A catalyst for change, from the heart.

There’s a fun song by Ray Charles called Smack Dab in the Middle. Have a listen, it’s a fun song. My question to you is, are you smack dab in the middle of your world? If not, why not? I know it sounds selfish and self-centered to make you be first. But isn’t that the best way to be able to assist others? I think I have written about this before here. The message is, you can only truly be of service once your own house is in order. Caring for myself first, I knew on an intellectual/informative level. Think Head. But the idea had not quite come home to roost. Think Heart. This post explains how I made the change from head to heart.

If you are the caretaker for others, be they human or animal, you have to be and think and do for yourself first. You can’t keep giving and giving without you at the center. Otherwise your well will run dry and when you try and ‘fix’ what is wrong you’ll be out of energy. You might not even realize what is wrong. That’s where I have often found myself of late. But I have felt so very connected to Spirit these past years, how could this be? (Chuckling to myself.)

The almighty Universe has a way of sending lessons when you need them, in the most unlikely of forms. Usually one after the other in quick succession to get your attention. I call that the 2×4 over the head. You’d think by now I’d be wearing a cosmic helmet! The last lesson to me came by way of my horse, Silver.

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In the middle of a rare sleet storm at 10:32pm my horse Silver went sick. I was surprised when my vet returned my call about a minute after I left a voicemail message. Off we went arriving in town around midnight. We left Silver in good hands. Silver went for two visits over a 10 day period until we figured out what it was. At first we thought it was colic, which can kill a horse. Turned out he has ulcers. At least ulcers are treatable and not fatal. So relieved, but that 10 days was hard on my nerves. It felt like I was walking on pins and needles, the feeling in my core was panic. Yeah, that’s not good. What’s up with that? Where did my calm demeanor go. You know, the one that comes forward when I give other people advice? (Oh the irony!)

Worries that compounded my situation were many. My elderly dog, Google, is my soul dog. His attitude is stellar but he’s near the end of his time on the planet, that is clear. My elderly mother is on my mind. I live 1200 miles away from her and I miss her. A family member who is dear to me has been diagnosed with cancer. The family is still reeling from the news. At my job, I work with good folk, but I have to be there in mind and body. All these things plus Silver’s problem added up to feeling totally overwhelmed and a little wobbly. Pema Chödrön would say it is good to get used to that feeling of groundlessness. Oh that’s hard to do. It takes practice. I know I should not let things I have no control over worry me a la Byron Kaite. But it’s hard to drop all that other stuff, especially if those involved are close to your heart.

During this ten day ordeal before we got the diagnosis on Silver, my friend Ren and I were texting. I told her I felt overwhelmed, drained, and in a panic. This is not my usual ‘from love’ space. It was a ‘from fear’ space, and she and her son could see this. She asked me a question. A real life changing question. She said…

“Got a hard question for you: Is Patty or are Patty’s Animals #1 in your world?”

In the past the answer has always been, my animals come first. I would brag to people my animals are fed in the morning before I eat. I pop out of bed like toast, rush to get outside to feed. I am out in my chore boots, PJ’s, bathrobe and coat before the sun is up, complete with headlamp so I can see the hay bales in the dark. I look like a walking rummage sale.

Is it necessary to eclipse my own life to care for others? Is this level of care really necessary? Well knock me over with a feather! By answering the question, I could see past events of my life with deep clarity. On the spot I was able to rethink my core actions and act from that new center of self-love. Wow. Powerful stuff. I had been putting everyone else first, and that had been so hard wired in me. There is nothing wrong with caring for your critters or other folk, but to not put yourself first means you can drain yourself unnecessarily. Your world will seem off center, like seeing from the perspective of being picked up by the tornado. If you come from center, you can be the calm eye of the storm. I knew my friends’ words rang true and it was a great catalyst for change. It was a large pivot point for living the rest of my life from.

There is a better way to live and still care for everyone. As nurturers, women are taught to give and do and make and cook and bring and organize and tutor and orchestrate and comfort and direct and teach and you name it. I needed to unlearn a lot of old programming in how to approach this role.  Ren told me when she made this change to loving the self first, she didn’t love her kids any less. In fact she loved them more, because she loved herself more. Folks this is a golden nugget of information, founded in love. I could work with this! I could still work with Spirit, love and care for myself, and then tackle what the rest of the world brought to my door. Wise words indeed! I am much indebted to Ren for this awakening in me.

I instantly was able to re-arrange my day on the fly, taking care of what I needed, before caring for others. It was a small change, that made a big difference, and no one was left wanting as a result. In fact everything felt better, more right, and more natural. So simple, yet so powerful. Now this lesson had come home to roost in my heart.

Before you go out into the world assisting others, keep this in mind. What base are you operating from? A base of self-love first, caring for yourself first? Are you really truly coming from love, or are you coming from a sense of guilt or a sense of duty? It’s a hard question to ask. But for me, it changed my life in an instant. You can do this too.

Comments always welcomed and encouraged. 

 

 

The elegant and obvious solution to feeling rushed off your feet.

Last night I had errands to run after a full day at work. These days a full day at work is a bit much to take, but I do my best. My meds for my neuralgia make me feel like I’m going through molasses. Some days I work at home and that helps cut the stress. It cuts out 4 hours of commuting per week, and that is really helping. Every bit counts.

I had groceries to unpack after my long commute home, then picked up the pup from the neighbors. As I get in the door I have a lot to take care of right away. Geese need to be put in their pen, check water and feed. Make sure the door is raccoon proofed. Haul in and put groceries away. Put the clean dishes away that are on the kitchen counter, and do another batch. (I can’t stand having dirty dishes.) I make dinner for my three dogs. At my house it’s the rule that animals are fed before humans. I make sure the Senior and favorite soul dog, Mr. Google, gets his meds, and I take his leg brace off for the night. Only then I can make myself dinner, and finally sit down. At this point I’ve been going since 5:00 am. It’s now 7:30pm.

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In the middle of doing dishes, I hear my favorite dog whine that his dinner is not enough to eat, I blow a gasket….almost. How can I be grumpy at Soul Dog? He’s 84 in dog years (12 in people years) and my favorite of all my animals. We have a deep connection and he rarely asks for anything from me. If he begs, he is in need. I check my anger and frustration at the door, er, rather in mid dishwashing. I can change my behavior so there is not so much stress. Slow down. Now. Yes. Oh, that’s better. Now I’m not spinning way out of sync with the Universal Flow of energy.

Since I started daily meditation, even if it is only 10 minutes per session, something slides into my reptilian brain and tells me to slow down. There is no need whatsoever to feel rushed. Ever. Not while running errands, or bringing home groceries, or feeding dogs, or doing dishes. The buddhist mindset of doing things mindfully, and being fully into whatever it is, finally makes a spark in my brain and neurons fire. I’ve been telling others about this for years, now I’m finally taking my own advice.

“Hey, I don’t have to ‘hurry’ and do dishes, and all these crazy chores, in order to sit down at a later time tonight and relax. I can relax NOW. In this moment. While doing whatever it is I need to do.”

I re-mind myself that being mind-ful, and deliberate in my actions and thoughts is key to not ever feeling rushed or stressed. Going a little slower, helps me to enjoy all my moments. Not just some. I don’t have to rush around like a nuthead and wait till 7:30pm to enjoy my evening. I can do that any time I want to. It was another moment I realized how silly I was being. I was being a human-doing, not a human-being. 😉 My guru’s Pema Chödrön and Eckhart Tolle have been telling me this for years as I read their materials, quotes, and articles.

For years I have read about, and really tried integrating this mindfulness into everyday life. But life has a way of making you rushed and crazy sometimes. At least I feel a little more connected to this way of being. It’s going to take some time for it to really come home to roost. I’m not yet at the point of 24/7 mindfulness or totally unstressed life. But, coming a little closer to it doesn’t suck!

The reason for sharing this in blog form is, I teach people about not stressing out, being mindful, dumping drama and chaos. Yet I also get caught up in it, like everyone else. Even Ghandi and Mother Theresa got caught up in it! We are not perfect—’specially me. 😉 I like to share my human, not-so-perfect side. It’s part of that great ride of this crazy life! Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has a chance to change course.

I would love to hear from you about your experiences, thoughts, and opinions. This blog is meant to be not only educational but part of a community dialogue with other souls. 

Where compassion is born

When I hear someone is having a hard time with life, miserable, or suffering through a painful experience, I also experience pain at the empathy level. I can almost feel it, viscerally, inside my body, emotionally, and mentally. How did this happen? How was I softened? I can tell you, when it was time to end a relationship that was over 18 years long, it was difficult. I held on to the bitter end. It was me being foolishly loyal to someone who did not have my best interest at heart. It felt like torture to be in this relationship every day. I seemed to do something wrong, not make my partner happy, and no matter how hard I tried, I was made to feel that everything was naturally my fault and I failed at every attempt to ‘fix’ things.

You might think my compassion was born of simply going through a divorce, but it was not. You might think that ending the marriage made me more compassionate, but it wasn’t that. You might think the pain I suffered through the marriage was where compassion was born, but it was not. What really opened me up was, when I considered all options, and I knew without a doubt I would be dead if I didn’t pull the cord on the marriage, that it would still break my partner’s heart in two. As mean and as cruel as he seemed to be, I knew that he really had no intent on truly hurting me. But the relationship was beyond fixing. I knew the day it broke apart, it would break his heart more than mine. That’s what opened me up from stem to stern all the way to my backbone….totally opened up, hurting, and in pain from knowing I would hurt the person I loved for so many years.

That ‘opening’ never completely healed, the wound never really fully closed. But that is a good thing. Suffering is an opening that gives you the gift of compassion on a human-being level. It is where compassion is born. On the most basic level there is, you are gutted. But it is through this wound that you are softened. It is a place from which Spirit is allowed to flow, and where you can give of yourself, to help others.

My hurt and pain seemed to be on the surface for so long after that opening. I hurt for others going through the same thing. It’s called empathy. I also love the study of the Buddhist philosophy and practice of Tonglen, Continue reading