The In-Between Spaces

August 4, 2012

ECOTONES: the in-between spaces in an ecological setting.

It is a  transition area between two biomes

or different patches of the landscape,

like the space where the ocean meets the shore.

We have spaces like this too. In-between spaces, where the boundaries are blurred. It is not always clear where one emotion or thought begins and another ends. There is a symbiotic relationship. Each “part” needs the other to be balanced, but sometimes the boundaries change or are blurred making it difficult to feel we have completely moved on from one to another.

Emotions, thoughts, feelings that we might consider separate, actually coexist. There is no finite  boundary, no solid line where one begins and another ends.

For many of us this lack of clearness can be difficult. We want to know that one thing is ending, finished, and another is beginning. But it isn’t always so easy, so clearly defined.

We have pain and sorrow right along side joy and happiness. Anxiety can be cradled next to assurance. Perhaps trust is holding hands with doubt.

How do we live with dynamic boundaries where variables blur the edges? The in-between places where we are just not sure of what is going on, of how we are feeling, of where are going, or where we have been? What we may have lost? What we might have gained?

In nature these areas are sometimes turbulent, sometimes peaceful.  Waves on the shore may carry sand and plants away, eroding the shore. Other times the waves bring new sand, plants or animals to the beach. Sometimes these are “good” changes, sometimes not. There is a give and take. Sometimes the balance is quick and easy.  Other times, the compromises cause the two sides to give something up.  But in the end it is Nature’s way. Nature is life. And death. And violence. And supreme gentleness. In the ebb and flow there is all that represents life: change, uncertainty, risk, balance, loss, pain, joy, gain, happiness, sorrow, life, death, beauty, “ugliness”, fear, calm, love……without any one part, the other pieces are diminished.

Think about the synonyms for “transition”:   changeover, conversion, development, evolution, flux, growth, metamorphosis, passage,  progress, progression, realignment, shift, transformation,  turning point, upheaval.

What are the whispers from your in-between places telling you? Take some time in this space and listen to the possibilities.

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The Welcoming Prayer

May 25, 2012

 

The Welcoming Prayer

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.

(by Father Thomas Keating)

What would our days be like, if when we opened our eyes every morning, we took a deep cleansing breath and said:

“Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything

that comes to me today

because I know it is for my healing.”

Those are life altering words: to see every thing that comes to us every day as a means of our own “healing”. Okay, sure: the good things, the joyful happy things….but, what about the pain, the sorrow, the disappointment, loss, failure…..healing?

 “I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.” 

If we can let go of our desire for power and control, let go of our desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.  Let go of our desire for survival and security…..what are we left with? 

We are left with the moment. The here and now. The experience.  As Bodhidarma (coming soon in a new blog post) taught:  keep a steady mind, one that is not swayed by circumstances. A mind open to God, or Spirit or Buddha-Mind, whatever name you give it, whatever belief you have.  

By greeting each and every new day with “welcome, welcome, welcome…”, we are telling our own Potential to open every door today and welcome everything that comes to us through those doors because those things are for our healing, our strengthening.  Without opening the doors we miss possibilities. And possibilities strengthen our potential. Open the morning door wide and shout, “WELCOME , WELCOME, WELCOME!”

A little background information on Father Thomas Keating:

Father Keating is aTrappist monk (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) and priest, known as one of architects of the Centering Prayer, a contemporary method of contemplative prayer, that emerged from St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts, in 1975. He was born in New York City, and attended Deerfield Academy, Yale University, and Fordham University, graduating in December 1943. He is a founder of the Centering Prayer movement and of Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. (Wikipedia)

Mind chatter is the mind noise that never stops. It is the inner conversation or inner monologue that constantly goes on in the mind.

We are often unaware of this mental noise, because it has become a deeply embedded habit, something we may consider to be just a part of life.

Mind Chatter is like an inner voice that constantly analyzes everything about our lives, surroundings and the people we know. It is a voice in the head that just keeps talking and talking! It starts sometimes before we even open our eyes in the morning making a mental list of what we need to do, and follows us through the day, and is even with us when we close our eyes in bed, wishing something different had been done or said. It happens when we gossip, or think negative thoughts about others.

These thoughts can loop, go round and round, over and over. How lucky we are if this “broken record” thought is a positive one! What a struggle it is if it is a negative thought filled with worry, stress, anger or frustration. How horrible to have that noise chattering away inside our head all day long. We really could do without it!

The first step to quieting this chatter, is to realize it exists! Then we have to sort out if it is our True Self talking, or is it our sub-conscious? Often the cause is fear, in some form: the “what ifs”. This chatter tries to bring some sort of order from the perceived chaos: we have to consider all the options so we will be safer.

When we get wrapped up in this noise, while we are focused on it, listening to it, we are missing out on life going on around us.

We need to stop the Mind Chatter by learning how to stop our unconscious mind’s habit of “running off at the mouth”. Pay attention to what it is saying. If you hear negatives: “I can’t”, “I should, “what will I do?”, stop the dialogue. Make the conscious effort to change your thought process: tell the chatter to “STOP”, say ” I can”,” I am OK”, “I can handle this, I can figure it out”. Take control. We need to repeat this every time the negative chatter gets going, until there is a natural replacement of positive, rather that negative dialogue.

We will always have this mind chatter going on. Our mind loves to be busy. We can, however, change the topic! We have to be careful because when our mind chatters, we listen, and we remember. If our chatter is negative, guess what we remember? Information is continually being recorded and stored for future reference.

Brian Tracey says, “Perhaps the most powerful influence on your attitude and personality is what you say to yourself, and believe. It is not what happens to you, but how you respond internally to what happens to you, that determines your thoughts and feelings and, ultimately, your actions. By controlling your inner dialogue, or “self-talk,” you can begin to assert control over every other dimension of your life.”

Remez Sasson offers these insights on what mind chatter is :

  1. Thoughts that repeat themselves like a tape that keeps playing the same tune.
  2. Reliving negative past situations or visualizing fears over and over again.
  3. Dwelling on the past or fearing the future. This prevents us from enjoying the present. The past is gone, and the future is the product of our present thinking and actions. The only time that exists is now, the present moment.
  4. Compulsive inner monologue that disturbs our peace and makes the mind busy.
  5. Never being here. Always thinking on something else, instead of what we are doing now. If we always think on something else we never enjoy the moment.
  6. Constant analysis of our and other people’s situations, reactions and behavior. Analyzing the past, the future, things we need or want to do, our day, yesterday and the distant past.
  7. Almost all involuntary thinking and daydreaming are some sort of mental noise. This is often a constant background noise, which often intrudes into foreground in the middle of everything we do.

How do we gain control? Through some hard, thoughtful work and patience.

We have to be aware of this noise. Then we have to understand that it is our brain’s attempt to protect us from the unknown by pretending it knows what will happen. First we have to tell that noise, the chatter, to STOP. Then take the negative thoughts and turn them into positive: “I can’t do this…” to, “ I can do this”.

Breathe, count to 10, sing a favorite verse of song…let your mind know you are not interested in the negative chatter. Learn to “see” the chatter, imagine it written on a blackboard and watch as it is erased and the see the board clear and clean and blank……and then keep the board blank, do not let anything else be written.

We can also work to change the chatter, and make it useful and powerful in a positive way. Begin a routine of beginning your day with positive thoughts. Instead of “oh, I HAVE to take a shower”, turn it into “The hot shower will feel good.”  Replace “I have so much to do today”, with “I am going to accomplish a lot today”.

Mid-day, find a few moments and slow down. As thoughts creep in…erase them. Be still. Pat yourself on the back, “I’ve made progress”, “I am handling things well”.

At the end of the day, tell your mind to STOP chattering. When it starts up, divert and recite a poem, sing a song, do a multiplication table! Do not let it get chatting….

