How Mindfulness Can Help Us Manage Our Reactivity to Others

                  

On a recent flight, a stewardess made an announcement for all the passengers on board to buckle up for our departure. Everyone on the plane was exhausted, because our flight had been delayed nearly 3 hours and so we were all eager to depart. As I buckled up, I had a cup of tea sitting in between my thighs. Unfortunately, even though the tea had a lid on it, my clumsiness buckling up led me to accidentally squeeze the cup and all of a sudden it seemed like a volcano of tea had exploded, which spewed primarily onto me and the ceiling, but it also landed on the seat of the lady sitting in front of me, and on the gentleman to my right.

Luckily, the tea was no longer hot, but I was embarrassed and felt my face flush. I apologized and the gentleman to my right laughed about it, and was as kind as they come. On the other hand, the woman in front of me gazed back at me with a horrified look, and then proceeded to flag down the flight attendant and she said to her, “Can you get me a napkin? The woman behind me spilled her smoothie on my seat.”

The defensive part of me wanted to react and say, “It wasn’t a smoothie. It was just a green tea.” But instead I apologized again and the woman averted her gaze from me and still said nothing. The lady’s husband shot me an angry look that made me want to hide under my seat. I took a deep breath and reminded myself they were probably exhausted, just like I was, because of the flight delay. I went on to have a great conversation with the gentleman to my right about our beloved cats. I felt gratitude for his grace and willingness to overlook my mistake.

Later as I meditated on this experience, it occurred to me that every day we have the choice to react like the lady sitting on the plane in front of me or we can choose the response of gentleman sitting beside me. I was also reminded that I can sometimes overreact like the woman on the plane and I also can choose to be the best version of myself, and offer compassion, like the man next to me did.

It seems like our go to reactions these days are demonizing one another and choosing fear, anger and hate. When I practice yoga, I often take a deep breath in and then I notice the pause between my inhalations and exhalations. When I find this space on my yoga mat between my breathing, I am also reminded to find the pause off of my yoga mat. I invite you right as you are reading this article, to take a deep breath in and then pause between your inhale and exhale. It may take a few tries to notice the pause that occurs naturally between your breath cycles. Finding the pause between my inhale and exhale, reminds me of the importance of pausing before I overreact to the difficulties that I face in life.

Bryant McGill wisely said, “The conflicts we have with the outside world are often the conflicts we have within ourselves.” In my own life, I am aware that when I am more reactive to other people, it is usually a sign that I am overwhelmed by life and projecting some of my feelings of anger, anxiety or sadness onto others. My reactivity can also serve as a cue to me that I am not doing enough to tend to my own needs.

There is a mindfulness technique known at S.T.O.P that might be supportive to you if you ever struggle with reactivity towards others.

Stop and allow yourself a moment to settle down and press the pause button.

Take a few deep breaths to calm your nervous system and enter the present moment. You can even add a mantra to your breath, such as inhaling the word peace and exhaling the word anxiety.

Observe your feelings, thoughts and even what is happening in your body. Where are you experiencing tension in your body? What stories are you creating in your mind? Are you aware of any particular emotions? If you are mad at another person, how might putting yourself in their shoes help?

Proceed with identifying something that will be nurturing to you. What do you need to do to continue to calm yourself down? Maybe you need to call a friend or intentionally do something to care for yourself. What have you learned about yourself from this situation? Mindfulness is a practice that seeks to help us to live in the present moment in a compassionate way. Consider whether you are responding to both yourself and others in a compassionate way.

So when we feel reactive it can be an opportunity to S.T.O.P. and as we pause we will inevitably learn more about our self and we will become more mindful, self-aware, compassionate, calm and present. Once I S.T.O.P, I come closer to finding kindness instead of fear, understanding in lieu of anger and compassion in exchange for hate. As we learn to be still and find that pause and space in life, we also stop being as reactive and irritated by others as we have in the past. But even when we do have human moments of being irritated and reactive, learning to pause helps us to find a compassionate response.

Let’s find moments to S.T.O.P.,

Christy

I originally wrote the article above for the Mountain Mirror. http://www.mountainmirror.com/

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Vulnerability, Compassion and Connection: The Best Medicine for Shame

Is it just me or do you also notice a growing cultural tendency to label one another in negative ways? This inclination to undesirably categorize others is something I have been more aware of in recent years. I often hear people characterize colleagues or family members with words like: socially awkward, narcissistic, control freak, bully, drunk or sociopath. The problem with describing someone with one word, whether the word is positive or negative, is that it rarely is an accurate description of who the person is and can be. The truth is that we are all sinners and saints. We have strengths and growing edges. But sometimes in order to feel better about ourselves, we demonize others and paint ugly pictures of them. But often the unsightly portrait we paint of someone else might actually be a good description of how we see ourselves.

When we struggle to see and celebrate our own gifts and graces, it becomes harder to see the strengths and beauty in one another. Do you tend to put down yourself and/or others? If you do, you may be struggling with shame. Shame is the inaccurate belief that we are deficient, inferior, worthless and unlovable. When I work with clients on their self-image, it is amazing to watch a client notice the connection of how having more regard for self leads them to view challenging loved ones in a more positive light.

I have created the following quiz to assess a person’s level of shame. If you agree with less than five statements, shame is either not a pressing issue for you or it is something you are already working to overcome. If you answer yes to between five and nine of the statements below, shame is a concern in your life you need to commit to address. If you answer affirmatively to ten or more of the following symptoms of shame, you likely struggle with toxic levels of shame and I encourage you to seek professional help, by finding a therapist to help you explore your personal and family history, in order to get to the roots of your shame.

  • I am reluctant to give or receive affection
  • I numb my pain through self-cutting, alcohol, drugs or other means
  • I often compare myself to other people
  • Jealously is a struggle for me
  • I reject compliments or do not believe others when they offer them
  • I regularly criticize others
  • I have experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • I often put down myself
  • I engage in negative self-talk
  • I am uncomfortable with my body
  • My worldview is pessimistic
  • I constantly blame myself for what I should have done
  • I undermine my own needs in favor of other people’s desires
  • I don’t practice self-care
  • I don’t feel good enough
  • I avoid making eye contact
  • I blush easily
  • I can easily become defensive or angry
  • I struggle to see a bright future for myself
  • I often try to please others by being perfect
  • I am sometimes guilty of gossiping
  • It is tough for me to share painful parts of my life
  • Coming up with a list of 5 of my strengths would be a challenge for me

It is important to recognize that when we are stuck in shame, we stay in a cycle of fear, blame and disconnection. So the opposite of shame is vulnerability, compassion and connection. Shame invites us to stay stuck in our fear and not tell anyone about our difficult childhood or struggles with self-image. On the other hand, when we learn the power of vulnerability and start to share our stories and fears with safe people, we notice our feelings of shame lessen. Shame convinces us to blame and defame other people in our lives, in order to temporarily mitigate our feelings of self-loathing.

But instead of staying stuck in our shame narratives, we can choose to exercise compassion towards others and ourselves. Shame leads us to build walls that keep us from connecting to others and knowing our own authentic self. Shame whispers to us that we are not enough and encourages us to numb our feelings of inadequacy through addictive behaviors. Seeking to tear down walls, by connecting to ourselves and others, is another means to dissolve the corrosive influence of shame.

My husband and I love to travel and we make several trips out West every year. We often stay at bed and breakfasts during our travels. During these trips, I have noticed a difference between the bed and breakfasts in the Western United States and the bed and breakfasts in the Southern United States. Southern bed and breakfasts remind me a lot of the Southern Living magazine. When I walk into a bed and breakfast in the South, everything is in perfect order. The breakfast is served on elegant china. The oriental rugs and antique furniture are pleasing to the eye. Nothing is out of order. But when we stay at a bed and breakfast out West, I have noticed that the coffee is usually served in ordinary mugs, instead of china. Everything feels more relaxed and there are often knick-knacks lying around that are not perfectly placed.

The perfection we seek in our Southern bed and breakfasts is an important metaphor for what it means to be a good Southern boy or girl. We are taught to hide the skeletons in our closet. We are encouraged to be perfect. Secrecy is our mantra in the South. We are not supposed to talk about certain things. If we are honest, there are stories in our family tree of affairs, prejudice, abuse, hoarding, mental illness, addiction and the list goes on. But the southern way is to hide these secrets. Unfortunately, our unwillingness to tell these stories is actually suffocating us and this perfection is symptom of our shame. Maybe if we are perfect, we will finally be enough.

But here’s the thing: perfection is elusive and it can lead you to be a hamster on a wheel that keeps spinning in fear, blame and disconnection. Being confined in this way not often leads not only to shame, but also to a daily life filled with addiction, anger, loneliness, anxiety and depression. But there is a better way. Initially, this way may feel scary and unsettling. But choosing vulnerability, compassion and connection will eventually lead us to embrace imperfection in ourselves and one another and can help us experience more joy, freedom, intimacy, peace and self-awareness. This way of life invites us to see and celebrate ourselves and one another. This pathway heartens us to own and dance with the skeletons in our closet. We have a choice to embark on the road of vulnerability, compassion and connection or to live in fear, blame and disconnection. Which road will we choose?

Let’s choose vulnerability, compassion and connection,

Christy

I originally wrote the article above for the Mountain Mirror. http://www.mountainmirror.com/

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Embracing our Imperfections

 

 

I have always loved watching the Olympics and in the Winter Olympics of 2014, I remember watching Maekala Shiffron when she almost fell on the second run down the mountain in the slalom event, but she somehow recovered from her near fall and went on to win a gold medal for the US. Whether we are watching ice skating, skiing or another sport, it is clear that even when someone wins the gold their performance is not faultless. The Olympic television announcers remind us of the athletes limitations, by pointing out their weaknesses as they dance on ice or ski down the hill. As Olympians, these athletes are the best in the world, and they are nearly perfect, but they are still are not flawless.

As I teen, I learned the Bible verse, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Because of this text, for a long time, I thought perfection was a goal I should pursue. My search for perfectionism left me feeling like a failure, because I was never able to even come close!  In this passage, the English “perfect” is translated from the Greek word τελειος, which actually means finished, whole or complete. In my early 20s, a professor taught me a closer Greek translation of this verse from Matthew 5 is, “Be whole, as your heavenly God is whole.” It was so liberating to hear an alternate version of this text, which reminds me I am on a journey of wholeness, instead of perfection.

The Gift of Imperfection, by Dr. Brene Brown, is one of my favorite books. In it, we are invited to embrace our humanity and love ourselves just as we are. The author shares that if we expect ourselves to perfect, we will never be good enough. However, if we bless our imperfections, we will become kinder and gentler with ourselves. Dr. Brown also reminds us, that in addition to blessing our own imperfections, we also need to accept others as we find them. I agree that it is very freeing when we learn the dance of offering ourselves and one another grace. We don’t have to be perfect and neither do others.

Brene Brown argues that going down the road of perfectionism is other-focused and leads to us constantly wondering, “What will they think?” Instead of this question she invites her reader to ask this self-focused question, “How can I improve?” She says, “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis.” Instead of striving to please others and be who they want us to be, we are invited to embrace ourselves and one another just as we are.

I practice yoga about six days a week. This practice helps me manage my anxiety because it invites me to enter the present moment, breath, listen to my body, offer compassion to myself and others and reminds me of the gift of imperfection on my mat. In my yoga practice, I have learned the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism. When I do a balance pose, I always remind myself to be kind and gentle with myself, and in my mind’s eye I am mindful that I don’t have to be perfect. I try my best not to judge myself or to worry about whether my fellow yogis are judging me.

