Kicking Open the Door

medium_1805045379I’m going to start keeping track of when the word “open” (my word-of-the-year) shows up in my life. Today I was flipping through Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, and the book just opened to this section:

At Bob Dylan’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, Bruce Springsteen described hearing Dylan’s music for the very first time. Springsteen was 15, he said, riding in the car with his mother, idly listening to the radio, when “Like a Rolling Stone” came on. It was as though, Springsteen recalled, “somebody took his boot and kicked open the door to your mind.” His mother’s verdict: “That man can’t sing.” Mrs. Springsteen’s response reminds us that we don’t all react the same way to the same experience–and her son’s reminds us that life holds moments when our perspective dramatically shifts, when our assumptions are deeply challenged, when we see new possibilities or sense for the first time that whatever has been holding us back from freedom or creativity or new ventures might actually be overcome.

There are moments when we sense that tomorrow doesn’t have to look like today–that the feeling of defeat that’s been flattening us for what seems like forever can lift, that our anxiety needn’t define us, that the delight we been postponing and the love we long for could be nearer at hand than we’d thought.”

Sharon’s 28-day Meditation Challenge is going on right now. Click here for lots of inspiration and resources.

photo credit: seagers via photo pin CC

Month One Update on My Word-of-the-Year

Lily and Larry, basking in the sunlight

Lily and Larry, basking in the sunlight

It’s late January, the temperature is in the low 70s, and the windows are wide open with the curtains blowing. I just noticed Lily and Larry basking in the sun. It made me think of my word-of-the-year, “open”.

So far, me and “open” just aren’t clicking.

I wrote in my first Word-of-the-year post how I was going to be more open at work and try to get to know more of my coworkers. Not a day after I wrote that, we got an e-mail saying that to “conserve agency resources” we were to minimize chatting about things unrelated to work. Now I’m pretty sure this e-mail was not directed at me; however, it raised my anxiety. I can’t believe I’m 50 years old, and I still have this irrational fear of getting into trouble. When I told Greg about it that evening, he challenged me to talk so much that I do get into trouble! So far, that hasn’t happened.

I also wrote that I wanted to be more open to taking risks. I haven’t done too well with this either. Last week, I was asked to give a presentation.  I’ve had a long-standing fear of public speaking, which I have worked hard to overcome. I typically perform quite well in the actual situation, but make myself seriously miserable ahead of time. The last presentation I gave was 2 years ago and I swore I would never do it again. So when this invitation came up, I had an initial sick-to-my stomach reaction. I was proud of myself for being assertive and saying I needed to think about it (I usually just smile and say yes). I was even honest with the person asking me and told her about my anxiety. That was a different response for me. I’m sure I agonized way too much about it: Should I join Toastmasters again? Should I consult with someone who coaches people on their speaking skills?  Was I setting a bad example for people who read my books on shyness and social anxiety if I don’t keep doing things out of my comfort zone?  It was on a topic I knew well, but I realized I would still make myself a neurotic mess over it–-not to mention making my poor husband miserable, as well. Greg asked what it would take for me to want to do the presentation, and I couldn’t think of anything. I ended up saying no. This decision was fairly predictably  followed by days of cycling between feeling awful about myself and struggling to find compassion for myself. And a lot of tears.

Then I got mad. For several days, I wanted to change my word from “open” to “average”. I decided there is too much pressure on people these days to be above average. I get tired of reading that you should dream big (see my Tiny Dreams post). I get tired of reading that anything is possible if you simply put your mind to it. Sometimes I don’t want to have a good attitude. Sometimes I don’t want to think positively. And I’ve had so many fears in my life, I get tired of facing them all. I wonder if I’m up to it anymore.

Today I’m of the mindset that I’ll keep the word “open” as my word-of-the year, but I’m going to give myself some slack. I’m telling myself, “I’m being open to not feeling open.” Doesn’t that count?

Like the warm weather, this too shall pass.

 

Open

Photo by Tom Haymes via Flickr (cc)

Photo by Tom Haymes via Flickr (cc)

So many people have already posted their word for the year, and as usual, I’m a few steps behind. Oh well. My word for the upcoming year is Open. Greg actually suggested the word to me. He said, “What about the word open?” and I immediately said, “Nah…”  There I was shooting down an idea before I really thought about it. Not very open of me. And here’s another interesting tidbit. I finally decided that Open was going to be my word. Then today I clicked on Ali Edward’s Word of the Year blog, and she had just announced that her word for 2013 is Open. I felt a little deflated. She took my word! But that’s okay. I’m sure there’s enough space (openness) in the world for us both to have the same word.

I’m sure my word will take on lots of new meanings over the course of the year, but here are a few of the things I’m hoping I can do:

Open to possibilities. I tend to get locked down in my thinking…not being able to see there may be many paths, many ways of doing things, if I’m only open to seeing things in a new way. I also think I may be on the brink of some changes in my professional life, and I want to be open to seeing that there may be many ways I can share my talents.

