Compassion, Loving Kindness

Self-Care Houston

selfcarehoustonPodbeanToday I am very grateful that a fun idea has become a reality. I started a podcast where I host conversations with healing professionals (therapists, physicians, wholistic practitioners, psychiatrists, spiritual figures) throughout the Houston area about health and wellness topics. 

In the first episode, I have the honor of joining Shannon McLain in a conversation about the practice of Self-Compassion. Shannon is a  mind-body medicine practitioner and certified health and wellness coach at The Center for Intentional Healing.

I am thrilled to invite you along for the ride!

Subscribe on iTunes.

Gratitude, Loving Kindness

Lenten Balance

bluebonnetsIn the previous post, I wrote down my hopes for my personal kindness lenten practice. Since Ash Wednesday, I have had ample opportunity to practice kindness in the face of hopelessness and daily frustrations. So far so good… but, the thing that surprised me the most is how this practice has begun to open my eyes to the beautiful, life-giving kindness shown toward me on a daily basis. I thought the intention was about “exhaling” kindness into the world and what I learned is how much I often forget to breathe in the kindness that others so graciously impart.
 
Over the past few weeks, I have had moments of tears when someone listened…. moments of joy when someone celebrated with me… moments of fear when someone was present… moments of disorientation when someone was patient and kind with me…. moments when someone provided a space for me… moments when someone smiled. I am so grateful for the sweet comfort of kindness that is all around us in a world that acts like a world.
 
Exhale kindness
Inhale kindness
 
Give
Receive
 
Balance
Gratitude, Loving Kindness

Lenten Practice

mike-labrum-151765For Lent I have decided to give up hopelessness and cultivate kindness.

  1. When I experience hopelessness while reading/watching the news, I will write a little note (written/onine) of kindness to someone to let them know they matter.
  2. When I experience hopelessness while caught in impatient traffic, I will recite this breath prayer: Breathe in: “Be.” Breathe out “Kind.” Repeat several times with the breath.
  3. When I experience hopelessness in difficult challenges that occur during the day, I will actively look for something I am grateful for that happened during that same day and hold onto the memory until I absorb the gratitude.

During the Ash Wednesday service today at St. Mark’s Episcopal, Reverend Patrick Miller shared these words of comfort:

We sometimes experience the “trauma of being little people in a land of giants.” Take heart. “Your life has never been lived before. Your existence is a very singular thing. That is why it is a tragedy when you die. You are responsible for such a precious and amazing gift…. you. You are the gift. You are a flash of light, a gift of beauty in a very weary world.”

Today, and tomorrow, and the next day… remember you are a gift. Your kindness is a like a candle, shedding light on a very weary world.

Compassion, Gratitude, Loving Kindness

A Word Imagined

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by Jennifer Christian, LPC and Dr. Jeff M. Christian

Words of hate tear at the fabric of our society; words of kindness mend.

Imagine.

Imagine life without unkind words. Imagine comments sections on your favorite website that only allow constructive criticism, words meant to further the conversation rather than out-shout those who disagree.

Today, online words of hate, abuse, fear, and violence are rampant. The intensity of negativity overwhelms us, a tsunami of words altering our lives without us realizing their enormous power. This new world often feels devoid of kindness. Few of us would choose to pass on this world to the next generations, so we begin this project in the hopes that we can change the future by changing the present.

We have power to create a better world.

Imagine.

Imagine a world that offers encouragement. Imagine a world where people matter. Too often, though, we feel helpless in even thinking about making a change. Where should we begin?

Well, we have some ideas.

Start with some simple things. Appreciation and gratitude, for instance, are powerful tools that can help rebuild this world. Every word of kindness heals, builds resilience, and draws people together.
A Word ImaginedJohn Gottman found that it takes five positive interactions to overcome one negative interaction. Relationships find balance when positive interactions outweigh the negative ones. At times we will misunderstand each other and say the wrong things. We are human, after all. However, for the health of all our relationships, we have the power to create better worlds for ourselves, as well as all of those around us. Our hope that we can do this together is reminiscent of John Lennon’s line, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

 So let’s imagine a better world. One word of kindness can create ripples of healing across our society. If we come together to dedicate building reserves of gratitude in our families, places of work, and all other communities, we can change the tide of negativity.

Here are some other practical suggestions to get us started:

  1. Get creative. We can share great ideas on how to build more positivity into our society. Join our public Facebook group, A Word Imagined, to share ideas.
  1. Remember the magic ratio of 5-to-1. Each week send five notes of encouragement, whether online or handwritten.
  1. Practice gratitude at home as a family. “Researchers found that a nourishing cycle of encouragement and appreciation provides extra incentive to maintain our relationships. In other words, when we appreciate our partners, we develop trust and respect. When we feel appreciated, we feel needed and encouraged.” (Susan Heitler)
  1. Notice the words you say to yourself. Learn how to offer yourself words of kindness and compassion: “Life can be rough without the comfort, balance and guidance of a self-compassionate friend on the inside. Lack of self-compassion affects our relationships and our well being in profoundly negative ways. What a difference it makes to go through life with a kind friend on the inside rather than an internal critic or bully!” (Kim Fredrickson)

Please take a moment to share this article and this project with friends and family. Together, we can create the world we imagine.

For Further Reading:

On appreciation and gratitude:

http://www.jenniferchristiancounseling.com/mental-health/7-powerful-ways-gratitude-will-change-your-life/

On John Gottman’s five interactions:

https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-positive-perspective-dr-gottmans-magic-ratio/

On practicing gratitude at home as a family:

http://www.jenniferchristiancounseling.com/relationships/four-ways-to-build-trust-with-your-partner/?preview_id=538&preview_nonce=b7d0d3d768&post_format=standard&_thumbnail_id=542&preview=true

On Susan Heitler’s work on gratitude in marriage:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201207/does-gratitude-matter-in-marriage

On Kim Fredrickson’s work on self-compassion:

http://www.jenniferchristiancounseling.com/counseling/self-compassion-is-vital-for-a-healthy-life/

Compassion, Gratitude, Loving Kindness, peace

Practicing Peace Daily

PeaceI am thinking about practicing virtues. I think about it often. My church family chooses a virtue every year to practice together. Last year it was joy. This year it’s peace. I am grateful to be a part of a community asking what it means to be people of peace in times that feel disorienting. A passage from Colossians 3 is framing our year-long adventure:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)

The text guides me in peace; I am thankful. The wisdom of people in my community broadens me; I am grateful. How do I become a person of peace? Clothe myself daily with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and gratitude toward myself and others. Okay. Got it. Practice compassion, kindness, forgiveness, gratitude… sounds simple, right?

Well.

I keep getting snagged on challenges. I have been forced to spend some time around people. Frustrating people. Difficult people. I find it hard to access compassion, kindness, or gentleness. Instead, I feel anger, frustration, and sadness. Not peace.

Why is peace so hard? What about compassion and kindness?

Recently, I found comfort from Pema Chodron’s description of her own experience of cultivating love, kindness, compassion, and joy:

“Cultivating these four qualities, love, kindness, compassion, and joy, gives us insight into our current experience. It gives us understanding of the state of our mind and heart right now. We get to know the experience of love and compassion, of joy and kindness, and also of their opposites. We learn how it feels when one of the four qualities is stuck and how it feels when it is flowing freely. We never pretend that we feel anything we don’t. The practice depends on embracing our whole experience. By becoming intimate with how we close down and how we open up, we awaken our unlimited potential.

“It might feel like stretching into make-believe to say, ‘May this person who is driving me crazy enjoy happiness and be free of suffering.’ Probably what we genuinely feel is anger. This practice is like a workout that stretches the heart beyond its current capabilities. We can expect to encounter resistance. We discover that we have our limits: we can stay open to some people, but we remain closed to others. We see both our clarity and our confusion. We are learning firsthand what everyone who has ever set out on this path has learned: we are all a paradoxical bundle of rich potential that consists of both neurosis and wisdom.”

As I practice, I end up coming across my limitations, places where I need to grow and stretch my heart. Like physical exercise, these virtues take effort. When I am in familiar territory, around people I love and enjoy, I can access compassion, peace, and kindness. It comes naturally. However, when I decide to practice all day, every day, I encounter no shortage of opportunities to… well… practice. Even in times of frustration, those frustrations are opportunities for growth.

