Category Archives: judgment

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

The Slippery Slope of Mockery

This week, I’m dipping my toe in politics (Gasp! I know, right?) based on a FB post I wrote last week in response to the Donald Trump statues. It’s actually not really a political post though, as I identify as an Independent (so don’t worry, and please read on, because I think it’s important, and I think you’ll like what you read.)

It’s perhaps from that non-partisan perspective that I can better see things that show up as red flags. In response to my post, I heard from friends on both sides of the fence (fiercely loyal Republicans and Democrats alike), and both agreed wholeheartedly with what I wrote, which caused me to pause and reflect on what’s truly going on, if two opposing sides can agree.

Here’s the original post.

So…can I just chime in for a second… Because this is funny and all, and it’s always a good joke to poke fun at someone we find insufferable, right? But… if it were the other way around, if naked Hillary statues were placed around the country, would it be as funny? Or would we be outraged? Because if it wouldn’t be funny to you, then maybe this is not actually funny.

I just want to make a tiny reminder that double standards are the breeding ground for things like racism and privilege. Just something to think about from the social worker in me. Thank you.

Followed by this, in the comments during an ongoing discussion:

The downfall of this election will not be (I fear) who wins or loses, it will be the American people more divided than ever. No matter which candidate wins, we all lose. Spreading division is a sure fire way to create the lowest morale and systemic emotional illness, from which it will take years to recover – which then means that neither candidate will win, because they will inherit an emotionally diseased country, of their own making. PS: It’s called the UNITED states, and they/we are making it the DIVIDED states.

Discussion ensued, and I started to see the pattern that initially gave me pause. Basically, the act of publicly degrading another human being feels like a violation of our core for the majority of people, regardless of party politics. Why? Because it is.

It’s a simple truth actually. If we witness someone acting out negatively toward another human being, we either a) become enraged, or b) become sensitized to it, and ultimately accept more “bad” behavior. How we then choose to act is dependent upon our initial reaction.

I had a real-life “example” in grad school with a friend when we were sitting in a coffee shop watching a mother disciplining her child, rather cruelly but without physical abuse. It was that very fine line of what is acceptable and what is not as a society. It lasted less than a minute, and neither of us wanted to step in, but both of us were angered and upset as we sat dumbfounded trying to figure out what to do. What was “right?”

Of course, we couldn’t come up with an acceptable answer, but our awareness had been heightened by the experience and ensuing discussion, which, for me, resulted in a greater sensitivity to seeing the forest from the trees. That basically means that when I see something go from individual to systemic a HUGE red flag rises in my mind’s eye, and that’s exactly what happened last week.

Back to the Trump statues. Let me be clear that I don’t agree with the divisiveness and hatred that Donald Trump has espoused this past year, so this article isn’t about defending Trump. Nor is this article about condoning Hillary, as the Democrats have historically also been responsible for divisiveness and mud-slinging. Neither party is innocent of this type of debasing behavior.

This article is about defending humanity and our civilization.

In one comment on the statues, it was suggested that it was “okay” to mock Trump with the statues because satire has always been a part of politics, and it’s our right. In another the mockery was justified as “deserving” because of Trump’s words over the past year.

This is where I took issue.

At what point does mockery become a threat to society? At what point do we stop and say, “no.” to that sort of behavior? This is where we have to guard against the slipper slope of mockery. Where I suggested the statues went too far for myriad reasons.

The responding comment suggested that this was not a time to take the “high road,” to which I wrote:

…for me it’s not about “the high road” – it’s about focusing on the bigger picture, which is that this type of behavior fuels more of this type of behavior, and if I condone it in one, I must condone it in all. No reason justifies it. That would be like saying, a person who was abused is ok to then abuse others. It’s not. It never is. It might explain why someone has abused someone else (as it often does), but it doesn’t make it ok on any level. Not for me, at least.

….And into that very dangerous ground we tread. The minute we can start rationalizing and justifying demoralizing behavior, we are losing. As a society and as humanity.

…If we start segregating people based on this thinking (they deserved it) we have reverted as a collective. Who is to be judge and jury? It’s all subjective. And the loser is always society.

