3 Minute Practice: A Dropperful of Empathy

Picture with me something you don't appreciate. Something that aggravates or aggrieves you. Pick something of an intensity that challenges you to the perfect degree for right now.

It could be the face of something who has hurt you.

It could be the wild tantrum of a child you give everything to love.

The driver in front of you.

The person across the courtroom from you.

Your most intimate. Spouse, best friend, teacher. Someone who wronged you.

Now holding the image or sensation of that thing within, acknowledge. Notice your sensations and emotions. Let them bubble, not boil. Be present, but resist becoming eclipsed. Feel that.

And finally for now, seek. Cast the divining rod that is your heart out like a seagull looking for land in an ocean and find a contrasting, even ridiculous noticing.

Goodness, aren't the red red cheeks of the screaming baby beautiful like a rose?

Is the tyrannic father standing on top of the ottoman, yelling, actually the tiniest bit funny?

Your friend, who did that thing, are they wearing their hair cutely today?

The reckless driver ahead, good job with the bumper stickers. Strange about the top being down in the rain, though.

Empathy needs an opening, and little contrasting noticings, even silly-seeming ones, can be that opening. They say that couples argue well when they allow themselves to get distracted, relocating the common ground of existence between them. (Uhh, I know we're fighting like Hades right now but did you see the neighbour sunbathing naked this morning?)

Then when a small space for empathy - that crack for the light of empathy - has been made, don't try to be Mother Theresa (who was apparently notoriously cranky) or Father Gandhi, just yet. Only quest for the tiniest drop of real empathy. The assignment is to allow our natural yearning (yearning that signifies our fundamental desire to love and be loved) to locate one unit of empathy. A molecule, just. A pixel-worth. A dropperful.

Questions to help find the dropperful:

What could be going on for this person right now? 
If this situation could be explained, what could possibly explain it? 
If I could get that the world makes perfect sense to this other person, what would I understand?

What other things can you add, what helps you, when seeking for the seeds of empathy on a concrete floor? What keeps you stuck?

Fuel for Saying No More Often

This time of year, ah, the air is ripe with dreams. It is a precious time of choosing. What will we say yes to next in our lives? What nos?

Over the years, I've had occasion to teach 'how to say a no that sticks' a lot of ways, but my current favourite is 'No is the bodyguard of Yes.'

To create a powerful yes, try to find 3 nos to go along with. That means your yes will have 3 bodyguards to protect it. If that isn't enough, add a few more bodyguards. Because 'No is the bodyguard of Yes.' 'No is the faithful guard dog of yes.' 'No is the fierce and loving, devoted mamma bear of Yes.'

The power of no has come up multiple times recently, and I'm happy this recording of Indrani Goradia and I teaching about more about 'no' is still available. For anyone looking for fuel for the above, here you are.


Anger + Love = Action (We Need More of This)

Love on its own, is a beautiful thing. Worthy of being relished, and sometimes even lost in. 

Anger on its own, is a fiery, scary thing. Worth noticing, respecting, and sometimes distancing ourselves from. 

But anger plus love? This is a combination of emotions we don't curate intentionally. Mostly, this mashup happens to us. When it does, it engenders things like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, the Feminist movement, a righteous parent speaking out for the first time against bullying in the Principal's office.

Anger + Love It gives rise to a very special kind of action. Nurtured, it is what fuels movements.

Action then, is the child of anger and love together.

Notice the person who in the name of being passionate, angrily screams for peace, or equality, or is against racism. 

Then notice the person who stays on the sidelines in times of difficulty, claiming they are holding 'love and light.' 

None of us can be angry and loving at the same time, all the time. But if more of us can, just a little more often? The places we'll go...