Some ideas of how to quiet your mind chatter include this from

Swami Nithya Bhaktananda

  1. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Do not make excuses, “I am busy then.”, “I already have plans.” Make a conscious decision to say the absolute truth, or what you actually mean. The absolute truth doesn’t have to be harsh or hurtful, you can do so compassionately and authentically, but firmly. When you own what you say, no one can reject it, even if they don’t like what they hear; because you are telling the truth and you mean it. Make a conscious commitment to yourself to mean everything that you say, and not to make empty promises that you cannot, will not, do not intend to fulfill. Do not tell someone you will call if you know you won’t. Telling the truth prevents the mind from having something to chatter about!
  2. Don’t say to anyone unless you can say to everyone. “Make a commitment to yourself, that you will not say something to one person, unless you can announce it to the world, to everybody. Make a commitment to stop the spreading of drama and bad energy.”
  3. Don’t say inside, what you cannot say outside. When the chatter starts, especially when the thought is full of negativity like “I am so stupid”, or “I feel like a failure”, say to yourself, or even out loud: “STOP! From today forward, I choose to let this thought go, for it does not uplift me. I am exposing this thought as being false, for you are not real! From today onward, I am free from this thought.”  Whatever thought you are not able to say out aloud to people (anyone), don’t even bother entertaining inside your head. Keep your inner space clean. While you may share your self doubt with others as a means of processing, you would never go around introducing yourself as “stupid” or as a “failure”, so stop your mind chatter from saying it to you.

Don’t let Chatter say it unless it is true, useful or kind. Be conscious of what you say and only say it if any of the following is true:

Is what I’m saying …

  • True to me? An authentic statement from my heart?
  • Useful or helpful to someone or some situation?
  • Kind or compassionate? Such as a compliment, or an offer of help.

Don’t let your spoken words run rampant either. Be conscious of what you say out loud. Your mind chatter will begin to reflect that, and you will not have to battle the mind chatter caused by speaking meaningless, gossipy, hurtful words.

http://thinksimplenow.com/clarity/how-to-quiet-your-mind/

Another interesting site is: http://www.aquietmind.com/2011/09/28/day-1-quiet-mind/

It offers simple, short, day by day suggestions to slow and quiet your mind chatter through attainable steps.

As we change and grow and move towards fulfilling our potential, free from mind chatter that slows us down, we also begin to change those around us. And one by one, the change spreads. You are good, and strong, and kind and of value. Make sure your mind chatter is telling you the same thing, or else tell it to STOP, so that you can GO forward.

Ethic of Reciprocity

April 15, 2012

Definition of “ethic”:

1:  the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

2a : a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values
b:  plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group
c : a guiding philosophy
d : a consciousness of moral importance

Definition of “reciprocity”:

1: the quality or state of being reciprocal : mutual dependence, action, or influence

2: a mutual exchange of privileges; specifically : a recognition by one of two countries or institutions of the validity of licenses or privileges granted by the other

You may know the Ethic of Reciprocity as The Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

This concept can be found many disciplines: psychology, philosophy, sociology, religion, and more.  Psychologically it means empathizing with others. Philosophically it requires a person perceiving their neighbor as also “an I” or “self.”  Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and between individuals and groups. And of course, it is an integral part of religion.

http://bahaiforums.com/pictures/2248-golden-rule-poster-golden-rule-quoted-different-religions.html

While the religious connection is important and unavoidable, I really am more concerned with how we can live on a daily basis with the basic concept of the Golden Rule in order to live up to our potential.

The Golden Rule requires us to practice empathy:

Definition of EMPATHY: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

It is a proactive directive: As Dr. Frank Crane put it, “The Golden Rule is of no use to you whatsoever unless you realize that it’s your move!”

And for me, that goes hand in hand with Gandhi’s famous quote:

The Golden Rule is beautifully simple. By following the Golden Rule I find there is a tendency to make the people I have interactions with, happier. There is a noticeable side effect in that I feel happier too: treat others as you want to be treated. So simple.

You may find more satisfaction in yourself, a greater belief in yourself, a knowledge that you are a good person and a new trust in yourself. These are huge benefits! And the results are felt immediately!

Start today, even if it is one step at a time.

My father used to always say:”Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” We call it empathy. Try it with any person: someone you love, someone you are angry at, the person on the street corner, the tired waitress. Really try to understand what it is like to be them, what they are going through, and why they do what they do.
Practice compassion. Feel what they’re going through, learn to want to end their suffering. And when you can, take even a small action to somehow ease their suffering in some way.  So when you put yourself in their shoes, ask yourself how you think they want to be treated. Ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in their situation.
Be friendly. We are so conditioned these days to be wary of strangers; “Stranger Danger”. It’s usually safe to say “hello”, or “Thank you”, or add “Have a nice day.”  Who doesn’t like to feel welcome and wanted?
Be helpful. Is this currently a weaknesses in our society? Seems like it sometimes. In general there is a tendency to keep ourselves. It is easy to turn a blind eye when we are deep in concentration on our cell phone, or have our eyes closed listening to our ipod. ” Don’t be blind to the needs and troubles of others. Look to help even before you’re asked.”
Listen to people. We all want to talk, but very few of us want to listen. And yet, we all want to be listened to. So take the time to actually listen to another person, rather than just wait your turn to talk.
Overcome prejudice. We all have our prejudices. But try to see each person as an individual human being, with different backgrounds and needs and dreams. Discover what is the same between “you” and “them”.
Stop criticizing. We all do it. We do it to people we know, people we don’t know…. learn to interact with others in a positive way, without using criticism as a thread for discussion or gossip.

Rise above retaliation. Often our instinct is to strike back when we’re treated badly. This is natural. Resist that urge.  We are trying to remember to treat others well, despite how they treat you. You do not have to suffer in doing this. You can take action in ways that are not retaliatory.

Let the change Gandhi spoke about begin with you. Practice the Ethic of Reciprocity and see first hand how those changes come to life. Live up to your potential of being a kind, compassionate, empathetic person, and see how others begin to see you differently and treat you with a new respect.

Naikan and Synchronicity?

April 13, 2012

I have to admitt, I am chuckling! Obvioulsy today’s post is about Naikan, a method of self-reflection. In preparing to wirte, I was searching for other blogs and sites that mention Naikan. To my suprise, up popped The Huffington Post, and an article written just a few days ago. Back in the late 70’s friends used to mavel at the miracle of synchronicity: “Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance and that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.”  HuffPo and my brain.

I came upon the idea of Naikan years ago when I was trying to figure myself out. (I am still working on that.)  It sounded and is in many ways, very simple. At first I couldn’t imagine how I would benefit…the second question in the practice actually scared me…did I even DO that to anyone, on a daily basis? I had much to learn.

Naikan is a Japanese word which means “inside looking” or “introspection”, or even “seeing oneself with the mind’s eye”. It is a structured method of self-reflection that helps us to understand ourselves, our relationships and the fundamental nature of human existence. It broadens our view of reality.

Naikan asks, “What is really important in our life?” Not just in this moment alone, but in our life every day.

Naikan asks us to face  our” self-cherishing nature” that desperately wants us to believe that so many other things are important – why someone is giving us a hard time, why does our spouse drive us crazy sometimes,  the mother-in-law’s opinions that make us angry – all of these and so many more,  block us mentally and emotionally, obscuring that which is able to bring a deeper inner happiness.

“Naikan teaches us to hold on to what is really important thus freeing us to be in the present moment and see the beauty of the day.”

Naikan is about asking ourselves three simple questions, every day. Writing your responses to these questions in a journal helps to make a daily routine easier. Set aside a few minutes towards the end of every day, and ask yourself the following questions and see what happens.

What have I received from ________?
What have I given to _________________?
What troubles and difficulties have I caused to __________________?

(fill in the blanks with the name of a specific person, “others”, a particular situation…)

The first question invites us to see the “gift and interconnectedness of life”. This is about being aware of someone giving you a paper clip, as well as the unknown farmer who grew the coffee beans for your coffee.

The second question asks us to reverse our thinking:  “Gifts are about both receiving and giving.” This question asks us to be fully aware of  those things we give others –” not just material things but also time, attention, knowledge and many other non-tangible things. We begin to learn that we can give in so many creative ways.”

The third question is a difficult one. It requires us to confront not what others have done to us to cause us trouble, discomfort, pain, but what WE have done to cause others trouble, discomfort or pain. Naikan teaches us to take responsibility for our lives.

When we really work on this third question in relation to our entire life  we begin to gain personal integrity.  It helps us choose what aspects of life to focus on and respond to…..what is important.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-hamady/naikan_b_1410778.html

http://www.todoinstitute.com/naikan3.html