compassion

Election Aftermath

In the election this week, the popular vote was split down the middle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

 

We have seen Trump supporters cheering and Hillary supporters crying.

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Photo courtesy Getty Images

 

I have friends and family who are Trump supporters. I know them to be good people and they truly believe that he is the answer to get this country back on track.

 

I also have friends and family who are Hillary supporters. They are also good people who feel the country is on the right track and they believe Donald Trump will derail it.

 

Our country is truly divided right now but it’s not the first time.

 

According to Ron Chernow’s book, Hamilton, this has been the case in America since its inception. Even the founding fathers didn’t agree on everything.

 

That’s what makes our country great.

 

Photo courtesy of Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Photo courtesy of Matt Rourke/AP Photo

We are allowed the freedom to debate our beliefs and ideas.

 

But who’s right and who’s wrong? They are both right and wrong.

 

No one person or group has the right to push their ideology on others. I know I get angry and resentful the minute someone tells me how I should be living my life.

 

All of us, not just our representatives, need to start listening to each other. We need to stop talking, get our anger in check and start trying to understand our fellow human beings. Especially those whose opinions are different than ours.

 

I believe we are more alike than we are different.

 

Most of us want to make a decent living, have access to affordable healthcare, raise our families in a safe environment, and enjoy the freedoms that this country was founded on.

 

And, each side has a different idea of how to get there.

 

The founders of this country knew that compromise needed to be part of the solution. The art of compromise is that neither party walks away totally happy but they are each able to live with the deal at hand.

 

Hamilton the musical is based on Ron Chernow's book by the same name

Hamilton the musical is based on Ron Chernow’s book

 

One of those deals is what landed our capitol in Washington DC.

 

Try this today, stop talking and be curious about someone who is different than you. Ask questions and listen, really listen.

 

Practice looking for common ground and for a way to create a win-win.

 

This is how we make our relationships, work places and nation great!

Stopping The Violence

Photo credit beatricebiologist.com

Photo credit beatricebiologist.com

With the rash of shootings and violence going on in the Rochester area, our country and around the world, it’s hard not to be scared these days.

 

Living in a small town, it’s easy to turn off the TV and say “I don’t want to think about this because it doesn’t effect me.”

 

Or “I’ll just ignore it and it will go away.”

 

Or even, “I don’t want to think about this because there is nothing I can do.”

 

However, I know I need to do something, but what?

 

According to an expert on peace and nonviolence, Arun Gandhi, “The world is what we have made it. If we change ourselves we can change the world, and changing ourselves begins with changing our language and methods of communication.”

 

Arun learned from his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, that violence occurs everywhere. We may think we live in a world where violence can’t touch us if we only focus on physical violence. I know I feel pretty safe in my neighborhood and in most places I travel.

 

Photo credit frombulliedtobrilliant.com

Photo credit frombulliedtobrilliant.com

 

However, Arun Gandhi states in Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, that there is a more insidious form of violence, “passive” violence.

 

This takes the form of speaking to or treating others disrespectfully, name calling, bullying, even eye rolling.

 

Any act where it causes an emotional hurt is an act of “passive” violence.

 

For example, a nasty or hurtful Tweet or post. Mocking someone’s appearance. Rolling your eyes when someone says something stupid.

 

I remember being picked on as kid and complaining to my mom. Her advice was to just ignore it and the kids will stop. She was right but it took a while. I can still feel the anger and frustration I felt sitting in silence on the bus as some boys told me how fat and ugly I was.

 

And it doesn’t just happen to us as kids. Fast forward 35 years and there I am again, sitting in a boardroom having insults thrown at me by a superior.

 

The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” is BS!

 

Gandhi explained that “passive violence ultimately generated anger in the victim who, as an individual or as a member of a collective, responded violently. In other words, it is passive violence that fuels the fire of physical violence.”

 

With all of the hate speech and negativity being thrown around in the political arena, there has been plenty of fuel being added to the fire lately.