Open  to taking risks. I’m quite risk aversive. I  have to push myself to try new things. My worry brain is always telling me to play it safe. I really don’t have anything in mind when I think about risks, but we’ll see what happens. I may surprise myself and do something crazy.

Open myself up to people. I used to be painfully shy–not so much anymore, but I’m still a through-and-through introvert. I don’t let too many people really get to know me. And if I do, it takes a long time. I can work at a place for years and barely make a dent in getting to know my coworkers. I want to make a conscious effort to change this and share more of myself with others. I need to make a few more friends, too. It’s kind of  hard to find friends when you’re fifty.

I’m excited about the word Open. It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It’s an adjective. It’s a Superword!

The very word itself implies adaptation and flexibility, two things I need more of in my life.

And in the spirit of flexibility, any variation on the word open is okay. I like the word openness, too. Here’s a great quote I found on Good Reads.

Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.” ― Tony Schwartz

Crossing the Great Divide

DSC_0011 2

I made this video a few weeks ago but have been waiting for the perfect time to share it. Well, there really is no perfect time, but the start of a New Year comes pretty close.

My inspiration comes from two sources.

One is this quote:

Religion is like a multi-colored lantern. Each of us looks through a different piece of glass, but the light is always there.” –Mohammed Naquib, a 20th-century Egyptian politician and author.

The other is a line I heard while listening to a podcast. Jean Houston talked about “crossing the great divide of otherness.” These two quotes intermingled in my mind and this is what emerged.

We let so much divide us.

Who we love.

What we believe.

Where we came from.

We put things into categories:

Good and Bad

Right and Wrong

Black and White

Categorizing is part of what makes us human. It means we can think.

But sometimes this kind of thinking can get us into trouble.

People don’t fit into neat and tidy categories.

Human beings defy categories because we are:

Complex

Textured

Messy

Broken

Whole

We need to drop the categories, that make us feel so adrift and alone.

Let’s cross the great divide of otherness,

and realize that we are more alike than different.

All we need to do is look up

to see that we’re all connected.

No matter what part of the glass you look through,

The light is always there.

May the light sustain you,

guide you,

and give you courage.

Share the warmth.

Montage Magic

One really cool thing I’ve discovered this year is that you can take an e-course on about any subject you can imagine, and most of them are priced very affordably. I am two weeks into a 3-week video making class called Montage. The class teaches you the technical aspect of using iMovie on a Mac, but it also has a fun, creative side in which you learn to put your heart and soul into the movie and tell a story. I’ve made two videos so far.

Here’s the first one. All of the footage was taken at my brother and sister in law’s home in Gerald, Missouri. It’s just under two minutes. Short and sweet.

Leaving Worry Behind

This is the second one, also about two minutes. The footage was taken in my backyard. I feel more self-conscious in this one because I do some speaking. I don’t know, does anyone like hearing their own voice? Well, hope you like it.

Busy Be Gone

The class has been great and well worth the money. I think I’m really going to like having a new creative outlet.

To be notified of new posts, head on over to my Self-Compassion Project Facebook page and click “Like”. (It’s also on the sidebar, but no one ever sees it there.)

Leaving Judgment Behind

Photo by macinate via Flickr Creative Commons

Sometimes I think I need to change this to a blog about coping with chronic pain. I’m on to a new doctor and another round of physical therapy. I’m frustrated that I haven’t been able to write more and keep up with my blogs. On a positive note, though, I have been watching a great video series called, The Compassionate Brain. The last “episode” featured Tara Brach, a leading teacher of mindfulness and author of Radical Acceptance and her forthcoming book, True Refuge. She told a story that I really liked. Sometimes I have trouble remembering something long enough to retell it, but I really wanted to share it with Greg, so I tried extra hard to concentrate.

Here’s the story:

Imagine you are walking through the woods and you see a small dog. You approach the dog and move to pet the dog. It suddenly snarls and tries to bite you. The dog no longer seems cute and you may feel some fear and anger. As the wind blows, the leaves on the ground are carried away and you see the dog has one of its legs caught in a trap. Now, you feel compassion for the dog. You know it became aggressive because it is in pain and suffering.

I told the story to Greg when he got home, and he really like it, too. The very next evening, he told me about a conversation he had with a colleague at work. She was struggling with another person in the agency. This other person came across as very negative and rigid and they were butting heads over some issue. Greg told her the story of the dog in the trap. She later thanked him because this helped her view the “difficult” co-worker in a different light.

I like this story on so many levels. It helps “depersonalize” conflict. When someone disagrees with us or somehow makes our life difficult, it is not really about us—it may be about their pain. Rather than assigning negative motives to those who challenge us, why don’t we give them the benefit of the doubt?

And, if we can give others the benefit of the doubt, why can’t we do the same for ourselves?

Sometimes I feel that I’m not really doing enough with my life. My chronic pain has led me to work fewer hours at my job. And when I’m at home, I need more time to rest—meaning I am less productive there as well.

At other times, though, I see that I make a difference. I think it’s pretty cool that I heard a story while listening to the warm and wise Tara Brach, and then told my husband, who told a colleague…and that this story helped someone think more compassionately about a seemingly difficult co-worker.  This is storytelling at its best.

