Tag Archives: Communication

Intent of the Day: Let Nothing Linger

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The holidays are such a special time. They come once a year, everything feels like it could end up a little dreamier. Movies tell us this is the time when people declare their true feelings, fall in love, reunite with lost loved ones and, if that’s your hope, we sincerely hope that happens for you. In fact, we hope to have every skill we need to give our third act monologue. Or maybe just the words we need to handle whatever feelings and thoughts pop up over this season. Our #intent of the day is to let nothing linger.

You too? Here are 3 resources to help: Continue reading

Intent of the Day: Say What You Mean

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Feeling misunderstood? Sometimes that happens because others aren’t listening. But it can also happen when we aren’t fully saying what we mean. Our words, our commitments, our attention can be so vague and non-committal and, while that serves a certain purpose, it can often leave us feeling disconnected and not fully ourselves. So today, our intent is to say what we mean. Our honest feelings. Our realest opinions. Our worries and concerns, our joys and our hopes.

You too? Here are 3 resources to help: Continue reading

Direct Communication

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For a long time, there was a point in our lives where the things we were saying were not being heard. Nobody was listening, and we didn’t understand. But we saw our mothers and fathers get things done in more evasive ways. They never came out and said directly what they needed or what they wanted done, but things got done. As we got older, we noticed that we had picked up the habit, but that other people didn’t communicate in the same way. They felt no shame asking someone for what they needed, and they didn’t have to stomp around, cursing and making noise in order to get a message across.

For the most part, passive-aggressive tendencies are not appreciated. For instance, someone I once knew moved to college and was put into a suite with several other ladies. Having an early class, and not wanting to wake the other girls, she left a note that asked if the person that left the dishes in the sink could please clean them up. Well intended as the note was, it did not have a happy reception on the other end. The note ended up causing tension, and the writer of it did not understand what was so bad about it. In her mind, she was doing what she was taught – tell someone something indirectly when she felt like she couldn’t directly. She felt since the note wasn’t angry or very urgent, it wouldn’t make sense to wake someone up just to tell them that. The other girls, however, thought that she was too afraid to go directly to the person that left the dishes and ask them. Of course, things were returned to normal afterwards, but it led the note writer to examine her communication skills, and find that she really was not very direct – even though, in this case, it worked out. Continue reading

Does Marriage Counseling Really Work?

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You may have heard that marriage counseling is the best thing a couple has ever done and how it saved their marriage.  You may also have heard that it was a total waste of time and money.  The reality is that marriage counseling does work for some couples, but not for others.  Whether it will help your marriage depends on you, your spouse, your counselor and your desire to save your marriage.

Marriage counseling is usually not an easy choice to make.  By the time you consider counseling, your marriage is often in trouble and you may be wondering if trying to save it is even worth the trouble.  Even couples who are ready to file for divorce can benefit from counseling, if both spouses are willing to make an effort to try and rekindle their love and passion.

To find a counselor, you can ask your family doctor or a minister for recommendations or search your local phone book.  Family and friends could be good places to ask, too, but many people don’t want others to know they are considering counseling.  If you have already spoken to a lawyer, you may even ask him/her if they have a recommendation.

Remember that once you have your list of marriage counselors, you may need to meet a few before you find one that you and your spouse are comfortable with.  Your sessions will involve very personal discussions and for your counseling to be effective, you both need to be able to share your thoughts and feelings openly.  

You will also need to respect the counselor so you can take his/her advice and not feel as if you are being put down for your feelings or criticized for choices you have made.

When you are searching for your counselor, you may want to ask the following questions: Continue reading

Music….A Fuel That Feeds Our Spiritual Engines

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Most cultures in our world embrace some form of what we have come to call “music”. Some much more than others. Some cultures use music only in religious moments. Some extremely primitive cultures (by Western standards) haven’t even defined music yet. That is, they don’t call it music, but they still create and use some sounds as music nonetheless.

It could be easily argued that music in all its forms is the true universal language that ties the spirit of all living creatures together. Man, of course is God’s primary creature that consciously uses music to communicate his feelings, emotions and needs often without a single word being uttered or sung. But we’re not the only ones… (think about birds singing).

How can it be then, that music, used by billions of people every moment of every day, is not recognized as essential in its purpose?  Ahhhh… the failings of mankind are pervasive. Still, it’s notable that our scientific community has recently discovered what most of us in the music community already knew:

Music affects ALL living creatures (a multitude of studies, anecdotal and scientific, suggest plant-life may also be positively and negatively impacted) such that it influences moods, sensations, emotions, physical growth, physical healings and emotional healings that can be quantified in bonafide studies. I like to say that music does all this and more by ‘speaking’ to us in a way that ALL people of ALL tribes innately grasp…. in a way that our ‘inner spirits’ always understand:  the “language of music”.

The “language of music” is so powerful that it can move our spirits in ways we never really thought about: Continue reading

How to Encourage Your Kid’s Communication And Productivity Skills

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By Samantha Madhosingh
www.askdrsamantha.com

Productive, confident adults…that is what we all hope our kids will develop into. There are very specific strategies that increase the odds of making that hope all parents have a reality, so let’s dive in.

Communication with Confidence

Empowering children with the skills of effective listening, self-advocacy, standing up for themselves, and the ability to communicate their needs, are some of the critical communication tools they will need from the preschool classroom to the boardroom.

These are the foundation skills of leadership development and can even prevent your child from being the victim of bullying and abuse.  You want your kids to be able to say “No” to other peers or adults who may attempt to harm them.  Practice with them through role plays, and show them how to be assertive, ask for what they want, and listen carefully to what others are saying. Continue reading

Reaching Out For Compassion

Rabindranath Tagore embarrassment of compassion fills your eyes rain on we lucky spaces between potential and the real take my hand and walk togetherAt a weekend workshop I led, one of the participants, Marian, shared her story about the shame and guilt that had tortured her. Marian’s daughter Christy, in recovery for alcoholism, had asked her mother to join her in therapy. As their sessions unfolded, Christy revealed that she’d been sexually abused throughout her teen years by her stepfather, Marian’s second husband.

The words and revelations Marian heard that day pierced her heart. “You just slept through my whole adolescence!” her daughter had shouted. “I was being violated and had nowhere to turn! No one was there to take care of me!” Christy’s face was red; her hands clenched tight. “I was afraid to tell you then, and now I know why. You can’t handle the truth. You can’t handle me. You never could. I hate you!”

As she watched her daughter dissolve into heaving sobs, Marian knew that what she’d heard was true. She hadn’t been able to handle her daughter’s involvement with drugs, her clashes with teachers, or her truancy and suspensions from school, because she couldn’t handle anything about her own life.

At this point, compassion for herself was not only impossible, Marian was convinced it would have been wrong: the horror that Christy endured was her fault; she deserved to suffer.

We’ve all harmed others and felt as if we were bad because of our actions. When we, like Marian, face the truth that we’ve hurt others, sometimes severely, the feelings of guilt and shame can tear us apart. Even when the damage isn’t so great, some of us still feel undeserving of compassion or redemption.

At times like these, the only way to find compassion for ourselves is by reaching out to something larger than the self that feels so small and miserable. We might for instance take refuge by calling on the Buddha, Divine Mother, God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Shiva, or Allah – reaching towards a loving awareness that is great enough to offer comfort and safety to our broken being.

As a Catholic, Marian had found moments of deep peace and communion with a loving God. But, in her despair, she now felt alone in the universe. Sure, God existed, but she felt too sinful and wretched to reach out to him.

Fearing she might harm herself, Marian sought counsel from an elderly Jesuit priest she had known in college. After she’d wept and told him her story, he gently took one of her hands and began drawing a circle in the center of her palm. “This,” he said, “is where you are living. It’s painful—a place of kicking and screaming and deep, deep hurt. This place cannot be avoided, let it be.”

Then he covered her whole hand with his. “But, if you can, try also to remember this: there is a greatness, a wholeness that is the kingdom of God, and in this merciful space, your immediate life can unfold. This pain is held always in God’s love. As you know both the pain and the love, your wounds will heal.

Marian felt as if a great wave of compassion was pouring through the hands of the priest and gently bathing her, inviting her to surrender into its caring embrace. As she gave her desperation to it, she knew she was giving herself to the mercy of God. The more she let go, the more she felt held. Yes, she’d been blind and ignorant; she’d caused irreparable damage, but she wasn’t worthless, she wasn’t evil. Being held in the infinite compassion of God, she could find her way to her own heart.

Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance. The priest wasn’t advising Marian to ignore the pain or to deny that she’d failed her daughter, but to open her heart to the love that could begin the healing.

Now, rather than being locked inside her tormenting thoughts, Marian could remember the possibility of compassion. When remorse or self-hatred would arise, she would mentally say, “Please hold this pain.” When she felt her anguish as being held by God, she could face it without being ripped apart or wanting to destroy herself.

Two weeks later, when she and her daughter met again in therapy, Marian admitted to Christy – still acting cold – that she knew she’d failed her terribly. Then, gently and carefully taking her daughter’s hand, Marian drew a soft circle in the center of her palm, and whispered the same words the priest had whispered to her.

Upon hearing these words, Christy allowed herself be held, wept, and surrendered into the unexpected strength and sureness of her mother’s love. There was no way either of them could bypass the raw pain of yet unhealed wounds, but now they could heal together. By reaching out and feeling held in God’s mercy, Marian had discovered the compassion that could hold them both.

Whenever we feel held by a caring presence, by something larger than our small frightened self, we too can begin to find room in our own heart for the fragments of our life, and for the lives of others. The suffering that might have seemed “too much” can now awaken us to the sweetness of compassion.

© Tara Brach

Enjoy this talk on Cultivating Compassion 

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For more information, visit www.tarabrach.com

photo by: Wonderlane

Committing to Presence for the Sake of Love

 Romantic Heart from Love SeedsJeff was convinced he’d fallen out of love with his wife, Arlene, and that nothing could salvage their twenty-six-year marriage. He wanted relief from the oppressiveness of feeling continually judged and found wanting. Arlene, for her part, was hurt and angry because she felt Jeff avoided any real communication or emotional intimacy. As a last-ditch effort, she convinced him to attend a weekend workshop for couples sponsored by their church. Much to their surprise, they both left with a glimmer of hope for their future together. The message they took away was “Love is a decision.” Their guides at the workshop had insisted that while we don’t always feel loving, love is here should we choose to awaken it.

Yet, back at home, when their old styles of attacking and defending were triggered, deciding on love seemed like an ineffectual mental maneuver. Discouraged, Jeff sought me out for a counseling session. “I don’t know how to get from point A to point B,” he declared. “Like when we were together yesterday . . . my mind told me to decide on love, but that didn’t make a difference . . . my heart was in lockdown. Arlene was blaming me for something, and all I wanted to do was get away from her!”

“Let’s take another look at what happened yesterday,” I suggested, then invited him to close his eyes, put himself back into the situation, and let go of his notions of who was right or wrong. “Just let yourself experience what it’s like in your body to feel blamed and want to get away.” Jeff sat still, his face tightening into a grimace. “Keep allowing the feelings to be there,” I said, “and find out what unfolds.”

Gradually, his face softened. “Now I’m feeling stuck and sad,” he said. “We spend so much time caught in this. I withdraw, often without knowing it . . . that hurts her . . . she gets upset . . . then I very consciously want to get away. It’s sad to be so trapped.”

He looked up at me. I nodded with understanding. “What would it be like, Jeff, if instead of pulling away during this kind of encounter, you were able to let her know exactly what you were experiencing?” Then I added, “And if she, too, without accusing you of anything, were able to report on her feelings?”

“We’d have to know what we were feeling!” he said with a small laugh. “We’re usually too busy reacting.”

“Exactly!” I said. “You’d both have to be paying attention to what’s going on inside you. And that runs counter to our conditioning. When we’re emotionally stirred up, we’re lost in our stories about what’s happening, and caught in reflexive behaviors—like blaming the other person or finding a way to leave. That’s why we need to train ourselves to pay attention, so that we’re not at the mercy of our conditioning.”

I went on to explain how the practice of meditation cultivates our capacity for presence, for directly contacting our real, moment-to-moment experience. This gives us more inner space and creativity in responding—rather than reacting—to our circumstances. When I suggested that he and Arlene might consider coming to my weekly meditation class, he readily agreed. They were both there the following Wednesday night, and a month later, they attended a weekend meditation retreat I was leading.

Some weeks after the retreat, the three of us spoke briefly after class. Arlene said that thanks to their meditation practice, they were learning how to decide on love: “We have to choose presence with each other, over and over and over,” she told me. “We have to choose presence when we’re angry, presence when we aren’t in the mood to listen, presence when we’re alone and running the same old stories about how the other is wrong. Choosing presence is our way of opening our hearts.”

Jeff nodded his agreement. “I realized that it’s not about getting from point A to point B,” he said with a smile. “It’s about bringing a full presence to point A, to the life of this moment, no matter what’s going on. The rest unfolds from there.”

Taking refuge in presence—choosing presence—requires training. When “point A” is unpleasant, the last thing we want to do is to stay and feel our experience. Rather than entrusting ourselves to the waves of experience, we want to get away, lash out, numb ourselves, do anything but touch what’s real. Yet, as Jeff and Arlene were realizing, these types of false refuges keep us feeling small and defended.