 

Could it be helping to create the homegrown violence in our country? I believe 100% YES!

 

We all need to get: Words are powerful.

 

What we are doing is NOT working. The answer is not more police. The answer is not meeting violence with violence.

 

“Be dominated by love, respect, understanding, appreciation, compassion, and concern for others rather than the self-centered and selfish, greedy, hateful, prejudiced, suspicious, and aggressive attitudes that dominate our thinking.”  Arun Gandhi

 

It is not our job to try and fix what everyone else is doing. It is our job to be sure WE are doing the right thing.

 

What can you do to stop passive violence?
~ Stop, take a breath and think before you speak, act or respond to someone.
~ Ask yourself, “How can I respond with kindness and respect?” (Sometimes the best response is no response)
~ Give yourself permission to take a time out, if needed. Step away, collect yourself and then go back to “How can I respond with kindness and respect?”

 

In my case, I had to leave the toxic situation I was in. Fortunately, I had the love and support of my family and friends and a great therapist to help me sort through the anger, hurt and betrayal I felt. Not everyone has the support or tools to handle those difficult feelings.

 

Courtesy of keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Photo credit keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

 

Imagine what would be possible if we all practiced treating others with kindness and respect.

 

I try and meet each person with kindness and respect because I know how it feels when met with the opposite. And most times, people return the favor.

 

Kindness and respect creates connection and makes for a much more peaceful and productive world.

 

When it is not returned, I give myself permission to take myself out of the toxic space.  I practice choosing to “go high when others go low” (Thank you Michelle Obama!).

 

We will only stop the out of control violence in our world by knowing that what we say and how we treat others matters just as much as physically injuring someone.

 

We CAN make a difference. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

 

Go to MK Gandhi Center for Nonviolence for more information.

Also read Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, to learn more about nonviolent communication.

Retribution VS Rehabilitation

Photo credit PBS.org

Photo credit PBS.org

As a volunteer for the program, Step By Step, I helped facilitate workshops for women in jail. The workshop leader and I were there to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space for these women. It was an opportunity for them to open up and be seen.

 

A majority of the women in jail have experienced physical, verbal and emotional abuse. Many said that this was the first time they could express their feelings without consequence.

 

It’s programs like Step By Step that show people who are incarcerated that they matter and there is hope. Hope of stopping the cycle of abuse, poverty, addiction and jail.

 

But programs like Step By Step are few and most (Step By Step included) are grossly underfunded.

 

Bill Whitaker reports in the CBS 60 Minutes segment entitled Crime And Punishment, “We (the US) have 5% of the world’s population but 25% of its prisoners.”

 

He also states that we incarcerate more of our nation’s citizens than any other country in the world at a cost of $80 billion per year.

 

According to a report by the National Justice Institute,

the US has 5 times the number of prisoners than Britain and 9 times more than Germany.

 

But is our prison system working?

 

A 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that 56% of prisoners released were rearrested in the first year. That number jumps to 67% by the third year and 76% by 5 years.

US prison cell. Photo credit: Just One Film/The Image Bank/Getty Images

US prison cell.
Photo credit: Just One Film/The Image Bank/Getty Images

 

That means that over 3/4 of the people released from prison today will be back in prison within 5 years.

 

Our prison system does not work.  If it is not changed, we will continue to have a growing criminal population and debt to go along with it.

 

Currently society sees people who commit crime as disposable. We put people in jail and forget about them because it doesn’t seem to effect us.

 

In some cases, we treat animals better than we treat those who commit crime.

 

“I don’t matter” is the message a lot of prisoners have gotten all of their lives and our current system reinforces that.

 

Germany uses a different approach to incarceration. They focus on treating prisoners as human beings and they work to rehabilitate them.

Photo credit: Reuters/Alexandra Beier

German prison cell. Photo credit: Reuters/Alexandra Beier

 

Joerg Jesse is a state Director of Prisons in Germany. He says of prisoners,

 

“If you treat them as if they are your enemy, they will react as enemies.”

