Category Archives: Emotional Health

Finding gratitude for wasted time

Ten thousand years ago our time was pretty much filled with working to live. Time not spent hunting, gathering, and farming was used to make the things they needed for daily life such as housing clothes, food, and other necessities. It took a lot of work to make sure there was enough food stored properly to make it through winters and clothing to wear for protection.

But what did they do when the house was built, clothing was made, and the food stored? They created art. Making a bead was intensive labor. The shell or the stone had to be ground down, and a hole drilled through it. Making enough to decorate clothing and make jewelry took thousands of hours.

Through the ages your ability to have decorations in your home and on your clothes was a sign of wealth. The reason for this is wasted time. The more resources you had the more time you had to waste. Ten thousand years ago you only really had time to make unnecessary things if you had all the necessary things made. You wouldn’t use grapes, apples, or grain to make alcohol if you didn’t have enough to make sure your family was fed. You didn’t have the time to hand-make beads to decorate your clothing if you didn’t already have clothing. Time wasting activities meant you had everything you needed and were good to go.

Another word for wasting time is hobbies. I have a multitude of hobbies that serve no purpose other than making me feel good. The fish tank I keep in my living room serves no purpose other than to give me something pretty too look at. It takes my time and resources (money and water) to keep it going. Hobbies keep us sane. The only time they become a problem is when they interfere in maintaining the rest of our lives. When they take food from your mouth, shelter from over your head, and time from maintaining relationships then they are problematic. Otherwise, the time and resources to have hobbies is something to be thankful for.

I am thankful that I have the time every week to write this blog. I am grateful that I have the time to travel, to take pictures, and to play around on Facebook. All of my hobbies are things that keep me grounded and sane, and in many ways connected to friends and family, and the world around me. None of them are necessary, and thus are “wasted time”. Hopefully you find a way to be thankful that you have extra time as well. Don’t begrudge yourself your hobbies. If you have the time and the resources, wasting time is a time honored tradition that we’ve had for thousands of years.

Learning how to dance

Going with the Flow

A Taoist
story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids
leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his
life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the
bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive.

“I accommodated myself to
the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to
be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl.
This is how I survived.”

I happen to think in pictures, and sometimes this creates difficulty when trying to describe concepts in my head to clients.  A picture that I had in my head while working with a client recently was that every time the world would change directions she would fall over, working her best to  continue on in the direction she was going, the direction she was comfortable with.   The picture I had was working to shift from fighting the change and falling, to flowing with the change.  Moving from falling, to dancing.

So much of the suffering I see in my clients is attempts to keep the world the way it was, instead of adjusting to the way it really is.  Sakyong Mipham discusses in his book How To Turn Your Mind in to an Ally how we create difficulty for ourselves by resisting change.  Struggling to keep the world in our safety zone where we are comfortable.

The world is going to shift, often in ways that we don’t plan, or even want.  If we struggle to keep the world the same, every time it shifts in a new direction we risk falling.  Consider the world your dance partner, always in the lead.  There will always be times now and then the world shifts unexpectedly and we are knocked off our feet.  In general though, if we keep our heads (and our hearts) together we can follow the shifts and keep our feet, hopefully with even a little grace.

Buddhism believes that suffering comes from wanting.  Wanting to draw closer, push away, or wanting to keep the same. An old saying, possibly over used, “the only constant is change”.  The world will shift, time will move forward, and change will come.  When we can learn to follow the changes the world is going to throw at us, we can learn to dance instead of fall.

What’s love got to do with it?

When you love someone you care about their happiness and well-being. When they are struggling, you feel empathy and want to help. When they are sad or hurting you want to help them feel better. When you love someone you care. Codependency is taking responsibility for the other person’s happiness. When they are struggling you feel required to make it better. When they are sad or hurt, it is your fault if they don’t feel better. Codependency is when you know that is going on with them and put their emotions above your own.

Love has nothing to do with making someone’s emotions your own. It is difficult enough to manage your own emotions and keep them in check. Trying to add someone else’s is like trying to empty a lake with a bucket. You may be able to make a small difference, but not enough to really matter.

The best thing you can do for someone else is hold space for them while they have their own emotions. You create a situation in which they are allowed to feel what they are feeling without judgment. This at times means putting aside your frustrations with their emotions. It does not mean trying to fix the emotions or make things better. Just being present while they move through them on their own.

Love is not about making someone happy. While it would be amazing if we all had magic wands and we could fix things with a wave, or if we had happy buttons that could be pushed, we don’t. That just isn’t the case. It isn’t easy to be present for someone that is hurt, and just let them hurt. That is what you do for someone that you love though. You can’t fix it, but you can be there. Love is just being there.

