Category Archives: compassion

My New Trick Journey

By Dayna Lee Cohen, Customer Events Manager at Insights and Friend of Simple Intentions

Blog_NewTricks_Dayna_0427Old dogs are the best dogs. Puppies, like babies, get more attention, but it’s the old dogs who really embody the traits of what I love about the species; they are the most loyal, loving, and soulful…they are the sweetest and most comfortable.

I am an old dog. I initially shied away from attaching that moniker to myself, but it’s true. And when I think about the behaviors of old dogs, I realize they are my behaviors, and the aforementioned traits could also be applied to me. And that was pleasing to me.

For the first time in years, my mom spent the day at my house yesterday, and it was so wonderful to have her. She is a REALLY old dog and likely would not appreciate being called so. Part of the time yesterday was spent showing Mom new dog tricks – her dog, Zoe, has recently become a part of my family as Mom can no longer accommodate a pet where she’s living – and I have been working to teach Zoe new habits and behaviors.

I began my mindfulness journey at roughly the same time Zoe arrived in our household. Coincidentally, Zoe and I have both learned new tricks over the past few weeks.

Here are Zoe the Dog’s:
1. No pee or poop in the house
2. Sit
3. Speak
4. No licking (still working on this one)

And here are mine:
1. No electronics in the first hour upon awakening
2. Take time out of each day to have moments of fun and distraction
3. Acknowledge the positives – all of them, large and small
4. Be quiet sometimes (still working on this one)

I know you are wondering how to teach an old dog new tricks and it’s pretty simple, really – There are three key steps:
– Repetition
– Praise/acknowledgment
– Treats

The first two techniques remained the same for Zoe and me – it was the third step that had to be redefined to fit my life. There was never a chance I would reward myself with the Newman’s heart-shaped peanut butter dog treats Zoe loves so much, even if peanut butter is my Desert Island Food. And I was mindful to abstain from treating myself with human food as well – this was my NEW trick journey, after all.

So here is how I decided to treat myself:
– I treated myself with love
– I treated myself with peace
– I treated myself with second chances (and third & fourth…)
– I treated myself with time

By the way, Mom was amazed at all of Zoe’s new tricks, and when I actually contemplated the broad scope of my own altered behaviors (my new tricks), I was pretty in awe of mine as well!

It wasn’t always easy to remember my commitment on how to treat myself and initially I landed on the gaps (no one said it was easy to teach an old dog new tricks, did they?). However, I was able to recognize and replace my self-criticisms with facts and compassion.

One of the best factors that contributed to the success of my new tricks experiment was a trusted mentor and friend’s lack of judgement, and her largesse in holding me able to create and complete the best version of my desired behavior changes that I can manage in each moment and within my own circumstances.

I realized recently that treating myself in a meaningful way is a process, a “trick” if you will, that I will need to repeat over and over until it becomes something I naturally do without thinking – sort of like when my other dog, Moses, starts rolling over before I actually give the command. He already knows what to do – and someday soon, so will I.

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Choosing Equanimity

By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager

121516_equanimity

I’m not normally an angry person. Really.

But I’m also no stranger to the emotion. In a world rife with inequity, bias, and realities that can make the most patient of us want to scream, anger is not uncommon. When I’m in the throes of it, I can focus on nothing else (including effective solutions to the issue) and find that my productivity and longevity suffer.

I’ve been pondering the benefits of anger lately. How it can be a wakeup call. How it can create needed boundaries. Anger can be the spark – to start a revolution, to fight injustice, to say “enough”. But it cannot be the whole flame or we will burn out. While anger can trigger productivity, anger itself is inherently not a productive emotion. And for sustainable change to occur, I’d argue that anger must evolve – into whatever is needed: passionate organizing, a relentless activism, a resolute boundary – because anger alone is not enough.

So how then do we turn our anger into something useful? I believe the answer is equanimity.