 

In Germany, they create personalized programs for each prisoner that includes counseling, classes, vocational training and work.

 

As the prisoners work their program, they earn more and more freedom.

 

The results? Germany spends less and they have 1/2 the recidivism rate of the US.

 

Is it a perfect system, of course not. But it is working better than our current system.

 

John Wetzel, the Secretary of Corrections in Pennsylvania, says:

“…we’ve– frankly screwed up the corrections system for 30 years and it’s time to do something different. It really starts with understanding that, you know, a human being’s value isn’t diminished by being incarcerated.”

 

We need to wake up and see that what we are doing is not working.

What’s it going to take to change this?

 

We begin by treating criminals like human beings.

 

Instead of meeting them with anger and retribution, guide them with a strong hand of love and rehabilitation.

 

Redirect them to a road other than the path of destruction (for them and society) they are currently on.

 

Ultimately, we have two choices, we can do nothing and continue to watch crime rates, our debt and prison populations grow.

 

Or we can start a dialogue to let go of the old mindset of “lock them up and throw away the key” and embrace the change needed to make a difference for everyone.

 

I witnessed first hand, women who came through the Step By Step program, did the work, and changed their lives and the lives of their children forever.

 

It’s time to stop retribution and reform our prisons. Rehabilitation that includes counseling, education and programs similar to Step By Step are the key to transforming not only our prison system but our communities, society and ultimately the world.

Uncomfortably Numb

My Favorite Novocaine

My Favorite Novocaine

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to a client, “Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just want to be expressed…”

I’ve wasted so much time numbing myself with food because I didn’t want to deal with certain thoughts and emotions.

I use food to help me relax and even celebrate making it through the day. It’s as if it helps me take a deep breath and relax.

Of course, I know better.

When I am in my “I can eat anything I want whenever I want” mode, it isn’t long before I’m numbing my anger, shame, sadness, frustration, boredom, overwhelm etc… and packing on the LB’s.

Then I use even more food to try and feel better. It’s a set up for disaster.

The thing about numbing emotions is that we can’t pick and choose which ones to numb.

When we numb one emotion, we numb them all.

We numb our emotions with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping or today’s most popular numbing activity, being crazy-busy.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown says, “…research taught me that there’s no such thing as selective emotional numbing. There is a full spectrum of human emotions and when we numb the dark, we numb the light… We can’t make a list of all of the “bad” emotions and say, “I’m going to numb these” and then make a list of the positive emotions and say, “I’m going to fully engage in these!”

When I numb myself with food, alcohol or busyness, I feel like my world is painted gray.

It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t really enjoy what I’m eating because if everything I eat is special then nothing is special. Do you get what I mean?

As soon I stopped using food to numb my feelings and dull my thoughts, I began to feel and hear everything that I didn’t want to deal with. It was uncomfortable but I survived.

I started by not judging myself. I began meditating again so I could practice separating who I know myself to be from the thoughts in my head.

Choosing to run away from my thoughts and feelings, comes at a cost.

India Arie’s song, Break The Shell, talks about this. She says, “life’s gonna hurt but it’s meant to be felt…” because “we have a choice to live or truly be alive…”

In order to truly be alive, I have to break the shell that I put up to keep the pain away.

Lat Saturday night, we went to a dinner party and the food was amazing! I ate everything I wanted, even a bite of the homemade ooey-gooey, chocolatey, butter and sugar-filled Paula Deen brownies that our hostess made.

I took a bite and savored it. Did I want more?

Hell yes! But I knew that another bite was not going to taste as good as that first bite.

I have a ways to go before I reach my goal but I’m learning that overcoming my issue with food and my weight (and any other issue) starts with looking at what’s going on inside of me, not judging it.  Then I can give myself permission to feel it all.

What is your favorite way to numb yourself?  What is it you’re not allowing yourself to feel?

Pets Who Inspire

IMG_0240(Julie and I having some fun in the sun)

I am often inspired not only by people but by animals as well. This week I want to share with you a human who uses her dog to inspire people.

I’d like you to meet Julie. She and I met about ten years ago when we worked together. She was someone with whom I felt an instant connection.  Even after we no longer worked together, we kept in touch.

What inspires me most about Julie is her spirit. She has a certain kind of joy and energy that lights up any room she walks into.

Although Julie has suffered her share of trials and tribulations, you would never know it to meet her. She always has a smile and a word of encouragement for anyone she meets.

One thing that strengthened our bond was our mutual love for animals. We’re always sharing funny stories about our pets.

Julie talked about writing a blog that tells of the adventures she has with her dog, Cocoa. She told me about the blogs that she followed and that she would really like to be able to inspire others. She also talked about the good she could do by spotlighting animal rescues and just bringing animal lovers together.

Good news! Julie recently pulled the trigger and started sharing her stories. Take a look at Julie and Cocoa’s fun here at CocoaBeanAdventures.com.

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I can’t imagine my life without animals. I have told my kids that if they ever have to put me in a home, to please find one that has a resident dog or cat or one that allows them to bring their dogs or cats to visit.

The two animals who currently let us live with them are our daughter’s cats, our grand kitties, Olivia and Cocoa (yes, another Cocoa).

Olivia and Cocoa came out of an abusive situation. Olivia dealt with the abuse by lashing out and fighting. When she first came to live with us, she was so angry, I was sure she might try to kill us in our sleep!

Cocoa was the opposite. She was extremely timid and found safety hiding behind the dryer. It took months for her to let us near her and even longer before we could touch her.

We allowed both of them to be who they were and did not push ourselves on them.  There were many days that I would just look at them and tell them they were good kitties and that I loved them so much.

Slowly they began to mellow until one day, Olivia allowed us to pet her without fear of losing a hand. And we were ecstatic on the day that Cocoa jumped into my husband’s lap. What a sweet sound to hear this little kitty purr for the first time!

Olivia still has an attitude but she has turned into a loving, gentle cat.

IMG_0064(Olivia chilling out)

And now Cocoa spends most evenings purring in my lap.

IMG_0007

(Cocoa loves being a lap cat even without a lap!)

These two kitties have taught me that patience plus love heals even the deepest wounds.

Who are the people and the animals who inspire you? What have they taught you?

Changing The World One Step At A Time

 

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This week I am inspired by women who are following their bliss and making a real difference in the world and am grateful to be a contributor to the Fall Issue of Get Real magazine​.

Changing The World One Step At A Time, tells my experience of the first time I went into the Monroe County Jail as a volunteer with the Step By Step program. It is not only a tribute to the organization but to the work of Sally Kohler, the workshop facilitator, who tirelessly works to lift up women who have fallen.

Click this link Get Real Magazine Fall 2015 and download to read my article and be inspired by all the amazing articles and photos.

Thank you to Brenda Steffon​, Melissa Pletscher-Nizinsky and Julia Kracke for creating such a beautiful, inspiring magazine. You and your staff have created excellence on these pages and I am honored to be a small part.

Who are the women that inspire you? Now go and let them know the difference they have made in your life. #liveinspired

 

Women Inspiring Change Retreat

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*THIS RETREAT IS SOLD OUT! IF YOU DIDN’T MAKE IT TO THIS ONE, CHECK BACK FOR WHEN THE NEXT REGISTRATION OPENS UP.*

Join us on August 23rd, for this full-day retreat designed to help you learn how to live your best life! We will explore ways to shift our common belief that taking care of ourselves is selfish. We will uncover what is truly in the way of you making positive changes in your life.
Come and learn how to take good care of your greatest asset, you.

Located on 135-acres, the beautiful and serene Chapin Mill Retreat Center will thrill your senses and ignite your imagination.

During this day long retreat, you will:

  • be led through exercises designed to uncover what’s keeping you from making lasting positive change
  • discover who you really are and how to use this to create transformative change
  • learn and practice yoga asana (movement) appropriate for everybody, and pranayama (intentional breath work) in order to manage stress and harness optimal energy
  • explore stillness and deep relaxation to refresh and revitalize yourself
  • uncover what foods are keeping you addicted and hijacking your weight loss efforts
  • get tips on how improving your digestion can lead to weight loss and increased energy
  • learn how to make smoothies and juices that taste great, are easy to make and can easily be incorporated into your daily routine

Imagine a safe and welcoming place where you can get your questions answered and learn simple, effective ways to create a body and life you will love! You will also be served a delicious and nutritious breakfast, lunch and filling snacks throughout the day. Enjoy superfood smoothies (demos and recipes just for you), delightful salads, yummy detox juices, homemade almond cherry bliss protein bars and other great snacks to keep you fueled all day.
Our Retreat facilitators are:
Linda Heeler, Professional Certified Coach, Meet Linda
Christine Porter, Certified Health + Wellness Coach, Meet Christine
Mary Aman, Master Yoga Instructor, Meet Mary
These women will bring their talents and expertise to guide you as you begin your journey toward positive change in your life.
Cost for this day long retreat is $247
Registration closes on August 18th.
To register, go to PeaceAndPear.com

The Secret To Happiness? Be Sad

Inside-Out-Q&A-Joy-Sadness

I hear  people saying that in order to be happy, we just need to do positive affirmations and let go of negativity. I say the exact opposite.

In order to be happy, be sad. Let me explain.

The new movie Inside Out is geared towards children but I think it’s a movie everyone should see, adults included.

Without giving too much away, the movie focuses on a little girl named Reilly and how she deals with her emotions. There are characters that represent the emotions of joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fear.

In the beginning of the movie, each time Sadness tries to take over, Joy is there to push her away.

I did this for years.

I tried everything to make sadness go away because I thought something was wrong with me if I wasn’t happy all the time. I tried pushing it down, denying it, resisting it. I tried talking myself out of it by doing positive affirmations.

You’ve heard the saying “What we resist, persists?”  That is exactly what happened.

Before I knew it, I wasn’t just sad, I was depressed.

There were times when I felt like a deep dark hole was opening up and swallowing me. All I wanted to do was check out of life and sleep.

Then, after a while, I would begin to feel better and come out of it. (Those who have that hole swallow them up and don’t come out,  need to seek professional help)

When we resist feeling any emotion, it causes a reaction.

Shame and vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown, compiled data that showed we cannot numb one emotion without numbing all of our emotions.

Basically, by not allowing ourselves to feel and process our sadness, we are not able to experience true joy.

In our society, it often seems unacceptable to express sadness. We can feel we need to put on a happy face and act like we’ve got it all together.

When we do that, our sadness festers and ends up coming out in other ways. It can manifest itself as depression, illness or destructive behavior such as addiction.

Or we could have an outburst and explode when we have reached our limit.

However, by acknowledging and experiencing our emotions and talking to an empathetic person, we will find that sadness or any emotion leaves as fast as it came.

This is what happened to little Reilly. Once she allowed herself to talk to her parents about her sadness, it opened the door to true connection as well as letting Joy once again be a part of her life.

The real lesson here is that emotions are not right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. We all have them and all they simply want is to be expressed.

What about those positive affirmations? It is unhealthy and unrealistic to expect ourselves to be happy all the time. If we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, then we can use positive affirmations or gratitude to reconnect with hope and faith.  That way we won’t end up wallowing in negativity.

What emotion are you currently not allowing yourself to experience? Who is your go-to person when you need empathy?

If you are open to it, practice allowing difficult feelings, share with an empathy buddy and see what happens. I bet you’ll be amazed at how much happier you will be when you allow your emotions to just be.