When I am compassionate with myself, I have noticed it is easier to do the poses. When I wobble on my mat, I remind myself that it is okay to wobble off the mat too. My mistakes on and off my yoga mat are just what it means to be human. Yes, I will keep striving to improve and grow in the practice, but I have no desire to seek perfection in yoga or in life. Perfection leads to anxiety and depression, because it is intangible. On the other hand, to be whole, is to live in a way that knows I am already enough, loveable and worthy just as I am. Just as the Olympic athletes will not attain perfection, it is also elusive for us.

Take a moment to explore the following questions:

  • How does my perfectionism keep me from living my life?
  • What are some ways I strive to be perfect or good enough?
  • Do I make decisions because I want to please others?
  • Do I truly love and accept myself just as I am?
  • Do I tend to be hard on myself?
  • How can I be gentler with myself and others?

May we be on the journey of blessing our imperfections,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

 

40 & Fabulous: The Importance of Setting Intentions in Each Birthday Year

(The picture below is of the sash my friends had me wear this weekend!)

Today I have officially left my 30s and entered a new era. This weekend two of my girlfriends took me out to celebrate the BIG 40. During dinner they had me wear a black sash that said “40 and Fabulous.” My loving friends also created a time capsule for me of all the things I have accomplished in my 30s and they said I cannot open the time capsule again, until I hopefully reach the milestone of 50.

I am intentionally using the word hopefully because after 12 years of working in hospice, I am acutely aware of the fragility of life. Death is our fundamental vulnerability and we could allow this knowledge to leave us stuck in depression or this awareness could embolden us to live every day and even each moment to the fullest.

In the time capsule my dear friends made me, they put items that represent the way they perceive I have lived my 30s. The time capsule was in a plastic cat bag, because in my 30s I have become a devotee of felines. My brother has already made jokes about me being a “cat lady” and I love these little creatures so much that I am not afraid to own this title. Although to be fair, I only have 2 little kitties and not 20, but if my husband doesn’t help me set boundaries, I could easily get out of control.

When I opened up my cat bag time capsule I found:

  • A big pencil to signify my love of writing
  • A pair of socks that say, “I’m a Girl. What’s Your Super Power?”

SIDE NOTE: My girlfriends bought these socks because they see me as a strong woman and they also were impressed by how I responded when my husband and I bought a house together and the title agency sent a copy of the title in my husband’s name alone. Let’s just say the title agency received a kind but forthright letter reminding them this is the 21st century and not the early 1900s. 🙂

  • A Greek statue to celebrate me pursuing and obtaining a doctorate
  • A picture of a genie lamp with a heart emerging from it because they have nicknamed me the “love genie”

SIDE NOTE: I hope they named me this because they know how important loving others is to me, but I suspect they also did this because of my hopeless romantic nature. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I will watch a Hallmark movie every once in a blue moon and the predictable endings never get old to me.

  • A picture of an older man with a cane to represent my time serving hospice patients
  • A map to symbolize me traveling across the world
  • A dove that they said characterizes my hopeful and peaceful nature
  • A temporary tattoo to serve as a reminder of how yoga became imprinted into my mind, body and spirit in my 30s
  • A cross to denote my years in ministry serving as a chaplain and the importance of my faith
  • And a few other things to do with cats and the letters 40 with the words forty, fabulous and feisty written on the back  🙂

I was humbled and beyond grateful that my two friends celebrated me in such an extravagant way. Their reflection on the past ten years of my life left me thinking about how I want to spend the next ten years. In addition to giving me the time capsule, one of them gifted me by asking me what my intentions are for my 40th year. Both the time capsule and this question, left me ruminating on how I want to spend this year and the next ten years of my life.

When I was in my 20s, I read Parker Palmer’s important book, Let Your Life Speak. If you haven’t read this book I recommend it, because it emblazoned me to always be in a process of discerning who I want to be, so that my life does speak.

When my friend asked me my intentions for my 40th year, I rattled off a few answers, but after leaving the dinner I realized I needed to spend some more time reflecting on her question and so I wanted to offer to you 40 resolutions I have for my 40th year. But I also want this to be an opportunity for you to make your own list. In whatever year of your life you are living, who do you want to be? Why are you here on this earth?

  • 1) I will look for the beauty in others.

SIDE NOTE: The poet Rumi said, “The beauty you see in me is a reflection of you.”

  • 2) I will embrace my silly and playful side.
  • 3) I will practice gratitude and always be aware of all the gifts in my life.
  • 4) I will have a hope-filled disposition about the future.
  • 5) I will choose work and hobbies that are life-giving.

SIDE NOTE: Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that for what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

  • 6) I will slow down and rush less.
  • 7) I will eat and drive more mindfully.
  • 8) I will tune in to the divine presence that is with me on this journey.
  • 9) I will spend less time worrying and more time living.
  • 10) I will set boundaries by using the word no, so I can say yes to myself.
  • 11) I will nourish my mind by reading more.
  • 12) I will try my best to refrain from gossip and being critical of others. I will notice that when I speak ill of someone else, I am often speaking from a place of shame and insecurity.
  • 13) I will know deep within my spirit that I am enough and I don’t have to be perfect.

SIDE NOTE: Maya Angelou said, “You alone are enough. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone.” Also, if you have never read The Gift of Imperfection by Brené Brown, please put this on your reading list.

  • 14) I will offer empathy and recognize that people who hurt me are projecting some of their own pain onto me.

SIDE NOTE: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Ian MacClaren

  • 15) I will let myself off the hook when I make mistakes.
  • 16) I will seek to forgive others when they let me down.
  • 17) I will find more time to just be. The art of being is just as important as the art of doing.
  • 18) I will be more observant and look around me to intentionally notice the bunny rabbits, flowers, rainbows and created world.
  • 19) I will do everything in my power to achieve my goal to be a mom.
  • 20) I will play with my cats every day. They bring joy to my spirit.
  • 21) I will spend more time with children.

SIDE NOTE: Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

  • 22) I will try not to numb my pain through shopping or caregiving. (Guilty!)
  • 23) I will tell my truth and be vulnerable with safe people in my life.
  • 24) I will try to avoid triangles, and when it is possible, I will speak directly with someone if they have upset me.
  • 25) I will celebrate and encourage others.
  • 26) I will share with others my belief that we need an abundance of grace from God and we also need to give extravagant grace to ourselves and one another.
  • 27) I will not alienate myself from others because of differences, including religious and political ones.
  • 28) I will educate people about the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is about living compassionately, noticing our body, feelings and thoughts and staying in the present moment.
  • 29) I will try to not control others. It is much easier to live life when I seek only to control myself.

SIDE NOTE: Reinhold Niebuhr said, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

  • 30) I will set limits with myself and try not to over-function at home, in my family or in professional settings.
  • 31) I will always remember that living the questions is more important than having all the answers. We only see in part.

SIDE NOTE: Rilke said, “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

  • 32) I will do something to tend to my mind, body and spirit every day.

SIDE NOTE: Yoga is one of my favorite ways to fill my cup, because it is a spiritual, physical and emotional discipline.

  • 33) I will allow others to help me because the spirituality of receiving is just as important as the spirituality of giving.
  • 34) I will find silent spaces and spend time in meditation.

SIDE NOTE: There is a Native American proverb that says, “Listen to the silence…it speaks.”

  • 35) I will write more and keep exploring this newer spiritual discipline in my life.
  • 36) I will keep in touch with friends and family. Connection is good for the soul.
  • 37) I will embrace my grief and give myself permission to cry, be angry and vent when life lets me down.

SIDE NOTE: Shakespeare said, “The grief that does not speak whispers the distraught heart and bids it break.”

  • 38) I will be careful about how much I connect to technology and try to find more meaningful connections with myself and others.
  • 39) I will accept others just as I find them.

