Sunday, July 17, 2016

Good Intentions & Assumptions


After the special silent service was finished, we left behind the pamphlets on the back table so they could be used again next year. One of the readers whose passages were highlighted in her pamphlet left hers upside down in the pile so that the person sorting them later would be able to separate it from the others. I had a part, too, so I was going to do the same thing. But the lady ahead of me saw the upside down pamphlet and assumed that the person who left it that way had been careless. She straightened it with all good intentions and moved on. When I left mine, I tried to sort them again to make it easier later on, but my efforts were foiled by another orderly person, again with the best of intentions. So I moved on, too.

So many of us make assumptions, thinking we are doing the right thing.

First published January 2017 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.

Monday, July 4, 2016



The pickup truck parked at the side of the road was blocking part of the driving lane. He parked right on the hilltop, making it impossible to see if it was safe to move over to the other lane to get by him. "What a jerk."

One of the women on a yoga retreat left her shoes right inside the door, where people would trip over them. Every time. "How inconsiderate."

When Suzie, a young woman I care about, accused me of doing something I didn't do, I felt hurt. But then in a nanosecond, I judged her, "How disrespectful."

Judgement can happen fast.

When I caught myself judging the shoe-lady, I stopped in my tracks. How could I approach this in a non-judgemental way?

Judgement is about the person, their character, personality or motivations. Yet I'm not qualified to judge anyone. Non-judgement, on the other hand, is just observation. Nothing added. Just-the-facts.

Judgement: "How inconsiderate." Non-judgement: "These shoes are in the doorway. I'll have to watch where I step."

But that was hard. I really, really wanted to move my thinking into, "I shouldn't have to step over someone else's shoes."

Judgement slips in when we think we are entitled to something: an easy pathway into the lodge, respect, love, affection, peace and quiet, or an open road. It's built on a sense of entitlement. Sneaky thing, judgement.

This doesn't seem like big stuff, but it affects us in deep ways that can really mess up our ability to communicate well or develop better relationships not just with the one we judge but ourselves too. By judging another, I demean them and victimize myself.

When Suzie made her accusations, I was hurt by the fact that she didn't give me the benefit of the doubt. My depth of caring for her made it hurt more. Yet, as long as I laid the blame for my hurt on her doorstep, I was giving her my power.

I will never be able to control what someone thinks or how they act. It's like trying to stop a force of nature. To release myself from my role as victim, I have to take action. I have to act on just-the-facts. For Suzie, I love her (and myself) better by taking care of the hurt feelings and then deciding from there if I am ready to let it go or set a boundary. The shoes in the doorway: step over them or move them aside. For the pickup at the side of the road, slow right down, perhaps even stop until I can see if the way is clear.

Life will always give me shoes, and blocked lanes and unkind words. How I respond to them is up to me. If Suzie's words still sting when I think about them, I'm still letting myself be victimized. I may need to do something different to take care of myself, perhaps get some distance.

It can be tricky to see judgement when it rises. I imagine I judge others in ways I have yet to discover. Yet I don't mind the practice. I find it interesting to see how the dynamics change when I can turn judgement into just-the-facts, and conversely, how the dynamics play out when I can't.

My sister gave me a great analogy that helps:
Think about a cat sleeping in the most comfortable place in the house. Then the dog comes in, disrupting its sleep and comfort. What will the cat do? It'll get up and move to the second most comfortable place in the house and go back to sleep. Just-the-facts, leading to taking care of its own needs.

“Love is the absence of judgment.” -- The Dalai Lama
"A person who judges gets it wrong, becomes confused and is defeated." -- Pope Francis


Greece, pic by Astronaut Sam Cristoforetti

"So when you're like a keg of dynamite just about to go off, patience means just slowing down at that point- just pausing- instead of immediately acting on your usual, habitual response. You refrain from acting, you stop talking to yourself, and then you connect with the soft spot. But at the same time you are completely and totally honest with yourself about what you are feeling. You're not suppressing anything; patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact, it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself. If you wait and don't fuel the rage with your thoughts, you can be very honest about the fact that you long for revenge; nevertheless, you keep interupting the torturous story line and stay with the underlying vulnerabilty. That frustration, that uneasiness and vulnerabilty is nothing solid. And yet it is painful to experience. Still, just wait and be patient with your anguish and with the discomfort of it. This means relaxing with that restless, hot energy- knowing it's the only way to find peace for ourselves or the world."

-- Pema Chödrön from "Practicing Peace In Times of War"

photo by Astronaut Sam Cristoforetti

Sunday, July 3, 2016



"We all have a knowledge of harmony anchored deep within ... Those who feel inspired, as I do, by the greatness of small things will pursue them to the very heart of the inessential where, cloaked in everyday attire, this greatness will emerge from within a certain ordering of ordinary things and from the certainty that all is as it should be, the conviction that it is fine this way."

-- Muriel Barbery from "The Elegance of the Hedgehog"

(I loved this book.)