Let's keep our eyes open

It’s easy to judge and hate what’s different, or what we view as wrong. But it’s not helpful.

Hate begets more hate, violence creates more violence, and the gap widens. There has to be a different answer to the chaos, fear, and separation in today’s world.

“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

This quote, attributed to Mohandas Gandhi, is even more pertinent today.

With so much uncertainty, upset, fear, and separation today, there has to be something each of us can do to help transform our world.

As I wrote in a past column, mini-civil wars seem to be popping up everywhere, while some warn of a bigger one on the horizon.

We can’t simply rely on the powers that be to make things right; it’s up to each and every one of us.

When we’re in fear, the fight-flight-or-freeze response is activated, and we get hijacked. When this happens, we lose contact with the rational, thinking part of our brains, and people say and do things out of alignment with their true characters.  

I’ll bet everyone of us has experienced a time when this has happened.

It’s very human to add more of what we see and experience in challenging situations; hatred, judgment and cruel words seem to abound these days.

As we’re tempted to add more of what we see, we grow increasingly out of balance.

We’re living in a world of reaction, where many are re-acting, or repeating the same problem-creating behaviours.

It’s easy to react to what’s challenging, but when we re-act, we often repeat the same type of actions. What’s needed is wise response.

I’ve been asking myself, how can I, little old me, even begin to make a positive difference in today’s world? What is mine to do?

It’s easy to pretend what I say and do makes no difference, but I’d be wrong.

While we may not be playing large on the world stage, we can each transform life within our circle of influence.

It’s time for us to rise above the battleground and know each one of us has a role to play in making the world a better place.

Cloistering into our silos of belief isn’t going to help us understand people who hold different beliefs. When we do this, we end up in an echo chamber and we learn nothing new.

I’ve been challenging myself to listen to people who hold different beliefs. I don’t always find it easy, but if we’re going to heal the great divide that seems apparent in the world today, I must.

This is a time in which civil discourse and curious conversation, without needing to be right, would be helpful.

When people feel heard, they can stop yelling, and we can hear what’s really being said. When we listen to understand, instead of to argue, we might find out we have more in common than we thought.

Choosing to not judge, but to stay curious when challenging situations arise, is a powerful practice.

The antidote to hatred and violence isn’t more hatred and violence; it’s choosing a different way. Adding darkness to darkness does nothing to bring the light; only the light can do that.

Treating others as we’d like to be treated is a fundamental principle of every faith tradition. Can you imagine how things would change if we moved these words into action?

When the violence in the world seems to be increasing, let’s choose to add kindness, care, and goodness to life. Small acts of kindness add up and ripple outward.

We can each become the person and the place, where something new and good can happen. It’s time for each of us to be the change we want to see in the world.

Just stop it!

If you met yourself, would you like you?

I know so many wonderful people who keep the idea of liking themselves at arms length. As I listen to people speak about themselves, I can find it painful, as I most often hear far more self-criticism and put-downs than I do kindness.

How do you speak to and about yourself?

We’d never speak to another person the way we speak to ourselves. If we did, we’d be pretty unpopular, and I’m sure we’d end up living solitary lives.

This common practice doesn’t help us grow and evolve; it limits us.

I was saddened as I listened to a client speak negatively about herself. I was saddened, but not surprised as it’s not unusual to hear self-deprecating comments. 

I repeated what she’d said about herself back to her, using the same words and tone of voice as she had.

She looked shocked and hurt as her eyes grew wide.  I’d insulted her greatly, but I’d used her own words, not mine.

Once her shock passed and she saw the smile on my face, she got it. I was only repeating what she was continually saying to herself. Hearing someone else say it back to her was shocking.

She smiled as she understood.

Although it’s not uncommon for us to speak negatively about ourselves, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for most people. It’s the internal dialogue, our self-talk, that’s often even more abusive.

We often deflect compliments, instead of accepting them, or we make a self-minimizing statement in return. We’ll easily take a criticism to heart, but a compliment is like water off a duck.

It’s a cultural trend to put ourselves down and dismiss or minimize our positive attributes.

We’re so hard on ourselves. Many people are caught in, what mindfulness teacher Tara Brach called, a “trance of unworthiness.” Self-criticism is epidemic, yet it comes at a cost. It’s not helpful to our thriving.

It’s easy to get caught in a state of needing to arrive at some distant, elusive point of so-called perfection because it’s pervasive in our society. “I’ll be enough when…”.

We fill in the blank for the many ways we keep ourselves at arms length from relaxing into who we’re here to be.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that one of the deepest regrets many people have on their death-beds is the awareness they never lived as their true selves, but lived their lives trying to be some version of enough, dictated though the many shoulds we place on ourselves.

Do you want to be happier and more peaceful? Then, be a radical for change by challenging your old beliefs. Peace and happiness are an inside job!

Often, we spend more of our mental and emotional coin ruminating on what didn’t go well, than what went right.

A habit of self-attack isn’t helpful for positive change, and has negative consequences to our mental, emotional, and physical health, as well as our relationships with others.

Self-compassion is the antidote.

We’ve been steeped in a culture that leads us to believe self-kindness and self-compassion will make us weak, lazy, and selfish. Research reveals this isn’t true.

Research also shows learning to be compassionate with ourselves:

  • reduces anxiety and depression
  • increases happiness and optimism
  • reduces the stress response
  • improves our physical health
  • creates greater resiliency
  • increases our self-esteem
  • supports us in making and sustaining healthy changes
  • increases our tendency to be kinder to others

Learning to become self-compassionate takes practise. Breaking the habit of self-criticism begins with becoming mindful and aware of the nature of our self-talk.

We’re often unaware of the constant thread of self-critical thoughts because we’ve practiced them for so long.

Observing the nature of our thoughts and self-talk in a curious and non-judgmental way is the place to start. Becoming more positive in our self-talk can help us to transition from self-critic into becoming our own best friend.

The next time someone pays you a compliment, simply accept it and say, “thank you”.

Would you ever speak to another the way you speak to and about yourself? If not, then stop it!

What’s your Why?

2020 did not disappoint.

With 20/20 being the standard for perfect vision, the year 2020 arrived for many with heightened expectations of clarified vision. For me, it delivered in perfection, and I’m grateful for what it has shown me.

I never thought I’d be grateful being able to buy toilet paper, or being able to see family and friends. I’d taken it all for granted, but no more.

Sometimes it takes a total shakeup and being forced to stop doing what we’ve always done, to wake us up and get clear about what’s most important. When we take life’s gifts for granted, living unconsciously, out of habit, we easily lose sight of what we value most.

Life’s seeming demands have a way of pulling us off track. It’s so human to get pulled into a life of doing, a hamster-wheel of life. In the dizzying busyness, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s of greatest value in our lives.

The New Year is a traditional time to pause and set our compasses for what lies ahead. It’s the perfect time to get our priorities straight, and put our energy into creating a life of meaning and value.

What’s the most important thing to you? Who, or what, matters the most to you?

  • Health
  • Family
  • Happiness
  • Kindness
  • Personal fulfillment?

What do you want your life to stand for and what qualities do you want your life to reflect?

What are your highest values and intentions for living? What is your “Why?”

When we forget to ask why, actions easily become rote and empty, as we lose the meaning behind what we’re doing. This is an empty and exhausting way to live.

A simple but powerful moment happened, as I was preparing for Christmas several years ago. It added great value to my life.

As I prepared my usual holiday lists, I could feel my body tense in anticipation of all I had to do. It felt like I was in the starting line of a marathon, and I felt tired before I began.

No wonder, as I’d lost sight of the reasons behind it all. Everything became work, the joy and meaning were lost.

In pausing to consider my Why behind the holiday season, I remembered it was about joyfully coming together to celebrate. It was about having fun together as family and friends, and not about buying the best presents and how many different dishes I could lay on the table.

I realized many things in my life were done out of duty, expectation, or habit; I’d lost the meaning.

In that moment, I realized it would be better to serve a simple dinner in joy, than to have a gourmet meal prepared from sacrifice. In remembering my Why behind it all, I felt my energy return and spirits lifted; joy returned.

I’ve carried this lesson of clarifying my why into the rest of my life. I now check in with myself and ask, “Why do I do the things that I do? How does this activity support and add to what’s of greatest value to me?”

Things not supporting my values and intentions for living have fallen away. My experience of life has become richer, as I remember my Why.

What do you want your life to stand for? What are your highest values and intentions for living?

Remembering our Why, and setting intentions and aspirations for living, helps us to set our compass in alignment with what we most value.

As you enter into 2021, keep your why in mind, as you set your intentions for the New Year. This may prove more powerful than any resolutions you might make.

Suck it up, buttercup. Not!

“Suck it up, buttercup” and “Put on your big-girl panties” just don’t cut it for me.

There has to be something more we can do for ourselves and one another. It’s been a tough year.

As we’re experiencing a holiday season unlike any we’ve lived through, many of the usual things we’ve done to celebrate have fallen away. When gathering with family and friends isn’t possible, and, let’s face it, it’s hard.

Difficult emotions arise as we’re faced, yet again, with the reality of living in a pandemic.

We may have conditioned ourselves into being great pretenders, but getting real, acknowledging, and accepting our uncomfortable feelings is the first step in moving through them.

We may feel a mix of emotions during this time. We can know and accept, logically, the necessity of changing our holiday plans for this year, and still hurt at the same time.

Empty platitudes do nothing to ease the heart’s pain, and shaming and shoulding only add insult to injury. These are the last things we need when we’re hurting.

The head can know all sorts of things, but the heart still aches. Trying to talk, should, or shame ourselves out of the grief we’re experiencing doesn’t bring healing.

The heart’s process is different from the logic of the mind, and isn’t answered with all of the logical explanations or rational thought we might throw at it. The head wants answers, but the heart needs to heal; and healing doesn’t occur because of harsh self-lectures.

Holding ourselves and others in understanding and compassion is supportive, and allows us to heal.

Learning to turn toward and acknowledge our sadness, loneliness, pain, anger, or even relief, instead of suppressing those feelings, is the first step on the pathway of healing. 

There’s no one, correct way we should feel: giving ourselves permission to feel whatever we’re feeling is important.

Negative self-talk or trying to ignore our sadness doesn’t make it go away. Instead, it increases our stress and the feelings can get stronger, and sometimes show up as different emotions like irritability and anger.

The suffering is already there. By acknowledging it, without judgment, it’s a relief to no longer fight it. Its intensity lessens; we become stronger, and more resilient.

 I admit to feeling helpless in knowing how to support and care for people who’ll be alone in the holiday season. I want to have some magic answer to lessen their pain and sense of loss, but I don’t. The one thing I can offer is my understanding and compassion.

Once we’ve acknowledged and accepted how we really feel, we can make a plan to support ourselves during this time.

It’s helpful to reduce our expectations for the day, both positive and negative expectations. Be sure to reach out, initiate contact with friends and family, and don’t sit and wait for them to contact you.

Make a plan for what you can do to support yourself if you feel lonely, and write it out. When you’re feeling good, make a list of happy, healthy distractions you can engage in.

Plan to do something you love, pamper yourself, whatever you want. Plan a special meal for yourself, have a good movie ready to watch, and find ways to indulge yourself in healthy ways. Many find joy in doing something thoughtful for another, or offering random acts of kindness to friends or strangers.

Consider creating a new holiday tradition for yourself. As much as we dreaded our first Christmas separated from family, many years ago, it stands out as precious, because we planned, and incorporated activities we’d never done in the past. It wasn’t the same as being with family, it was different, but it was still good.

Let’s be gentle, patient, and kind to ourselves and one another. Holding ourselves and others in care and compassion could be the best gift of the holiday season.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories