This is the first post in a series designed to bridge the gap between ideas and action. I love the world of ideas, but the fact remains that lack of information is not the problem in our culture. There's plenty of good information, readily available. We have an action problem.
These practices and exercises will ask you to do something if you feel compelled. (Often we do feel compelled to try things out, but we stop ourselves and excuses ourselves. Not everything I post will call to you, but when one does, go!)
The first exercise asks us to examine how we want to be in our relationships and interactions. We spend a lot of time in our culture thinking of how we are (as if our identities are fixed) or how we were (in the past). We spend less time pondering how we'd like to be. In the ideal.
Living deliberately (which I wrote about here), with integrity, means we have to know what we stand for and the kind of person we want to be.
This exercise, from The Buddha's Brain by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius, guides us in this endeavor:
"Now write your personal code of unilateral relationship virtues. This could be a handful of words. Or more extensive dos and don’ts. Whatever its form, aim for language that is powerful and motivating, that makes sense to your heard and touches your heart. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful, and you can always revise it later."
"Personal code of unilateral relationship virtures" sounds a little, ummm, stiff to me. So I call my list The Connection Manifesto. (I like manifestos, maybe you've noticed?) Here it is:
Keep empathy at the forefront my awareness.
Whenever possible, leave it (mood, energy level/quality, level of inspiration) better than you found it.
At the very least: Do no harm
If you fail to meet this guideline, reach out later and make a repair.
Speak honestly to support living with integrity.
Remember: Human beings are complex creatures. Everyone is acting and speaking in an attempt to meet their needs. You don't have to understand why people do what they do to be kind. When people are rude, mean, or snarky, it's not about you, it's about them.
I'm learning to apply the same rules in my interactions with myself as I stumble along trying again and again to put this into action. I aim to review my manifesto as often as possible (at least once per day) to help keep the guidelines in my awareness. As the guidelines are more and more in my awareness, so is my awareness of every violation. But, like I said, human beings are complex; I am not exempt. And I don't even have to understand my own self to be kind to myself as I practice.
Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds