Category Archives: compassion

Enlightenment

 exploding_sun image by schnuffibossi1

In my former worldview and system of thinking, I did not believe in Enlightenment, aside from the common, everyday use of the term. Gradually, I have begun to experience more and more what feels like capital e Enlightenment. This article by Barbara-Lynn Freed put a lot into words that I hadn’t actually verbalized.

She suggests that there are 5 ways to cultivate enlightenment:

1. Taking Personal Responsibility
2. Trusting Your Inner Authority
3. Being Authentically Vulnerable
4. Cultivating Unconditional Love and Forgiveness
5. Developing True Compassion

The first one of these that I understood was forgiveness. Way back when the big kids were little, I read something about the difference between saying “I’m sorry” and “I’m sorry, Will you please forgive me?” Asking for forgiveness allows us to be authentically vulnerable by humbling ourselves, and allows the one being asked to intentionally offer forgiveness.

Our culture is RIFE with “I’m sorry,” and yet it is often an empty formality. “[I’m] sorry you had to wait thirteen extra seconds for your fries.” “[I’m] sorry I forgot to call you back/rsvp/return your widget/answer your email.” Not every instance of “I’m sorry” must be followed up by “Will you please forgive me?” In relationships, many times an apology followed up by a request for forgiveness quadruples (at least) the power of the apology. As hard as it is for some to say “I’m sorry,” there are many more who have never uttered the words “Will you please forgive me?”

The next step for me was to begin to understand the value of listening to my own inner authority. In small group one evening, another young mother, Kristin, listened to me explaining how I had been listening to myself and acting based on what I sensed my inner wisdom telling me. Kristin longingly expressed how she wished she had such a thing, that she never seemed to know what to do.

Although my first exposure to the idea of taking personal responsibility was dear Viktor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning, it was Tony Robbins who showed me the power of taking personal responsibility. Have you ever noticed how often in movies and television, a character will say, “I had no choice.”? Au contraire, tiny one, I always want to say. You did have a choice. Our most amazing choice available is that one which comes with every single experience. We get to choose how we are going to respond to it.

Last week in the court, the first defendant was a 19-yr-old developmentally delayed man. He was in jail on domestic violence charges against his aunt, who had been housing him. The only person he had as a possible replacement caregiver was a distant great-uncle. He has no other family, no friends. My heart broke for him. That may not be compassion, as much as it is sympathy, but I think it’s in the right direction — seeing him as a worthy and valued human who is capable and lovable, as well as someone who, like all of us, thrives when in an environment where we can express our capabilities and experience love.

Imagine a world, or a community, or a family, or even many individuals who take personal responsibility for their lives, who take the risk to trust their inner authority, believing that authentic vulnerability is actually a strength that benefits all of us, and who give and receive love and compassion and forgiveness. I can begin to imagine it, because I am seeing it in my own life. I want to be part of sharing and igniting this vision in other people. Won’t you join me?

Compassion and Children

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Bob and Ina were a middle-aged childless couple living in our small Kentucky town after being missionaries in a land across a sea. They were building a home where they would spend their retirement. On the day we were to go over to ooh and ahh about the place, before we left, Bob grumpily told me to make sure I kept the kids’ grimy hands off their freshly painted walls.

Oh, I was indignant. AS IF. Anxious as I was back then about any signs of imperfection, I spent the entire walk-through tensely replacing curious childlike arms at sides lest they mar the precious walls.

Still striding purposefully forth as a young mum, I’d take walks with a baby strapped in the Bjorn carrier on my front, a toddler in the Tough Traveler backpack on my back, and a slightly larger toddler in the umbrella stroller. With all my energy consumed by carrying the weight of their world on my body, we walked and I taught them everything I could think of, everything we saw.

When my baby number four came along, I shifted from carrying the physical weight to carrying the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual weight. We had sent Valerie to kindergarten that fall because baby was due in late October and even I knew it might be a bit much to homeschool three (ages 5,4,and 3) with a baby on my hip.

Once kindergarten had concluded, I had my vim and vigor back and embarked on the formal process of educating our kids. Thinking that my kids were uniquely unique in their uniqueness and pretty much the top kids ever born on this small blue dot of God’s green earth, we spelled and sang and memorized and walked and drew and added and read our way through the years.

The bombshell of our later-in-life baby who brought Down syndrome into our world threw me for the looped-de-est loop that ever sideswiped a mama bear. And I reeled for years, trying to continue to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Finally, finally, I learned to embrace the whole kit and kaboodle, the mess and inefficiency and snail-like pace of these bright, quick, beautiful, sentient beings.

Last night, as I set out to floss my teeth (take note, dentist person!), my special floss threaders for my lingual bar retainer were not where I had left them. Immediately, I suspected knew that Kepler was responsible for this reorganization, but he was asleep so no asky keppie tilly morning.

Years ago, I would have raged, furious that I couldn’t leave a small item out on the counter and know it would be there next time I needed it. By now, though, I simply put my Kepler thinking cap on, and remembered that he likes to put miscellaneous items down the laundry chute.

