Sunday, March 17, 2013

(h)IN(d)SIGHT is growing


Visit the new site at marykoppes.wordpress.com
Bookmark the site, add it to your reader feed or follow me on wordpress.

All past posts have made their way over to the new site and are settling in just fine. See you there.

Photo credit: eloranta

Saturday, March 16, 2013

And this, too, is true.

 

The on the road to a more enlightened self and life, I am quick to share my “successes”—lessons learned with “good” results. Pleasantries and things that please and appease.

Part of my personal mission is to inject as much uplift and joy into the world as possible. After all, many folks are free with the negativity. If you’re in the mood to feel down or get outraged, you’ve got a lot of options. Start with the nightly news. 

I aim to bring more balance into the world. My mentor in graduate school said, “Mary, it seems like you live in opposition.” And he’s kinda right. When I moved to the progressive western MA area, I got a little more conservative. Growing up in Republican Springfield, MO, I was a screaming liberal. That’s my nature, I reckon.

However, authenticity and integrity are values that rank high for me. In order to inject joy and uplift, I actually have to feel that way. And truth be told, I usually do. What you see, read, or hear is what you get. That’s me, baby.

But my authentic experience of this life includes ups and down. It’d be misleading then, to never write a blog post like this one, sharing my hardships, moments of grief and suffering that are wilier than I’d like. The kind that keep my mind racing while I’m trying to fall asleep at night and incite such fidgeting that I avoid my meditation cushion altogether.

So I’d like to tell you…

Right now my heart is breaking for a lost relationship right alongside incredible suffering-producing impatience for knowing and making my next move (re: physical location, job/career/income source, life in general). All this topped off with a generous scoop of self-doubt since my usual intuitive guidance system feels like it’s malfunctioned. I went from impatience to frustration to heartbreak to total surrender in two days time.

I haven’t given up, but I’ve loosened my grip. I’m taking a breather and taking time just to feel what it’s like to be here. Perplexed and wanting. Hurt. In and out of tears.

All this has stimulated me to think about the ultimate goal in my efforts for self-growth. It’s not the end result I desire to change. That is, I’m not aiming to eliminate suffering entirely (or I’d shave my head and get to meditating 15 hours a day at a monastery).

I am seeking, however, to work with my relationship to the inevitable pain that arises in life…and the inevitable pleasure. The mark of improvement for me is in how I process the bliss and the turmoil. Can I truly feel what it’s like to be with joy? To sit with a broken heart? How tightly do I hold onto the pleasant things? How hard do I try to avoid the pain of the unpleasant?

This is our shared journey. The human experience. And to that end, I offer up this humble post and share a slice of my story that normally wouldn’t make it to the blog roster.

Photo Credit: Sebastian Kobs

Monday, March 11, 2013

The best things in life are free.


Hello lovely readers,

This post is gonna look a little different from my previous ones. Chris Guillebeau over at Art of Non-Conformity is doing a social experiment, asking his readers to offer up something for free. I've been offering my services to a few friends, and I wanted to extend my offer to ya'll to participate in this experiment.

How to participate:
Have you had the experience of knowing you're on to something? You're sure this is an amazing idea, story, concept, etc. In your mind it all makes sense and is too powerful to deny. Yet when you put pen to paper, something is amiss. You got some elements on the page, but it doesn't match the vision in your mind....yet...

If you are beginning a project, writing an article, or adding content to your webpage and you know it can be better, but your confused about how to make it better or about just what the heck you're trying to say, send it my way.

The one any only caveat is that you must submit a document of some sort. My strength is in working with documents as a means to work with people. I may give feedback via skype or a phone chat, but I don't excel at working things out with people, exclusively via conversation. I'm a visual person, I need to see it or read it first, have time to digest and get some perspective.

What I'm offering:
My services as a Deep Editor. I give feedback using a combination of my skills from NVC which help me to be objective and compassionate and my creative problem solving abilities as The Imaginator. This basically means, I see where you're coming from and what you mean first. Then I work to punch it up. I want your ideas to shine in service of your vision.

