Compassionate Circumstances

meditation heart

Circumstances often dictate our character, not our character is defaulted or flawed. Our character may be hindered by such conditions that we act in ways outside of our nature. This excerpt from Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence by Alex Katehakis and Tom Bliss reflects on circumstance from a compassionate viewpoint. It is a daily meditation to bring our awareness to and intent for more compassion for ourselves and to others. No one knows the exact circumstances anyone is under.

At the conclusion is a set of questions to journal about your personal circumstances and how they affect your life at this moment.

CIRCUMSTANCE

“I am tired of people saying that poor character is the only reason people do wrong things. Actually, circumstances cause people to act a certain way. It’s from those circumstances that a person’s attitude is affected followed by weakening of character. Not the reverse.”
~ Shannon L. Adler

The conditions we’re living in at any given moment color our perceptions of our own and others’ lives. We’re all born into unique circumstances, and cannot ever completely understand another’s situation, no matter the depth of love and intimacy shared. Details of our life partners and even our children conditions are not all known because every individual’s circumstance combines so many levels of life: material, emotional, mental, and spiritual. It always sounds a bit funny to hear people gossip about the personal lives of celebrities, as we seldom know the real-life situations of our friends and family, much less of people we’ve never met. In fact, we rarely know our own lives half the time. We’re continually faced with confounding circumstances that try our patience, perhaps giving us unending opportunities for spiritual refinement.

When it comes to the elements that set the stage for our lives at birth, we may wonder whether caregivers create or react to, a child’s personality. The dispute between nature versus nurture is longstanding but in recent years we’ve come to believe that a child is shaped by both. Perhaps all potential influences on us co-exist in a symbiotic state–a house of mirrors from personal to interpersonal to planetary. Ultimately one of the only knowable truths is your on circumstance, which includes your actions, as well as your perceptions. Perceiving that others suffer more or less than we suffer can be as much a part of our circumstance as the home we live in, the work we do, or the relationships we’ve built. May we hold a place of compassion for the circumstances of others, as we know from experience the over-riding importance of our own.

DAILY HEALTHY SEX ACTS

What are your current circumstances? List the first five that come to mind on a blank piece of paper. Now draw a circle, and create a pie chart to show the amount of “pie” each circumstance eats up in your life.
Did you list only material circumstances or did you include emotional or mental circumstances, too? How much do love, anger, grief, and other feelings emerge on any given day? Do you have dominant thoughts? How does your mindset inform your circumstance?
Reflect on the outer circumstances that indirectly affect your life–the perceivable circumstances of your lover, family, friends, community, and world. Do you recognize their circumstances as yours by association?

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8 Healthy Coping Skills for Strong Emotions

Emotions can be overwhelming. They can make us feel crazy and out of control. They can ruin our relationships and cause tremendous havoc.

There is a better way. Emotions don’t have to rule our world. We can learn to control our emotional state. It begins with understanding what emotions are, where they originate, how they affect us, and healthy ways we can manage them.

What are emotions?

Emotions are not our enemy. They are assets to tap into, nurture and put to good use. Emotions are physiological, cognitive, and behavioral responses to a personally significant event (http://www.apa.org/research/action/glossary.aspx). They are complex patterns of change that protect us from danger, ignite feelings of love, and indicate internal calm. Emotions provide valuable information. All we have to do is stop, notice and listen.

How do emotions function?

Emotions affect our body, mind and behavior. Emotions influence how we communicate and influence others. Emotions manage and motivate action. Emotions bring life and vigor to our thoughts and actions (http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/emotion_function.html).

Emotions Assess for Safety

When danger arises, we automatically react with flight, fight or freeze. We flee when we see an exit or an escape. We fight when trapped. We freeze when we have exhausted our efforts to fight or flee

Emotions Influence Memory

Emotions are attached to memories. When current events trigger unresolved past reminiscences, feelings are compiled.   We not only respond to the current event but also the past.

This behavior is typical. Our reaction is signaling that we have past trauma or abuse. We are responding to all the thoughts and feelings aroused by our history ignited in the present.

Knowing this helps to understand our current emotional intensity. With understanding, compassion is possible. We can soothe our thoughts and feelings. Self-compassion is number one for coping with intense emotions.

8 Coping-Skills to Manage Emotions

  1. Self-CompassiHelp to Manage Emotionson

Self-compassion is a matter of relating. When we can relate, understand, and feel the difficulties of another, we can translate the same experience to our self.

Compassion is not about pity. It is a desire to help from a place of kindness and understanding. It is the ability to recognize without judgment or ridicule when others fail, make mistakes, and show imperfections. Compassion recognizes that we all have faults, make slip-ups, and possess limitations. It is part of our shared human experience.

Self-compassion is taking the same attitude toward others and giving it to our self. Just as we listen and empathize with our friend who lost their job, relative who had surgery or stranger homeless on the street, we can transfer those same nurturing thoughts and feelings to our self.

  1. Nurture

We can get out of our head by nurturing and socializing with others. Problems are distracted when we tend to children, friends, and relatives. By occupying our minds and lending a hand to someone else, we help ourselves. What could be more rewarding than that?

Developing and maintaining social alliances lowers stress. When we interact with those we care for, Oxytocin is released.   Oxytocin is a hormone that naturally calms.

Sharing our feelings with those we trust can help to normalize and validate emotions while helping to get out of isolation and see other perspectives.

  1. Notice the Breath

Becoming aware of our breathing helps assess our feelings. For example, when we breathe shallowly we may be feeling anxious. When we are breathing deeply into our abdomen, we may notice we are feeling calm or restful. Observing our breath at the moment gives us indicators as to how we feel.

We have control to deepen and slow down our breath. Paying attention to the location of our full inhale and exhale gives the opportunity to change our state of mind. We can choose to take a deep breath and breathe in our abdomen. Abdomen breathing calms a racing pulse and scattered mind.

Observing the muscles especially around the shoulders, neck and jaw may also give us a gauge into how we are feeling. If our muscles feel tight, we can choose to move around, stretch, and relax any tight areas.

Using our imagination to visualize the tension flowing out with our breath as we relax any tense muscles can have a tremendous effect on our mood.

  1. Visualize

Sometimes when we are flooded with feelings, it can be difficult to manage. It may be helpful to think of a calming visualization when we are calm. Thus, we have a tool from our toolbox we can resort to in times of stress.

Here is an idea, try putting emotional pain in a treasure chest. We can bury our treasure chest of emotions for the time being and come back to them when we have time to give them our full attention. It is important to make time for our feelings. They need acknowledgment, validation, and nurture just like a crying child. By tending to our emotions, we are caring for our self.

  1. Take a Break 

Sometimes we just need to pause for a moment. There are times when it is not appropriate or convenient to express intense emotions. During these incidences, it is best to excuse our self for a few minutes.

Try saying, “I need a moment to get my thoughts together. I’ll be back in ten minutes.” Make sure to return at the time indicated. Following through with your word ensures trust and reliability.

Taking the time to calm down and compose our thoughts and feelings, gives us a moment to think clearly.   We can then determine the best approach for expressing our self and finding solutions that are agreeable to all.

  1. Write

Writing can be extremely useful. Studies showed that survivors of traumatic events lowered their distress levels significantly by journaling.

Transforming thoughts and feelings ruminating in our mind to paper helps to stop the spiral. When we are in the thick of things, our thoughts manifest and continue in a downward twist. Externalizing them in a journal gives us the opportunity to clarify what we are thinking and feeling. It is valuable to practice self-compassion and validation when writing.

Closing our journal can also be symbolic. We are physically putting away our distressing feelings and letting go from the upsetting event.

  1. Speak Up

It is important to speak up when an issue is bothersome. Otherwise, we build up resentment. Built up anger causes us to lash out and nitpick at the tiniest of incidences.

It is most effective to think about the problem and clarify our position. It is at times like these to step away, breathe, and formulate a plan of action. We are then able to voice our concerns with an even tone and clarity.

Changes in our relationships are a process. It takes time to adjust to a new way of thinking and behaving. Impulsive confrontation never results in positive outcomes. With practice, talking about what bothers us becomes easy.

  1. Feelings are Temporary 

Emotions are like waves in the ocean. They are always moving and changing. It may be helpful to remind our self that we have not always felt this way. This too shall pass.

Think of previous times when intense emotions were felt. Remember that they eventually faded. Knowing they are temporary can help to begin the process to feeling better.

It may be useful to use a visualization of the ocean. Associate each wave with an emotion. Watch how each emotion moves through the continuum of the water, builds with momentum, crashes on the shore, and then washes away into the sand and current.

Taking time to acknowledge what we are feeling and understanding intense emotions are temporary can help calm a turbulent sea.

Managing our emotions becomes easy with practice. If we recognize the full range of feelings from fear, anger, sadness, and depression to happiness, inspiration, peace, and love, we can use them to protect our self and balance negative experiences. We can make the most of our emotions by opening our mind and utilizing healthy ways to manage them. Choosing what techniques work best for us in the situation is optimal.   We can learn to stabilize an out of control state of mind.

Exercise for Thought

Getting to know our emotions helps us to decide how we want to act rather than act. We can learn more about our feelings by keeping an emotion diary. Choose without judgment the strongest, longest lasting or most difficult or painful feelings. Describe the prompting event and the response in body, mind, and behavior.

Forgiveness – A Crucial Component of Step 9 in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.Forgiveness is a process and a choice.  It is the opportunity to untie the bindings of your pain from the past.   As part of the course of action, forgiveness involves confronting your fears and compassion to allow yourself time to physically and emotionally heal.  Exposing yourself to persons, surroundings, or objects that you fear offers the opening to have a corrective experience.  You are able to reorganize your memories and repair those recollections.

For example, as a child you may have experienced being attacked by a Rottweiler.  You were not physically hurt but the immediate threat startled you.  As a result you froze.  This is a natural fear response.   The terror was never discussed by your family or friends.  Thus the thoughts and emotions were not processed and disorganized memories formed.  Avoiding the discussion of the incident caused your fears to worsen.  Unprocessed feelings transform to generalized fears and all or nothing thinking.  Consequently you became fearful of all dogs and avoidant of the neighborhood where the attack occurred.

By exposing yourself to another Rottweiler that doesn’t attack gives the opportunity for a remedial and healing experience.  Difficult memories are allowed to surface.  The thoughts and emotions that were once suppressed can now be processed.   Processing gives way to reorganizing your memories.  You learn that not all Rottweilers show aggression.  You broaden your capacity for more knowledge and understanding.  All Rottweilers don’t attack.  There are some aggressive dogs and others that are very loving.  Black and white thinking transforms to accepting that Rottweillers and all animals have trustworthy and safe parts and some that are not.  For example, a cat that was once abused as a kitten associates touch as a threat.  Thus when you pet him, he bites.  As long as you don’t pet the cat, he is kind and playful.  Animals and experiences are complex and make up many parts not just good or bad.

The same is true for people.  Most parents, loved ones, and friends do not intentionally try to hurt you.  The hurtful behavior that was endeared was taught and passed down from their parents.  As a child, you have no choice but to tolerate the emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.  You are completely dependent upon your caretakers for safety and protection in whatever capacity they can.  Thus you learn to protect yourself, suppress your emotions, and tolerate abuse.  The abuse continues until you learn that as an adult you have a choice on what to tolerate.  You can now tune into your emotions and express them in a healthy manner.  As an adult you can courageously choose and confront those in your cycle of abuse.  You can choose to forgive.

The persons on your list from Step four are participants of the cycle of abuse.   By respectfully approaching those on your list, you may be able to have an open discussion, grasp a better understanding from their perspective, explain yours, and possibly heal old wounds.  All participants must be willing to have an open mind and to listen and speak compassionately from the heart.  It is possible to heal hurt with positive, respectful dialogue.  As you both come to a new understanding, unresolved emotions are replaced with restored, transformative memories to a place of forgiveness and healing.

Random Acts of Kindness

Change the world with kindnessKindness is defined by Encarta Dictionary as the ability to behave kindly; the practice of being or the tendency to be sympathetic and compassionate; an act that shows consideration and caring.

Kindness is contagious. One simple act of kindheartedness starts with one. Just that one gesture encourages another to follow and then so on and so on. Before you know all those around you are being kind and courteous to each other. What a glorious sight to envision. And it all started with just one.

I saw firsthand the evidence of an act of kindness by a good friend who bought two round-trip, un-named, and un-dated airline tickets to India. He became friendly with the owners of the dry cleaners in his building and over time learned their son moved back to India. They hadn’t seen him in 2 years or so and didn’t have the money to make the expensive trip from New York.

Several weeks passed and a Fed-ex package arrived on their doorstep. They were overjoyed with the surprise and thoughtfulness of his gift. Even though my friend is no longer alive, his memory remains as one of the most loving and caring men I have known.

From that one tremendous act of kindness, the parents were able to rejoice with their son in India and pass along the good fortune. We all can’t afford such a luxurious gift. It can be as simple as a smile. A Swedish research study concluded that it is very difficult to frown when someone is smiling at you. With a sincere smile the brain releases dopamine the same neurotransmitter that helps alleviate depression, Parkinson’s Disease, and Attention Deficit Disorder. Thus smiling contributes to internal peace and well-being. Bringing a smile to another in return makes you smile.

For tweens, creating random acts of kindness benefits the giver by gaining friends, increasing feelings of happiness and well-being, and popularity among peers, higher academic achievement, and more positive behavior and less bullying.

After covering the Newton, Conn., tragedy NBC News’ Ann Curry tweeted, ‘commit to doing one act of kindness for every child killed?’ People responded around the country and increased Curry’s request to 26 acts of kindness for every child and adult killed at the school. People were inspired to keep a tally of generosity on Facebook and encouraged others to follow.

From children at school to adults’ personal well-being, the benefits of random acts of kindness are astounding.

• Reduce bullying by teaching children to be givers of kindness
• Increase feelings of happiness and well-being
• Improve friendships
• Gives meaning and purpose to life
• Greater connection
• It just feels good

Like a spiral affect, one small act encourages another and then another. The power of one act of kindness inspires, nurtures, gives hope, confidence, and motivates others to take a similar course of action. The idea of random of kindness is so powerful that a foundation was created and dedicated to providing resources and tools that encourage acts of kindness. Check out http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/

References

Kristin Layous, S. Katherine Nelson, Eva Oberle, Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl, Sonja Lyubomirsky. Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (12): e51380 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051380

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moment-youth/201301/acts-kindness-key-happiness-children-teens?goback=%2Egde_2053471_member_200549162

http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness_love_smile_thank_donate_joy_nice_listen_do_lend

Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect

By Brené Brown

The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting, but as hard as we try, we can’t turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like “Never good enough” and “What will people think?”

Why, when we know that there’s no such thing as perfect, do most of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone? Is it that we really admire perfection? No — the truth is that we are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect.

We get sucked into perfection for one very simple reason: We believe perfection will protect us. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.

We all need to feel worthy of love and belonging, and our worthiness is on the line when we feel like we are never ___ enough (you can fill in the blank: thin, beautiful, smart, extraordinary, talented, popular, promoted, admired, accomplished).

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.

Living in a society that floods us with unattainable expectations around every topic imaginable, from how much we should weigh to how many times a week we should be having sex, putting down the perfection shield is scary. Finding the courage, compassion and connection to move from “What will people think?” to “I am enough,” is not easy. But however afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this:

What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think — or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?

So, how do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections and to recognize that we are enough — that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy? Why we’re all so afraid to let our true selves be seen and known. Why are we so paralyzed by what other people think? After studying vulnerability, shame, and authenticity for the past decade, here’s what I’ve learned.

A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.

There are certainly other causes of illness, numbing, and hurt, but the absence of love and belonging will always lead to suffering.

As I conducted my research interviews, I realized that only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it. That one thing is the belief in their worthiness. It’s as simple and complicated as this:

If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.

The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. Worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites.

So many of us have created a long list of worthiness prerequisites:

• I’ll be worthy when I lose 20 pounds

• I’ll be worthy if I can get pregnant

• I’ll be worthy if I get/stay sober

• I’ll be worthy if everyone thinks I’m a good parent

• I’ll be worthy if I can hold my marriage together

• I’ll be worthy when I make partner

• I’ll be worthy when my parents finally approve

• I’ll be worthy when I can do it all and look like I’m not even trying

Here’s what is truly at the heart of whole-heartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.

Letting go of our prerequisites for worthiness means making the long walk from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.” But, like all great journeys, this walk starts with one step, and the first step in the Wholehearted journey is practicing courage.

The root of the word courage is cor — the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.

Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics are important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.

Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. If we want to live and love with our whole hearts and engage in the world from a place of worthiness, our first step is practicing the courage it takes to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are. It doesn’t get braver than that.