Show Yourself Some Compassion

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness

Often we speak of compassion as something we have for others—as in the quote by the Dalai Lama. I agree. We were meant to live in love and community. 

I also believe that compassion needs to be about the grace we extend to ourselves. When we treat ourselves with the same compassion we show to others, we can be more resilient and more capable of loving. Some days, we may fall short of the expectations we have for ourselves but that’s okay, we too are flawed human beings in need of love and compassion.  

Affirmation: I have compassion for myself and others.

Coaching questions: How do you treat yourself when you fall short of your expectations? What does the voice inside your head say to you? What will you do to modify that voice to speak more compassionately?

Photo by jurien huggins on Unsplash

Tame Your Monkey Mind

The thoughts swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit, and howl. Elizabeth Gilbert, author

I’m sick of cooking dinner. My daughter hasn’t called me lately—I wonder if she’s mad. What’s that beeping noise? I wish I hadn’t posted that last remark. 

For centuries, Buddhist scholars have called this type of worthless mind-chatter “monkey mind.” If you’re having this experience, here are a few suggestions from signs posted on the monkey cage at the zoo:

Watch but don’t stare. 

Don’t fixate on one thought but let it flow through and out of your mind. This is how meditation works.

Don’t take pictures. 

Holding on to negative thoughts gives them power. Endlessly focusing on a thought is called ruminating, a set up for a negative mood or worse.  

Don’t feed the monkeys. 

What we pay attention to grows. Feeding the darker side of monkey mind leads to more. Stop paying attention to these thoughts and they will diminish.

Affirmation: I can tame my monkey mind.

Coaching question: What will you do to tame your monkey mind?

Weathering Life’s Storms

March roars in like a lion
So fierce, The wind so cold,
It seems to pierce.

The month rolls on
And Spring draws near, And March goes out
Like a lamb so dear. 
Poem by Lorie Hill 

The New York City Public Library has two lions flanking the grand stairs. Their names are Patience and Fortitude. They were given their monikers during the Great Depression by the mayor of the city, Fiorello La Guardia, who believed these two qualities were essential to overcome challenging times. Nearly 100 years later we still need reminding that patience and fortitude will get us through difficult times. 

March may or may not come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. However, no matter what’s happening outdoors or inside our heads, we need these qualities to weather the storms of our lives. 

Affirmation: I have patience and fortitude.

Coaching questions: What storms are you weathering through right now? If March is coming in like a lion for you, what can you do to help it go out like a lamb? 

Photo by Francesco De Tommaso on Unsplash

Striving For No Regrets

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. Sydney J. Harris, journalist

Maxcine, one of my dad’s best friends and a dear friend of our family, died this week. She was 101-1/2. I flew to Nebraska for her one-hundredth birthday and I’m so glad I did (thank goodness it was pre-COVID). Have no regrets—I keep telling myself. 

Regrets usually stem from what people don’t do—not from what they did. I certainly regret some things I’ve done in my life but I’m hoping to reduce the regrets from those things left undone.

Affirmation: I’m striving to have no regrets.

Coaching questions: What, if left undone, will you regret in the future? What’s keeping you from doing it? 

Embracing Life’s Unplanned Moments

Half our time is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. Will Rogers, actor

I’m a person who loves structure, however, what I’ve missed most about this year of “staying safe at home” has been the moments— time hanging out with my daughter while she sews, an impromptu lunch with a friend, taking my grandchildren to a movie, a chance meeting with a fellow author at the Farmer’s Market.   

As I’ve aged, I’ve learned that, in addition to measuring life by what I’ve achieved and checked off my to-do list, I also find value in being in the moment and savoring the unexpected. I’ve learned that sometimes structure can shield us from the fullness of life.

Affirmation: I embrace the unplanned moment. 

Coaching questions: How do you view time? As a friend or an enemy? Are you rushing through or savoring the time you have? How can you tweak your life so you won’t miss the precious, unplanned-for moments? 

The Power of Community

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. Coretta Scott King, author, activist, civil rights leader

I’m in the third rewrite of my debut, historical fiction novel about living on the Nebraska prairie. The story depicts one year, 1875-76, in the life of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Schultz Horn. Although I didn’t plan for this, the theme for the book is the importance of community and compassion towards one another. 