Are you in?
Send your document and a blurb about yourself and your project to marykoppes at gmail dot com and let's get started.

Photo Credit: erica noel

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fear at Game Time

"Imagine that you're a team coach and you're giving your emotions a pep talk before the game. 'So how's everyone feeling about the game?' you shout.

Enthusiasm shouts back, 'I am stoked! Can't wait to get on the field!' and pumps the air with his fists, smiling, looking to everyone to smile. Anxiety is pacing in the back of the room, in his own world, and looks up briefly to say, 'I am so scared I could puke,' and keeps on pacing. Abandonment Issues says, 'Look, if we don't score in the first quarter, we should take the ball and go home-- end it before they do, you know. But, hey, I'm in!' As the coach, you're nodding, listening to each player intently, and assessing which players to put in the lead for your best chances of victory.

Fear stands up. 'Are y'all crazy? If I lose this game, I'll never play in this town again.' And then Fear starts picking on the other players. 'Enthusiasm, it just ain't natural to be that happy; you gotta get real. And anxiety! Shit, if you get on the field and have a freeze attack, we all go down.'

Finally you step in, 'All right, McFearstein, we appreciate your point of view, and you've got some good points. Now let's listen to the others.' Just like all of your emotions, Fear just wants to be seen and heard.

Confidence (who is also the team captain) says, 'I'm feeling steady. If we stay focused, this win is ours. And when we win, the offers will start pouring in.' Insecurity says, 'If you want me on the bench, I, I understand, Coach.' Well, if that's where you want to be, then that's where you'll be, you think to yourself.

Pragmatic shrugs and nods at the same time: 'Odds are stacked in our favor. Anything could happen.' Love raises her hand, 'Listen you're all fucking amazing! And I believe in every single one of you!' Woot.

Time to drop some truth bombs Coach. Time to lead, not accommodate. You can't let Fear steal more air time. And Anxiety is hanging out on the edge distracting everyone. Here's how it's got to go down: 'I echo what Love said. You're all amazing. We're contenders. Enthusiasm, you're in front; Confidence and Pragmatic have got your back. Abandonment Issues, your job is to trust your instincts. You will know when it's right to pass the ball-- we trust you. Anxiety, you're alert, and we need that on the team. You need to stay close to Confidence. The important thing to do is just stay in the game-- keep playing.

'Fear, thanks for looking out for us. Yep, we could fail, it's possible. This is risky. But we'll come out on top no matter what, because that's who we are. You've done your job, and now you'll be playing from the bench.'

When you can see fear as just an emotion that's hanging out with all of your other emotions, you gain some clearer perspective. It's not superior, and it's not even inferior. It's just an emotion that you can choose to focus on or not."
This is an excerpt from Danielle LaPorte's Fire Starter Sessions. It's one of the best things I've read about dealing with fear. Plus I was cracking up as I read it. Good information, inspiration, and humor. Can't beat that.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Introducing The IMAGINATOR


 

Quick review from my last post:


In the Human-Centered Resume, WHO, WHY and HOW are the 3 KINGS.

The message is:
WHO I am as a person, WHY I chose my past experiences, and HOW I went about doing them drives WHAT I've done, WHERE I did it and WHEN I did it. Therefore WHO, WHY and HOW  are the best indicators of my ability to succeed in the job I'm applying for.

Then I left you hanging with this suspenseful phrase: The resume itself looks like:

Drum roll please…..

CONSTRUCTS ( aka SUPERPOWERS)
GENERAL DESCRIPTION
EXAMPLES:
            Short (one line)
            Story based
            Tie in with previous employment AND non-employment experiences

The first construct/superpower I’ve developed for my personal resume is “The Imaginator.” 


The IMAGINATOR
Never content to do something the conventional way if a better way is possible, the Imaginator always has an eye to possibilities.
When empowered in my workplace, I also have the efficacy to make improvements and experiment to help already awesome organizations spiral toward even more greatness.

