Appreciating Opposite Perspectives: Loving Kindness Part Two

Paddle Board or Snow Board?

Recently I experienced some conflict with someone in my community and I was surprised. Surprised at the extent of their suffering, and surprised they had not contacted me to resolve the problem. One of the tools that helps me greatly, especially when I experience all sorts of confusing emotions, is to practice Loving Kindness meditation.

When we are able to wish someone well, in spite of having a different perspective or viewpoint, seeds of empathy are more likely to be planted and grow. Even if the conflict isn’t resolved in a way we would like, we can cultivate a quieter mind, therefore increasing the likelihood we will choose healthier responses. That’s the bottom line for any meditation practice; being in relationship with others, with self.  How are we supposed to live in community when we are are knotted up in a wad of tangled emotions? As a coach with an wholistic approach, one of the things I do best is help clients identify emotions in order that they more easily create goals, make plans, and take action. One of the definers of a healthy life is healthy relationships, along with social support and a sense of belonging and purpose. Therefore any practice we can cultivate that sows ease of mind and body is worthwhile. Check out this article about science behind Loving Kindness. Finally, an article by renowned author and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. I hope you enjoy, and make sure to give yourself a big dose of loving kindness. Self-compassion is an essential element of this practice.

 

2 Minutes of Laughter Exercises To Practice Alone

 

Laughter Connections
Laughter Connections

Try Laughter Yoga, a healthy mood booster shot

Laughter Yoga is based on the philosophy of “acting happiness” – tell your body what to do and your mind will follow. It is a physically-oriented exercise routine, not a mental process, allowing anyone to laugh without using jokes, humor or comedy. There are no traditional yoga postures in Laughter Yoga. It’s laughter through simple, playful exercises, deep breathing, and stretching. Laughter is a powerful way to exhale what you don’t need anymore. You can actually choose to laugh, for health, regardless of your mood or what life is bringing you. Listen to this interview from Japan with a professional yoga instructor and laughter yoga teacher, a testimony to the transformative power of laughter.

Try these exercises:

  1. First, take three deep breaths. Notice your “internal weather report” and define your mood and how your body feels in this moment. Assign this weather report a number, from 1-10, 1 being pretty stormy and 10 sunny and breezy, for example.
  2. Now, notice your breath. Is your breath shallow, in your upper chest? Or, is it in your diaphram, rib area, or in your belly? Just notice it.
  3. Lift your shoulders to your ears, hold your breath a second or two, tense your shoulders, then drop your shoulders while letting out a big HA. You may do this silently if you are somewhere that a loud HA may be disruptive to others! Repeat 2 more times.
  4. Open your mouth wide. Inhale, laugh loudly for 8-10 seconds. Or again, practice this silently, as if you are in a library. Inhale, repeat 2 more times.
  5. Get in a comfortable seated postion, or stand tall like an oak tree with your feet planted firmly on the ground, rooted. Now notice your breath and your internal weather report. What’s your number now? What do you notice?

 

 

Writing & Befriending Brain’s Reticular Activating System

writing it down
writing it down

 

Search for books on keeping a journal, and you’ll find many. I own at least fourteen and can think of several more I’d like to read. One can find themes of writing for health, goal oriented writing, and expressive writing, for example. I believe writing is for EVERYONE. Really. Writing is not necessarily therapy, however writing is therapeutic. Writing is also an active process which can be used to move from hopes to action. Regardless of your assumptions about the quality of your writing, or what messages you’ve heard along the way, you can gain benefits from putting pen to page. Let’s call this process Journal Writing. We’re talking about writing for yourself, for your eyes only. Why is this important? When you write without filters, as if no one else is listening besides yourself, you will learn to write from the heart. Themes come alive, what you pay attention to, what you’ve learned, been through, who you are, what you stand for. Your Journal can be your good friend. To that end, let’s call it Journal for now, because it’s a relationship, and a loving one.

Journal can be written on a computer or paper, your choice. I prefer paper, since I can seem to bring more awareness to the whole process, such as breath, pen moving on page, sounds around me. I started keeping a journal ten years ago, after some apprehension. I knew I wanted to do it, and didn’t know how to start. I went to a conference, read a bunch of books by Kathleen Adams, a journal therapist from Colorado. Since then, I’ve read quite a few others and used a journal frequently as a personal tool and with coaching clients as well. There’s no question that I’m an advocate of this tool! Journal lives by my bed for final thoughts, gratitude or prayers, one on my desk for business ideas and projects, one for meditation, one for my Hatha Yoga Teacher Training journey. I’ve kept some pages over the years, shredded some, burned some.

One book I like quite a bit that I keep returning to (I read it on a plane several years ago and still have my original notes, which I have cut and pasted with a glue stick in my other journals) is Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser. One of the many things that captured my attention in her book was the description of the human reticular activating system. Here’s a 4-minute video that describes this concept, not by Dr. Klauser, yet I liked the white board approach. It’s a reminder that what we pay attention to is what we create.

 “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power”—Alan Cohen

Stop and have some cake

Let's Have Some Cake
peace offering

 

Have you ever found yourself wanting ever so quickly to have a technique at your disposal in order to avoid a pending disagreement? Last summer, I read “The Art of Communicating” by Zen master Thich Nat Hanh.

In his deeply touching, yet light way, he suggests asking your loved one this, when you find yourself going down a weedy path…”Would you like a piece of cake?” Then, you actually offer the person a piece, or something else delicous. I suppose if you wanted to avoid sugar, you could offer fruit or a carrot stick!

Really, though, sometimes even thinking of another response is enough to help us shift into another gear.

“A smile is the shortest distance between two people”—Victor Borge.

 

Let The Summer Begin

Rose of Estelle May Scarborough
Rt. 2 Rose

Summer Tool Kit

Here are some tried and true practices to help you move forward, pause, refresh, learn. Some things are kind of old-fashioned too, just like this very old rose of my grandmother’s, dug up at least twice and moved from a beloved mountain paddock to a new Central Virginia home.

  • Check In. What’s your internal weather report?  Notice and practice your breathing. Notice how your body feels during day, where you hold stress. Breathe into those areas. What are your heart and gut saying? We make healthier, more informed choices when we are aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body signals. Use this as a centering practice during calm. Your body will remember because you strengthen these neural pathways just like muscle.
  • Walk. Move the body. Get outside early in the morning. Listen to the sounds, observe the breath. Commit to giving yourself 5 minutes. Read about walking meditation.
  • Do a 180. Seek a compassionate view of yourself. Notice internal dialogue. What you say to yourself about what you can and cannot do, who you are or are not– matters. Challenge those beliefs. Focus on meaning, not the story. Learn a new, fun skill that has nothing directly to do with an area of challenge. Laugh. Dance in your room with your headphones on.
  • Write. Focus on areas of life you feel competent inIdentify your strengths, your gifts. Write them down. Be specific. Ask someone you trust and care about to name 3 strengths they see in you. Experiment with journaling in new enviroments, such as a coffee shop or outdoors. Find a journal buddy to write with, kind of like parallel play young children engage in—no need to share, just be beside someone.

 

 

Every Day an Empathy Opportunity

Awakening
Awakening

Each day presents us with avenues to practice relationships.

In this video, Dr. Helen Reiss of Harvard Medical School uses both the concept and acronym of empathy to bring attention to specific behaviors we can develop. She uses compelling stories and research to illustrate why this emotion is vitally important to our species. As humans, we are lovingly dependent on one another to provide social bonds. Our lives are constructed around relationships. Our companies, businesses, schools, and houses of worship are built on relationships. We certainly know what causes our greatest stress on the planet….relationships! On the other hand, when we choose to really meet another, we may receive them as if for the first time.

Here is a breakdown of how Dr. Reiss views the behavioral and intentional practices we can foster.

E is for eye contact
M is for the muscles of the face, which display our emotional state
P is for posture. What’s our body saying? Are we open or closed?
A is for affect, another word for the emotional “weather” we are showing
T is for our tone of voice
H is for hearing, really tuning into the person in front of you, without judgement
Y is for your response

My addition to “E” in empathy is the word energy. When you speak with someone in person, or even over the phone, or a video conferencing platform, what energy do you convey?

What’s important to you, about empathy, this summer?

Friends and Health

Precious
Precious

Relationships are the fabric of our lives. Some would say a mirror of our lives. Today I’m inspired by my college friends. What do you see in the mirror? How would you like to be a better friend? What does this mean to you?

Who provides joy and support in your life? Who do you give joy and support to? How might you build this?

 

Some thoughts from others:

 

We take care of our health, we lay up money, we make our roof tight and our clothing sufficient, but who provides wisely that he shall not be wanting in the best property of all–friends.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no physician like a true friend.–Anon

The support of one’s personality is friends. A part of one’s self and a real foundation and existence.–Katherine Butler Hathaway

My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privleges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.–Helen Keller

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.–Jane Howard

Grazing

Sampling
Sampling

I’m finding myself in a bit of transition. In some ways, it feels like these cows grazing on delicious and familiar green grass, and in others it’s like moving to another pasture and chewing new flavored varities. For most of us, creating new programs or new work takes continually feeding oneself on core values—things that if they are not present in your life, you know they are missing. Two core values of mine are creativity and relationships. I’m reconnecting with some really important people in my life and sampling some new things, such as teaching myself how to play the guitar. I’m giving myself permission to enjoy the process, the learning, in small bites rather than saying “in two months I’ll know how to play a song with x number of chords and with this strumming pattern”. As a coach, that’s something that I work on at times…not setting goals, as crazy as that sounds! When it comes to transitions and generating creativity, I find it’s useful to simultaneously build the “doing” and “being”.

If you are in some sort of transtion, which can be subtle or quite obvious to self or others, consider these things.

1. Ask yourself when you get up in the morning, “Who do I want to connect with today?”

2. Ask yourself upon awakening, “What’s one thing that I would enjoy today?”

3. Where could I release a “should” or “must” today?

4. How could I move my body today?

4. What’s the most important piece of work that I want to accomplish today?

5. At the end of the day, how can I send myself and those I love, caring?

This is a ever-evolving list! Give yourself the opportunity to sample different questions. Keep the ones that feel like bedrocks. Create new ones. Notice.

Loving Kindness

Sun
Sun

 

Are you wondering about how to practice Loving Kindness Meditation? Here’s a straightforward one from University of New Hampshire Health Services. This particular script is applicable to most…you’ll see.

Loving Kindness practice may help you boost your overall health, including decreasing inflammation and increasing positive emotions. Here’s an article from the HuffPost Health Living.

Since relationships cause us  great distress and great joy, why not try this?

Loving Kindness Meditation for College Students

The Regulatory Body

Vertebral
– Vertebral

 

What if you could learn ways to place a governor switch on your sympathetic nervous system, therefore awakening the more latent yet powerful parasympathetic system? Developing the skill of relaxing the body and mind is akin to conducting a defrag on your computer hard drive. It’s simply a way to decrease the ever-present clutter of the mind and soften the edges a bit. This build up of daily life as human beings prevents us from thinking clearly, making better decisions, and being more aware of the car ahead. Whether referring to the calming process as “relaxation techniques” or “meditation”,  science remains solid on how quieting the central nervous system can lead to better health. Quieting the mind has been around for thousands of years throughout religious and spiritual traditions. I encourage you to do your own research, and consider what matters to you. What health outcomes are of interest to you?

On PubMed,  several thousand articles exist on meditation, the relaxation response, and mindfulness alone.

If you’d like to start, consider beginning with the breath. It’s quick and effective to notice  your breathing. If you’re working on your laptop, walking the dog, sitting in your car at a stoplight, take a breath. Sit at your kitchen table, at your desk at work.  Take a full breath. If you like, take another one.

Some more techniques to try on, which can be practiced independently from each other.

Breathe in for counts of 4, exhale for 4. Do less if this is difficult. Take it easy.

See if you can stop at the top of the inhale, then exhale.

Notice all parts of the breath; the chest, diaphragm, and belly.

Drop the shoulders away from the ears.

Imagine the breath as a  soothing color.

Consider taking a full breath every time before you do something, like answer the phone, put your keys in the front door. Take a breath when you’re in a long line.

Consider the breath with compassion. Refrain from judging. You’re doing a great job.

Any time spent quieting the bodymind generates a healthier state. Don’t make it complicated or over commit. Simply start with the breath. That’s at the heart of the matter.