Ignore the news

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the news is rather negative lately. It can make a person feel rather overwhelmed with the negative, and at times powerless. We forget that the normal and the kind doesn’t get reported. Every day people go about their lives, being normal regular people. They are kind in moments, cruel in others, but overall normal. If we watch the news, it is easy to feel the world is coming to an end with how horrible it is.

Remember; the news draws viewers by pointing out the horrible. They don’t draw people by pointing out the normal or the kind. It is still out there. We have to take the time to look for it, especially because we will notice our pet peeves long before we notice the normal and the beautiful and add that in to the news that we see every day.

In general we are all just working to live our lives the best we can, in the best way we can. And most of us just move through life without hurting anyone, creating any scandals, or creating any bother. The news doesn’t reflect this. Along with the people working to live normal chaos free lives, many people actually work to make a nice difference in people’s lives. We just need to look.

The news is not going to show us the normal. It doesn’t make good ratings to say “Everyone went about their lives in an every way manner, with nothing crazy happening”. That is what happens to most of us. In order to keep our sanity we need to remember this. Most of people are good people, and most people live normal lives. It isn’t all going to hell in a hand-basket. We are mostly doing okay. Don’t let the news drive you insane. It is overall okay. Hold on to that.

Joining the frenzy

OK, I have fed into the fad, and downloaded the app. I happened to download the app on Monday night, when the number of people using the app and downloading the app crashed the server. There happens to be a landmark near me in a park. As my partner and I walked to the park where several people were hitting a softball around, and there were several people with dogs. The ones with their dogs were holding their phones, working to make the app work. We approached the landmark (which happens to be a sign that says “Don’t be a ‘poo’lluter”) and there was another group of people at a picnic bench working to get the app to work as well. We stopped and talked to them, pet the dog that was there, and chatted for a few minutes.

This app encouraged us to go for a walk (which we may or may not have done, it is often a ritual for us, but in the Austin heat it is still in the 90’s at 9:00 at night). It also allowed us to talk to people that we wouldn’t have spoken before. If we had taken the path through the park, we would have walked past them without a thought (other than to see the amazingly beautiful Great Dane mix). The app encouraged us to get out and do something and speak to people that we would never have spoken to before.

People found our park because they saw a landmark nearby. It encouraged them to stop and see something and someplace new. That is amazing! I have a feeling I will be using to app to find new places as well! I saw on Facebook that someone found the Buddhist Temple, which I have known is here but I have never visited.

I am torn. I don’t want us to need an app to get out and do. I don’t want to be face down in my phone while I’m out and about. When people come to see me for depression, I remind them we live in Austin, Texas, and one of the first things that is recommended for depression is exercise. We have an amazing 8 mile greenbelt that is getting expanded to go from north Austin to south Austin, some 20 miles. We have the Town Lake Trail (I refuse to call it Lady Bird Lake. She didn’t want it called that when she was alive, I won’t call it that now) that is 10 miles, a great hike and bike trail that has an amazing board walk. On Town Lake during the summer you can take paddle-bikes, stand-up paddle-boards, canoe’s and kayaks out to see the Congress Street Bats. This is just to name a few. There are free dancing lessons, rock climbing; both indoor and outdoor, scuba diving, and much much more. In Austin, Texas it is not hard to get out and do.

And. If an app encourages people to get out when they wouldn’t have done so before then I am overjoyed. The app gave me permission, with my introverted shyness, to approach someone that I wouldn’t have approached before (other than to pet their dog).   People are reporting that it is helping them move even with their anxiety, explore new places, and talk to people. Use the app to get out and about. Don’t forget to look around you and see the world that it helps you explore.

Pokemon Go is even helping out the pups!  https://www.facebook.com/events/151733648583012/

Now is not the time for more hate

Our country is in a place of mourning for tragedy.  We are mourning the tragic death of a young black man at a traffic stop. We are morning the death of Dallas Officers.  Now is not the time for hatred.  Now is the time for the helpers.  So many people are grieving today.  We should all be standing by them in their grief.  We should be letting them know they aren’t alone in their pain.

My heart goes out to the mother and the family of Philando Castile, and the other young men that have died in the last couple of days.  Their deaths are a loss that should be felt by all of us.  It is a loss of life that didn’t need to happen.  The family, and the Country does not need more hate right now, it needs the helpers.  It needs understanding that lives matter.

My heart goes out to the family of the Police officers that were killed in the line of duty last night.  They were working to protect a peaceful group and their deaths were needless.

The families of these tragedies will have no relief by “justice”.  The Country does not need more hate right now, it needs helpers.  These families will be swimming in a river of grief and loss and confusion.  Blame, hatred, and justification will not help them.  Criticism, Contempt, and conjecture will not help a Country wondering if their sons or their husbands are safe, be they Black, or Officers.

Remember to be careful about feeding in to the Media.  Their main purpose is to have ratings, not to give correct information.  They will fill the air waves with conjecture, and some with more hatred.  Be careful about listening to guesses and forming opinions about situations in which we don’t have all the facts.  We don’t know.  We have guesses, and opinions, but no facts.  Don’t let these guesses move you to anger and more hate.

Mr. Rogers said in times of tragedy to look for the helpers.  We need helpers right now.  We need those that can work to help the families stay afloat in their river of grief with loving kindness.  We need those that will help a confused Country find a reason to be loving and cohesion again, when so many people and events give push us toward division and anger.

Now is not the time for hate, or blame, or finger pointing. Now is the time for helping and for grieving.  If you do not have it in you to be one of the helpers, I urge you to find your own peace, and follow the rule “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.  We need helpers.  We need kindnesses.  I know many of you feel powerless against a tide of hatred; toward the Police, toward Black Lives Matter, and towards injustices on both sides.  Find how you can give.  There are GoFundMe accounts for the families of the young Black men that died.  If there aren’t there hopefully will be soon for the families of the Dallas Police that died.  We can speak with our government representatives about better training for our police, along with better pay and benefits (If we can pay a basketball player or football player $5 million for 2 years, we can figure out how to pay the officers more).  There are many ways to help.  And if you can’t help, at least don’t hurt.  These people need our support and our love, not our hate.  Now is not the time for more hate.  Now is the time for kindness.

The school of life

Tips for a better life # 15: Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

We are all life-long scholars in the Hard-Knox School of Life.  Though a great deal of what we need to learn is actually taught in kindergarten , sometimes we take all our lives to remember these lessons and to find out what they really mean.  Ironically life is actually very similar to the game Chutes and Ladders. We all start at birth, and ultimately we all end at death.  Between the game board sometimes catapults us forward, and drops us back down.  Sometimes because of our own actions, and sometimes because life just happens that way, both good and bad.  No matter what though, we all end at the same place.  The lessons we learn, and how we handle both successes and failures, is entirely up to us.

All lessons, like all stories, have a beginning middle and end.  When we are in the middle of the “lesson” it sometimes seems that it will always be there, we will always feel the way we feel.  In the middle of the problem we forget the knowledge of that ending part.   There are many cliche’s  for endings: “Nothing stays the same”, “This too shall pass”, “The only constant is change”, etc.   Remember, cliche’s are generally true, for example; “a journey of 1000 miles starts with one step” annoying as they can be sometimes.  In the middle of a problem remembering that it will pass can sometimes be the only comfort we find.  If we allow it, problems will pass us by.  At times we for some reason we work to cling to our pain and keep the problem around, but that is always our choice.

In the classroom of life  we all walk away with a different lesson.  Because we as humans are not snowflakes we are not the only ones that have our particular life experiences, though not everyone walks away with the same perception of the experience. There is a level of control regarding the lessons we walk away with.

An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…

He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One wolf is evil –he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity,guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition,superiority, and ego.

The other is good—he is joy, peace, love,hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship,empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather,”Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed”.

We all move through experiences.  The lessons we learn are our choice.  We can learn the lessons that bring bitterness, hurt, anger and pain.  Or we can learn the lessons in a way that help us find kindness, peace, and understanding.   Life is pain.  Anyone that tells you differently is selling you something.  Life is also joy and kindness.  It is how we handle the pain that defines us, and decides if we can experience the rest as well.  Just remember rule number rules number 18 and 19.   Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good, and Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

Setting limits in confusing situations

Life is not always clear.  We want to think that we will be able to quickly and easily see boundary lines, and be able to follow them.  The boss is always the boss.  The child is always the child. The teacher is always the teacher.  But what happens when the wife becomes the teacher?  When the child becomes the boss?  When the parent needs to be taken care of?  When the Boss becomes the friend?  Or better yet when the friend becomes the Boss?

Is your your employee a good friend?  Does this person some times take advantage of the friendship when it comes to work?   Is your parent older, and while they are asking you to take a larger role in caring for them, do they resist your care?  It can be difficult setting boundaries when there are two parts of a relationship that need to be considered.

The first thing to look at as an individual is the roll that you need as a person to be the primary / dominant roll.  For example, once you’re the boss, the primary roll is probably going to be your position as the boss.  It is one thing to lose a friend, it is another to lose a job because you weren’t able to step up and set limits.  When a parent becomes the one needing care, letting your desire to have a mom or a dad can compromise the care of the parent.

Having poor limits can also compromise the relationship.  When you have the friend that is also an underling, and boundaries are not firm, the friend taking advantage of the poor boundaries can create resentment and anger.  The parent that doesn’t have firm boundaries can wear a care-giving child out quickly.  Unfortunately, the one in the power position is the one that needs to be the one setting limits.  The givers need to set limits because the takers never will.

You will need to be OK not being liked all the time.  The one in charge will be required to make decisions those under them don’t like.  They will be required to set limits, delegate, and set tasks that will make people uncomfortable, resentful, and frustrated.  That is part of the job.  It ain’t easy being Queen.  Or King.

Work to create a container around the rolls.  When you are the friend / child / partner or friend don’t be the boss.  Set boundaries that when you in certain places and certain times whatever work you have that you are the boss is put aside.  For example, At lunch you are friends and you don’t talk about work, work frustrations, or work needs.  When you are at “work”, literally or metaphorically, personal and friendships are put on hold.  You create a container around the work, and around the relationships.  Work to keep them from bleeding in to each other.  Make it clear to the other party where the lines are, and be clear when the lines are crossed.

Life isn’t about nice clear lines and easily understandable boundaries.  We are sometimes required to set them for ourselves.  That means we have to figure out what boundaries we need for our own sanity. Creating these containers will not be easy, and will be uncomfortable for everyone.  It will also save relationships and sanity.

Living with hate

For the first time in a while I’ve had a request to write about something specific.  As I can imagine you’ve heard, on Sunday morning in the early hours a man walked in to a night club and killed 49 people, injuring many more.  We have ideas about why, and we have his phone call to 911 claiming what he did for Isis, but there are many many unknowns.  What we do know is he had hate in his heart.  He has had hate in his heart for a very long time, long enough that the FBI had him on a watch list.  This hate, for whatever reason, was used to destroy the lives of hundreds of people.  The families and loved ones of those that died, the families and friends and loved ones of those that have been injured, are changed forever.  They  have been touched by hate.

There are many possibilities about why this man decided to kill as many people as he could.  A plausible one is that he himself was gay, and he was fighting the edicts of his own religion, his own mental health, his hatred for his own desires, and turned all of that pain on to others.  We will never know exactly what was going through his head, but we do know that he had hate in his heart.  Whether it was for others or for himself, or both we will never know.  But no matter his reasons for his actions, we now have a couple of choices.

The first choice we have is to turn to fear and hatred ourselves.  We can demonize his actions as being through his religion, through his mental health, or his race and we can start our own attacks through fear and hate.  We can spread the hate as far and as wide as we can.  Based on my Facebook feed this is what some people have chosen to do.  We can turn to blame, working to find the who to point the finger at.  We can demand an eye for an eye, and seek justice from anyone that shares anything with that man. If we choose that route we will have to remember that those that we hurt will want their vengeance as well.  They will want their pound of flesh, and their eye as well.

If we choose fear we will end up feeling bitter, angry and powerless,  terrified of full of hate.  With fear we have the choice of fighting or running.  We can run, and hide.  We can choose to never leave our homes, never get on a plane or go to a club or run a race.  We can hide, or we can fight.  And when we fight we will make more people have hatred as we hurt and maim and kill others in our fight for justice.

That is not the path I want.  I do not want to hide, cowering in my home to avoid all possibility of getting hurt by someone’s hatred.  There is a big world out there, and I want to experience all I can.  I also don’t want to keep the hatred going, punishing whomever I can for my pain and my hurt.  The other option that I have is to be one of the helpers.

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

The helpers are the ones that will bring us back together.  Helping people heal, both physically and emotionally from the immediate trauma is the first step.  If you aren’t able to help at that immediate level, then help those closest to you that are reeling.  Remind them that people in general are good people.  Remind them that being a good person and spreading kindness is the best way to heal.

Don’t get me wrong, I do want to take action and make sure you cant get a magazine of 100 rounds for a weapon.  That is ridiculous.  I will write to my congressman and support legislation to this purpose.  I do want to take realistic steps when I can to make sure things don’t happen.   What isn’t helpful is pointing fingers, doling out hate, yelling at people that have no involvement, or cowering.

This has been a traumatic event that has affected so many people.  There are so many stories floating around, it is easy to get sucked in to the anger and the fear-mongering.  One man was able to cause all of this.  For whatever reason, he took a weapon and his hate and hurt and hurt as many people as he could.  I’m sure that each and every one of us has our own belief about this man, who he was, why he did what he did, and what should happen next.  What many of us forget is the kindnesses that are needed to grieve, survive and thrive.  I for one won’t let anger and hate keep me from living the life I want to live.  A life of exploration, of kindness, and finding beauty wherever I can.  This is how we heal. This is how we fight.

My heart is with every mother, father, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, and friend that lost someone in that club.  My heart is with everyone that was there and was part of the terror of a crazed man with a gun.  We won’t stop him with more hate.  He will continue to hurt all of us if we do this.  We will stop him with hope and kindness.  With reminders that there is beauty in the world, even when there is ugliness and hate.  That acts of great courage will always defeat acts of anger, fear and hate.