The wild west of the 1800’s is known for it’s rugged individualism but, in reality, it was the interconnectedness and sense of community that helped families survive the hardships of life in one room houses on the prairie. 

What I’ve missed most over the past twelve months is community—up close, hugging, eye-to-eye comradeship—with family and friends. Unconsciously I created a powerful sense of community for my book characters so, for a few hours each day, I can magically connect personally with friends and neighbors. 

Affirmation: I value living in community with those I care about.

Coaching questions: What has being masked and physically separated from people you care about meant to you? What have you learned from this separation? 

Get Unstuck From Emotional Pain

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming from it. Helen Keller, author, teacher

Are you stuck in emotional suffering? There is no deadline on the time one experiences grief or other emotional pain. There are those, however, who become stuck in their suffering as they experience a hidden payoff— the familiarity, security and comfort in the old familiar ways of living and feeling. 

If you’re wanting to break out of suffering, know that stepping away is possible, just as we can step out of our comfort zone in other realms of life. 

If you are suffering due to long-ago loss, ask yourself, “Is this what my loved one wants for me? Is my suffering the best way to honor his/her memory?” 

Affirmation: I free myself from suffering.

Coaching question: What is the payoff you get by continuing to suffer? When you’re ready, what action will you take to move away from suffering? How will your life look without it?

Photo by omid bonyadian on Unsplash

How Being a Motherless Daughter Helped Me Adapt to a Pandemic

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. Charles Darwin, English naturalist, geologist and biologist

As an eight-year-old who suddenly found herself without a mother, I adapted. I got to know my dad, learned to accept my motherless status, became independent and resourceful. 

Like my early days as a motherless child, I was miserable during the first few months after my life was hijacked by a world-wide pandemic in 2020. I told myself, however, that because I had learned resilience and adaptability at an early age and beyond, I had the tools to move forward. I had faith that I would rebound.

Nearly a year later, have I loved staying at home, not seeing my kids and grands, not visiting with friends or eating food cooked by others? No! Have I adapted to my new-normal and found interesting and creative ways to “do” life? Yes. My early days of learning how to adapt are serving me well and I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s all hang in there!!

Affirmation: I know how to adapt to change.

Coaching questions: How high is your adaptability quotient? What have your past life experiences taught you about resilience? How have you adapted to life in a pandemic? 

Are You a Member of the Ain’t It Awful Club? Learn to Reframe

Instead of saying, “I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues” say “I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over.” Horacio Jones, author

Recently in a Facebook group of people who have suffered loss, someone basically asked the group what “miseries” they are going to experience in February—whose birthday will they not get to celebrate, etc. I suggested the question be reframed into who/what will you be celebrating in February.

There was a backlash. I’m learning from being in many of these types of groups that some people want to maintain the status quo, stay miserable, and have their misery affirmed by others. I call it the “ain’t it awful” syndrome. 

To me, reframing isn’t about telling yourself that your grief is wrong or invalid. Reframes are about finding another way to look at the possibilities of life. Instead of saying “Ain’t it awful that I can’t celebrate my mom’s birthday yet again” I’d suggest saying, like Jones’ quote above, “On______I will set aside time to celebrate my mom’s life; who she was, what she meant to me and others.”

Affirmation: Words matter.

Coaching question: If you’re a member of the Ain’t It Awful Club, how might you reframe your circumstances? 

Learning How to Live with Uncertainty

Trust the wait. Embrace the uncertainty. Enjoy the beauty of becoming. When nothing is certain, anything is possible. Mandy Hale, author

If we’ve learned nothing else this year, we’ve learned how to wait. Trust, embrace, and enjoy the wait? Maybe not, but most likely, we’ve learned to live with uncertainty. It’s been a challenge. Humans don’t like not knowing. In fact, according to Robert Burton, MD, our brains are wired to crave certainty.

However, John Allen Paulos, mathematician, says, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

As we make vaccine appointments, wonder if our job is secure, consider the new COVID strains, or ponder how protected we are after we’ve gotten our jab, let’s lean on the fact that learning how to live with uncertainty and insecurity is making us feel more secure.

Affirmation: I’m feeling more secure in my not-knowing.

Coaching questions: What’s causing you to feel insecure right now? How are you dealing with your insecurity? How is waiting affecting you? What can you do to stay at peace in these uncertain times?

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash