From the heart

Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.
— Pema Chodron

Today I wanted to share some things that have been going on with me. So I hope you don’t mind while I self-indulge in some personal stuff.

I have been feeling more excited these days about my future than I have since I began this “self-employment” adventure. I feel more grounded, more myself than at any time that I can remember.

I find it easier to say no to what does not excite me, or what doesn’t feel right. There’s a great exercise in a book I’m working through with my friend Lynn. The book is called “Designing Your Life” and the exercise has you review all the activities you do through a week or few weeks. It asks you to think about: When you’re doing these activities, which are engaging and energizing you and which aren’t?

I was surprised to discover that I love teaching and talking to or leading small groups. I like being with like-minded people. I don’t enjoy being around others who hog all the attention or those who don’t listen. Most of all, I love to write and share information.

Of course, there’s so much more to discover, and I’m allowing myself to take my time with this. It feels like a continuation of the 'metreat' I began last winter.

I’ve been listening more to what I call my second voice: the one of compassion. My primary voice, the one that does most of the talking internally, is generally filled with criticism and harsh comparing. I no longer want to use or listen to that voice. I’m done with creating guilt and then acting from that emotion. I’d rather act from love and caring about myself and others.

I want to act from a place of “I’d love to do that,” rather than feeling obligated. Most of my decisions now come from trying to FEEL into the decision.

Some time ago, I’d made a knee-jerk decision based on fear and I really shot myself in the foot. At first I defaulted to harsh self-criticism, but afterward I talked myself down off that ledge. I’ve decided I can do better than that and that I will. I learned from the experience and it helped me to see that I do have a pattern or tendency to sometimes act from negative feelings and how those actions impact my life in negative ways.

 The fourth chakra.

The fourth chakra.

I’ve been learning about the 7 chakras. When I took a course about them this spring, we reviewed the 4th chakra, the heart chakra. This is the area of unconditional love; how you are in relationships shows up here. The teacher said something that felt profound. He taught us about the 5 profiles (I’ll share more about these in another blog) and said that my profile -- the one I most closely identify with -- tends to be the most critical of all the profiles. My profile is called “knowledgeable achiever.” Achiever has the role of judge and jury. Most of all it “knows” what is right and wrong and is most unhappy when giving or receiving criticism. Achiever can be a strict rule follower and makes distinctions based on those rules, often coming to the conclusion that another (or she herself) is lacking.

Unconditional love is letting go of judgment, which literally means loving without any conditions or rules. It’s loving yourself or someone else not for the way they look, not for what they can do, not for their personality, but for being them. It’s this: “I love you for you.” That’s real love.

So, this is what I’ve been teaching myself: act from love. When I feel fear, when I think I need to make a decision and I’m feeling anxious about it, I tell myself to stop. Reflect. What about this decision is not feeling right? What is the fear or anxiety telling me?

This new way of being has allowed me to relax into the things that I love doing, because I am now more open to honoring those unique things about me that inspire me and give me energy. Being self-indulgent has been one of the ways I can do that. So I am giving myself time for these things, especially around my need to be creative and writing. 

I discovered, by allowing myself this indulgence, that I get immense joy from writing a book I have started on that covers the history of my French Canadian ancestors. I get to do research and genealogy and connect the dots between all the facts I find. I love synthesizing the material until it turns into a story. This has become my new joy: writing my family's story. 

If I hadn't opened up my heart to giving myself this gift of time to write, I would not have discovered it. The more I open to it, the more energy it is giving me. I am unable now to sleep beyond 6:30 each morning, while prior to writing I could sleep until 8:00. The joy of writing has become my own internal alarm clock. My heart and body are telling me I can't wait to get back to it.  

Here’s a great question I borrowed from Cheryl Richardson: 

What are the simple pleasures that give you a deep sense of joy and satisfaction?