Stop The Drama

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How many times have you let yourself be taken advantage of or sucked into someone else’s drama just because you didn’t want to come off as cold or worse, the “b” word?

This was the case with a client who was wondering how to deal with someone in their life who was being self-destructive. She stated that her friend was not only hurting themselves but those around them.  Many of their family and friends had gotten so irritated or resentful with how her friend was behaving they stopped having contact with them.

My client didn’t want that to happen to her but she could feel the irritation and resentment beginning to creep in. She did not want to lose the friendship they had built over the years but she also knew she needed to honor herself.

There are two things we can do so that we don’t feel taken advantage of and get sucked into other people’s drama.

  1. Put a “hedge of protection” around you. In order to not take on the other person’s emotions or negativity, putting up this barrier protects us. But we also have to make it so that our love and compassion can pass through the hedge to them. This is not a physical barrier of any kind it is simply a mental awareness that if we are down in the muck and mire with them then we are no good to anyone.
  2.  Surrender. This does not mean to give up. It means hand them over to their higher power. They are on their path and we are not responsible for the choices they make. Don’t try to change them. If someone is a danger to themselves or others, then by all means, contact the authorities, get them professional help.  However, it is not your job to “fix” someone else’s life. You are there to love and support them if they want it but be sure they are driving their life, not you.

A few years ago, I had a friend who often wouldn’t show up when we had made plans. I loved her and I knew this was not her but this was  her pattern. Connection was something she struggled with.

This pattern led other people in her life to get angry and stop contacting her. I could feel that beginning with me as well. I realized I could not change her so I knew I had to be the one to change.

I told her that I was not going to show up for any meeting with her unless she confirmed with me the day before. A few times we had a date planned and when I didn’t hear from her, I simply sent her a text telling her that I would not be there and that when she wanted to try again, just let me know.

Because of this, I was able to let go of my resentment and not feel taken advantage of. I chose to honor myself as well as my friend. We now have a great relationship and she lets me know when she can’t make our coffee dates.

What relationships have left you feeling resentful, taken advantage of or gotten sucked into the drama?  Right now, how can you practice surrendering and putting up your hedge of protection with those people?

 

Chutzpah & Heart

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I sat listening to a friend who was recounting a meltdown she had recently. Someone had pushed her buttons and suddenly, she found herself saying things she never thought she was capable of.

Afterwards she felt such regret and said, “This is not who I want to be.”

It became clear that her automatic reaction when triggered was to fight. She had developed that survival instinct as a little girl and it’s still there even though she’s an adult.

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that means “shameless audacity.” I think of it as having guts, nerve or backbone.

I think this woman has chutzpah. And not all of us do.

There are those whose first reaction is to run away when there is confrontation. I fall into this category.

However, when I avoid the uncomfortable situation or person, I end up feeling defeated. My confidence and self-esteem take a hit.

A few years ago, the leader of an organization was continually putting me down. Even though they stepped over the line, I lacked the chutzpah to say, “I won’t be treated this way.”

Because I am a person who chooses to lead with my heart, I mistakenly viewed standing up for myself as being arrogant.  But each time I backed down, I felt weak and like I dishonored myself.  This was not who I wanted to be.

I had heart and not enough chutzpah. My friend had chutzpah and not enough heart.

Chutzpah by itself can come across as arrogant or mean. Heart alone can be viewed as weakness and a doormat.

The sweet spot lies where we have both heart AND chutzpah (heartzpah?! :). It’s not easy to find that place, it takes practice.

For fighters, it means forcing yourself to take a time out before you start saying things you’ll regret.

For those of us who take flight, it means giving yourself permission to stand your ground.

I think Brené Brown said it best, “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink back. Just stand your sacred ground.”

It can be scary and uncomfortable as we practice something new. But that’s where our growth lies, in those scary, uncomfortable places. And there is great joy  and peace of mind  knowing that you can handle anything or anyone who crosses your path.

In order to be the person you want to be, what do you need to practice more of, chutzpah or heart?