Category Archives: compassion

How Do I Find Acceptance?

I recently had someone ask me “How do I find acceptance?” about something that was entirely outside their control. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked this, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. However, this time, instead of having a longer conversation about it and fine-tuning it for the individual situation, I decided to take a step back and actually write about it from a broader perspective… one that I hope will help more than just the individuals who have asked.

Acceptance can be a tricky presence to master. It conveys an inner peace and a willingness to allow for things to unfold, while not actually relinquishing control over our own person. Acceptance is about discernment. What do I mean by that?

When you can figure out what’s yours and what’s somebody else’s from a neutral place, you are practicing discernment. When you can act from this knowledge you are practicing acceptance. In order to arrive at acceptance through discernment, however, it’s absolutely crucial to take perspective.

Taking perspective is one of those “all-purpose tools” in your toolbox. It can always be brought out in nearly any situation, and usually results in improving it for you.  Let’s use a concrete example though, to really understand how perspective, neutrality, and discernment help us to arrive at acceptance.

Let’s say that someone you love has gotten sick or injured in some way. From where you stand, perhaps the solution is easy. If they do x they should get better. After all, it’s what you would do. But they are not you. From where they stand, the solution is not that clear, because their experiences and knowledge are contributing factors. As a result, you are at an impasse and it can be frustrating, scary, and nearly impossible to navigate your way to compassion, let alone acceptance.

So, the first step is to take perspective. That looks like asking the question: “Is this mine?” And if the answer is “No,” (and it’s almost always no), then you need to take a step back. If you’re not the injured or sick person, it’s not yours. You are on the periphery, but you’re not the one who is at the center. So, we have to take perspective and get discerning in our knowledge. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I know what this person is feeling? (no)
  • Can I know everything that’s going on in their head? (no)
  • Have I lived the same life they have? (no)
  • Could I possibly know better than they do about their own situation? (no)
  • Do I have something to add, to help them? (possibly)
  • Should I? (only if they ask)

That last one is the tricky one, because when we love someone we want to help, and we often think that we know better. We don’t. We know different. Until we’re in the exact same situation (which is never possible, because we’re not the exact same person), there’s no way we could know how we’d act or what we’d choose. So, we take perspective and gain some distance. Which actually leads to respect. Respect for the other person, their path, their wishes, and their decisions. We respect their autonomy, just as we would wish someone to respect ours. Only when we arrive at respect can we appropriately show up for someone with compassion, which is honestly what most people need above all else.

Very few people want someone else to “fix” their problems, often they want someone to sit next to them and hold their hand while they work on finding a solution. Sometimes they ask for help, but even then they usually don’t want to have someone impose upon them.

To tell someone what you think they should do is to impose. (It’s really that simple.)

To ask someone how you can help is to be compassionately supportive. 

To discern the difference between these two things is to understand respect and to find acceptance.

Acceptance is not about condoning or even agreeing, it’s about respecting. The respect is a result of taking perspective, which helps us arrive at compassion… and compassion is healing.

xoxo,
Martina

Permission to Let Go

I missed writing a blog last week – did you notice? Several of you did and reached out to check that everything is ok (thank you). And if you didn’t notice, that’s totally ok, because I didn’t notice either.

Sometime during the afternoon on Tuesday I had the realization that it WAS Tuesday, and I had totally missed writing for the week. I think it had entered my mind sometime over the weekend prior, but I wasn’t in the mood or in a place to sit down and write, so I didn’t. Then Tuesday morning came and went, and I had no notice of it. I actually thought it was Monday.

When I finally realized that I had missed the weekly blog, I responded rather differently than I would have expected. I said to myself, “Oops. Oh well…” and that was it.

Let me back up though. The reason I would have expected more of a reaction is because many years ago I made a commitment to myself to always write every week, and to do so in a way that would benefit others. This weekly ritual was designed to be both an offering (it is always free), and a habit to reinforce my creative process. There have been very few occasions in which I stopped writing weekly – the main one being my time in graduate school. For the most part, however, I haven’t missed a week in over seven years (barring that graduate school period). So, why didn’t it bother me?

Not only did it not bother me, I saw it as an opportunity to reflect on the reasons for writing and the plan for the future. I started asking whether it was realistic for me to write a weekly blog when I am working on 3-4 books at the same time? Do people really read it or want it? Is it adding value?

All of these things, and more, came streaming in and out of my mind. In the end, however, I returned to the original premise of the blog, which is:

  • To make an offering
  • To maintain a creative flow

Those two things still hold true today, and are more important to me than ever. And yet, I also realized the importance of letting go of any judgment or self-criticism that would have had me reacting a differently than I did. I’m very happy with my response, because it shows that I have developed a level of self-compassion and patience that I didn’t have previously. It’s evidence of the fact that I am living more form a flow-state than a struggle-state (even though it often feels like struggle on the outside). My response shows me that my inner seas are calm and smooth sailing, and that is worth more than anything.

So, I have made the decision to continue to write weekly – though I will allow myself the flexibility of posting on a different day, sometime between Monday and Friday in any given week. Flexibility is a key component of flow, and will allow me to adjust my sails a bit and see what happens.

