Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Monday, February 23, 2009

All You Need is Love

Love is both a feeling and a need. Love as a feeling is transitory and is what we experience when our need for love is met. Love as a need is universal in nature, is always present, and it not connected to any person at any particular time. Love is a core need, is a precious need, and is always with us. Meeting this need can happen in a variety of ways. It need not happen through one person such as a partner, parent, or child. I also feel that love can be a request and is a doable action in the moment. In fact, I believe there is a way to observe without judgment that is love in action – it just flows from the heart as a way of seeing the world. So love is observation, feeling, need, and strategy/invitation/request – it’s everything!

This is just about my favorite need! I often go around singing “all you need is love, love, love.” And my favorite movie might just be “Love Actually” where there is this quote: “When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.” I really do believe love is all around – love as the beautiful energy of the needs. The light of the day and the depth of the night’s dark shimmers with the possibility of love. Love as a feeling “ain’t enough” but love as a need to guide us and to be in touch with, is all around, and is the power of interconnection that makes us whole.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Students, and Masters, and Bears, Oh My!

Have you been grouchy lately with people you love and care for? Do you wonder how in the world you shall be compassionate, when you can’t even be civil to those closest to you? If this might be you, here’s a story about Grouchy Black Bear.

Black Bear came to a meeting late and said, “I’m feeling frazzled after dealing with my cub. What if I don’t feel compassionate?”’ Raven said, “Fake it.” “That doesn’t seem honest,” said Black Bear. “It doesn’t begin with honesty,” said Raven. (From Robert Aiken’s book, Zen Master Raven)

In this Zen story we imagine that we hear that honesty isn’t important – honesty about one’s feelings and needs in a particular situation. Actually holding one’s feelings/needs in tender awareness is primary in compassionate communication. What the story is saying to me is that there is a time to focus on another’s feelings and needs in empathy for the hope of understanding them. At first this might seem forced as the internal chatter is going on and on evaluating yourself or others. Yet over time practice can lead to an opening heart that flowers with greater possibility for authentic and loving relationships between you and another. Here is another Zen story that builds on this.

One day a student asks the Zen master, “Why are you hiding the final secret of Zen from me?” The master says that he has kept nothing hidden but the student continues to demand to know how to live the compassionate way. One day they are walking and a bird sings. The master asks, “Did you hear the bird sing?” “Yes,” said the student. “Then you know I have hidden nothing from you.” “Yes,” said the student.

In this story though the student had worked with the master for years, the artistry of Zen and living from the heart was not happening. The student was still trying to follow a formula, a description based on words, when actually Zen was “beyond words” just as Compassionate Communication is “beyond wrongdoing and right doing.” By hearing the bird sing the heart of the student was awakened, and she saw that living from the heart was the secret of nonviolent communication. It’s really not so much a secret, it just takes being open to hear the song of life around us and thus say yes to life!

For those times when the heart is struggling to be open, practice can help unlock the light within as more light of love enters. By checking in with another person and confirming what you understand to be their feelings and needs, there will come times when you are struck with heart felt compassion, and this can come as a joyful surprise even in the midst of your grouchiest days. Through practice we say yes to life. The hope is that every conversation, every thought, and every moment gives us the chance to practice the compassion we wish in the world. Practice may not make perfect, but it does make peace. Just say yes!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Seeing Your Shadow

This past Monday, the ground hog saw her shadow, meaning 6 more weeks of winter. When you see your “shadow side” do you feel a winter’s worth of discontent or a cooling of relationships and life giving connection to others?

What do we mean by “shadow?” Whether in Jungian terms, or in the metaphor of the Jackal, we each inside of us have natural darkness that companions our light. We are primates of this earth, and we will always be looking at others we know and judging whether they are friend or foe, if they mean us harm, or whether our relationship with them will prove to our advantage. We need this to survive. Our native ability to survive howls like a “Jackal” when we turn this biological valuable discerning process into domination, violence, or negative judgment of the other.