I checked. No flosser threaders, but I found two barrettes that had been next to the f.t.’s and grew suspicious. Little Keppie has occasionally flushed a thing or two before.

Throughout, I was calm, open to what lesson I might be having the chance to learn, and accepting the change in plans that is part and parcel of children in our lives. The compassion section of my heart has had room to grow as the controlling section has faded.

Although not everyone gets to or wants to say yes to the chaos of children, ours have been part of my journey to acceptance, which, by the way, I’m still on.

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Thoughts from Drug Court

I left my house this morning at 8:10 to visit Drug Court with a defendant I know.

Things I noticed:
Young men who wear their pants below their buns actually go through the motions of pulling them up, but only to just-below-bun level. 
These same young men can rely on their pants to stay up just by virtue of the pant legs touching the floor. They can’t fall down anymore than they already have.
The court system is incredibly dehumanizing. Even with a caring, competent judge, the accused is at the mercy of the court and must simply wait as long as it takes. In our case, we waited over 2 1/2 hours for 3 minutes in front of the judge. But that’s the way it works.
It is my preference never to be handcuffed as that looks like some kind of uncomfortable situation right there.
I have added court-appointed attorney to my list of jobs I am grateful I do not have. I think they provide a necessary service and are hugely important to the legal lives of millions of prisoners, but what is it like to work with person after person without really being able to touch them. I’ll grant you I’ve never been an attorney or a defendant, but from the outside, that looks like a tough gig.
My heart went out to the old man next to me whose CAA told him in front of everyone that he does not qualify for Drug Court because of his “extensive felony record.” When the attorney walked away, the man said in frustration, “I haven’t been in trouble in twenty years.” I responded sympathetically. Before he walked away, he sadly said. “This stuff just never goes away.”

Don’t I just wish that every young person in that courtroom could understand what an opportunity they have in Drug Court. The opportunity to come out without a record, while being given treatment to deal with the substance abuse issue. And yet, substance abuse is surely only the tip of the iceberg for many, if not all, who stand before that judge.

The opportunity not to have to say in 40 years, “This stuff just never goes away.”

Suzy’s Going Public Post

Yes, S-u-z-y. An online friend of mine, but I have no doubt we would enjoy many things together were we to meet in real life. Suzy’s Going Public Post spoke about her ongoing issues with weight and you can read about it here.

I, Siouxsie, have also had ongoing issues with weight. Now, I’m not talking about the little ups and downs that everyone has. Nor do I have the extremes of bulimia, eating entire cartons of ice cream, or weighing several hundred pounds. No, I have managed to hide my weight issues pretty well (I think). Most people wouldn’t guess my weight correctly, being quite surprised that the number is so high.

But it’s a secret burden, and a source of shame. Not my weight, per se, but the depth to which I plunge my heart into loss and grief by choices I make about what I put in my mouth. How many times have I gobbled up all the [insert junk food name here] for “the last time,” thinking that going ahead and eating it and not having anymore would somehow make the slightest difference? Hello? There are four Kroger stores three miles in any direction from me. I have a car. I have a drivers license. I do not hesitate to use them.

Over the years, I have dulled my senses and my conscience about food.

When I was a girl, my dad and I used to go to Bonnie Lynn Bakery for “emergency rations,” doughnuts to have along “just in case.” But it was really just for fun. I would go along with him on his drapery installations and hand him things as he stood on the ladder putting up the beautiful drapery rods and draperies that would beautify the homes of his customers. I felt like his Princess Assistant, so important, so treasured, so loved. Doughnuts from Bonnie Lynn were part of that experience.

Always, special times with Dad included food and meals. Grabbing lunch at the now-defunct “Burger Chef.” Running up to the United Dairy Farmers for a mid-afternoon chocolate malt (for him) and shake (for me). We had the “lunch bunch” with extended family members once a week. Thousands of visits to the pizza joints after Sunday evening church, and later in place of Sunday evening church. Lunches with just me and Dad. Chips and Pepsi shared companionably during thousands of quarters of football games. Trips to the Aglamesis Brothers ice cream parlor where we laughed and joked and told stories and felt happy.

My faithful mother was in the background, serving meals that included vegetables, cooking us hot breakfasts of healthy foods, whipping up huge meals for guests who would stop by. She is an amazing cook. The bar was set high in my mind.

Along came scientific research. Look long enough, and you’ll find the pro and con research about every food and drink known to man. Yes, eat more of this! No, don’t eat any of it! You know how Steve Jobs wore the same clothes every day because he didn’t want to use his energy on such a small decision? I’m like that. And when the decision doesn’t seem to have any clear answer, as is the case for me with food, I get paralyzed with inaction, and then eventually just say the hell with it and I get a pizza.

Suzy’s going public post put it out there that she was going to do something about her weight issues. And she did and she has. She lost 50 pounds and has kept all but 5 off for over two years. Clearly, she has made a lifestyle change.

That’s what this post ostensibly is about. Making a lifestyle change. But what the change needs to be is the question. What does the change need to be? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I am sharing this with the world — I want to be healthy and vibrant. My current food choices are not making that a reality.

Besides the “putting into my mouth” aspect, there is also the “what to do instead” aspect, and the “letting go of the belief that changing my eating habits could ever alter the sweet, sweet times I had with Dad.”

This is going to have to be an ongoing process. I don’t have the answers at this time. As a matter of fact, I think I need to just allow myself to be lost in the wilderness of this right now. Accept that I am lost in the wilderness right now.

photo credit: Greg Taylor

There are benchmarks and signs in the wilderness that help one navigate, even if one only has a topographical map. Using a map and compass means taking the next steps and then stopping again to figure out where to go next. My map today says to acknowledge the trees that surround me and the darkness that seems to be most evident on the path ahead. My heart says to take the next step. Therefore, I create this post and share it, knowing that doing so is the courageous step that will help me find my way out of this dark forest.

Tigger’s Top 15 Tiny Steps to Minimize Depression in Eeyore

Hey, depressed person who may be reading this. Thanks for reading. Try one of the things on this list TODAY. 

A. Listen to music that you LOVE! There may be more sad songs out there than happy ones, lyrically speaking, but look for songs that energize you, that lift you up a little or a lot! I took my daughter to a My Chemical Romance concert a few years ago, before I was into them, but I am now, and every time I hear a song by them, I remember the huge adventure of that concert and it just lifts my spirits. 


B. Exercise! Most people who are feeling depressed are definitely not feeling the love for getting up and getting moving. This is where the concept of having an exercise appointment comes in and can sometimes be enough motivation to get going. If it’s in the budget, get a personal trainer! Part of their job is listening to you and finding positive things to say. 

C. Medication! For me and many others, it helps tremendously. My brain knows when it is on the med that works with my brain chemistry. Lots of people are able to take it for a period of time and then wean off of it. Many others take it for the long-term. 

D. Offer yourself compassion! Depressed people are well-versed in listing all of their failures, shortcomings, mistakes, errors, blunders, oversights, bumblings, and overall general personal suckage. Try thinking kind thoughts toward yourself — the kind you would extend to a child who had just skinned their knee, or a beloved pet dog or cat. 
E. Read! Enjoy different kinds of books. Read books that allow you to escape into a fantasy world where you can use your imagination. Read books that teach you something about life. There are literally hundreds of resources to help you find books that will interest you, not the least of which is your local librarian. 

F. Watch interesting movies and television shows! This could be expanded to include YouTube videos. Trick here is not to get hypnotized by the one-eyed monster and end up even less motivated. Watching things should be done judiciously, and should bring you at least a smidgen of joy.

G. Maintain a normal day/night routine. Experiment with going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day. Seems that turning off screens 30 or 60 minutes before bed is a very good idea for your brain, which needs to settle down to sleep. Don’t check Instagram if you wake up in the night!

H. Drink some water! Eat some fruits and vegetables! Depression demands Tostitos, coke, Froot Loops, and ice cream. Yeah, that’s because Depression wants to intensify itself and junk food does the trick. Eating REAL foods helps strengthen the REAL you. 

I. Find a pal you can text when you are feeling down and let them know how you are feeling. Depression wants us to sit alone, in a dark room, and focus on how we have no friends, no one cares, and it’ll never get better. Not true. Even if you don’t feel close to anyone right now, there are a lot of people out there who would be willing to provide this type of support. 

J. Clean up something, or declutter for a few minutes. Choose one square foot to clean up, or one small task, like clearing all the trash and dishes from your nightstand. Even a tiny step like this is able to improve your mood, in many instances.

K. Spend a bit of money. A bit. Don’t impulse spend on anything more expensive than $6.34, but go shopping or even window shopping. It gets you out of the house, gives you the opportunity to greet and be greeted by another human, and shifts your state, even if only a bit.

L. Go through the door of your house to the actual outdoors. Whether it is to walk to the end of the driveway, walk or drive to the local library or coffeehouse, or just let the sunshine pour onto your head, do it. Even five minutes outside is better than 24 hours inside. 

M. Pet your cat or dog if you have one. Or even your son’s stuffed Baymax character. Baymax is soft and soothing. 

N. Laugh on purpose. Even if there is nothing funny. Lie down on the floor and just make a belly laugh occur. You’ll probably feel sheepish at first, since you know the laughing doesn’t match how your insides feel, but you will be amazed at how laughter, even fake laughter, can make a difference.

And a bonus route: Set a time for 15 minutes to get yourself started on a task, any task. Taking a shower. Washing the dishes. Writing. Walking. 

And a bonus bonus! Sometime when you feel more like yourself, create your own list of routes to minimize your depression. Seems like making choices while depressed can be extremely challenging, so make a plan in the light for the darkness that may come again.