The discussion ended there. Though a few days later, a friend had shared similar thoughts to my original post on her own timeline, and she received backlash. Again, those who would justify or rationalize (two major red flags, as I described in my book What if..?) the demoralizing statues as “deserving” voiced their opinions. My friend, courageously suggested that kindness should begin to rule our words – especially politically – to which one of her friends suggested civility, at least. I chimed in again:

…it’s more than kindness – it’s civility. But for me, it’s more than that – it’s humanity and civilization. As we lose our sensitivity to unacceptable behavior – that behavior becomes the “norm” and the threshold is moved. It’s one of the most slippery slopes we have actually, and if we don’t stem the tide, it will become a tsunami. And then all of humanity, civilization, loses. We ALL lose, regardless of party allegiance. I’m in the camp that we are already losing, but not in the camp of “beyond hope” for systemic change. But it has to start somewhere, and ideally it has to be bookended – from both above and below. Those in power, and those that elected them, both have to change how it’s done. Both have to have a fierce no-tolerance policy for degradation.

You see, historically (and even currently) I have always aligned with the policy of laissez-faire, or “let it do” (aka: let go). I don’t believe any one person has a right to impose their beliefs on any other person, myself included. I wish to be free to explore my beliefs, my thinking, my studying and change my mind/actions/presence accordingly. And I want the same for everyone else. Where beliefs overlap, I want those individuals to be able to form community and fellowship, celebrating the overlap and the joy in connection. This is my ideal society.

Overall, I think we have been living this way in America for a long time. It’s not perfect, but it has functioned, mostly well. The reason it functioned, I think, is because the majority had adopted a civil and moral code of conduct that was unwritten, but understood. Therefore, when I see the system sliding away from that invisible moral code and crossing a threshold into transforming unacceptable behavior into the “norm,” I get concerned. Red flags rise everywhere, and it becomes time to speak up and speak out against this type of behavior.

I think if you asked most citizens of this country if they believed in basic human rights, and the desire to be free to think as they choose without having their beliefs imposed upon, they would agree. Nobody wants to be scorned. Nobody wants to be shamed. Nobody wants to be mocked, ridiculed, or degraded. I doubt you would find one person willing to subject themselves to such behavior. Why then, do we do it to others?

Why is it ok to mock, shame, scorn and degrade another human being, when we don’t want it for ourselves?

The simple truth is: it’s not.

It’s not okay, and it never will be okay – but the more we do it, see it, witness it without speaking up, the more acceptable and “okay” it becomes through progressive rationalization, or desensitization. And that’s what we witnessed last week with the statues.

Yes, politics and satire have always been bedfellows to an extent, but at what point have we crossed the line from satire into degradation? At what point do we draw the line and choose to reverse the problems this type of behavior has created?

I would argue that that point is now, and it’s up to all of us to simply say “no, I don’t accept that behavior,” when we see it, and then offer a different way. The important distinction is to comment on the behavior, not the person. Behavior is something that can be changed. It’s not a statement about a person (ie: “I don’t accept that person,” which is problematic for myriad reasons), it’s a statement about something a person has done. That can then lead to discussion, relation, and connection – which ultimately leads to positive change for all.

The Key, The Door, and The Path

I recently started learning Transcendental Meditation (TM). This form of meditation has been said to have huge health benefits. Whether physical, mental, or emotional, the research has shown that a TM practice is generally good for your well-being… and who couldn’t use more of that?

So, I decided to investigate further, and I found it interesting. I met two local TM teachers who were available to assist me in learning this technique, and (due to a recent health scare) I have a lovely benefactor who offered to pay for my instruction. In my world, that’s all about the Universe showing up and making the path forward very clear and easy to follow. So I did.

TM is a very deliberate practice that basically contradicts a lot of things I previously thought meditation was supposed to be. In other forms of meditation, thoughts are almost an enemy. “Monkey mind” (as it’s called) is the antithesis of good meditation.**

But in TM it’s different. Thoughts simply are. There is nothing subjective about them. Neither good nor bad, they exist, they bubble up, and they release. This one difference made a HUGE impact on my understanding of meditation. The lack of judgment was liberating.

So, as I sat down in my first few days of TM, engaging in my practice twice daily, I found that I experienced the spectrum of thought presence. Sometimes there were few, if any, and other times it was like a TV section in an electronics store with every set turned on. And both experiences were perfectly right. See? Liberating.

What I found most interesting, though, was the epiphany I had during my very first meditation of the training.

As I typically do, I conducted some research prior to starting something new. In my readings I found the key element of TM to be a mantra. The mantra is given to you in the training, it’s personal to you and you alone, and it’s not a specific word with a specific meaning. It’s something altogether different. So, of course, I thought to myself: The mantra is the key to meditation.

Yes. …And no.

Over the years, in all the meditations I’ve learned, engaged in, and taught, none have relied solely on a mantra; therefore, I assumed this is what set TM apart. The mantra is the key to the meditation. It’s also more than that. So, this was the epiphany I had as I was doing TM for the first time:

The mantra is the key, the door, and the path.

It invites us in to the inner world of consciousness (the key), almost effortlessly (the door), and then helps us stay in a flow state the entire time we’re there (the path).

There are few things in life that serve as both catalyst and conveyor, but in this case it is absolutely true, which makes it easy.

TM is by far the simplest form of meditation I have ever learned. My biggest challenge will actually be prioritizing it as a twice daily practice. But, in order to see the worthwhile benefits reported in the research, it seems like a very good idea for me to overcome that hurdle.

The truth of all learning is this:

It’s not enough to simply find a key, you must use it to unlock the door.
​It’s not enough to just unlock the door, you must open it.
​It’s not enough to just open it, you must walk through it.
​And, it’s not enough to only walk through it, you must keep walking.

A good example for this is that it’s one step to attend a workshop or lecture, another to take notes on what you’re learning, and even better to take action and embody what you have understood.

If you want to create positive change, you must keep going. There are milestones on this journey, for sure, but there is no exact finish line.

It’s early days for me, but I look forward to being able to report back to you on what I find as I continue to move forward with this endeavor. As always, I’m human, and so I’m sure I will get a little messy with it, but that’s ok; because the only way to have a “bad” TM practice is simply to not do it. Feels like a win-win to me. I’ll let you know. 😉

Finally, I now have a new level of awareness in my life. I am looking to see what else might be both catalyst and conveyor, because I think that there’s something there to be discovered. I think the more we are able to combine the two, the easier it will be to stay in authenticity, integrity, and inspired flow. What do you think? Let me know if you think of any!

**Post-Note: A good friend pointed out a different understanding than the one I was originally taught about the “monkey mind.” In other modalities, I was taught that the goal of meditation was to increasingly silence the monkey mind, whereas in TM, there is no goal.

To me, silencing something over time (as a goal), puts it in the realm of something undesirable, which becomes something to push against. This is why TM was so different for me, and works better than other forms of meditation for me – there is no goal. There is no monkey mind, or clouds of thoughts, or leaves in a river to notice as the float by. These were all things I was taught in other forms of meditation, that simply weren’t as effective for me. In TM, there is nothing to notice or not notice, no clouds or leaves, or anything. Everything just is. There is only an allowing, with a gentle return to mantra. In fact, thoughts are seen as the byproduct of some stress releasing in the body. Nothing more.

I appreciate her pointing out and sharing her experience and wisdom with different meditation. It reinforces that there is no “one way” or even one understanding of one way. We each have what works best for us, and the key element to all of it is prioritizing the practice. I encourage you to find whatever way works for you. And frankly, TM is just one more tool in my ever-expanding toolbox. Big thanks to my friend for chiming in! xo

Where the Grass is Greener

This week I struggled with something to write about. Call it Mercury Retrograde, or call it fatigue, either way I came up with nothing. It happens. Then I saw this quote on a friend’s FB page:

The grass is greener where you water it.

It wasn’t attributed to any one person directly, and I feel like I’ve heard it before, though I’m not sure where. Then I was reminded of something I read from an interview with Isla Fisher in the American Way magazine. She said:

“…I’m super happy with my life the way it is. The grass doesn’t look greener.”
(I have loved that idea ever since I first read it.)

So, what is this obsession we have with “the grass is greener” concept? Is it greener? Ever? Or is it that we have learned to live life from a basis of comparison? Which, in turn means, we will never be satisfied?

I’ve explored this idea of “never enough” off and on for years, both formally and informally. The bottom line truth that I know for certain is that nobody ever wins in the comparison game.

Whether you are comparing misery (ie: my loss is greater than yours) or wealth and acquisitions (there is ALWAYS somebody who has more than you, or something you don’t have) or bodies (body satisfaction underlies many of our self-esteem challenges and issues of self-worth), nobody wins in the comparison game. Nobody.

In fact, the only way to WIN the game is to choose to not play at all. So, what does that look like?

Well, in some ways, it looks like the two quotes I shared above. Many thought leaders and spiritual teachers talk about acceptance, gratitude, and mindfulness. (Heck, I’m one of them!) But those words can be idealistic and amorphous, and can also create opportunities for the comparison habit to edge it’s way back in (ie: I must not be grateful enough, because s/he looks so much happier than I am). So, even though they are helpful to understand, they’re not always active or directive behaviors you can engage in and put into practice. So, what can you actually do?

Here’s one idea:

When the words should, could, would, enough, more, better, and/or worse (as well as “when” and “if”) enter your thoughts or statements – take pause. Take pause long enough to assess whether you are making a statement of comparison. Are you comparing yourself or your situation to someone else’s or some societal standard? Are you comparing someone else’s behavior to your own? If so, stop. Stop right there, because you won’t win. Not winning looks like: frustration, anger, jealousy, envy, sadness, despair, and desperation, to name a few. And nobody wants that.

Stopping is the first step. The second step is engaging in a positive practice to replace the habit of comparison. This involves identifying what brings you joy, such as: I love my house. Or if that’s too big: I love my bed. Or my garden. Or my feet. Or my nose. Or my dog. Or my brain. Or my….life. You get the idea.

So, the next time you think the ‘grass is greener’ somewhere else, take pause, double-check your words, and then look around you. Then perhaps you can see whether or not the grass you’re standing on is green, because it probably is. Green is green, and comparison is a game of shades that turns something lovely into something invisible, and sometimes harmful.

A Halloween SCARY story

Happy Halloween!

A SCARY story for you. Trick or treat?

Not so long ago there was a beautiful young woman who lived a comfortable life somewhere in the urban sprawl of a modern metropolis. She enjoyed her life, had a good job, and wonderful relationships. She loved everything about modern life: the fashion, the food, the accessibility to everything in the world at her fingertips.

One day, she was given a gift. She was told that this tool was harmless, except that it would help her to feel better about herself if she was ever sad or upset. If she faced any challenges in her life, she could bring it out of the closet, unseen, use it, and in an instant, she would feel better than before. It could transform any negative thoughts she had about herself with the push of a button.

At first, she didn’t understand it – and she put the gift in the back of the closet. Until one day when she went to put on her favorite little black dress for a cocktail party, and it didn’t zip. “What the-!” she thought. “I wore this only a few months ago! Must be all those extra mocha-frappa-ccino thingies I’ve been drinking to stay focused at work.” With that thought, she pulled out some black pants and a cute sweater and got dressed for the party. Not happy with herself, and feeling a little less than fabulous, she remembered the gift at the back of the closet.

“I wonder…..”

She took it out, pressed the button, and within seconds, she felt a little better. Surprised with the effects of this little wonder, she decided to put it in her purse and bring it with her. “Couldn’t hurt,” she thought.

Throughout the evening, as her friends arrived in their cutest dresses, she felt herself shrinking inside. Mad at herself for being unable to wear her cutest dress, she resorted to pushing the little button again and again throughout the night.

Over the course of the next few months, the little button was never far from her side. She brought it with her everywhere: the gym, the store, work, events. This little gift never left her side – even as her friends started to pull away from her. “They’re just jealous,” she thought. And her finger would automatically slide to the button once more.

Eventually, her beauty began to wane, and she found herself spending more and more time with people she had previously thought ugly or rude. But now, she gave it no mind. They were her new friends, and they liked her, thought she was funny. With time, however, even her clothes, job and home gave way to the little “gift” she had received. Her world had become dark, covered in cobwebs and dust, and the little button no longer worked. It only brought her more and more misery with each press.

Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer, and she decided to throw the button away, assuming it was broken. “It must not be working,” she said, and she walked out her door. As she approached the nearest trash can on her street, she pulled the button out of her pocket, ready to hurl it into the depths of decaying banana peels and old coffee cups.

“You can’t throw that in there!” She heard someone yell from the corner. She stopped.

“Why not?”

As the man approached her, he looked disheveled, dirty and … homeless. ‘Why am I listening to this ugly homeless man’ ran through her mind in a flash, her finger on the depressed button. “Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do? You’re homeless! And, and dirty! And you probably do drugs or drink or….or steal!” Still pressing the button.

But the homeless man came nearer, and for a moment she could see starlight in his eyes. Her finger softened, and he reached for her hand. Without thinking, she placed the button in his outstretched hand, as he gently took her arm and walked her to the nearest bench.

“Thank you,” he said. “You’ve done a wonderful thing. You’ve just given yourself a gift.”

“But that WAS the gift. And it stopped working.”

“No,” he continued. “This….This is a weapon.” She stared blankly at him. “Let me explain.

This button is the worst weapon of all. It destroys lives, steals joy and demolishes love, faith and hope. It’s stronger than any chemical weapon they can create. Like a gas it’s invisible and toxic, but also contagious. This weapon has been known to build entire industries on lies and falsehood, and wipe out generations of relationships in the process. This little button was killing you, and you never even knew.”

“But – but…. I don’t understand. Why? What is it?”

With that, the gentle man stood up, dismantled the button, destroying the individual pieces, and threw them in the garbage never to be assembled again. He returned to the bench, quietly sat down next to the beautiful woman, placed his hand on her hands and softly said,

“Judgment.”

Insides and Outsides – Part 1 of 3

Years ago, when I was being especially judgmental toward myself, my husband taught me a phrase:

“Don’t compare your insides, to other people’s outsides.” It was really simple, and yet at the time I didn’t entirely grasp its depth. However, I can’t begin to tell you how much this phrase has influenced me, my decisions and my beliefs as it has stayed with me for almost a decade. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up…

As children, for whatever reason (remember: we’re not playing the blame game here), we are taught to “compare” ourselves to what we see around us. So, from a very early age, we start learning the words: better, worse, enough, etc. We learn that everything has significance or value in our lives, and that some things are worth more than others. Unfortunately, we eventually apply this system to people, including ourselves. To be blunt, we learn how to judge. This isn’t something we’ve picked up overnight, mind you – it’s years and years of subliminal and sometimes not-so-subliminal messaging. Either way, in the end, by the time we reach pre-teen years, we are set up for disappointment, angst, frustration and fear. We are also set up for challenges, opportunities, and growth – but the other emotions tend to take over more often than not, as we learn to exert and test our independence little by little.

With that said, our teenage years are then spent fine-tuning this mode of living: comparing what we see to how we feel. For some reason, it’s ok that we do this with ourselves. So, we spend the better part of our childhood and teenage years thinking and feeling that we might not be “enough” and that we possibly aren’t “worthy” – when compared to everything, and everyone else, around us.

I can’t tell you how many times I looked at the more “popular” girls in high school and felt envy or worse: self-disgust. I wanted to look more like them, be more like them, and have what they had. And yet, I now know there were other people who looked at me and probably thought the same things I was thinking. I just didn’t realize it at the time. Why would I? All my energy was being spent thinking about everything that I wasn’t, not thinking about anything that I was. Add the value-system created by comparative thinking, and it’s a recipe for disaster: poor self-esteem and a roller coaster of emotions. It was difficult and challenging, and I think many of us may have experienced it that way.

Seeing the “grass as always greener” can wreak havoc on your mind. So, “it was the best of times and the worst of times.” Drama played a large role in my life, and why not? When you spend the better part of every day looking around you and judging others, and looking in the mirror and judging yourself – drama is a natural result. So – what happened next? I survived. In retrospect, it wasn’t that bad, even though at the time it was quite challenging. I have some of the best friends in the world – still today – and most all from high school. From there I went on to college, where I started (for the first time) to believe in myself, despite what I saw all around me. This time, however, it was based on others’ perception of me – namely, my boyfriends. I saw through their eyes what and who I was, not my own. Everything was still judgment based, but it was better. Next week, we’ll continue the story. For now, however:

THree THings

Body – What do your outsides really look like? Stop looking at magazines of airbrushed models and actresses wearing $5,000 outfits – just look at yourself. Yes, we live in a society that values appearance, but what do YOU value? Health? Wellness? The ability to have free will and make your own decisions about what you wear? Eat? Do?

Mind – Our mind, if we allow it, will always play a ping-pong game with us. Too much stimulus, especially in light of the comparative value-system we’ve created, will always cause havoc in our judgments and self-esteem. Can you take a break from the things that cause you to sit in judgment of yourself? Can you even identify the causes?

Spirit – Here’s the best one: you already know who you are, and how beautiful/smart/kind/loving/etc. you are. It’s deep down, in your soul. Kept there for always and forever. If you can tap into this knowledge, think of how all the judgment of yourself and others will fall away. What can you do to access this wisdom? Is it enough for someone to simply remind you that you already have it?

In love and light,

Martina