Another version of “shadow” is that if we have a certain combination of gifts, it means that we will have “shortcomings” in other areas. For instance, perhaps you are quite empathetic with what others are feeling, meaning you can really see yourself in their shoes. However, this strong empathetic sense can lead to despair and depression as you become overwhelmed with the suffering of the world.

“Shadow” can also mean that there are realities of your life, experiences, and native orientation that you have not embraced, and that you judge as not part of you and “wrong.” When you turn away from the deep knowing and truth of your own life, you “project” your own discomfort and self-judgment onto others, hence treating them as less than human or with less kindness and compassion you might otherwise.

So many shadows lurk in our lives. In reference to that old radio show; “who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, the shadow knows!” Indeed, such wisdom there is in this. By getting to know our shadows we can learn where the seeds of judgment, denial, and violence lurk, and shower them with our attention so that they grow into life giving understandings of ourselves.

For example:

Let’s say that you really don’t like people who “talk too much.” You avoid them because it’s obvious they don’t care about anyone but himself or herself and are social misfits. Where in this do you see your own shadows? Do you judge yourself for conversing with others? Did someone in your past judge you for talking when they wanted you to be quieter? Are you a natural “extrovert” and you think out loud, and in your past people have rebuffed you for this natural gift of yours (Extroverts’ gifts are that they tend to be friendly, outgoing, and welcoming of others, and the shadow is, well, they can talk a lot and forget to listen to others as much as they would like). Also, perhaps we don’t want to be around people that frequently talk because we desire quiet ourselves, or safety or ease in public spaces, and also know that we have a deep desire to be heard and understood. All of these examples of what your shadow is telling you can be life giving. They tell you that you have formed judgments of yourself and others based on what someone needed from you, or that you need yourself. If we connect to the beauty of universal needs, we might let go our judgments, and be more present to the light of possibility in our relationships and in self-awareness.

So go ahead and see your shadow, for it means that there is light to see the beauty that is inside you, is you, and is all around you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Transforming Hard to Hear Messages to Heart to Heart Messages

I wonder if you have places in your life where you dread talking to a particular person or avoid them because of the possibility of discomfort or of hearing and saying things you’d rather not? Perhaps you don’t trust yourself to have the skills to react with compassion for yourself or for others? Or maybe you really don’t want to hear “you aren’t good enough” or criticisms about the way you think, feel, or do things? It’s true that we only have so much time and energy to deal with social challenges, and I’m guessing that the desire for ease and harmony are factors why you may not seek to connect with people. I’m also guessing that fear is at the root of why you might be avoiding connection, and hence missing the change to live authentically, with power and aliveness based on life giving needs.

If this is you (and I can’t imagine anyone for whom this doesn’t fit) there is a way you can intentionally practice to overcome your fear. To begin with, imagine the very worse that could happen in a conversation. Notice any feelings that arise and the needs behind the hard to hear message. Mourn that these needs might not be met, and probably aren’t being met right now with that individual. Then rest in the beauty of these life-giving needs. To connect to these needs is to give yourself life, to open your heart, and be open to empathy for yourself and the other person. From here creative possibilities may emerge. You might never ever actually hold this conversation with the other person, but you will get in touch with your needs and out of this you gain the strength to make requests of yourself and others that serve life instead of hiding in disconnecting fear.

For example, imagine that you are avoiding someone at your work place who you feel isn’t doing the work they were hired to do. You avoid talking to them because in the past they have responded angrily when you asked them to do something. Imagine now asking if they’d be willing to talk to you for a few minutes, and they agree. What is the worse thing you might hear? Perhaps you’d hear something like this.

You are always so bossy. Who made you secret chief of this office?

Your needs here are respect, consideration, being heard and understood. These are lovely, gorgeous needs. This is what you choose to connect to and not the stories and voices of your past saying your are “selfish” or “bossy” or a “troublemaker.” These are labels that are labile. They cause instability in relationships, and send a message to you to adapt to life giving messages based on needs and not on judgments.

In this way you can move from hearing judgments and maybe, just maybe, you can overcome your fear and actually talk face to face with a person, because what could come out of this will be life and love and understanding. In time, you’ll be able to transform these hard to hear messages into heart to heart messages. May this be so