.

What I was doing was probably channeling all of those “good girl” admonitions I learned my whole life, rather than being honest about what I really want this year. I’d also created some internal and relationship drama about needing to find a new job by this fall in order to put off this goal that I’d dismissed as frivolous and unimportant. But when I considered the reality of the desire, and wanting to do this with my husband as an experience we plan and do together, I re-assessed the timeline with regard to job change.

Granted, there are always short-term and long-term goals we have in our lives. Sometimes we have to put off the short term goals because a longer term priority will benefit us in the long run. But when I am honest with myself about how my thoughts interfere with my desires sometimes, it can release a lot of energy.

Last Thursday, as I dug deeper into those thoughts and beliefs that were causing me pain, I realized I have control of some of those thoughts. I can release them, though not without awareness and intention. I started considering other “lies” I may be telling myself, to keep myself from experiencing disappointment, or doing what is expected of me, rather than doing what I believe is right, more aligned with the truth.

Having integrity within ourselves is a powerful source of energy. We are weighed down by the stories we tell ourselves and the excuses we make for our behavior that may not be honest. When we question some of those “usual story-lines” we may realize they are not actually true! They are just habitual thoughts, when, once examined, can be pruned out of our consciousness to make room for more joy and peace.

What about you? You don’t have to tell us all, of course. This is between you and yourself. Are there any lies you are telling yourself that do not serve you?