Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Tonight I am so grateful to have a warm house from which to watch the heavy snowflakes steadily falling. I think about the people who have no homes. Tonight my brother is one of them. He moved to Tuscon a few weeks ago. He went there with very little money and his car died and he was robbed. He has been a troubled soul for a long time. He tried to get into the homeless shelter and missed the last bed. He called me to give him money to stay in a cheap motel. The motels won't take payment with my credit card over the phone. He has his bicycle and is trying three more motels and will call me back. I feel for him. I feel helpless and powerless. I also resent him for being addicted to pot for over forty years and being in denial about its impact on his life. Now he has no money to buy it.Maybe this is what had to happen for him to acknowledge his addiction. I wish I could make his life different. He found a motel that would take my credit card. At least he has a place to sleep tonight. I am relieved and thankful. Tucson is going down to 32 degrees tonight. I am scared for my brother. I am planning to send him metta. That is a ritual to energetically send lovingkindness across the airways to another person. The prayer I will send goes like this:May you be peaceful. May you be happy. May you be free. In this body. On this earth. In this moment. It's something to do when there is nothing to do.
Tomorrow when he calls I will do what I can to help him. I will get clear about what I can do to help that will actually be helpful. I will try to set some boundaries and give what I can. Then I will do my best to let go. I am torn because if the tables were turned I know he would help me. He is my brother. I love him and care about him and he is a bottomless hole.I will meditate tomorrow and ask for guidance about what to do and what not to do. My spirituality has three parts: Trust in the universe, do my part and let go of the outcome. I will go deep inside and ask myself how best to honor my spirituality in my relationship with my brother.
Do you have any family members with whom you have a challenging relationship? Have you been involved in the process of discovering and setting healthy boundaries? What have you discovered?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I went to a very useful workshop on relationships last Friday given by Terry Real. The thing I most got out of it was the idea that contempt takes two forms. One form of contempt is grandiosity where the contempt is directed toward another person. This type of contempt results in blame and judgement and the lack of taking responsibility for our own behavior. We go one- up and feel better than the other person and make excuses for our behavior based on blame. I blew up at you because you were criticizing me.The second type of contempt is shame. That type of contempt is directed against ourselves. It results in blaming ourselves and thinking we are crappy people and/or there is something wrong with us. With shame we often go one-down and feel inadequate and inferior to others. Most people do both kinds of contempt, yet major in one and minor in the other. Contempt is a knee jerk defensive reaction to discomfort or pain. This fit in with the other valuable gem from the workshop which was the idea of first consciousness and second consciousness. First order consciousness is the knee-jerk reaction. It is a response that got created in childhood that is automatic and familiar. It is also famous for getting the same ineffective results. Terry calls it Door A. When we respond and pick door A we are using our limbic brain the part of us that chooses to fight or flee. Second consciousness employs the neo-cortex of the brain or the thinking reasoning brain.
Second consciousness or Door B is a mindful choice. It means recognizing the knee-jerk or the "whoosh" reaction of doorA, taking a breath and making a conscious choice to be in our functioning adult. Sometimes we will already be beginning to respond on automatic pilot when our inner voice of guidance says, "Wait a minute. Take a breath. You don't have to do this how you have always done. You could chose door B. Contempt in either form is door A. The beauty of meditation practice is that it is the practice of choosing door B. In meditation each time we notice ourselves lost in our stories we mindfully bring ourselves back to the present moment. With practice bringing ourselves back to right here and right now and making a choice from that place, begins to replace our knee-jerk reactivity. Not perfectly and not all the time, however more and more you begin to notice that in the face of things that were incredibly triggering in the past you are calmer and more centered. The more I practice meditation it is easier to recognize a shame attack as self-contempt and bring myself up enough to look out of my own eyes and let myself know that I am OK even in the face of disapproval, comparison or anger. It is also easier to recognize the contempt of going one-up and being incredibly judgemental and critical of another as grandiosity and bring myself down to look out of my own eyes. Then I remind myself that I am no better and no worse than anyone else. Working with my knee -jerk reactions with mindfulness and compassion provides the opportunity to meet myself and others with more kindness and to grow from that kindness toward same-as, releasing one-up and one-down. I am committed to living my life choosing Door B. I am committed to working with my contempt and to healing. I am committed to forgiving myself when I don't and to forgiving others when they don't. I want to thank Terry Real for all of his good work with so many people and for providing so much food for thought. Living a life with less contempt is so very juicy for me. It supports me in moving closer to really knowing that I can take care of myself and be in close relationship with others at the same time.Where are you with contempt? What does it bring to mind about your relationship with yourself and others?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I have been immersed in the novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck for several days.
I finished it late last night. I first read the book in college and barely remembered it. I did remember that one of the characters was named Rose of Sharon. My undergraduate school Cornell University sent a copy of the book to all of its alumni because they felt it was very timely to read in the midst of our current economic challenges. It was about a family in the 1930's who were tenant farmers and got kicked off of their land and replaced by tractors. There was widespread unemployment and millions of hungry people traveling to California in search of enough work to feed their families. The 12 members of this family traveled across the country with all of their belongings piled into a sawed off jalopy. Everything was scarce except for their respect for each other which seemed to grow as their money supply shrunk. At one point the mother of the family says, it seems like we only used to think of family and the less we have the more we think of everybody. People pulled together and helped each other even though they had next to nothing themselves. There was a sense of community created by people in tent camps traveling west sharing each other's births and deaths, tragedies and celebrations. At the end a young woman who has just given birth to a dead baby feeds an adult man dying of hunger her breastmilk. What I got from the book is that in times of trouble people pull together strengthening themselves and each other. In these challenging times it is now important for us to pull together too. Community means different things to different people. I participate in several groups and yet don't feel like I really belong. To me it has always been difficult to stick around with a group of people and accept all of the dogma and drama that goes with it. I am rethinking my position. I think I had the idea that I had to like everyone to be part of a community. Of course that is never the case. It makes sense that in a community of people brought together for whatever reason there are people who are drawn to each other and people who are not. I am yearning to feel part of a community with enough like-minded people in it. I don't have to like everyone, nor does everyone have to like me. That is a fantasy, just like the perfect partner. I am ready to begin searching for a community with like enough values that I can feel safe being myself. I don't know what it will look like or even what the common interest that will gather the people together will be. I am open to begin creating one if that is what is needed. Where are you about community? What has been your experience of community in the past? Is it appealing to you to feel a part of a community or not?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I want to write. I don't want to eat when I am not hungry. I am feeling anxious and I know that expressing myself creatively will help me to feel less anxious. I can't think of anything to write about. I forgive myself for not being able to think of anything to write about. I forgive myself for writing anyway even though I think I have nothing to write about.
I forgive myself for eating when I am not hungry. I forgive myself for rationalizing that I am eating healthy food so it doesn't matter if I'm not hungry. I forgive myself for feeling restless and empty and not knowing what to do with myself.
Restless and empty
I don't know
What to do with myself
So I eat.
It could be worse. I could be shooting heroin. I could be mainlining chocolate doughnuts. I could be blaming my relationship for not making me happy. I closed the refridgerator and am feeling empty and restless and writing about it. Lucky you for getting to read all of this.
Maybe you are lucky. How often do people get real about what is going on with them? It is always helpful to me to hear about someone else's stuff. I feel so much less alone. Sharing this with you I feel more connected and less alone. It's nice to know that someone is listening. Reaching out feels good. It's hard to reach out when things don't feel good. It's easier to pretend that they do feel good or to complain about the situation rather than share my feelings and be emotionally vulnerable.
I am breathing deeply focusing on the exhale. Now I am humming on the exhale. I remember that when nothing feels right, it's time to do nothing. I am restless and edgy and I need to go rest and be with myself and be quiet. I have been resisting that by thinking I needed to do something. I am tired and I want to rest. When I am tired it is easy for me to think I am hungry. When I am cold it is easy for me to think I am hungry. When I am thirsty it is easy for me to think I am hungry. When I am full it is easy for me to think I am hungry. In the book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman talks about women who mistake many feelings for hunger. They are medicating their feelings under food. I am one of them. It is important for me to be mindful when I think I need to eat. Instead of kneejerking toward food I want to pay attention to what is going on inside me underneath the story of my desire for food. When I tune into my body right now I can feel my fatigue. I worked with a lot of people today. I am depleted and need to rest and no amount of coconut butter will revive me. I am going to rest now. Thank you for listening. It does help to write. Creative expression is very useful. What is your relationship with food like? Is there a way you are medicating feelings by eating? Some people medicate feelings by not eating when they are hungry. Notice your relationship with food and see what you can learn about yourself.