SIDE NOTE: Thomas Merton said, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

  • 40) I will find ways to practice generosity and offer my talents, time and resources.

What’s on your list? Who do you intend to be in this year and decade of your life? I encourage you to set aside some time today to reflect on your values. Who do you want to be? If I live out these 40 intentions, I know I will be 40 and fabulous, as it said on the sash my friends had me wear this weekend. In whatever year of life we find ourselves, may we live life compassionately, mindfully and abundantly.

May we live our years with purpose,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

How Celtic Spirituality Can Help Us Embrace the Miracle of Life

I originally wrote the article below for the Mountain Mirror. http://www.mountainmirror.com/

About 15 years ago, I lived in England and in my time there I was fortunate enough to make several trips to Ireland and Scotland, and in these countries I learned about Celtic spirituality. The Celts believe in seeing God’s hand in the hills, the sky, the sea, and the forests. The created world can bring us closer to the living God. In Celtic theology they speak of “thin places,” where the distance between heaven and earth seem thin.

For the Celts, the thin places are the spaces where we feel most connected to God and others. In a world that is becoming increasingly plugged into technology, but less connected to creation, loved ones, our inner experience, our bodies and the Divine, it seems very important to consider the Celts call to find thin places in our life. In these thin places we will find peace, healing, life and joy. Where do you experience thin moments?

The ocean is a renewing place for my soul. There is something about the sound of the waves that calms me and in the vastness of the sea I am reminded of a God who is even bigger than the ocean before me. Thin places are not necessarily a place, like the mountains or ocean, but instead they can be any space where we become our most authentic selves. My yoga practice is another calming and meditative place for me, where the distance between heaven and earth seems strangely thin. Where do you find peace for your soul?

Whether we are hiking, lifting our voices in song, praying, laughing with good friends, playing with a pet or holding a child, we all have places we experience a connection that is life-giving to our spirit. But this world is so full of distractions, and instead of taking the time to be with God and one another we choose busyness to numb our pain. And the result is that we have less light, love and creativity to give to the world, because we have not taken time for renewal.

The theologian Paul Tillich famously said, “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone, and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” In order to soften our loneliness we turn to alcohol, relationships, work, caregiving, affairs, shopping, exercise and social media. These are just a few ways we numb our emotional pain. We flee from the silence, instead of realizing how much we need to befriend it.

We live in a NASCAR paced world, but trying to keep the speed of Dale Earnhardt is wearing us out. When someone asks us how we are doing, the common cultural response is to tell others we are busy and tired. We are validated when our calendars are full and we are scheduling ourselves to death. And even when we have space in our schedule, most of us are so attached to our cell phones that we don’t allow little moments to just be and breathe. I catch myself checking my email and text messages more often than I would like to admit. Sometimes I have just checked the phone five minutes previously, and then out of boredom I am glancing at it again. But this faux intimacy with my phone is not life-giving.

Recently, I attended a 5 week meditation class. Each class was 75 minutes and since I have never practiced meditation for this long, I worried the time would start to drag. But stunningly, the class actually flew by and most of the time we surprisingly went over the designated 75 minutes. In one of the classes, our teacher assigned a free writing meditation. She invited us to write for seven minutes and we could not take our pen off the paper. If we were not writing, we were told to draw meditative circles, as a way to stay connected to the practice. As I participated in this exercise and put my pen to paper, I wrote about my exhaustion and recognition that I am not cultivating enough time for silence, space and quiet in my life.

The poet Rumi said, “Listen to the silence, it has much to say.” When I allow for silence and space in my life, I find creativity, answers, gratitude, love for myself and others, authentic feelings and peace. And when I find space to just be, I notice I have so much more to give others and am able to live in the present moment and to see the gifts that surround me.

But sometimes silence can be scary, especially if we have recently experienced trauma or grief. However, it can be very important to face this fear and to slowly step back into allowing ourselves moments of silence. If we never have moments of quiet introspection, we can lose our very self.

I often repeat to myself the moving words from Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God,” but learning the art of stillness is something that is increasingly tough for us. How often do we really take the time to just be in the present moment? The paradox is that when we slow down, we actually find life. We think a big house, fancy car or perfect outfit will bring us happiness. But joy is actually found in Celtic thin spaces, where the distance between heaven and earth becomes almost obsolete, because we are connecting to God, nature, hobbies, our self and beloved friends and family. As we live in the thin places, the world around us will start to come alive again and we will see the sun set, hear the birds tweet and see the beauty in one another. And as we find these thin places, we will once again touch the miracle of life.

Let’s find the moments where the distance between heaven and earth becomes strangely thin,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Learning to See Light in Ourselves and Others

I originally wrote the article below for the Mountain Mirror. http://www.mountainmirror.com/

While I was in a burrito restaurant waiting on a to-go order, a woman came in the establishment singing her heart out. She sounded so lovely, but as she sang, I was reminded how rare it is for people to have the courage to truly be who they are. I have noticed that the more comfortable I get in my own skin, the more apt I am to sing or dance in public to a catchy tune. But I have probably not ever had the audacity to sing as boldly, in a communal setting, as this woman did. As she sang, it was clear she felt a sense of liberation and freedom in her life. She was letting her light shine and being her true self.

As I stood in the restaurant with this woman, she continued to sing and I noticed she received some stares from others. No words were spoken, but as I noticed the dehumanizing glares, it was as if some people in the room were saying, “you are nuts.” In our modern day vernacular, we use words like crazy and weird to differentiate ourselves and validate our own sense of self, at the expense of others. But sadly, when we scowl, roll eyes or verbally put others down, we unconsciously diminish both their light and our own. How can we challenge our self to see the light in the family member, colleague, friend or stranger who gets under our skin?

I spoke with a friend this week who is leaving a job, and she shared with me she is making this difficult decision, because of the inability of her workplace colleagues to see her gifts and graces. She has such a compelling bright light, but a few of the people she has worked with have sadly had trouble seeing her beauty.

It is also painful when a family member, romantic partner, business associate or friend becomes estranged from us. The Facebook word, unfriend, means the removal of someone from a social media website, and this term was recently added to the dictionary. I am saddened by our growing tendency to abruptly cut off people because of differences of opinion, political persuasions or religious views. There certainly are times when it might be necessary to end a relationship, but our propensity to alienate ourselves from others is a symptom of the growing disconnection in our world. I feel like an important antidote to the separation in our world, is choosing to see the light in one another.

And even if someone has hurt us so much that we need to set strong boundaries with them to protect our self, I still believe it can be healing to look for the light and love that resides within them. I have noticed that when I see the light in others, it somehow nurtures them and cultivates the light within me.

Not only do we need to see the light in one another, but we need to speak words of life and light to others. We need to tell our colleagues, friends, and family the beauty we see in them. When I am encouraged by someone, it increases my capacity for light and life. I feel more confident and have more of a glow.  And likewise, when I encourage someone else, it strengthens my spirit and the candle in my heart burns brighter.

We also need to nurture the light within ourselves. When we take care of our own light, it becomes easier to cultivate the light in others. Our self-care practices and hobbies help us to shine like the sun. My self-care practices include traveling, hiking, yoga, antiquing, prayer, reading, date nights, writing and spending time with loved ones. How do you take care of the candle within your heart?

The poet Rumi said, “Deep in our hearts, the light of heaven is shining.” I believe if we will take time to rest in the Light of the One who created us, and if we nurture the light within ourselves and one another, we will experience more joy in life.  Maybe right now it feels like our light is barely flickering, but if we cultivate this light within us it can become the size of a bonfire.

I hope you know you have a light within you. I encourage you to take care of your light and go and shine it brightly. As we nurture our own light, let’s also be intentional to foster the light in others, in a way that allows them to authentically shine their light. Summer officially begins this month, and our days are filled with sun and light, but let’s ensure that are hearts are equally full of light.

Let’s see the light in one another,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health