As the Imaginator, I improved the line for more efficient and ergonomic short order cooking for two seasons at Stanley Baking Company. Ask the manager Becky about this; she was game to try nearly every suggestion I put forth. I also executed a number of wild lesson plans as a Teaching Assistant in the Sociology department at UMass Amherst to increase student engagement. Imagining a brave new life, I’ve lived in a new location every six months for the past 5 years.

 Woah, Woah, Woah. What Just Happened There, Mary?!



Notice how I gave some job history/experience information, a tie in to a reference, and demonstrated how this superpower works in two vastly different work situations.

One reason I wanted to create this kind of resume is because I’m transitioning out of my “career” as a seasonal line-cook and into any kind of work that nourishes my mind, body, and soul.

Housing my variety of experiences under a construct/superpower is so empowering for me because I’m a Meaning Maker (it’s another superpower). I see continuity in my life where others see chaos and skills-based resumes represent my life as disjointed and confusing to employers.

Wait she was a Teaching and Research Assistant for two years at a top university and then she worked for free at a Buddhist center and then became a line cook working in a town I've never heard of in the-middle-of-nowhere Idaho?

Actually, yes. That’s my life. And it may well be yours, too. Bold folks do weird things, ya know?

Keep In Mind

This is what I wrote off-the-cuff without a specific job posting/position in mind. 
My vision for the Human-Centered Resume is to tell relevant, short, simple stories that illustrate things at the intersection of:
·      Deep personal resonance in terms of illustrating who we are as gifted and capable humans
·      Deep resonance for employers in terms of our ability to rock their world by meeting eligibility requirements and then some

Value-added at every turn and completely in the realm of “show not tell.”

I am from The Show Me State after all.
 
As I play with this more I also want to make it visual. For example, “The Imaginator” would be represented with a symbol (e.g. imaginator x-ray goggles). I’ve just begun exploring how the visual element can be incorporated, but I love the idea of images and words dancing together on a page.

 

My first ask:

I'd love your feedback on the concept I've presented here. What, if anything, gave you an "aha" moment? What, if anything, made your brow furrow in skepticism? How can I make this better or present the idea better?

Compassion-fueled feedback is welcome; be aware this is rough and I am tender.

Reach me at marykoppes at gmail dot com

 

Photo Credit: photobunny

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Human-Centered Resumes (are the way of the future!)

Since I attended StartingBloc mid-February, I've been full of excitement, ideas, and energy. One major benefit of attending SB is that I got some perspective on a personal blind-spot. I was among a group of 100+ do-ers n' entrepreneurs. 

Though I think of myself as more of a be-er than a do-er, the blind-spot that I got some insight into was my own ideas ---> action gap. Sometimes I have "good" ideas but they seem "minor," so instead of taking them seriously and pursuing them, I just dream up more ideas. Having some insight into this blind-spot has piqued my curiosity about what would happened if I fully explored even one of these "good" ideas. 

Follow thru, baby.

To make this all more concrete...

I've had numerous conversations with folks in the past several months about the process of applying for jobs, constructing resumes, writing cover letters and interviewing. I'm (f)unemployed and so are a number of folks I know so these kinds of conversations surface frequently.

In all my conversations about the job-hunting process, I've never heard anyone say, "I love it. I wish I could be a professional job applicant. Chronological resumes make my heart sing!" 

I myself may have used a couple expletives in expressing my views on the topic. My frustration has fueled what I'm now calling The Human-Centered Resume project. It's part of my practice of harnessing the power of "negative" energy and channeling it into building something better which, along the way, converts the "negative" quality into a "positive" one. It also shines the light on my blind-spot.

Bi-product: Happier Mary. Happier world.

So this: 

"I f*&%ing hate searching for jobs. It's so $#%&ing frustrating to make a resume that reflects who I am." (Full disclosure: I was stuck in this thought process for about two months.)

Became this: 

What would a swoon-worthy resume and job-hunting process look like? Why am I so irked by the current process? Considering those irksome properties, how can I build something better that eliminates them?

Then I actually started to build it... The Human-Centered Resume was born.

Let's start by examining the logic of the current resume model...
.

