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Time out

Watching a small child’s response and shift in attitude when given a “time out” brought home a valuable lesson about sitting quietly and reflecting on our actions.  Something as simple as “taking a break” from an argument or a strong emotional reaction can have powerful benefits for ourselves and our relationships.

When we give a child a time out, we want them to think about their action or behavior and the resulting consequence.  We want to increase their awareness so that the next time they contemplate running with scissors, they remember it’s a bad idea with some pretty painful consequences like getting injured.

So we give the child some time alone to calm down, to reflect all by himself.   Then when the time out is over, we scoop him up, look him in the eyes, have a conversation about what we’ve learned and send him on his way with a reassuring hug.

A self-imposed adult time out is just the ticket when we feel our emotions getting out of control.  Its a far better use of our personal energy than overreacting and making matters worse.

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On occasion, I’m caught off guard by another’s anger, accusation or adult melt down.  I’m working on not getting sucked into another’s emotional vortex and to remain grounded.  In my search to become better at navigating these situations, I read The Art of Communication by Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhist Zen Master and peace activist).

Thich Nhat Hahn offers clear examples of how we judge others and situations, how we focus on our own needs at the expense of others, and how we habitually respond when triggered by events without a thought to long lasting, hurtful consequences.

He stresses the importance of becoming mindful of our habit energies.

Admittedly this takes discipline and requires personal courage.    Give yourself a  time out —  become aware of your emotions, reactions and patterns of behavior especially when you are in a confrontation.

  • The first step is calming yourself down. Mindful breathing is so beneficial for this. Three deep cleansing breaths will lower your heart rate and clear your mind.
  • The second step is reflecting. Treat yourself like a compassionate friend and explore your emotions without judgement.
  • The third step is assessing if you are conducting yourself in a respectful, productive manner

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Taking your own feelings out of the equation and focusing on the other person’s perspective, you may discover that they have a misperception or have kept something bottled up for far too long. Rather than adding fuel to the fire by blindly reacting on our own emotions, we can listen with empathy and learn.  Thich That Hahn offers a refreshing concept to employ — Beginning Anew:

 

When a difficulty arises in our relationships and one of us feels resentment or hurt, a good practice to try is called beginning anew.  To begin anew is to look deeply and honestly at ourselves — our past actions, speech and thoughts — and to create a fresh beginning within ourselves and in our relationship with others.

Beginning anew helps us develop our kind speech and compassionate listening because it is a practice of recognition and appreciation of the positive elements of another person.  Recognizing others’ positive traits allows us to see our own good qualities.  Along with these good traits, we each have areas of weakness, such as talking out of anger or being caught in our misperceptions.  As in a garden when we “water the flowers” of loving kindness and compassion in each other, we also take energy away from the weeds of anger, jealousy and misperception.

We can practice beginning anew every day by expressing our appreciation to the people we care about and apologizing right away when we do or say something that hurts them.  We can also politely let others know when we have been hurt. 

                                                   —     An excerpt from The Art of Communication (Chapter 9)

 

Here’s what I have noticed since I’ve become more of an observer and less of an active participant in some stressful situations.  I’m a better listener and I have more empathy for what another is feeling.  Because I’m more thoughtful and composed in my responses and reactions, the tension often eases more quickly.   I’m following the advice cited in the Art of Communication and being patient, waiting for several days, before revisiting a situation and providing clarity to change a misperception.

Undoubtedly the most noticeable difference for me personally is that I am no longer jumping in to rescue or resolve. As a result, others face the consequences of their own negative behaviors and may even reach out for support to change unproductive habits.

Giving ourselves a “time out” just might be the best gift we give ourselves.

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Path of Least Resistance

Do you ever find yourself going along with something even though your heart is not in it?  Are you agreeing to things just to keep the peace?  Are you not speaking up for yourself for fear of criticism or backlash?

Too often when we take the path of least resistance, it doesn’t actually serve us well in the long run.  When we take the time to truly understand what our resistance is trying to tell us, we gain invaluable information about ourselves.   Armed with this personal awareness, we can make better choices and communicate honestly with others without an emotion overload.unknown-2

 

The path of least resistance comes in many forms such as procrastination, inaction, avoidance, and acquiescing.  We might be trying to avoid fear, rejection, a needless argument or criticism.

Sometimes we find ourselves choosing the path of least resistance with someone believing that if we just go along, they will be happy and peace will be restored.   If it’s not a big deal and we aren’t stuffing uneasy feelings to restore peace, that’s probably ok.  However when we find ourselves frequently in the same uncomfortable pattern,  it’s time to pay attention.

images-8That resistance you feel is chock full of valuable information.   Take time to reflect on the situation and be honest with yourself about how YOU are really feeling.   Just as importantly, get clear about your own needs and values.

My discovery was realizing that when I took the path of least resistance, I often was abandoning a personal boundary.  Ultimately I was disappointed with myself and resentful of the person I was placating.     We weren’t making any forward progress with an issue or with our relationship.   Neither of us was sustainably happy which is why the same old pattern would repeat itself.  The path of least resistance was a dead end street.

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We are prone to say or do things that are hurtful and detrimental to another especially when we are in a disagreement or stressful situation — or if we have held something in for far too long. It’s not a true reflection of who we are and it certainly isn’t helpful to others for whom we genuinely care.

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If you choose the path of least resistance and ignore your feelings, you are compounding the problem.  Maintaining healthy boundaries frees you from holding things in that most definitely will affect you, both now and later.

Mindfulness has been so beneficial in getting to really know myself and what I need to feel safe, respected and fulfilled.   I’m pushing myself out of an old non-productive comfort zone and am now expressing my needs to others in a direct and honest way.   Turns out when I was feeling unappreciated or disrespected, I was actually allowing it.

An added benefit of paying closer attention to my own resistance is gaining greater insight into what others resist.  I’m striving to be a better, more compassionate listener.  Helping someone identify what is at the core of their discontent is personally rewarding.  So many times we are on overload with life’s stresses and distractions, it’s hard to discern what the real problem might be.  Taking time to ask open ended questions and really listening with empathy often yields surprising observations.  Better yet, it can also provide some remarkable resolutions to misunderstandings.

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To help me with improved communication skills, I turned to one of my favorite resources – Gaia.com and found a seminar series with Nicolai Bachman that provided helpful advice.

At the core of his message is this axiom — Always strive to be helpful and productive in your communications.  Nicolai reminds us to be aware of how we talk and how we listen to avoid being hurtful and detrimental.  

Nicolai offers these simple guidelines for our conversations:

  • Don’t be afraid of the truth.
  • Mean what you say and say what you mean.
  • Strive for clear unbiased perspective.
  • Inner happiness drives outer behavior.

 

Sometimes we say yes to activities or people when our hearts aren’t really in it. We won’t be fully present for the experience and our companions if that is the case.  It’s okay to say no and it’s even better if you can honestly share your feelings for your decision.

Recently, a dear friend and I were deep in conversation about how we often say yes to things that we really don’t want to do, but find it hard to say no.  I shared with her something that I had read that helps me now when confronted with this dilemma — “If the answer isn’t a resounding “hell, yes!” then it is not for me!

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Helpful Resources:

Gaia.com – Yoga Lifestyles section – Nicolai Bachman’s Introduction to Yoga Sutras (including Non-Violent Communication)

The Art of Communication by Thich Nhat Hanh

Best of Intentions

Having good intentions is a great place to start if you want to improve your life and your relationships. Keeping your intention at the forefront of your daily actions and behaviors becomes the game changer.

 

The latest special edition of Time Magazine is devoted to Mindfulness.  Its a great introduction to the new science of improved health and increased happiness by incorporating mindfulness.

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Mallika Chopra’s article entitled “Yes, You Can Live with Intent”  really grabbed my attention.  This one sentence practically jumped off the page:

 Intention is about living each moment with integrity and in keeping with what matters most to you.

I’ve been practicing mindfulness for almost two years and very recently noticed that as I peel off the layers of my “onion”, I’m getting more clarity about what truly matters most to me.    Trust, respect, peace and compassion are at the top of my list.   How do I ensure that these qualities are more present in my everyday life?

 

To be committed to positive changes in our lives,  Mallika urges us to be clear about our heartfelt desires and create the best environment to cultivate them.  She encourages us to look closely at the areas of our life that aren’t working and embrace small personal changes that will move us in the right direction.