I recently spent a precious Saturday attending a dharma talk titled “Fierce Equanimity” through The Lotus Institute with Dr. Larry Ward and Dr. Peggy Rowe. The talk discussed how to relentlessly, fiercely display equanimity (or a calmness and evenness of mind and emotion) regardless of life’s circumstances.

This concept states that one can address and overcome challenge and injustice with equanimity in lieu of anger. Instead of rage, determination and perseverance may better serve us. Rather than shouting, a calm but resounding “no” can be just as effective. In exchange for riots, nonviolent protests can mobilize a community. Our middle fingers can be playful instead of aggressive (kidding). This way of being suggests we can combat hate with a fierce and stubborn gratitude.

Still with me?

I heard a powerful idea at The Lotus Institute regarding the non-personalization of experience. In other words, anger is not ours to possess. It’s not a toy, cell phone, or piece of clothing that we can claim as belonging to us. It is an unfettered, volatile (and hopefully transient) response that everyone from all walks of life has experienced. This means that since we can’t actually own anger, it doesn’t own us either.

One of the many benefits of equanimity is that it encompasses inclusivity. It transcends “otherness”. It’s an encouragement to try to understand the “humanness” that is always present behind an act of hateful rhetoric. Inclusivity is one of the most effective ways to deflate an anger bubble – because it does away with the us vs. them notion. Equanimity means objectively asking yourself, “What in my life needs to be nourished? And what needs to be de-nourished?” It’s critically looking at societal systems and asking “What here needs to be legitimized? What needs to be de-legitimized?” And based on your answers, acting accordingly.

I want to go on the record and say that letting go of anger and embracing equanimity does not mean succumbing to passivity. Quite the opposite – equanimity often means being part of a slow-moving force, but one that is startling in its power and lasting in its effect. In Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says, “I can’t turn back. I have reached the point of no return.” Dr. King is in my mind a model for equanimity. Though he had a lifelong dedication to nonviolence (an important component of equanimity), not one could call him a passive force. Rather, he heeded the call to remain collected and compassionate in the long fight for social change – to powerful results. If anger is the blinding flare, then equanimity is the slow burn that drives us day in and day out.

Passivity in the face of injustice is the opposite end of the spectrum. It is often the companion to apathy and ignorance, and enables the normalization of inequity. Passivity often stems from exclusivity, us vs. them. The funny thing is exclusivity (and therefore passivity) is illogical when accompanied with the awareness that most people desire the same things. We are all on a quest to find happiness, to find fulfillment, to find peace. But, as Dr. Ward asked that Saturday, find peace to do what? Find happiness to do what in the world?

I believe deep down we all know the answers (which are different for each of us). With equanimity, perhaps we can start to ask the right questions.

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Compassion Works

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Mindful Magazine]

Compassion_0810Have you ever seen compassion listed as a required skill in a job description? Likely not, because most workplaces don’t consider compassion a skill—let alone a desired attribute of employees. What does it mean to be compassionate at work? It can be as simple as assuming others have good intentions even when a situation (for whatever reason) doesn’t go as planned, rather than defaulting to blame or confrontation. Despite the many tensions and errors that often arise at work, most people don’t wake up actively planning to act like a jerk or make others uncomfortable.

“For too many people, their workplace is an interruption from their time off, a form of paid suffering,” says Jon Ramer, founder of Compassion Games, a global organization dedicated to creating compassionate thinking and compassionate action in everyday life. “If more workplaces built their culture on a foundation of compassion, people would be more satisfied and dignified at work. They would see a connection between their deepest human values and the way they’re treating others—and are being treated—at work.”

Getting business leaders to care about compassion can be difficult because, as Ramer explains, “measuring the impact of compassion and how it translates to the bottom line is a new concept, making it hard to justify resources to build this skill at work.” But without it, employees burn out, managers become fatigued, and customers can feel it in the quality of experience.

What are some benefits of creating caring workplaces? “When businesses commit to developing compassion, they benefit by demonstrating a genuine concern about the culture in which their business operates. This impacts the quality of customer service as well as how employees interact with each other and with vendors,” Ramer says. “Compassion can build camaraderie among staff and directly impact the loyalty and retention of employees as well as customers.”

For many, compassion isn’t easy, especially at work. That’s because, as modern humans, we have created a work culture that generally doesn’t support failure and humility. At work, we seek recognition in the form of “getting credit.” When, for whatever reason, we aren’t given credit, it has become a habit to blame others rather than practice self-compassion (through self-reflection, self-accountability, and acceptance of our own imperfections). Being compassionate means being vulnerable, which means not being “perfect.” In a world often fixated on perfection and recognition, vulnerability can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. But compassion is a worthwhile risk to take, and it’s started gaining workplace acceptance, supported by the works of Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, and Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication.

Compassion in the workplace is not unlike compassion in any other place. It starts with a simple choice. A choice to be open to feel what others are feeling, or at the very least acknowledge that people don’t show up with the intention to be mean, difficult, or rude. It’s possible your colleagues are facing struggles: single parenting, health issues, divorce, deaths, disabilities, etc. We really don’t know another’s experience before we come together in our common workplace. So next time you’re at work and things don’t go your way, take a deep breath and assume your colleagues have positive intentions.

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Treat Yourself Like You Would A Loved One

By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager

Why do we say or do things to ourselves that we would never in a million years say or do to someone else? Why do we treat our loved ones infinitely better than we treat ourselves?

Ultimately, it comes down to vegetables. Do parents force their children to eat vegetables because they want to share their deep, insatiable passion for the food group? Likely the answer is no. Parents incorporate vegetables into their children’s diets because it undeniably benefits their health. Why then do many parents neglect leafy greens in their own regiments as soon as their kids have left the nest? My guess is, whether consciously or sub-consciously, they simply do not believe their own health is as important as the health of their kids. A statement I’m sure their children would heatedly and wholeheartedly disagree with.

How we treat ourselves can easily become a source of conflict in relationships, especially if we witness a destructive, powerful habit in our loved one (even if these same habits are ones we are guilty of ourselves). Distressed and unsure of what to do we try to “fix”, conveniently forgetting that we cannot change another being, just as our loved ones cannot change us. We are powerless to help others unless they have chosen to help themselves first. The only thing we can fix, all that we can control is how we treat ourselves and how we treat those around us.

In other words, we must be role models. If we encourage certain habits in those we care most deeply about, we should make sure we are in the habit of doing those things ourselves. The opposite is also true. If we discourage a loved one from carrying out a particular action, odds are that is something we ourselves should avoid. Most of us would never berate our sibling for a solid week about losing out on a promotion at work. Nor would we brutally cut down a dear friend because she didn’t lose those 5 pounds before swimsuit season. And we probably, on most nights, wouldn’t pour a fifth beer down our sweet grandmother’s throat.

It is important to remember that just as we adore our loved ones, we are likewise the object of someone’s loving attention.

My suggestion is simple: Be gentle, take time, be conscious. Be as compassionate to yourself as you are to your 6-year-old niece when she falls and scrapes her knee. Treat your body, your mind, your spirit like you would your most precious loved one if they entrusted their care to you.

And perhaps those around you will follow suit.

 

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Detrimentally Altruistic

By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Marketing Manager

airplaneThe very definition of altruism reveals that this is a trait that is neither sustainable nor in our best interest. In fact, it seems to me that altruism is in direct opposition to self-compassion and can in fact be detrimental to both our physical and mental health.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that we stop supporting charitable causes or start refusing to give up our seat to the pregnant lady on the bus. On the contrary, I am the first to agree that a bit more kindness in the world would do wonders.

My intention with this post is to shine a light on a dangerous belief that many of us hold to be true: that it means more if we sacrifice something in order to help someone else.

I respectfully beg to differ.

The consequences of depriving ourselves can at first seem small compared to the good we perceive we’re doing. So what if we’ve been volunteered for overtime again? Who cares if we have to sacrifice another night out? In the words of my 3rd grade math teacher, “small things add up”. Eventually the consequences, which at first seem insignificant, can become, well, consequential. Furthermore, it is inevitable that we will eventually run out of altruistic steam if we are in a constant state of sacrifice.

I am suggesting that before being selfless we must be self-full. This means we must ensure we are nourishing ourselves both internally and externally. When we are full to the brim with self-compassion and care, it will cost us very little to generate the smallest, most breathtaking of beneficent acts to our fellow humans.

Airplane emergency procedure teaches this philosophy flawlessly – secure your own mask before assisting others. That concept makes perfect sense. Once you secure your own mask it will be infinitely easier to help others. Rather than fighting for oxygen, you’ll be thinking more clearly, and you’ll have more strength to offer.

When applied to life, however, this idea is a tough thing to swallow. Didn’t we learn at a young age that being a good person means putting others before ourselves? That only by being selfless, by being truly altruistic may we have any positive impact on the world? Though this belief has been relentlessly ingrained in me, I have come to the conclusion that not only is it false, but this way of thinking is also preventing us from leading the fullest and richest lives we are capable of.

Once we start taking care of ourselves by directing kindness and compassion inward, then lending a helping hand to others will not only be vastly meaningful, but also an almost effortless process.

There will be countless times in life when we’ll be called upon to assist others, loved ones and strangers, in putting on their metaphorical oxygen masks. My sincere hope is that we graciously provide a helping hand, that we assist others with their oxygen masks and hold their hands when they’re scared. I hope that we, as a global community, lift each other up after we fall.

But it is my deepest wish that we do not give up a part of ourselves to do this, that we can feel secure and unashamed when putting our own mask on first.

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Making Meaning Out of What’s New

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

berries in tea cup

“What’s new?”

It’s a phrase we hear often from colleagues at various moments during the day: as we pass in a hall, while awaiting coffee to brew, at the start of a meeting. More often than not, our response is something short and empty, “Oh, not much.” And indeed, it’s just small talk, just a friendly greeting. No one asking actually expects – or even wants – a detailed account of what is new in your world.

And that’s a missed opportunity. It’s a missed opportunity for a meaningful conversation – however brief – between colleagues that could go a long way toward building trust, compassion, a relationship. And we know that strong relationships account for a lot of our success at work.

In the coaching world, the phrase is augmented just slightly, but meaningfully, to “What’s new and good?” Adding the simple “and good” not only awakens a tired phrase, but also spins it to elicit a more upbeat response. And I think it’s safe to say we’d all rather hear good news, rather than bad news, or no news at all.

But more than that, hearing the phrase “What’s new and good?” also shifts our own thinking in a more positive direction, compelling us to share not just what’s new, but also what’s going well in our lives and at work. Hearing “What’s new and good?” instantly shifts our thoughts from complaints to compliments, from scarcity to abundance, from apathy to awareness.

Ultimately, “What’s new and good?” invites an exchange that benefits both the person asking and the person answering. Of the person asking, it relays engagement and compassion for others. For the person answering, it’s an easy mental boost. For both, it’s an opportunity to acknowledge, celebrate and perhaps even build on a success, as well as strengthen a relationship.

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Not just any hug

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

Last weekend I stood in line for six hours to get a hug from Amma, the “hugging saint.” Amma’s real name is Mata Amritanandamayi, but she’s known around the world as Amma, or Mother, because of her unconditional love for all beings. Her bio says she has hugged more than 34 million people.

I’m also a hugger. A friend even called me a “triple hugger” because I often hug once upon meeting and twice before parting. Like Amma, who says that love expressed is compassion, hugging to me is an intentional expression of care, acceptance and love for the people in my life.

While waiting for my hug from Amma, and especially upon receiving it, I couldn’t help but feel just pure love. We all need more of that. So, today: Give a hug, get a hug.

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