This post is part of a series about “should”Continue reading “Where We Learn to Hurt Ourselves (aka the Origin of Should)”
This post is part of a series about “should“: How “should” is often the source of our suffering, how we make ourselves feel worse by telling ourselves we should be feeling better, and how acceptance is the key to dismantling our internal “should”. Here is the short version: An unwanted event (let’s say, being cut off in traffic) doesn’t usually make us upset for very long. What makes us upset is our insistence that things should be different (“that person shouldn’t have cut me off!”). We often make ourselves feel even worse by having reactions to our reactions, which I call “stacking” (for example, feeling stupid about feeling angry about being cut off in traffic). We can escape this cycle of suffering by accepting reality (“I feel stupid about feeling angry about being cut off, and I really do feel angry right now, and that’s the reality”). Accepting reality is not the same thing as becoming passive or fatalistic. We can still strive for a better future while accepting the present reality.Continue reading “When Pain Becomes Suffering (aka “Pain is Not the Problem”)”
On Our Last Episode…Continue reading “How to Stop Hurting Ourselves”
Most of us think we suffer because of things that happen to us. That isn’t true. We suffer because of how we talk to ourselves about things that happen to us. More specifically, we suffer because we insist that things should be different: People should be treating us differently. We should be acting differently. The world should be different.Continue reading “The One Word That Is Ruining Your Life”
When people you care about are upset or anxious, what is the best way for you to comfort and support them? The answer is a lot simpler than you might think, and a little more challenging than you might expect. First, let’s go over the things that will NOT help, and may result in an argument with the person you are trying to help:Continue reading “How To Support Loved Ones Who Are Upset”
Sitting with my eyes closed and trying to focus on my breathing is an opportunity for me to practice acceptance, because I will become distracted. Whenever I realize I’ve become distracted, I bring my attention back to my breathing. I used to give myself a hard time whenever this would happen – I would judge myself pretty harshly for being unable to maintain my concentration on my breath. These days I realize that catching myself when I’ve become distracted is a success – to know that I’ve become distracted is to become aware of myself. I can’t know that I’m distracted while I’m distracted. So that very moment of realizing “Oh! I’m thinking about groceries again!” is the moment that I stopped thinking about groceries, and became aware of myself. And that is success. Not only did I become aware, but I was also able to accept reality without being harsh toward myself. Just noting that I was distracted, and bringing my attention back, that’s all. As I do this again and again, focusing on my breath and waking up to realize I’ve become distracted and bringing my awareness back to my breath without judging myself, I am practicing acceptance.Continue reading “Listening Is Applied Meditation”
You open yourself up to the pain of others, in order to be a true companion for them, a comforting presence in the middle of a terrible experience. You can tell it helps them, sometimes, to share their pain with you – someone who understands and cares. And as you share of yourself so generously with more and more people, you find that it is taking a toll on you. It is exhausting to experience so much secondhand suffering. It is draining. It sucks the color out of your own life, leaves you depleted, less able to connect with the next person and to enjoy your own life.Continue reading “Drain Less, Replenish More: Staving off Compassion Fatigue”
Meandering in my neighborhood park, I notice a bird flapping around a squirrel that is clinging to a tree trunk . The bird is about the same size as the squirrel, maybe a little smaller, so at first it seems like an unlikely cross-species game of tag. The bird swoops around the squirrel, who darts around the trunk. The bird settles on a branch of the same tree, and the two stare at each other, unmoving. Then the dance repeats. I have seen squirrels chase one another–sometimes it feels like play, sometimes like aggressive territoriality–but this has an altogether different feel. There is a sense of urgency here, of desperation. And suddenly I realize that the bird is a falcon. It wants to eat the squirrel.
Shortly after my surprise encounter with Lee and his fiance, Hillary Emails me to tell me that they’re planning a surprise birthday party for Lee. I’m invited, but there’s bigger news: She asks if I can be the decoy, to lure him out of the house while she’s preparing. This is all to take place on the following Sunday, at the end of the weekend I was planning on spending in DC, catching up with friends. I consider as I squint at the laptop, too late at night in the pink bedroom in which I’m staying. Doing this will require being back pretty early, by 1pm or so, which would mean leaving DC fairly early. But why not – how often do I get asked to help conspire for the benefit of anyone’s surprise birthday party? It feels like a pleasantly intimate request, one that instantly turns me into a trusted friend. I reply to tell her I do it, and coordinate the whole thing with Lee by Email. Lee agrees to meet me at 30th Street Station when I get back from Philadelphia, and the plan is in motion.
Coming out of the airplane at the Philadelphia airport, I feel sad. Philadelphia is not a happy place for me, despite all the good things that have happened, all the opportunities it affords me, the friends that live here.