As I explore in my upcoming course on cultivating more conscious, vibrant relationships, only by deepening our attention and letting life be just as it is can we find real intimacy with ourselves and others. In more than thirty-five years of teaching meditation, I’ve seen it help countless people to deepen their capacity for loving, because if we are able to stay present, we can decide on love, and give it the space and attention it needs to ignite fully. When you are next in a conflict with a dear one, your might inquire, “What would it mean to decide on love? Can I commit to deepening presence for the sake of love?” Just the inquiry will draw you closer to your heart.

© Tara Brach

Note: Coming soon  – an online course on cultivating more conscious, vibrant relationships.

Enjoy this talk on: The Dance of Relational Trance 

Join my email list: http://eepurl.com/6YfI

For more information, visit www.tarabrach.com

photo by: epSos.de

Best Friends Club

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I am an adult with a Best Friends Club.
You read that right.
I remember being a kid and making a list of friends for my birthday.
20 people on the list? Man, I was popular.
But I also remember asking my parents if they had 20 friends.
I’d never seen them hang out with their friends late at night.
They weren’t going to meet friends at Hot Wheels Roller Rink like I was.
Did they not have any friends?
I decided I would never be an adult without friends.

Then I grew up. I’ve realized how difficult it can be to maintain relationships as you get older. People have jobs. They move away to different states. They get married and have kids. They start posting really weird political things on their Facebook pages. Being an adult with friends can be tough.

A really wonderful and wise man I know wrote this blog about Mastermind Groups.
Based on his description, a Mastermind Group is “12 (or less) people meeting once a week, reading books, and sharing life together.” He talks about how starting his own group of 5 guys who were in similar places in their lives pushed ALL of them to levels they never thought imaginable.

So I did it.

I started a secret club with four of my friends (really, there’s no reason for it to be secret. It just made it more fun for all of us and when you’re adults, sometimes you have to make your own fun) and we get together to share scripts and books, work on writing projects together and occasionally eat fancy foods. We check in with each other. We set goals for delivery of new material. We work on writing stuff.

The interesting thing is that our mastermind group kind of overflowed into the rest of our lives. Aside from the really great accountability it provided for us to get pen to paper, there were some other unexpected things we took away from this group:

1. Choose your team well.
When you’re in elementary school, your friends are the 23 other kids that happened to be assigned to the same teacher. The nice thing about being an adult is that you can be active in deciding who does and does not have access to you. So choose your team well! Choose people who allow you to feel like yourself. Choose people that are going to challenge you, not just fill the room with hot air.

2. Spend your time well.
Making time for something in your life that will meet regularly is a quick way to see what fluff is filling your calendar. I say time and time again that if your favorite thing to do is cook but you make no time for cooking, what are you doing instead? If the fruits of your labor with your mastermind group are the things you want most, you’re going to have to find places to cut back elsewhere. And don’t forget that the meeting time isn’t the only time you need space. If you’re writing, you have to have time to write if you’re going to bring anything to the group. Don’t forget that important piece of the puzzle!

3. Communicate well.
When there are 5 people you’re managing, you have to learn to be quick and honest. We don’t have time to waste rambling or not being intentional. So whether it’s in our meetings, where we employ stopwatches when we’re sharing material, or in our email chains, a date for our next meeting is suggested and everyone has until the end of the day to respond , we have learned that dragging out communication means keeping all of us in limbo. A real quick way to have 5 angry people is to keep them all in limbo. So be decisive. If you can’t be somewhere, say it. If you can, say it. You don’t want 4 masterminds turning against you.

So who would be in your group?
And what do you even want accomplished?
Maybe it’s a group that exercises together.
Maybe it’s a group of budding entrepreneurs.
Maybe it’s a group of moms or comedians or people from Washington state.
You get to decide. They’re your friends after all.

The Improv Rules For Better Relationships & a Better You

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 9.33.42 PMI’ve had trouble with social anxiety since I was a kid. For holidays I would hide in the bathroom or some hidden corner of my room just to avoid having to talk to family members we didn’t see on a regular basis. Today I am the most grateful person for Dominoes online ordering service so I don’t have to actually call the store and converse with whoever answers the phone. Initiating conversations in general sounds pretty horrifying as far as I’m concerned (note my job as an internet blog editor).  So it is with a great flare of irony that I didn’t find my footing in Los Angeles until I started taking improv classes at Upright Citizens Brigade.

