A Paradigm Shift in New Year’s Resolutions

art Christmas and 2016 New year party background

Last summer, I spent a few days at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City to see Mata Amritanandamayi, known throughout the world as Amma [“Mother”], the Hugging Saint. Amma has inspired and transformed more than 34 million people through her hugs, her spiritual wisdom and her network of global charities, known as Embracing the World. In 40 countries, Amma feeds the hungry, educates children and women, builds homes and provides healthcare and disaster relief for those in need. When asked where she gets the energy to help so many people, Amma answers, “Where there is true love, anything is effortless.” I watched this woman for three days as she hugged and inspired people for free no matter who they were, what they looked like or how much money they had. She stayed up all night long just to make sure each person who came to see her received a hug and had a chance to feel loved.

During the event, Amma told a story about a woman who boarded a bus. The woman sat right behind the bus driver and as he drove she gave him some peanuts. The bus driver did not want the peanuts but ate them because he did not want to insult the lady. A few minutes later she gave him some more peanuts and he reluctantly ate them again. When she tried to give him peanuts a third time he asked her, “Why did you buy a bag of peanuts if you don’t want them?” She responded to the bus driver, “Oh no, I hate peanuts. But I love chocolate. All they had at the store was chocolate covered peanuts. So I am eating off the chocolate and giving the peanuts to you!”

Amma told this story to make us reflect on how we give to other people. She said that people often give by writing checks with Continue reading…

Is There Ever Just One Side To A Story?

Funny houses

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.  Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.  Marcus Aurelius

One day my daughter came home upset that she was excluded by her two best friends. I had witnessed her being excluded on a prior occasion and my heart was breaking for her. She cried inconsolably and I couldn’t even understand most of what she was saying. The next day I dropped her off at school and saw the mother of one of the best friends. She mentioned to me that she had heard that my daughter was upset the other day. I then cautiously told her what my daughter had told me. Her response was to say that her daughter often comes home feeling excluded by my daughter and their other friend. As first, it was hard to imagine that this mom was telling me an accurate account of my daughter’s behavior and then I remembered a conversation between two characters in the book The Spiritualist by Megan Chance:

“Imagine you come upon a house painted brown. What color would you say the house was?”

“Why brown, of course.”

“But what if I came upon it from the other side, and found it to be white?”

“That would be absurd. Who would paint a house two colors?”

He ignored my question. “You say it’s brown, and I say it’s white. Who’s right?”

“We’re both right.”

“No,” he said. “We’re both wrong. The house isn’t brown or white. It’s both. You and I only see one side. But that doesn’t mean the other side doesn’t exist. To not see the whole is to not see the truth.”

No matter the facts of the situation, it turned out both of our daughters were feeling excluded. I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “to not see the whole is to not see the truth.”  I knew I needed to respect and try to understand this little girl’s perspective of my child’s behavior regardless of what I originally believed. Maybe there was another side of the situation that I was not able to see from my vantage point. With this realization, I suggested to the other mom that we should speak separately to the girls about how the other one has been feeling and then let them speak to each other. The minute the girls got on the phone, they realized they were both feeling the same way, talked about for it for 2 minutes, apologized and began playing a web game together as if nothing had happened.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how someone else could have another perspective when we feel so right about how we perceive a situation. But if we are willing to pause and think about why the other person feels the way that they do, we might open our hearts a bit. Being right doesn’t always create the best relationships or resolutions to conflict, but compassion and understanding can work miracles.

So today, try to take a deep breath when you are disagreeing with your co-worker, your child, or a neighbor.  Try to remember that you are only standing on “one side of the house” and there might be more to the situation than meets the eye.  Try to step back from your position and see the situation from their perspective. You might not agree with the other person, but Maybe some understanding will lead you to a better resolution and improve your relationship.  Just Maybe!

Be Kind Whenever Possible. It Is Always Possible

White and pink flowers on light blue chair

Be Kind Whenever Possible.  It is always Possible.  Dalai Lama

A few days ago I bought an apple pie at Whole Foods. There was a sticker on it that said vegan (no dairy) so I bought it for my husband who is lactose intolerant. After he started to eat the pie he looked closely at the label and read the ingredients.  Sure enough, it had butter in it. The vegan sticker had been incorrectly placed on the pie and he was sick for days. I called Whole Foods immediately. I was most concerned that they pull the other mislabeled pies off the floor so others who can’t eat dairy would not get sick. They called me back a few hours later and offered me a refund and a gift card but still had not pulled the pies off the shelves. Yesterday morning I went to the store and there was no record of my call and no gift card even though I had been assured the matter was very serious to them. Maybe because the pie had made my husband so sick, I felt really sensitive about the fact that there was no record of the incident and no satisfying acknowledgment of the situation. After waiting for 20 minutes, I got the refund and a $25 gift card for my trouble. I realize that this is a small matter in the large perspective but there was something about how the store handled it that really stung my heart.

It reminded me of when you go to a doctor and you don’t feel well and the doctor is very busy and a bit aloof to you. She or he is helping you but you feel so vulnerable and need some warmth to make you feel better. Or when you need a doctor’s office to call you back because your child is sick and no one calls for hours. Or the phone company doesn’t show up after you have waited for them for half a day. Or a customer service representative is unhelpful when you have a problem with a bill or product. There is something about all of these incidents that can make us all feel terribly lonely and not cared for when we need help the most.

But we all have a choice. We can let these moments close our hearts and nurture anger because the world does not care more for us, or we can choose to open more to the kindness that we wish to feel.  In fact, when I left the store I was so careful and deliberate about how I treated everyone I came in contact with all day. For me, the store’s lack of care and sensitivity about the incident made me more aware of those around me who were suffering because I understood the perspective of not feeling cared for. Even if I didn’t understand what exactly the person in front of me was feeling, I was able to pause and smile and care with an open heart. I did not solve everyone’s problems that day, but at least I tried to give each person I met the warmth of my love instead of leaving them feeling lost and alone when they were most vulnerable.

So today when you have a chance, maybe call a friend who is having a tough time or hug your children a little longer if they are struggling at school. Ask the woman at the local store how she is doing and try to react with kindness even when someone is not kind to you. And Maybe as we offer this warmth to the world, we might just find the coldness of others fade and the warmth of light will shine from within us.

Have a great day!!!

 

 

Choosing Love

Unknown

Scarlett Lewis Meeting the Dalai Lama

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December in Newtown, Connecticut. One might expect that Scarlett would talk about gun control and new legislation, but instead she spoke about love and forgiveness. Scarlett said that the enormity of the Sandy Hook tragedy began with an angry thought that Adam Lanza, the shooter, had as a child and that thought could have been changed to a loving one had he possessed the tools and ability to make another choice. She asks everyone to honor her son by taking one angry thought each day and turning it into a loving one. Scarlett believes that over time that one loving thought will change the world and it will become a better and safer place for our children.

Scarlett has also started the Jesse Lewis Foundation to create awareness in our children and communities so that all of us can choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement and forgiveness and compassion over bitterness. Part of this initiative will be creating curricula in schools to give children the tools to choose love. Scarlett has also written a book entitled Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope & Forgiveness, which will be released by Hay House this week. Although the book has religious undertones and might not resonate with every reader, Scarlett’s choice in choosing love over anger is an astonishing lesson for us all.

So how can we apply this to our own lives? Can we really just wake up and say today I forgive my boss for being nasty and treating me unfairly or my husband for taking his bad mood out on me or my neighbor for being inconsiderate and loud? Can it be that easy? Maybe for some, but for most of us letting go of anger and choosing love is a process. This is how I’m doing it in my own life, and I hope it helps you.

First, I make the decision to choose love over anger. It is a purposeful decision. Sometimes it takes me a while to recognize I am angry and I must catch myself and think, “I choose love over anger.” Does the anger then go away immediately? Most of the time NO, but it creates an awareness of my anger and a mindfulness about the situation. It creates an avenue to let it go and that becomes an opening for me to move out of my anger and into love over time.

The second thing that I do is “cook” my anger. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a great book about this called Anger, in which he teaches the reader to breathe and stay with your anger until you can cool your mind and your heart of rage.  This becomes easier with mindfulness and although it can take up to twenty minutes, if you only have a minute or two it will still help. Other people use techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, (you can read about it online) which I also find effective. It consists of tapping certain meridian points on the body while you are connecting with the emotion that is causing you pain.  After learning about this technique, I have definitely felt more calm and clear-minded in anger challenging moments. You can use this one or find another that works for you.

Third, once my mind is cleared, I’m able to start thinking about where the other person is coming from. Maybe they were struggling or suffering in that moment or something terrible happened to them in the past that made them act in the way that hurt me and made me angry. This doesn’t mean that they are not responsible for their behavior, but it nurtures compassion in me and the ability to keep anger from taking up more space in my head.

Sometimes I do all of the above things and the anger passes and other times I still feel the anger but it will be different. For me it becomes softer and not as all-encompassing. I may need to confront the person who made me angry but I am able to do it from a place of compassion and avoid generating more anger.  Other times, more space from the incident helps me let go of the anger that remains.

When I am successful in choosing love over anger and I can really process it, I feel more peaceful and joyful about life and all of my relationships. More and more I find that what I am angry about is not that big of a deal.  I teach these methods to my children and I hope they will carry it throughout their lives so their hearts can be free and filled with joy and not the darkness that anger breeds within.

And I stand with Scarlett Lewis; her choice to choose love over anger in the most heartbreaking circumstances should inspire us all to take one angry thought today and turn it into LOVE for all of us!