If You Judge People, You Have No Time To Love Them. Mother Teresa

Liebespackerl

A friend of mine just moved away. We weren’t very close and one of the reasons was that I found it very difficult to be with her. She was often complaining about her ex-husband being the cause of all her problems, she was always starting new businesses that she never followed through on and I was not always clear if she was telling the truth. After she left town, I was sitting with a group of women and these women also thought my friend was complicated, but they all had amazing stories of great times with her. She was very spontaneous, funny and loved to go out and live it up. She was also very dedicated to her children. And yet I could not recall one moment that I had with her that was interesting or fun.

Later that day I came across the Mother Teresa quote, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Although I was always trying to help my friend, I realized my judgments about her had interfered with my enjoyment of her company. I am not really sure that I was ever present for her. Was she difficult? Absolutely, but my judgments about what she “needed to do to improve her life” kept me from having a more loving and enjoyable relationship even for just an evening or a moment.

Our judgments interfere with many of our relationships. They give us a sense of righteousness, but sometimes all that is really happening is that we are not getting what we want from the other person or they are not doing what we think is best for them. In fact, judging someone is an easy path. It is much more challenging to be loving, accepting and kind when the person in front of us is not acting the way we want them to. The act of loving is going beyond our “likes and dislikes” and surrendering our judgments so we can freely share our love with another person and celebrate their magnificence and not their failings. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the truth about how we feel someone acted towards us or how they acted in a particular situation, but that instead we also allow ourselves to see the whole person. Often we will find there is so much beauty when we are less judgmental and more loving. We can enjoy the essence of another person and the moment we are sharing together.

So even if we find our mother-in-law is difficult, our best friend is opinionated or our children are not listening or doing well in school, let’s try not to miss out on enjoying what we can with each of them. What could be more important about being human than sharing the warmth and love that resides in our heart? As for my friend, I don’t regret trying to help her, but Maybe when she comes back to town we can go out and just enjoy each other’s company! It could be a blast!

GIVE YOURSELF A HAND: REACTING LESS TO THE STRESS IN YOUR LIFE

Colorful  solidarity design tree

A few days ago I hurt my dominant hand.   It’s not a serious injury, but I have been trying not to use my hand so it can heal. Without the use of my hand, I need to take it very slowly and think about each step in my day, for example, making a morning cup of tea, the process of getting each item in my cart at the food store and typing on the computer with one hand.  I’m sure many people reading this blog who’ve had a physical injury can relate to this experience.   It can be a reminder to be more appreciative of our bodies and show us how to slow down and be more mindful of each activity. The most surprising aspect of this experience for me is that because I am moving slower and I am more mindful of my thoughts and actions, I am also reacting less to the situations around me.

I noticed my softer reaction when my daughter left her winter coat and some wet towels on the bathroom floor and also left the bathroom light on.   Because of my constant awareness of my hand, I was more mindful of how I was moving and feeling when I entered the bathroom.   I noticed a space between my feelings about her mess and my reaction.   Almost a pause that I did not plan.   Normally I would have approached her with an annoyed tone and asked her to go back to the bathroom to clean up her mess and shut the light. But that pause allowed me to be more thoughtful about my reaction.   I immediately realized it was not such a big deal, and I proceeded to think about how to shut the light and pick up the coat and towels with one hand.   I also was able to calmly tell my daughter what she had done and ask her not to do it again. I then entered the kitchen to find a sink filled with dirty dishes.   I gently asked my other daughter and husband to help me in the kitchen to empty the dishwasher and load the dirty dishes from the sink. I had the space within me to make a choice not to get annoyed about the dirty dishes that they had left in the sink all day. Instead, the pause gave me a larger perspective and a greater appreciation for what I really care about.   I had not seen them all day and the pause allowed me to get through the dish issue quickly and enjoy the rest of the afternoon with them both.   I even felt less of a reaction from a conversation with my mother-in-law!

I feel like my injured hand is giving me the experience of what mindfulness does for our lives. That space we develop from mindfulness between how we feel and how we react makes a tremendous difference in our experiences and our interactions with others.   With more mindfulness we can show up for the constant unexpected events throughout our day with more emotional control and not let each event throw us off course.   This leaves more room for us to cope with stress and worry and instead find the calm and joyful moments each day brings.

There are many techniques people use to create mindfulness so they are less stressed and reactive to events and people in their lives.   Here is a simple exercise that you may want to try that is similar to the experience I am having with my hand.   Try to focus on one of your hands and become more aware of how your hand feels, what it touches and how it moves for a few minutes. As you go about your daily chores or go to work, try to keep this awareness of the sensations from your hand.   First you may notice and appreciate all the experiences you were not paying attention to before from moving a piece of paper across your desk to how you hold the phone or a pen, how you type, eat lunch or hug a friend. Even though you are doing different activities and your sole attention is not on your hand, the partial awareness that you draw to your hand will keep you more grounded and present.   As your mind gets consumed with stressful thoughts at home or work, this is the moment when we are most in danger of overreacting to situations like our children not listening, a disagreement with a co-worker or a difficult client. Our uncontrolled reactions can damage our personal and business relationships, as well affect how we feel each day with a rollercoaster of emotions.   But by keeping a partial awareness of your hand, you will continuously bring some of the energy away from your mind and to your body and this will help slow everything down. You will become more mindful of each moment and you may just find that sacred space between how you feel about a situation and how you want to react to it.   This sacred space may help you show up with more ease, patience and kindness for your children, spouse, friends or business associates when you need it most.