For those not familiar, Upright Citizens Brigade specializes in long-form improv. So you and your scene partner start having a conversation and build a comedic scene around a “game” or a repeatable funny idea. And it’s all made up on the spot. So basically, you spend 3 hours a week for 8 weeks starting random conversations with people you just met. At the end of the course you then try to have one of those conversations (praying it’s funny) in front of every friend and family member you could convince to pay $5 to see it. It’s insanity – the definition of my worst social nightmare – and it’s the best thing I’ve ever gotten myself to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I have to pry myself off the back wall for every initiation I make. I want to throw up before 90% of shows I do and when I see the pros do it I am astounded at their ability to make it look so easy. What I’ve learned through my two years of classes and indie shows though has not only helped me develop as a performer (When I moved here I would rather be hit in the face with a shovel than be accused of being an actor, but now I have head shots. It’s definitely part of the dream) – but the rules of improv have helped me become a better person in life. Don’t believe me? Try a few of these basic principles and see the good it does for your own relationships.

1. Listen – This is the first and most important rule of creating any scene – but it should be the first rule of any interaction you have. Get out of your head and stop thinking of what you’re going to say next and actually take a second to hear the words someone else is saying. Watch their body language. Take notice of the intonation of their voice and make sure you understand what it is they are trying to tell you. For better or worse, everything said at the top of your scene if your foundation but it is only through listening that you can lay down bricks next to each other in a coherent fashion. Listen first, and you’ll be shocked how much easier it is to talk second.

2. “Yes and…” – Tina Fey has a similar list to this in her book Bossypants (which everyone should read) and she talks a lot about the “Yes and..” rule. This is actually the first thing you learn in improv. Your job as a performer is to agree. What does this mean? Don’t deny anything your scene partner says. You do not have to agree with it, but you’re not allowed to negate it or say that it isn’t true. It’s disrespectful and ruins the progress their contribution made. In real life terms, saying yes being means staying open to someone else’s ideas. It goes hand-in-hand with listening, really. The truth of the matter is that we’re all on this planet together and no one gets anything done alone. Honestly, it’s a lot more fun when you’re contributing together and a lot less stressful than trying to build an empire by yourself.

That brings us to “and..” This is the hardest part. You have to agree, and then add to the conversation. You have to participate. Otherwise you leave your scene partner doing all the heavy lifting and often times a scene will stall. It’s the same in life when you just plod through saying yes without actually getting involved. You become an inactive observer and before you know it you’ve watched so much go by without ever being part of it. So be open and jump in.

3. Be honest – When you’re building a scene it only works when everyone agrees that what you’ve built is real. If halfway through someone says “Ha, but I lied!” then it negates all the work up until that point. If you tell one lie then it’s impossible to be sure if anything that you’ve said has been the truth – on stage or off. An extension of this is don’t be coy. A lot of beginner improvisers will pretend to have a secret or delay saying their full idea because they think it will prolong the scene but really all it does is prolong the frustration. When you’re direct with what you’re thinking then it can be dealt with and built into the universe. When you’re dealing with real life relationships being direct may cause more confrontation initially, but the problems can be dealt with immediately and you learn only to make issues out of things that you really care about. When you purposefully try to be sneaky you waste scene time on stage, and you waste time in your relationships, for what? Something you’re going to have to deal with eventually, so just do it now so you can move on to better things.

4. Be a human – My favorite improv coach started our first class by saying the most popular critique he would give us would be “Be humans to each other.”  It sounds like common sense, right? I mean, how would we not be human to each other? What he meant was to combine all of the aforementioned rules and react to our partners like real people. We may be making things up but comedy comes from truth and you create a richer scene when you play it real. Being a human means you have to listen to what your scene partner says and be affected. If they insult you then you need to be honest and show that you’re insulted. If you’re not insulted then you better “yes and…” with the reason why. Sometimes in the real world we don’t take the time to be affected by the things around us. We’re moving too quickly in our own bubbles to absorb the events in our lives. When you take a second and process how something makes you feel and you react honestly to it you make progress. You learn. You grow. You’re more empathetic to others and you’ll find that it’s much less stress for you.

Improv hasn’t changed who I am, but it has given me several tools to be a better version of it. I will probably always choose the online option over calling it in, but at least I know I can get off the wall if I want to. I know that not all the pressure is on me, and if I can listen and react honestly then there’s the potential to create something out of nothing. Isn’t that the magic we’re all looking for?

How do you try to be a better human? Share in the comments below! 

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