My influence may be less direct, but no less meaningful. And maybe it’s not about producing a quantity of work…maybe its about being as compassionate as I can be, to myself and others, and seeing where that leads me.

To be notified of new posts, head on over to my Self-Compassion Project Facebook page and click “Like”. (It’s also on the sidebar, but no one ever sees it there.)

Long Days, Short Summer

Gretchen Rubin said, “The days are long but the years are short.” That’s how I feel about this summer. Some of the days dragged for me, especially dealing with more pain than usual (see my post Tiny Dreams). But now I don’t know where the time went. Everyone is back in school and fall is near.

Despite the pain, there are definitely fun times I will remember about this summer. I feel a little silly sharing them–they’re not exciting things like going on vacation or anything like that. But they mean something to me.

* Watching the HBO series, Flight of the Concords, as a family for the third time. It’s hard to describe the show’s appeal; you’d probably either love it or hate it. The series revolves around a pair of folk singers from New Zealand as they try to achieve success as a band in New York City. It’s off-beat and quirky. I love it that we all three laugh out loud through every episode. (Well, I’ll be honest. Greg did fall asleep once.)

* Turning a large walk-in closet in the basement into a makeshift recording studio for our son. We pinned old comforters all over the walls and had blankets lining the ceiling. A folding chair and old table for his laptop, plus his guitars, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, ukulele and some other new instruments ordered off the Internet (a melodica?) made for a cozy space. It was pretty insulated, but occasionally I’d hear some random clapping wafting through the vents. I’m so happy our home could be a place where he could create his own wonderful (also off-beat, quirky, and make-you-smile) kind of music.

*Spending lots of time sitting on the covered patio just watching the birds and hearing the neighborhood kids playing. I really embraced just being, and didn’t worry that I didn’t “accomplish” much of anything this summer (see my post Busy Be Gone).

I’d be tickled pink if you’d like my self-compassion Facebook page–you can click here. You can also follow me on Twitter by clicking here. I’m turning into a social media junkie 🙂

Here is Gretchen Rubin’s heart-warming one-minute video, The Years are Short.

Finding refuge in tough times

I have been in the midst of a pain flare-up and haven’t been able to do much on the computer 😦 I miss blogging and communicating with all of you! I just cheated a little and found this Q/A from Tara Brach. She has a wonderful book called Radical Acceptance, and this was on her Facebook page today. It speaks to where I am–in the midst of struggling, yet trying to lean into the struggle, not fight so hard, and most of all, trying to find the presence of mind to remember self-compassion. I hope to be able to write more soon!

Okay, this is Tara “talking” below:

Question: How can we remind ourselves of what refuge is when difficult times come to life?

Response: There is a deep and powerful question you can ask yourself: How can this situation serve the awakening of my heart and mind? Then let that be your prayer–that whatever is going on in your life be part of what truly can free your heart and spirit. If this is your question and your prayer…then you will be guided home to an inner refuge of peace and freedom.

Sometimes the heart has to be broken open to be free, and the process can feel like a huge confusing, frightening mess. Please trust that within you is the love and awareness to awaken through all situations. The key is to take refuge in presence over and over, with tremendous self-compassion. The more you turn toward presence, the more you trust the process…the more fully you will discover an inner sanctuary of peace and freedom.

Worthy

This is the essay I wrote for the MORE model search, which I wrote about here.  The judging was based 50% on a brief (there was a strict word count) essay answering the question, “What makes you feel beautiful, inside and out?” and 50% on a photo of yourself. I used the picture to the left. At the time I entered, I couldn’t post the essay on this blog. Well, I didn’t win, but I’m still glad I entered. In case you didn’t click over to MORE’s site before, here’s what I wrote.

The truth is, I don’t always feel beautiful. I think it goes back to growing up painfully shy. I still remember one horrible day in school when a teacher announced to the class that I was the quietest student he’d ever taught. Everyone turned around to look at me, as if I was some kind of freak. I felt blood rush to my face and my heart raced. I hated myself for being so reserved. Despite this (or perhaps, because of), I went on to become a psychologist and wrote three books on shyness and social anxiety. Although I enjoy writing and helping others, I still find promoting my work challenging. The strange thing is, throughout all of this, I’ve enjoyed a love affair with the camera. It treats me well. And almost magically, seeing myself in a photo gives me objectivity. I can view myself through a lens of compassion, and am better able to tune out the pesky gremlins in my head that tell me I’m not good enough. But it’s still not easy—this feeling beautiful stuff—and I’ve learned to be okay with that. “Feeling beautiful” comes and goes, because feelings come and go. What matters most is believing I am worthy. Worthiness doesn’t have to be earned; it just is. To me, worthy means speaking my truth, owning my power, and taking risks. And you know what? That painfully shy girl, who tried so hard to remain under the radar, is no longer afraid to tell her story. Sometimes, the story line even reads, “Hey, I’m beautiful.”