And I think that’s the most important thing we can learn in life, isn’t it? How to respond to ourselves with kindness, compassion and flexibility, so that we can raise our awareness and assess whether changes need to be made from a place of inner calm. Well, at least that’s where it is for me, today. And for that, I am grateful that I missed writing last week. it gave me the perfect opportunity to pause, take a step back, and move forward with more compassion, awareness, and alignment.

xoxo,
Martina

My Wish For You

This is the week that many people in the world celebrate the “Prince of Peace.” For millennia, numerous others have followed in his footsteps as peacemakers, from Gandhi to the everyday men and women who choose compassion, courage, and love over fear.

As one year winds down and we look to the hope of new beginnings, my wish for you is simple: I wish you peace.

peace

I will be taking next week off from writing InspireBytes™ to enjoy the many gifts of the season, and wish you all the best however you choose to celebrate this time of year.

xoxo,
Martina

Finding Compassion Through Fatigue, Frustration, and Fear

(Or how to survive the holidays with your Self intact)

Last week was Thanksgiving – the official start of the holiday season. My social media feeds were flooded with musings on gratitude and pictures of family gatherings. It was, for the most part, a week of blessings and joy. But it didn’t start out that way, not for me.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving I got sick. Really sick. It was a 48-hour stomach bug that took me down for the count for the better part of the week. (Fatigue) It was not an ideal start to a week typically highlighted by food and festivities.

Two days later, on Tuesday, I started dog sitting for a friend who was going out of town with her family for five days. Her dog, Brutus, is almost 17-years old, and is totally deaf and partially blind. He’s lively and perky most of the time, which is great, and the plan was for me to stay at her house with my dog. Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan.

On Tuesday night it became clear that my dog and Brutus weren’t exactly keen on sharing space. I had to send my dog home and work out a new plan with my friend, which resulted in my coming and going throughout the next 5 days to take care of Brutus and keep him company, while also being home enough to take care of my dog and life. (Frustration and Fatigue)

That would be enough to make me feel overextended during a holiday week that started out with illness, but it didn’t end there.

Brutus started coughing the day before my friend left town, but it seemed fairly benign…nothing to worry about. By Wednesday night, I was concerned. By Thursday morning, it seemed clear to me that there was a problem. (Fear)

Brutus was hacking stuff up, and it seemed like it was getting worse. By Friday we were at the vet so they could watch him and give him antibiotics. Brutus had the beginning of pneumonia, but we caught it early. He seemed better that evening, but got worse overnight when he vomited the little food he managed on Friday, including his antibiotic. So, on Saturday morning we went back to the vet, and my friend flew home a day early… just in case.

Throughout the six days from Sunday to Saturday, I struggled to find compassion. I was frustrated, fearful, and fatigued. My mind was on overdrive:

What if my dog got sick from that one night with Brutus? (Frustration)
What if Brutus died on my watch? (Fear)
What if I am making myself worse, having started the week out so sick? (Fatigue)

Did you see all the “what if” statements in there? Yeah, that’s where I was. My head was wreaking havoc with my emotions, exactly because I was so tired and overextended. I joked with my friend that my parasympathetic nervous system was overwhelmed, but it was no joke. I had no more bandwidth for anything, physical or emotional, to be added to my plate. My frustration levels had peaked, my fatigue had maxed out, and I was living with fear.

Somewhere in the process, though, I had a thought as I looked at the helpless little dog in front of me:

Where has my compassion gone?

I knew that all my buttons had been pushed and that compassion was clearly absent, for myself and for Brutus. I knew it. And I knew I had to do something about it, but what?

As I cycled in and out of conscious thought on the subject, alternating my presence with my overwrought absence, I allowed ideas to percolate to the surface. It was then that I asked myself the question: How would I want my dog to be treated?

Breakthrough!

I stepped outside myself and thought of another, someone I love dearly, and asked a simple question. I took perspective.

I pulled Brutus next to me, covered him with a blanket and rubbed his back. When he coughed, I gently patted his back and pet his head softly so that he knew I was there. When he curled up on his bed, I sat next to him on the cold floor. I even hand-fed him some food so he could take his medicine.

I did all of this, even though I was tired, scared, and annoyed at how the week unfolded, because it was the compassionate thing to do. It was the kind thing to do. I did all of this, because I was tired, scared, and annoyed.

I talk a lot about being in authentic alignment with who we are as a path to wholeness, peace, and joy. Fear has no place in my authentic alignment, nor do frustration and fatigue. They simply are not expressions of who I am at my core, but kindness is. Compassion is. And yet, I’m human.

When fear, frustration, and fatigue took over it was very easy for me to lose connection to myself, to who I am at my core.

Taking perspective allowed me to find compassion through these challenges. It may seem like compassion is all about someone else, but compassion is also a guaranteed path back to your heart, to yourself. It returned me to me.

The important lesson I received last week was not in being “good enough” while managing a stressful situation, but in knowing that even when I am pushed beyond my capacity, barely managing, and overextended to the point of feeling wholly out of alignment, there is always a path back. What mattered most was that I was willing to acknowledge it and, subsequently, do something about it. For me, that meant asking a perspective-taking question. And I think that’s true for most of us, actually.

Brutus was just a dog, and the situation was certainly not extraordinary, but what if…

What if you took the same idea and applied it to family gatherings this holiday season? Or work situations?

Or… What if we applied the same premise to the refugee crisis? To homelessness? etc.

Fear, Frustration, and Fatigue are guaranteed to take us away from our best Self, from who we know ourselves to be at our core, in our hearts. When we pause and allow ourselves to take a different perspective – to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, if you will – we swing open the door to compassion and kindness. Compassion is the first step to returning to alignment when we’ve lost our way, both personally and globally.

Brutus

Brutus – happily resting by my side :)

Detaching or Disengaging?

There is “detach with love” and then there is “disengage with compassion.”

You haven’t heard of the second one? That’s because I’ve only recently developed it. Here’s why:

During my years in Al-Anon, where I first heard the phrase, I always struggled with the “detach with love” concept. For some reason it felt difficult for me to access. The idea of loving someone and simultaneously detaching from them felt contradictory.

I tried though. I tried to detach and remain loving. I tried to love and divest myself of the desire for an outcome. I tried to detach from any hope or prayer, while offering love. It didn’t work. Love, by its nature, meant I was invested. Perhaps it would have been easier if it wasn’t my spouse I was trying to detach from. Maybe a distant cousin or acquaintance would have been easier to love without investment. So, I gave it a lot of lip service, but in the end, I could never get my head or heart around the concept of detaching from someone I loved.

Perhaps is semantics. But for me, it mattered.

In the end, I was only able to detach when I turned my love on myself. I suddenly realized the most loving thing I could do was to entirely detach from the sick/addicted person in my life, because it wasn’t loving toward me – or them.

Loving them wasn’t helping them get better, and it was slowly killing me. So, I did the loving thing and loved myself enough to leave. I detached. That was the only time I felt I could detach and be loving simultaneously. The difference was the focus of my love: I was loving myself.

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve come up with a variation on the theme that actually works for me and my clients, with whom I’ve shared this concept.

Disengage with compassion.

Love never enters the equation, therefore it’s never called into question whether you love the person or not. It’s not about love; It’s about compassion. And it’s easier to be compassionate when you disengage from the drama-trauma cycle

Disengaging means you can stay in the situation and feel empowered to choose the behaviors you wish to interact with. If they’re unhealthy, or unloving, you can choose to no longer engage them. Furthermore, you can do so with compassion.

Compassion looks like holding space for the other person to do what they’re doing without judgment by you. Compassion looks like holding your own boundaries and respecting theirs. Compassion looks like understanding, without expectation. Compassion doesn’t require you to invest in the other person or the hope that their behavior will change. Compassion helps you to remain neutral during challenging times.

So, if, like me, you have ever gotten stuck with the “push-pull” essence of “detach with love,” I suggest you try disengaging with compassion. You may find the simple word shift empowering.

Hope, Compassion and Oxygen Masks

There has been a lot of trauma in the world lately: Crimea and the Ukraine, Venezuela, the missing Malaysian plane, to name just a few. There’s fear, anger, hatred, and despair running rampant on our media outlets. We’re being told “what’s going on” without actually having to experience it personally. (Well, most of us, anyway.) Or are we?

Let me start by saying I’m not advocating ignorance or denial. It’s important that we know what’s happening around us in humanity to develop our compassion muscle. Burying our heads in the proverbial sand only weakens us, and humanity, in the long term.

What I DO want to say is this: everything that’s happening, even thousands of miles away, is affecting us. We ARE experiencing it.

Let’s go back to Einstein for a second – everything is energy. Therefore, everything carries energy about it. And energy can move faster than light. So, it stands to reason that when something “bad” is happening somewhere in the world you can bet it’s impacting the energy fields all around the globe in some way. (Likewise, when something good is happening, the same occurs. Yay!)

So, what does that mean for us?

Well, I’ve noticed lately that as I have felt more and more affected by the tragedy in Venezuela (it’s personal), I felt more and more compelled toward gluttony and devouring everything I could find on what’s going on…until I didn’t. I had to stop. Not because it’s gotten better (it hasn’t), and not because it’s resolved (far from it), and certainly not because I don’t care, but because I don’t want to add to the energy grid of despair, anger, and hatred that is encircling our blue/green orb. I want to mitigate it.

To do that, I need to take care of me. It’s the old “oxygen mask” theory:

Put yours on first, so you can help others with theirs.

I need to take care of myself, my emotions, and my energy in order to ADD positively to the energetic flow. That means I need to stay in balance, know what’s going on, and not react from a place of fear, but rather from a place of hope. In other words,

I need to be a guardian of hope during times of despair.

Hope involves compassion, which includes knowledge. Compassion is about knowing your boundaries, exercising them, and helping others from that perspective with grace, empathy, and understanding. Compassion also requires practice to be its most effective. It also requires self-care, as in the oxygen mask.

We need to be informed, we need to be compassionate, and we need to be breathing in order to be of service to change. Mostly, though, we need to be the hope.