I am learning that a person of peace has to keep practicing. I need to practice with my spouse, with my children, with my church family, my coworkers, and my friends. It matters.

So, once again, it is time to go out into the world as a practitioner of peace still learning what it is to practice peace:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved… let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

Gratitude, Loving Kindness

Love What You Do

Love-What-you-doToday I figured out my New Year’s resolution. Okay, I realize it’s October… so it might be a little late in the game. However, it just feels like the right time to begin the practice of love.

A couple of weeks ago, my family had the honor of sharing an evening with the master Flamenco Guitarist, Ron Radford. Many years ago, he had the opportunity to study the ancient tradition of Flamenco music with the Romani people in Spain. Music that holds the stories of struggle, celebration, love, and loss has been passed from master to master for generations. Ron shared with us the story of his last lesson with the Gypsy master. The following is what I remember from his story… in my own words:

You can practice and know all the techniques perfectly, but it will not make you a master. To become a master of anything you must practice three important things:

The first is love… Love what you do. When you love what you do, the love will come out of your music and give love to all who listen.

The second is love… Love people. If you do not love people, it can create a barrier between you and others. They will have difficulty receiving what you have to give.

The third is love… Listen with love. When those around you listen with their hearts and when you are able to listen to others with love… something beautiful happens that is beyond just “me” and “you.” We become the music together.

I have thought of these three things often since our evening with Ron and I realize that this will become practice:

  • As my family wakes up with a case  of “the Mondays” and I inevitably find myself frustrated, a little voice gently invites me to, “love what you do.” And, I find myself feeling warmth and joy of having my family (even a grouchy family) all together at the beginning of the day. Gratitude!
  • As I share spontaneous laughter with my sister over some very silly cake decorating mistakes, I breathe in the moment of just “listening with love” and laughter.
  • As I get home from the office unusually late one evening, feeling tired and keyed up… “love what you do.”
  • As my husband and I share a few quiet moments with a cup of coffee. “Listen with love.”
  • As I struggle to find words of comfort for a friend going through a difficult time. “Love people.”

Love.

Love what you do.

Love people.

Listen with love.

Words from a master.

If you would like to experience some beautiful Flamenco guitar and share in the love. Here is Ron Radford performing, “Tarantas.”

Compassion, Gratitude, Loving Kindness

Letting It Matter

Art by Kelly Rae Roberts
Art by Kelly Rae Roberts

Today I am grateful for a reminder to look for the beauty in everything… even ourselves. I heard sprinkles of wisdom throughout this day: We matter. You matter. I matter. The moments we share together, when we feel seen and understood, can be healing moments that move gently toward healing our world… like a pebble dropped in water that creates concentric circles that get wider and wider.

The first wisdom was a quote from the author of Momastery:

“Look for the mess in others- you’ll find it. Look for the beauty in others- you’ll find it. Seek and you shall find. It’s just the rule. We need to deepen our vision, maybe. Learn to look past the surface and into the depths of people and stories. It’s often quite lovely there.” Glennon Doyle Melton

Then, I listened to Krista Tippet’s interview with Rachel Naomi-Remen. She shared a story her orthodox Jewish grandfather told her as a present for her fourth birthday. It originated in the Kabbalah Jewish tradition:

“In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

“Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It’s a very important story for our times. 

“And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It’s the restoration of the world. And this is, of course, a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world. And that story opens a sense of possibility. It’s not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It’s about healing the world that touches you, that’s around you.

“It’s a very old story, comes from the 14th century, and it’s a different way of looking at our power. And I suspect it has a key for us in our present situation, a very important key. I’m not a person who is a political person in the usual sense of that word, but I think that we all feel that we’re not enough to make a difference, that we need to be more somehow, either wealthier or more educated or somehow or other different than the people we are. And according to this story, we are exactly what’s needed. And to just wonder about that a little, what if we were exactly what’s needed? What then? How would I live if I was exactly what’s needed to heal the world?” Rachel Naomi Remen

What if we are enough and exactly what is needed in this moment in time? What if all that matters is the person you happen to be with at any given moment?

Good food. Love. Compassion. Laughter. Tears. Touch. It matters.