You can also use this tool just at the moment you feel your stress escalating.   If you are getting very distracted with worry about the future or you find yourself overreacting or feeling overly uptight, just slowly bring some of your attention to your hand and you will bring some mindfulness to the situation.

I hope you give the exercise a try.   MAYBE the sacred space created by your mindfulness will be a new beginning to show up for your life with more ease and peace and open you to more joy in everyday

Ugh, Another Snowy Day

Border collie young dog play in winter“A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears. Michel de Montaigne

I stayed up late one night last week watching the weather to try to better understand how much snow we would get in NYC by morning. All of the forecasters spoke in that serious and ominous tone. I found myself feeling dread about the morning commute and negative about the day to come. My mind was far from being in the moment and I could not enjoy my warm bed and cozy cover. I was already living out the next day with projections of discomfort and cancellations, and had a restless sleep. When I woke up the next day, I was exhausted and both of my children were disappointed that there was not a snow day. My younger one resisted getting out of bed and ate breakfast at a snail’s pace. My teenager lost control of her mood and was quite difficult to manage. I started to get upset that they would both be late for school.

Then, all of a sudden, in the middle of it all I was able to see my resistance to the moment and the day. I realized that my lack of acceptance of the moment was the source of my stress and doom and gloom scenario. I took a deep breath and accepted everyone being late. I took a deep breath and put my snowshoes on when it was time to leave. I walked my younger daughter to school and we laughed about the deep puddles and discussed whether it should have been a snow day. Sure, we were a bit wet and uncomfortable, but we also were happy and talkative. After dropping her off, I walked back home and felt appreciation that my feet were not wet and I admired everyone’s tenacity around me as they all walked a little slower to their destinations. Interestingly, when I stopped resisting the experience and projecting negativity, I felt grateful and interested in what was happening around me.

How often do we dread future events in our lives? We lock hard into how we believe that future event will be and suffer greatly before we even get there. We also leave the moment and miss the life that is before us.

Let’s try to remember that Maybe whatever we are worrying about will end up okay, Maybe it will get better or Maybe we will find a way to accept what is happening and still find the joy of living! This way we can accept the moment with more ease and still have hope for warmer and sunnier days.

What Can We Do When Our Plans Don’t Work Out?

sol y playa
Gratitude is the process of appreciating what is and letting go of what is not. Allison Carmen

My children will be on spring break in a few weeks, which started me thinking about the trip we took last spring to Disneyworld. The first two days were a lot of fun. We also took a detour to Universal Studios to visit the Harry Potter attractions and just enjoyed our time together as a family. On the third day, my older daughter woke up nauseous and I thought it would just pass so we headed to the amusement park. By 2 pm, we were running to the hotel room for what turned out to be a stomach virus. My husband headed back to the park with my younger daughter and there I was in my hotel room at Disneyworld with my older daughter feeling just awful.

As I squeezed myself out the door onto our small balcony overlooking the giraffes (we stayed at the Animal Kingdom), I could hear several children laughing and having a great time. I felt my mood start to drop and had the following thoughts: “It’s not fair that those children get to enjoy Disneyworld and we don’t”; “I can’t believe we spent all of this money to sit in this room”; and “This is the worst vacation ever.” As I let myself dip further and further into this mood, I started to suffer greatly. As I felt myself slipping, I actually asked myself out loud, “Do I really want to have this experience with this mindset? I am in a lot of emotional pain.” I took a deep breath and decided to accept my situation, be grateful for what I had and make the best of it. This shift in my mindset changed everything.

Many of us have read articles and posts about gratitude, acceptance and “making the best of a situation” but we find it hard to actually do it. One of the reasons it is sometimes difficult to shift our mindset is because we are disappointed that we are not getting what we want in the moment. We get stuck in traffic, someone rejects us, we have to work more than we expected, our children need help with their homework but we have something else we want or need to do, or the weather is not cooperating. Life is not going as planned and we are angry and upset.

Yet, in these moments we have a choice to shift our perspective. For me, when I made the choice to see it differently, all of a sudden I felt joy. How could I be joyous sitting in a small dark hotel room with an animal motif with my child feeling sick? I knew her stomach virus would pass and I did not want to give up another moment of life complaining that things were not working out as planned. We put on the television and watched reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Castle and a few other shows that I cannot even remember. We talked and laughed in between moments of her not feeling well. The next day my younger one woke up not feeling so good and we did it all again. It was not my preference to be sitting in the hotel room, but I felt peaceful and content to be with them. They did rally back the following day and we returned to the amusement park. They whined a bit about nausea and we only went on a few rides but we had some laughs and enjoyed the fireworks.

The day we were leaving, we had some time to spare because it was raining. I took a deep sigh of relief that everyone felt okay and we would be headed home in a few hours. I then heard beeping on my phone. There was a tornado warning in our immediate area and we were directed to seek immediate shelter. Instead of thinking this is a lousy end to a difficult vacation, we took cover in a nice restaurant and ended up having a great lunch!

So today, whatever you are experiencing, ask yourself, “Is my mindset causing me emotional pain? Can I accept this situation and be grateful for what is in my life? Is there a way to ‘make the best of it’ and choose joy instead of negativity?” It’s not always easy, but often with some effort we can find the path to get the most out of each moment in life.