I call it: 
The Skills-Based Resume
It treats WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE as the 3 KINGS
The message is:
WHAT I’ve done in the past, WHEN I did it , and WHERE I did it are the best indicators of my ability to succeed in the position I’m applying for.

On the resume itself, this looks like:
A description of duties in previous positions and/or professional titles (WHAT
Displayed in reverse chronological order, showing "progression" in career (WHEN
Headed up by the name of the organization & the physical location (WHERE)

Here comes the irksome part.

WHO I am as person, WHY I chose to do the the things on my resume, and HOW I went about doing them is:
a) considered irrelevant and ignored
b) matters (at least a little) and is assumed to be reasonably well derived from looking at the 3 KINGS
or
c) we’ll figure it out if we decide to interview or hire you whether we want to or not (e.g. Damn, that guy's got a a major anger problem. His work is brilliant but it sucks working with him. Who knew?!)

Taken alone I was irked that the WHO, WHY and HOW are exiled from the resume kingdom by the 3 KINGS. So my frustration was compounded when I realized that the resume-exchange and hiring process are but a microcosm of (and entry point into) the whole dehumanizing* system of workplace organizations. 

Build a Better System AKA (to SB LA '13-ers) "Show 'em the clean glass of water!"

In the Human-Centered Resume, WHO, WHY and HOW are the 3 KINGS.

The message is:
WHO I am as a person, WHY I chose my past experiences, and HOW I went about doing them drives WHAT I've done, WHERE I did it and WHEN I did it. Therefore WHO, WHY and HOW  are the best indicators of my ability to succeed in the job I'm applying for.

Here's a side-by-side comparison.

On the resume itself this look like:

STAY TUNED! The next post will reveal the secrets of Human-Centered Resumes. They really are the way of the future, folks.
 
*My intention in using the word "dehumanizing" isn't to trigger ya. I mean it as literally as possible. We are literally reduced, in our resumes, to skill sets, past experiences, dates, titles, etc.  I think that even in the least human-friendly organizations there are elements of humanism, but on the whole organizations (especially large ones) take on a bureaucratic tone and are essentially dehumanizing. Read some Max Weber.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Why I love Non-Violent Communication (and just what the heck is it?)


Something you should know about me that will also help you understand this blog better, is that I’m a total fanatic for Non-Violent Communication (NVC). It’s sometimes called Compassionate Communication, a title which resonates with me more.

Knowing a few of the key characteristics of NVC will shed some light on to how I reason with and view the world; knowing more about the method itself will, no doubt, transform your life. I highly recommend it if you have the desire to be more understanding and compassionate with yourself and others, and more effective in your communication.

Marshall Rosenburg wrote the seminal text. Here’s what he has to say:
“NVC guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting. We are led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others a respectful and empathic attention. In any exchange, we come to observe carefully, and to be able to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. We learn to identify and clearly articulate what we are concretely wanting in any given situation. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.”

There are two really powerful things I’ve learned from NVC.

1: We all have the same basic needs and experience the same spectrum of feelings related to when those needs are met and unmet

Check out these feelings inventory and needs inventory.

This is the starting point for compassion and for interacting more empathically. 

2: Everything we do as humans, every action we take, every word we speak, is in an attempt to meet our needs.

When I first encountered this I thought: How can that possible be when some people’s actions are so obviously not going to get them what they need? I was thinking of my own passive aggressive behaviors, and of witnessing angry yelling, tantrums, and even withdrawing. Sure, I could see how asking politely might work to get your needs met, but a lot of the behaviors we exhibit, especially when we’re riled up, not so much.

What typically happens in a communication breakdown is that the strategy used by an individual to get their needs met, stimulates disengagement or an ego war with the other person. A lose, lose.

When we look past the behavior (the strategy itself) for the underlying need, it’s easier to muster up compassion and empathy because we see that we, too, have had an experience with those same needs and feelings.

I'm feeling excited to share this with all of you and to bring some of these concepts to life in upcoming posts. Stay tuned! 

Photo credit: P Shanks

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Conditioning Yourself to Discomfort: Eye Gazing Edition


The folks over at SPACIOUS recently posted about eye gazing parties and it reminded me of a time when I spent a week practicing eye gazing with total strangers.

Here’s what I wrote:

I love this “eye gazing” exercise suggested by Timothy Ferris in The Four Hour Work Week:
“For the next two days, test gazing into the eyes of others—whether people you pass on the street or conversational partners—until they break contact.
1. Focus on one of their eyes, not both, and be sure to blink occasionally so you don’t look like a psychopath or get your ass kicked. It’s not sustained eye contact, it’s too infrequent blinking, that makes people feel uncomfortable.
2. In conversation, focus on maintaining eye contact when you are speaking. It’s easy to do while listening.
3. Practice with people bigger or more confident than yourself. If a passer-by asks you what the hell you’re staring at, just smile and respond: ‘Sorry about that. I thought you were an old friend of mine.’”

This exercise is part of Tim’s idea that you can, “…condition yourself to discomfort and overcome it.”  I love it for its contribution to helping me condition myself to discomfort. (This is a larger project I’ve been working on for years, only recently becoming aware of it. More on this soon!)

I also love it for the unexpected effects I experienced from practicing it.

For one thing, I noticed that it helped me to “focus” my interactions. When I spoke with someone, I looked at them and was less likely to be distracted by other things in my environment. Sometimes I left an interaction with a cashier, at my favorite local cafĂ© for example, feeling really connected. As if I just had a chat with a good friend when all I did was order a drink. Seeing as how connectedness is a basic human need, it felt awesome to have that need met with minimal effort in an unlikely place.

I also often had the sense that I positively contributed to their experience as well. Maybe this is because people who are in customer service positions are often dealing with folks who are technologically distracted.

“I’ll have a latte. Oh my god, I can’t believe he said that. What? Yeah, tall. No was talking to the cashier guy. What a jerk. No your boyfriend, not the cashier. Oh, to go.”

Even though it seems like a simple thing, ordering coffee or a similar activity, it means a lot more than we think to really be present in doing so. Plus it opens up all kinds of possibilities.

Which was the other thing I found when I incorporated “eye gazing” into my routine human interactions. People, totally strangers, talked to me more and smiled at me more frequently. One woman, for example, just felt comfortable enough to ask me if I thought she’s poured herself about a cup of quinoa from the bulk bin, after I made eye contact with her and excused myself for being in her personal space as I scooped out some nutritional yeast. And there’s that satisfying human connection happening again.

I know it’s just quinoa, but it feels good to talk to people as if you share a friend level of comfort with them. And to feel as if you aren’t just an atomized, insular being zipping through your day, trying not to bump into anyone.

The final effect was that I projected a sense of confidence that may not have been truly on par with how confident I felt. You know the old saying, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Through practicing “eye gazing” self-confidence started to rise up in me as if from the ether. 

Will you take Tim's challenge? Eye dare you.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Action!

 
“Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.” 

-William James

This is why we can "feel fear and do it anyway." This is why it's powerful to move yourself in a new direction (any direction!) when you're feeling stuck. All too often feeling stuck is accompanied and held firmly in place by other feelings like despair, depression, agitation, irritation, confusion, hopelessness.

I wish I was hypothesizing here, but since I've become a scientist of my own life, I've noticed this again and again.

Lots of the self-help lit begins with feelings. Freud popularized investigating our feelings and understanding their origin and folks have been building on this idea ever since.

Lay down on this couch and let's talk about your childhood...

Though sometimes it certainly is helpful to launch an investigation on  the origin our feelings (especially those that loop & especially when we have help), we should also remain vigilant in our awareness about the usefulness of this and the outcome.

Experiment with giving primacy to action even when you don't (but desire to) understand where your stuck-ness and the feelings accompanying it come from.

Remember your super-hero mind powers? They come into play here yet again. 

Just as we can use the powers of our minds to dig deeper and deeper ruts when we get stuck in our feelings and our inability to change them at will and allow this (often unconsciously) to lead to habitual action which feels and looks a lot like inaction.  

We can also harness the power of our minds (with a bit of conscious effort) to move into actionable spaces, acknowledging our feelings and even our stuck-ness, without giving them the power to keep us in place.

 Nudge, nudge, nudge. Insist. De-gum. Close your eyes tight and just start walking. Sure, you might bump into something or fall down. But I find often even that feels better than unrest, boredom, agitation, irritation, depression and confusion.

Bonus: Very often an unintended consequence of many of my just-move-me-forward actions is a better understanding of my feelings. Otherwise known as perspective.

Photo credit: ARMLE

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The best system is your own.



If you took a tour of my steno notebook (my beloved journal) you might think I’m disorganized. 

In one steno I house everything from goal setting charts, hand-drawn calendars, ideas, quotes that inspire me, personal journal entries, doodles, phone numbers & addresses, and the list goes on.

A mash-up.

This could lead to me not being able to find those ideas I wrote down or the items on the to do list to cross off after completion, but I’m learning how to work my “weaknesses”* and turn them into strengths.

Starting with my inclination towards mash-up messiness, I then created a system involving revisiting my entries as a means to jog my memory and re-inspire me (I call this structured inspiration). The second time around I denote that the idea has been revisited, edited, typed into a permanent home in my computer or ditched. There’s something utterly satisfying about this whole process.

Sure I could just type up all these various steno-fied things to begin with and house them immediately in my, admittedly, hyper-organized computer files. Or I could write them down and never revisit them, letting them sleep soundly forever in the pages of the steno (which was my previous, unproductive, system).

Instead, I’ve found the happy place where my “natural” inclinations to be somewhat messy, mash-up ideas with personal entries and off-the-cuff writings have merged with my desire to be inspired, organized, and productive in creating my life’s work.

The best system is our own. Learn how to maximize your own ways of working by finding the intersection between your natural or habitual tendencies and your ultimate desires (what you want to be, do, and have).
  
*I don’t think of this as a weakness at all, but occasionally there’s a societal whisper in my ear that says, “what a mess.”



Photo Credit: Hometown Beauty

Monday, February 4, 2013

Love your weird.

https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/375939_10100429296124264_330374780_n.jpg 
Stanley Baking Company keepin' it weird.

It’s a compliment. “I love your weird.” A lot.  And you should, too.
It’s a command. Do it. Love your weird.

So many folks follow statements about preferences, behaviors and the like with, “…yeah but I’m weird.”

And it’s true. We’re all weird.

But we’re not all weird in the same ways. And paying attention to your weird can be useful in figuring out those unique traits that only you can bring to the world. [Hint: This is huge if you’re wondering what your purpose is and how to tool that into a living, paid or otherwise.]

What’s my weird?
I’ve got a whole lot of weird on offer. One thing that’s “weird” about me is that I enjoy putting myself in uncomfortable situations. You know how it was really popular to call, “awkwaaard,” in uncomfortable situations? I like to walk into those situations.

Let me repeat. I like to put myself into these situations. I don’t focus on the “being” part. But I’ve noticed that if you just focus on putting yourself there, the being part takes care of itself.

And this is why I used to love Tuesdays.

Tuesdays aren’t inherently uncomfortable or awkward. 

Well, they weren’t before I instituted tutu Tuesdays*.  But last spring I donned a tutu every Tuesday. I put it on when I got dressed in the morning, and I didn’t take it off until I went to bed at night. I walked my dog in it around the neighborhood. I ran errands in it and went to the library book sale.

And I was surprised and pleased with the reactions I got. I confused people. And made them smile. And one guy even asked me if he could have his picture with me. I felt like a celebrity!

But what I really loved about tutu Tuesday, and all other uncomfortable situations I willingly enter into, is that it broke my routine. 

It invited adventure and spontaneity and invoked self-confidence. (It’s hard to pout in a tutu and it’s hard to walk with your head down, too!)

It’s important to note that these characteristics aren’t necessarily things I’d list as my strengths, but by changing my routine in this relatively simple way, I strengthened them. It was easier to act as if I’m the most spontaneous,adventurous, self-confident gal in the universe

And people seemed to think I was that way. The tutu speaks for itself. 

Bonus: Each time I took the tutu off, I found myself thinking I was more of all of those things, too.

Another uncomfortable situation I routinely subject myself to is travel. Anyone who’s traveled outside the U.S. (or even within!) knows that you’re uncomfortable pretty much all the time. The language, culture, food, customs, weather; it’s all different!

My “weird” has revealed to me that I’m flexible, curious, and value self-expression. It’s also been an integral part of the discovery-focused part of my path. I’m committed to finding out my ultimate purpose(s) and uncomfortable situations provide a lot of information to this end. They tell me what I’m good at, where my weaknesses are, and open opportunities that might not have been there if I played it safe.

What’s your weird?

*I wish I could credit the blogger who gave me this idea years ago, but I’ve forgotten her name and can’t find her even with the mad power of google.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Practice makes progress



Through my dabbling in Buddhism a great love of the idea of practices and practicing emerged.

When I was first exposed to the idea of mind training as a “practice,” I was really opposed to it. It was a visceral reaction and when I explored it further, I realized that my aversion was stemming from an idea that the actions and behaviors that have become habitual for me were “natural.” I thought that practicing a different way of being, thinking, and behaving was going against what was “naturally Mary”.

Then I had to ask myself whether I loved all of my thoughts and behaviors and thought they were effective to achieve the ends I was seeking. You can probably guess what the answer was.

I decided to give some of the Buddhist practices a try. One simple, but nevertheless difficult to execute, practice was to not kill anything. I’m not a natural born killer by any means, but I was in the see-a-bug-and-stomp-on-it camp for a while. And, what’s worse, I did it totally unthinkingly. Especially if it was a spider. Get the shoe. You know what I mean?

But then I became one of those people who does spider and bug relocation. I don’t love spiders so it took some self-control to remain calm at first. I had to practice reacting in a new way. Now it’s second nature.

Relative to some other practices we can adopt, spider relocation is easy. Try practicing non-judgment or flipping negative thoughts in an effort to shift your perspective. Try practicing kindness.

Really. Try it. Since it’s a practice it is also:
a) experimental, b) set for a finite time, and c) allows for you to screw up over and over again. After all, you’re just practicing.

So you could feasible attempt to practice kindness for the next hour and never get it “right”, and still feel like you accomplished something. That something is awareness. Which is sort of like the Buddhist “get out of jail free” card. (I kid.)

It’s helpful if our practices are specific. So it would be even more feasible to practice smiling and maintaining eye contact in every interaction you have with a co-worker, family member or store cashier for the next hour.

It’s also helpful if our practices are framed as “do’s” instead of “don’ts” or “won’ts.” Because you can’t do a “don’t.”* If you say I won’t be mean, but you’re accustomed to being mean, what will you do instead? If it’s not already your established habit, you’ll reach for something in a good-faith effort to practice your practice, but you may not find anything if you didn’t establish possibilities for new behaviors when you set your intention. Thus, the suggestion to offer a smile and maintain eye contact, rather than saying, “don’t be such a jerk to cashiers, Mary!”

What are you (inspired to begin) practicing?

*Hat tip to Marshall Rosenburg for this idea.

Photo Credit: Bill Hails

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Able-ity


Insufferable
Tolerable
Irritable
Unbearable
Bearable
Acceptable
Agreeable
Enjoyable

I love these –able ending words because they reveal an important truth.

We feel only that which we are able (capable) to feel.

If we are in a good mood, can’t-nobody-get-me-down, we're unable to be irritated.

If we are in a horrible mood and everything annoys us, it is because we have primed ourselves for this. We are irritable. It’s intolerable. Eventually we’ll move out of this space (well, most of us) and we can, for moments at least, be unstoppable, agreeable and enjoyable.

External conditions matter.

But we must remember they are all interpreted through our lens. Our own able-ity.

Photo credit: Herbalizer