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It dawned on me that I’ve been thwarting my own heartfelt desires by tolerating and even accepting other’s negative behaviors and their resulting messy situations when I swoop in to “help”.

Helping others is one of my greatest personal satisfactions.  Truthfully,  I haven’t always made the best decisions about those to whom  I’ve committed my help, support and energy.  So here I am, with good intentions towards others — and its backfiring!

My “aha” moment was recognizing that when I’m sacrificing my own happiness to help another, I’m not even close to what matters most to me.

After all, how can I be my best self when another’s behaviors and resulting consequences are in conflict with my core values?  Will I be truly present or will my mind be racing?

An important secondary goal is to give others the knowledge, tools and encouragement they need to flourish.  In the past I often jumped in, did all the work, solved the problem and then was frustrated to see the same patterns or mistakes repeated.  It left me tired and disappointed and was not of any lasting value to the individual I wanted to help.

I need to find ways to get others involved and invested in positive changes.

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I’m inspired by my children and grandchildren to become a strong, positive influence and role model.  Together we are incorporating mindfulness and healthy life decisions into our day to day activities.  It’s fun and rewarding.

That’s the big takeaway from Mallika Chopra’s inspiration:    Align your core values with your good intentions, nurture and encourage.  It feels good and it makes a meaningful difference.

Namaste

 

 

 

Put some Gratitude in your Attitude

Did you count your blessings as you gathered around your Thanksgiving feast recently?Wouldn’t it be great to have that appreciation for family and friends stick around for longer than one holiday?   Try putting some daily gratitude in your everyday attitude!

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Good attitude is contagious….

A few days before Thanksgiving, I was wheeling a bulky shopping cart around a very congested grocery store.  My list was long and I was unfamiliar with the layout of this new store.   Since I was shopping for my pregnant daughter who is an awesome cook, there were a few items on that list that were also new to me.  It’s been quite a while since this single woman did a major family grocery shop just a few days before a big holiday.   In the midst of the produce section I took a few minutes to soak it all in — the colorful abundance of fresh food choices, the spicy scents of autumn treats, the hustle and bustle of customers filling their carts.    Taking the time to be grateful had a positive effect on my overall attitude about the daunting task ahead of me.

What impressed me the most was the calm, cheerful, helpful demeanor of the grocery store employees.  They were not acting like they were overwhelmed or exasperated by the many customers who approached them asking for help.  I witnessed the impact that this had on the customers.  Smiles were returned, people were more patient with each other in crowded aisles.   A young man in the cheese department articulated how grateful he was for his job and for the customers who made that possible.    He told me that this is how they distinguish themselves from other grocery stores — great service and gratitude.  His positive, appreciative attitude was infectious.

So I came home not only with the groceries — I came home with a generous and grateful attitude.

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When the wheels fall off…..

We’ve had a lot of crazy things happening in our life over the past week that can put a strain on family — I tripped over the dog and injured my shoulder, my daughter lost her wallet, the baby bumped her head badly on the sidewalk, the house alarm went off in the middle of the night due to dead batteries, a flat tire on the car, the dog got an eye infection.  Well, you get it — Life!

There have been a few times recently where we all felt worn out, overwhelmed and cranky.  Admittedly it takes a little extra effort to stop and catch our breath, assess the situation and then find something to be thankful for — but it is so worth it.  Occasionally we can even laugh about the latest bump in the road.

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What we learn from children…..

I’ve been trying to help my little 14-month old granddaughter cope with frustration as she is learning a new skill, is overly tired or not getting her way.   Distractions such as a favorite song or counting toes usually brings a smile to her face.  I can see the frustrations wash away as that smile breaks out and we make eye contact. When she is older, I will teach her about using gratitude and mindfulness when emotions bubble up.

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Helping young children learn coping skills comes naturally to us.  As adults, we could benefit from a refresher course for ourselves.

Adopting a similar distraction technique when we are flooded with emotions can make a huge, positive difference in our lives. Instead of counting toes, we can count our blessings.

So pause to put a little gratitude in your attitude next time you find yourself frustrated, stressed out or angry.   You just might begin to smile and find a softer way to deal with problems.

 

 

 

Awareness = Empowerment

When life just isn’t going our way, do we react or respond?

Life throws stuff at us every day that makes us feel out of control. If we are exhausted from lack of sleep, stressed out about work, or overwhelmed with kids, laundry and housework, we are probably going to lose it! We yell at our spouse for being inconsiderate, honk the car horn repeatedly at the jerk who’s blocking traffic, send the kids to time out.

When life isn’t cooperating with us, we tend to try to control the situation to make it the way WE want it to be. We habitually activate our need for control and power when we feel discounted or insecure. Often when we try to control the situation, we do get some temporary cooperation, but overtime it undermines the long-term benefits of resolving an ongoing issue in a positive way.

Next thing you know, the same old problem keeps cropping up and we get more deeply invested in having things go OUR way, creating a chasm in our relationships and hurting people we love.

In my recent post “Patterns and Positivity” I shared insights that have been helping me become more aware of my habitual reactions and finding a fresh perspective to age-old behavioral patterns and conflicts.  It’s not surprising that a new attitude goes a long way when we try to work out our differences with others.

The hardest part is taking that deep breath and reminding yourself not to be so hasty to react when you are in the heat of the moment.

I have often been too quick to blurt out something and even it if was well-intentioned, the words I chose were not the right words and certainly my agitated tone contributed to a huge miscommunication.

It would be great to be given a mulligan in that moment so that I could reframe my response to match my true intentions. In hindsight, I often come up with a much better way to express myself. Coincidentally that usually happens when I’ve cooled off from the heated emotions and can see things from a bigger perspective.

Admittedly, I often get confused myself at how things get so crazy sometimes. I know in my heart that I really love someone and want nothing but the best for them. Yet in my efforts to help them while simultaneously respecting myself, it doesn’t feel like love and common ground at all.

At the heart of the matter is attitude and awareness — Being mindful of our attitude and being fully aware in the present moment.

Viktor Frankl (legendary psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor) observed this in the most profound way:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing — the last of his human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Having control of our attitude, awareness and responses is empowerment — and that is much more beneficial in resolving conflict than evoking power by being controlling or judgmental.

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When we try to grasp control, we do damage to our relationships, often hurting someone we love. It’s really in direct conflict with what we want. We may “win” in the moment by being using intimidation, guilt or punishment. Over the long haul, we are getting further and further away from what we really need and want. Our reactive behaviors might be pushing away the love, respect and happiness we are really seeking.

 

If you find that there are constant battles with your child, a spouse or a friend, might there be a better long term resolution? A fresh perspective and an approachable demeanor just might open up a healthy dialogue. Try putting yourself in the other’s shoes and let go of personal attachment. You may be surprised at what you discover — about yourself and the other person too.

Look for patterns in your relationships and give yourself some time to sit with your own frustrations, angers and resentments. Bring mindfulness and compassion to where you get stuck. It’s human nature to feel the need to control when we feel disconnected and separate. We go on auto pilot wanting to defend ourselves to have less pain or gain more pleasure. Invest some quality time in getting to really know yourself and what sets you off.

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We can’t change the flow of life yet we can change our attitude. If we can practice being less reactive and more responsive along with that new attitude, it is sure to yield a better result for everyone. Less conflict, more joy — sounds good to me.

 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.                         

                                                                  — Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Patterns and Positivity

Like a savory pot of autumn soup, there have been many hearty ingredients tossed into a meanginful lesson about behavior patterns and self awareness this week:

  • Scott Hamilton’s inspirational video about his recent diagnosis of a 3rd brain tumor and how setting the “tone” for himself and his family fuels positivity and courage for all.
  • A web seminar with Pema Chodron about breaking our habitual patterns by enthusiastically choosing a fresh alternative.
  • A well written article on Curbing Self-Defeating Habits by Dawa Tarchin Phillips (mindful.org)  replacing “trying to change” with “committing to change.”

Two things really grabbed my attention — Patterns  and the Power of Positivity.

For some time, I have been focused more on my “patterns” when I get stuck in negative thinking or familiar bad habits.  It surprised me to discover that there were similarities in my emotions or behaviors even when the stressful situations were quite different.

I can be diligent all day about healthy food, exercise, drinking water and then blow it all in a few mindless moments on a salty bag of chips because I’m unhappy about something.  What is that all about?   I can be having a great day with family members and then suddenly feel criticized and snap in self defense.  What is really going on?

I was curious enough to dig little deeper and start paying attention to situations that “hook” me.  Pema Chodrun provided the framework when she cited  some of the reasons we get hooked — irritation, disapproval, resentment, inadequacy (just to name a few).   She says when we feel this way, we harden and freeze in an effort to protect ourselves from the fear of feeling pain.  Many people “numb out” with drugs, alcohol, watching TV, or stomping out the door.  We set off a chain reaction of habitual patterns that only make matters worse.

We self soothe or shut down and suddenly we just bought our ticket on the habitual pattern merry go round —  Feel bad, numb out or check out, feel worse.

A few minutes after consuming the enormous bag of salty chips, I start chastising myself for that poor choice.  Not only am I still unhappy about whatever set me off in the first place, but now I feel chunky, bloated and I’ve sabotaged my entire day of healthy living.  My little inner critic just won’t stop berating me.

Same goes for snapping at my family member who had my best interests at heart and is now feeling alienated by my defensive remarks and sulky disposition.

The worst of my habitual patterns is getting triggered by someone and ruminating about our history.  I’ll replay a distressing scenario in my mind for hours or days….and all that comes of it is that I have absolutely wasted being fully present in the current moments.  Often these are really good moments — playtime with my granddaughter, a trail ride on my bike on a beautiful fall day, or practicing golf.   There’s nothing worse than inviting a Debbie Downer along on a fun outing….yet when I ruminate, that is exactly what happens.

Pema Chodrun urges us to “wake up” to these patterns so we can really see where it is that we are closing down.  We are all seeking relief from our anxieties, hurts and stresses but our habitual behavioral patterns aren’t working.   She offers these three difficult (yet very productive) practices:

  • Acknowledge that you are “hooked”
  • Do something different than you usually do!  Chose a fresh alternative and do it enthusiastically!
  • Make it a way of life

Admittedly, I’ve been practicing mindfulness for quite a while and these principles are not new to me but what really got my attention was that powerful word — Enthusiastically!

It really resonated with me because it conjured up hopeful, energetic and happy images.  When I am enthusiastic about something, my energy level rises in such a good way and my commitment also deepens.  It sets an entirely different tone to the situation.  Talk about a positive approach to jumping off that habitual pattern merry go round.

I’m not saying that I’ll be eagerly awaiting to be triggered so I can practice it.  However, it does make me feel more in control because of this refreshing new plan and being committed to it.  That’s another big distinction.   There’s a natural power surge that comes when you say to yourself, “I am committed!”   It’s got so much more positive energy  than muttering  “I’ll try”.

What’s been fascinating about studying my “patterns” is that I can now readily identify several distinctive triggers that hit me hard.  Mine have a lot to do with respect and trust.    When you become more knowledgeable about your own triggers, you often gain wisdom and understanding about other people.  Hopefully that evolves into greater compassion and empathy when dealing with conflicts.  You may not react the same way as another person, but “walking a mile in their shoes” can help you find some common ground.

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I’m reminded of something else that Pema Chodron shares — Where there is resistance, there is valuable information.

 

Sometimes we just get in our own way and push away what we really want the most.

 

 

 

In Dawa’s article about curbing self-defeating habits,  she points out how much of our own personal suffering comes as a result of self-centered thinking and suggests taking a fresh look at a problem or situation as a whole, without personal attachment.

An exercise that she suggests is to imagine that a friend is going through the crisis, not yourself.  Taking the strong emotional attachment out of the equation, enables you to problem solve from a caring, altruistic and unbiased perspective.

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Scott Hamilton reminds us that what is important in life is getting up after we fall and setting a positive tone.   Every time pick ourselves up after a fall,  we get stronger for the next event that comes along.  Scott says that is life.  Things are bound to happen and how you approach them sets the stage for success.

“it doesn’t matter what the challenge is -athletics, business, romance, health, academics, the arts- the rule for getting up is the same. you just get up!”
― Scott Hamilton, The Great Eight: How to Be Happy

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” – Scott Hamilton

The goal of getting out of our deep rut of non-productive patterns is to enrich our quality of life and improve our relationships.   It is well worth the effort and you will begin to feel empowered when you make progress in escorting bad habits to the door!

 

Resources:

YouTube – The Freedom to Choose Something Different by Pema Chodron

Facebook – Scott Hamilton

Mindful.org – How to Curb Self-Defeating Habits by Dawa Tarchin Phillips, June 15, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahead of his time….

October has arrived with crispness in the air, rich autumn colors glowing in the sunrise, and an air of reflection for me.  Fourteen years ago, my beloved husband passed away very suddenly on October 9th.  I like to honor his memory by reflecting on our shared memories.  Skip Davis was ahead of his time — a mindful man with a deep appreciation for a joyful life.

Skip was generous with his heart and his wisdom.  He was kind and compassionate.  He would often say to us “Everyone has a story” — his gentle way of reminding us not to judge others.  He would take the time to ask questions and actively listen for the answers when he met someone.  He had a natural curiosity about people.  He wanted to get the backstory on a person so he could better understand them and their behaviors, attitudes and opinions.   He was mindful long before it became mainstream.

It was his innate interest in people that made him such a highly respected leader in the corporate financial world.   Even before Myers-Briggs was introduced in the workplace, Skip would take the time to get to know his employees and make a sound assessment as to where they would find the most success and be the happiest in the careers.  His attitude was “if you love your job and are given the right environment in which to excel, you will.” He was known to move employees from a technical job to a sales job and watch them flourish.  Skip had a gift for recognizing potential and talents in people that even they did not realize they possessed.  He’d take it one step further and ensure that they got the education, mentors and support system to be successful.   When someone he mentored got a big promotion, he was genuinely happy for them and proud.  He was not jealous of their success, but rather felt a strong sense of accomplishment in his contribution to their career advancement.

He conducted himself in the same caring manner at home with family and friends.  I’ve never known another person as empathic and compassionate as Skip.   It was almost as if he could walk in your shoes and feel your emotions just as you did.   He earned your trust quickly.  A man of high integrity, he never made a promise he couldn’t keep and he would go out of his way to demonstrate his love.  Even when he was angered, he kept his cool and found a gentle way to navigate a tense situation.  One of my favorite Skip quotes is this one:  “If you want someone’s attention, just whisper.”

Think about that for a few moments.  Rather than raising your voice and shouting a defensive remark that sparks a combative dialogue…….take a breath and lower your voice, calmly state your feelings and perspective.  When someone whispers, we instinctively lean forward to hear them fully and we do tend to actually “listen” rather than prepare a quick retort.  Calm is a powerful state of being.

Skip also used to say “the future belongs to those who prepare for it”.  He wasn’t one to “wing” it when it came to work, travel or at home projects.  He’d do his research, brainstorm with others (especially experts in their fields), review and rehearse — and always have a backup plan if something should go awry.

Little did I realize at that time that Skip was really giving me and others these mindfulness tools:

  • Don’t judge others.  Take the time to understand them.
  • Your words and your actions should match.  Have integrity.
  • Stay centered and calm.  Compromise is often the best option in conflict resolution.
  • Being prepared reduces anxiety and builds self-confidence.

Skip had a zest for life that was hard to contain — just ask anyone who knew him! He’d enter a room and the lights got brighter, the energy ramped up! He was always looking for the positives — in people, in circumstances, in life.

Perhaps the greatest attribute that Skip possessed was resiliency.  Skip experienced a lot of life’s adversities including the sudden loss of his mother in a tragic car accident, a brain aneurism requiring life-threatening surgery, serving in the CIA during the drug wars in Latin and South America, and a long career in international banking during the era of frequent mergers and acquisitions accompanied by massive job losses.

The greatest testament of his resiliency came on 9-11-2001.  We were at the Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona, for an annual international banking conference.  Skip was a keynote speaker for several seminars being offered throughout the week and his sales team was in full force garner new business.  Banks from all over the globe were represented with hundreds of employees in attendance.

In the early morning of September 11th, we were awakened by a phone call in our room.  Skip’s colleague frantically told us to turn on the TV and remarked that “Amy won’t be flying home today.”  We were in shock as we watched the second plane hit the Twin Towers.

You can imagine the chaos that unfolded as all those conference attendees, the Biltmore employees and other hotel guests began to assimilate what was happening in our country. Phone lines were jammed as everyone reached out in a panicked effort to connect to loved ones across the globe, terrified as more attacks were reported.

I witnessed my husband recognizing the elements unfolding,  remaining calm yet taking action.

While other team leaders scrambled and called quick meetings in their hotel rooms to devise big schemes to hire private planes to escort their own teams back to their homes, Skip was pragmatic.

Skip knew that no one was going to be flying anywhere.  He called the local rental car agencies and reserved as many vehicles as possible.   He determined that a majority of attendees could drive across the country to their families.  It was in fact the only option they really had.  He also made multiple hotel reservations across the country, estimating travel times for major cities across the U. S.   He determined that it would take 3 days driving 800 miles a day to get home on the East Coast.  ( I should point out that this was long before iPhones, Siri and accessible GPS.)

Skip went to Biltmore management and arranged for large screen TV’s to be brought into the largest conference rooms so that attendees could gather together to watch the ongoing news coverage.

He and his team were scheduled to host a private dinner party at the Heard Museum that evening.   Instead, Skip arranged for the caterer to prepare additional food and bring it all to the  Biltmore where he provided dinner for all the conference attendees.

In the midst of all the shock, fear and helplessness, Skip remained calm and comforting to others.  He encouraged people to be together, to offer support and compassion to each other.  He gave a lot of hugs, looked people directly in their eyes and offered his soft, calming words of comfort and concern.

What resonated so deeply with me as I watched Skip’s resiliency was how he genuinely cared for all others.  His personal resiliency was contagious and a few others followed his example.  I believe that many of us found courage we didn’t know we had because of his leadership.

The definition of resiliency is the ability to bounce back quickly from adversity.  Skip took resiliency to a new level.  He not only personally recovered quickly, he reached out and offered support to others immediately.  He shared by example.

Each year at this time, I reflect on how blessed I was to have been married to such an incredible man.  Although our time together was much too short, the gifts he gave to me and our family stay with us forever.   The best way I can honor Skip is to continue to grow in my mindfulness practice and to emulate his approach to life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jamaica

March 2016

What could be better than a fun girlfriend getaway to a tropical paradise?  Why, adding golf to the mix of course!

My three Pennsylvania friends were more than happy to escape the snow, ice and cold of the Northeast and head to warm, sun-drenched Montego Bay, Jamaica.  The treat for me was the rare chance to spend quality time with three fun women I haven’t seen in a very long time.

 

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Shelby, Bonnie, Diane and Amy

Diane, Shelby, Bonnie and I spent four fun-filled days together, playing two rounds of golf at Cinnamon Hill and one at White Witch.   We weren’t sure the caddies really helped our games, but we were sure they had side bets on us each day.  Each of us reveled in each others “shots of the day” and we weren’t too shy about celebrating them!  There was an abundance of laughter throughout our rounds, shaking off bad shots in a hurry and delighting in each other’s company and comraderie.

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Signature Hole Par 3 on White Witch Golf Course

I’d been to Rose Hall, Montego Bay, about six years ago with twenty women from Lancaster Country Club on our annual Women’s Winter Getaway. I had a lot of notable memories from that trip and the friendships that were forged over golf, poolside chats, and late night drinks. Since my golf game has improved since then, I was also eager to take on the White Witch course one more time. I recalled that it was incredibly beautiful with many elevation changes.  It didn’t disappoint!  Shelby and I had our best rounds of the week on that course.

One of the most pleasurable parts of a girls golf trip is the leisurely poolside lunches sipping frosty cocktails, reliving the golf round (possibly embellishing it), soaking up the sun, the breeze and friendship.

Afternoons were spent relaxing on lounge chairs facing the ocean, solving the world’s problems and sharing stories of family and our fantastic grandchildren.

One night was utter chaos when a spontaneous thunderstorm forced the outdoor Jamaican fiesta indoors.  Who knew that Chex Mix and cocktails would have to hold us over for hours while we waited for dry seats and dinner?  As often happens, the best times often come from interrupted plans.  We made some new friends at the bar that evening!

Each evening as we made our way back to our rooms, Diane and I would pass the energetic Jamaican entertainers and it was like a siren call to me!  I can’t resist a dance floor and rocking tropical music.  Most of the time my dance partners were small children whose parents were too shy to join them — hey, someone has to be in the initiator…or is it instigator?  Those talented Jamaican women dancers taught me a few new moves.  I’ve got to remember that dancing like that is one of the most fun forms of exercise on the planet!

The days flew by much too fast but the memories of our good times and friendship will last forever.

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White Witch Clubhouse, Rose Hall, Jamaica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose Your Own Adventure…

 

When my sons were pre-teens, there was a series of books entitled “Choose your Own Adventure.”  The basic story line was laid down and then the reader would get to choose one of several options that finished the story.  Each option provided a remarkably different ending to the basic story.

It’s dawned on me lately that life is very much like those books — and it is our choices that determine how our life story evolves.

 

Celebrities give us dramatic examples of life choices and the resulting impacts on their careers and the lives of others.  Tiger Woods comes to mind.   Most recently, Ryan Lochte’s fabricated story that unnecessarily tainted the Rio Olympics in many ways. It’s not just about Tiger and Ryan — how many innocent others were affected by their poor choices?

 

 

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Very recently I’ve had some thought-provoking conversations with friends about matters that tug at our heartstrings — Strained family relationships, estrangements, coping with destructive behaviors of others, and serious health issues.   A lot of choices were made over the years and the results were not so positive. How might these lives be different had better choices been made?

 

Consider the divorced dad that doesn’t make his young child a priority.  He is a no show on his visitation days, misses soccer games, birthdays and graduations.  Then later in his life, when his child is grown, starting a career, getting married and having babies, dad has a “wake up” call and decides he wants to insert himself back into his child’s life.  It’s pretty likely that his child doesn’t want any part of it.  What drove dad’s decision to be absent in his child’s life?  Resentment against mom?  Too busy with work or social life?

Can he contrast what his relationship with his child might look and feel like if he had made other decisions — and made his child a priority?   Would they be sharing funny stories about their adventurous good times together with that sweet little toddler nestled in his now grown child’s lap?

 

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There is often the regret that we realize too late — we fail to make the time to stay in touch with a beloved family member or friend and then are crushed when we learn that they have suddenly passed away.  Were we really “so busy” that we couldn’t make the time for a quick phone call on a regular basis?  What about a surprise visit for a birthday or holiday…or better yet, no occasion at all!  How might our lives actually been enriched by the time spent with that family member or friend?

 

 

Take some time to reflect on your own life history and look at the choices you’ve made that may have gone sideways.  How were you feeling when you made those decisions?  Did you get the result you wanted?  Were you letting your emotions be in charge?

Ask yourself this one BIG question — how would that event in my life story be written had I made a better choice?

We can all fall prey to our conditioned responses when conflicts arise.   This is where mindfulness can make a significant difference and it take serious commitment on your part.  You have to stop in your tracks and take inventory about what is really going on.

Are you getting defensive because you feel attacked?  Is it really something you did…or is the other person having a really bad time and deflecting it to you?  If you did screw up, was it intentional and purposefully mean?  If it was a mistake, did you own it and apologize?  What is your “go to” response — slam the door and walk out, yell louder, or blame someone else?

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For over a year, I have been practicing mindfulness in my daily life and even after a year of committed effort, I find myself really struggling sometimes to not give in to old non-productive responses.  It takes every ounce of my willpower to breathe deeply and acknowledge my feelings and at the same time, strip them of the power to control my actions.

Trust me when I tell you that gathering up the willpower to stop that steaming locomotive of emotions is no easy feat.  Deep breathing really helps — its the best gift you can give your body when pressure is mounting.  Why do you think they teach it as a basic skill for getting through labor and delivery?

Did you ever notice how things escalate in the midst of conflict?  Voices get louder, body language becomes more pronounced and words fly faster than the speed of light.  Very often, we jump into our conditioned patterns without a moment’s hesitation.

Simply slowing down when I’m face to face with confrontation gives me a sense of control.   It’s a new practice for me and it becomes a strong reminder to be mindful.

I’ve recently discovered that if I turn my typical reactions away from thinking about me, and my feelings, I’m gaining valuable insight into what the other person is feeling and needing, how they process and what their values are.

Most importantly, it gives me a lot of clarity about my choices in resolving the situation. Admittedly it doesn’t mean that the solutions are easy or fast.   But I am convinced that I’m beginning to make better choices and wiser decisions.

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We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it.

We can make amends.

We can make different choices and get better results.

We can be role models for others, especially our children and grandchildren.

Life is short….make the most of your personal adventure.