My daughter told me a few weeks ago that I was awkward especially when trying to have a important conversation with her about boys. My little baby has her first boyfriend and yes I probably was awkward because I remember her riding her bike for the first time as if it was last week. I remember when she called me momma, now its MOTHER!?!?!? She can’t possibly have a boyfriend, she’s still my baby. I immediately became defensive the minute she shared her observation.
However, my baby was right it was her perception and regardless of anything else, a person’s perception is their reality. And it was not only her perception but would have been a stranger’s perception, because I found myself in an unfamiliar place. I was unsure of myself as I spoke to her, what do I say, how do I say it, what if I say the wrong thing, what will happen, what is the right or wrong thing to say???? So yes I was awkward, now what.
You see my mom never had “the talk” with me, I had no basis of comparison, no framework to pull from, I was flying blind. My mom probably had the same sense of what in the heck do I say, as I do now. What information I did get, along the lines of the facts of life, was from a movie we watched at Our Lady of Perpetual Help catholic school in fourth grade. Honestly, I did not retain much from that but I do remember being confused and slightly frightened after watching the movie. A lot of the “social education” movies we watched were intended to keep us out of trouble through the use of fear. It was along the lines of Reefer Madness another movie before my time intended to use fear to keep kids out of trouble.
Fear was a great motivator and used abundantly in my youth. I remember when the Exorcist was released and the catholic response was mixed but in my community it was deemed a bad thing and akin to worshipping the devil. At least in my unsophisticated mind thats what I heard. My parents had a copy of the book in our house and my brother and I were so frightened about it we threw it behind the wall unit in our living room and covered it with a blanket, as if that would keep us from going to hell. Ahhhhh the power of fear, ok I digress, let’s get back to awkward.
Since my beautiful daughter tagged me with the awkward moniker I have been doing some reflection unfortunately my ego hitched a ride during this reflection. Many demons were fabricated during this time, one demon told me I could not write I was deluding myself, my writing was awkward. One demon told me my opinion was awkward. It is interesting how quickly I am wiling to give my power away when I get triggered based on a past defense mechanism.
My beautiful girl and her magnificent honesty gave me the opportunity to really look at who I am. Yes at times I am awkward no doubt about it, at times I can be eloquent, and I can also be beautiful and judgmental. That is the whole package of me. Why is it so easy to accept the parts of myself I think are “good” but I cannot get warm and cozy with those sides of myself that I deem “less desirable.” When I look at a rose I see the thorns and it does not take away from the beauty of the whole plant, or when I see a gorgeous but poisonous tree frog it does not affect the magnificence I feel when I see that creature. So why do I give the rose and the frog more compassion than I give myself. It’s so fascinating, isn’t it?
The difference now, I recognize when I am not being compassionate with myself, it may not be much but it is a start. So here’s to my awkward side and my confident side may they reside in relative peace within the whole.
“Awkward interests me, he said. At least when you are feeling awkward you are always thinking. When you are feeling fabulous, for example, rare occurrence that it may be, you stop thinking altogether. Which gets you into all kinds of trouble. Hence, you are for the better off feeling awkward. Just the sound of it on your tongue. Like chewing on screws.” – Elizabeth Brundage
I have been getting some strong messages in my life lately, the kinds you cannot ignore. Like a bullhorn blowing a few inches from your ear. Toooooo dooooooo dooooo doooooooo, waaaaaaaaa oooooooooooo……ok I could clip in some audio here but that was more fun. First a trusted advisor was counseling me on what she called 4th dimensional living, where basically we move from service to self or ego which is considered 3rd dimensional living to service to others. She was saying 4th dimensional living allows us and others to attract what we intend but from a community perspective, in other words, we view the universe as a whole and not us within the whole, but we are part of the whole. She was encouraging me to notice when I am in 3rd dimensional thinking, when ego is on a joy ride at my expense, and gently shift to 4th dimensional thinking. I was so grateful for her timely advice I am working on being present to my intent in my interactions and her guidance has reinforced that practice.
So this morning I received my next nudge, when I got up to watch Sunday Morning on CBS, which has been my routine since I was in high school, I saw a piece on Dale Carnegie and I instantly flashed back to earlier in life where my employer sent many of us through Dale Carnegie training. It is probably the best training anyone could ever receive. What really caught my attention was Dale Carnegie, a salesman from Missouri born in 1888, was conveying a similar message. Dale Carnegie talks about creating happiness for others and encourages restraint from ego driven activities such as criticizing, condemning and complaining. 4th Dimensional living encourages us to recognize personal journeys, committment to others achieving a positive reality along with us, and lack of ego satisfaction. There is much common ground here.
I decided I am receiving these messages for a reason so I revisited some of my favorite points from the Dale Carnegie training, which I felt I needed to be reminded of, and reflect on how they have helped who I am being in this world and that I need to be present to still today.
1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. – Mr. Carnegie’s famous quote on this principle is: “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do.” – This is about respecting others point of view even if it does not reflect your own. It is also about controlling the ego. It is okay for others to have a different point of view and if you can hear differing views without reaction, your universe will expand. You will be open to seeing and hearing view points you would not conceive. If you cannot hear others points of view, your opinion of the world and the universe is narrowed to your own limited experience. In addition, it is difficult to cultivate rich relationships and experiences if others encounter you from a place of criticism, complaining or condemning. I have seen the devastating effects of complaining, condemnation and criticism, where once thriving relationships have been permanently damaged. However, I have also seen the marvelous effects admiration, commendation, and praise produce.
2. Smile. – “Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, “I like you, You make me happy. I am glad to see you.” That is why dogs make such a hit. They are so glad to see us that they almost jump out of their skins. So, naturally, we are glad to see them.” – Dale Carnegie. A genuine, authentic smile is the best gift you can give yourself and the world. A smile is acknowledgement of our interconnectedness, I believe the less connected you are to the whole of the universe the less inclined you are to smile. We all know people who smile or have infectious smiles, they light up a room. Think about how you feel when you are with those people; amazing, light, safe, giddy and comfortable. It is almost like they emit a magic elixir that you absorb through your skin, it is powerful. The opposite of that are the people who wear their disapproval on their sleeve and instead of invigorating others, it is exhausting and draining. So smile it is a simple but powerful action that can manifest happiness in those you touch each day.
3. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” – I cannot stress enough the almighty power and possibility born of honest and authentic praise and the devastation and misery of going straight to criticism or condemning. I have actually seen people accomplish things they never thought possible, including myself, as a result of well-timed and authentic praise. If you think about it, when have you felt the most amazing, the most powerful? I bet it has something to do with a parent, mentor, teacher, coach, trusted advisor or friend giving you praise on an accomplishment, telling you they are proud of you. You wish you could bottle that feeling, it is nirvana. I believe it is the highest state of being when you look at someone and your initial thought is love or praise. Imagine the possibilities born of this state of being!
Just remember in every interaction what would you like to be acknowledged for, how would you like to be treated, and then treat others from that perspective. Really this goes back to the golden rule, or as Confucius said – “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” It is a very simple maxim to follow, treat others how you would like to be treated. Think of it this way. You are the teacher in a very large classroom and everyday you go out among your students and through example you behave in the way you want them to behave. As I heard one person put it, it’s common sense, but not in common practice today.
If you have ever had the experience of dealing with someone who has shaped their world by bullying and humiliation to get what they need, have compassion for them, and remember your response to their behavior is how you want them to treat you. So if you respond in kind, you are teaching them to continue the behavior, if you respond with loving kindness even under this most stressful situations, you are teaching them how you want to be treated. Will this change the person that is using negative approaches to cope, maybe not, but it is about you maintaining your integrity in the face of adversity and manifesting the life you want. So give loving kindness and smile is it a gift that you can share with many people all at once, loved ones and strangers alike, but the true recipient of your gift of smiles is your own heart and soul.
“Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ― Mother Teresa
Over the last year I have done a lot of soul-searching, self discovery, accepting of those aspects of myself I was not very fond of, basically peeling back the layers. Like an onion some layers fell off easy, others I had to pry off while tears were streaming down my cheeks. All this work and learning how “to be” along this journey really comes down one very important practice, pausing. That’s right hitting the pause button. When you hit the pause button several things happen and more importantly many things don’t happen. What does happen, you stay present, what doesn’t happen, you don’t say or do something that is not in alignment with your intention. I am so amazed at how quickly a well-intentioned encounter goes awry if I don’t hit pause. I leave feeling like, what the heck just happened? I am amazed at how well things go when I do hit pause.
You all know what I am talking about, let’s talk about the time you went to talk to someone about something you thought was no big deal. You start the conversation and all of a sudden things get tense, maybe even confrontational. Rather than pausing and considering what is happening we react in a similar fashion. – Well screw you I came over to tell you we got some ice cream how the hell did I know you were lactose intolerant. No we didn’t get any sherbet. You know what I will make sure I never invite you to any parties we are having, you jerk. – Now let’s go through the same scenario and pause. Hmmm I told this guy we were having ice cream and he is really getting worked up, I feel my face getting flush and my heart is racing, isn’t that interesting. – You know I feel my face getting flush and my heart is racing because I am sensing this is an upsetting subject for you, listen my intention was to make sure you felt welcome to our celebration. Will the testy lactose intolerant dude defuse? Maybe, maybe not, the point is your fuse wasn’t lit. We can’t control how others “are being” along their journey, we can only chose for ourselves.
The pause is so powerful, many great philosophers and teachers think that when we meditate or pray, the pause between thoughts when one thought ends and before the next thought begins, is when we are closest to God. If you think about it, it really makes sense our thoughts are tied very tightly to our ego so the pause in our thoughts is when we have a direct line to our essence, and our ego is bypassed. When I make the choice to pause, to be mindful and become an observer of my own actions, it creates a calmness in my being. It sounds crazy but if I find myself starting to get spun up if I take a step back and witness what is happening I can stay present and mindful. I had a recent encounter where I wanted to get a point across and the person I was speaking to told me some negative traits about myself, it struck a nerve at first (ah hello Mr. Ego there you are) and then I paused yes they were correct I have these negative traits and I have positive traits that is what makes me whole (remember Mr. Ego we discussed this in detail a blog ago!) and that makes me like everyone else perfect. The exercise of hitting the pause button has helped me understand that my self-worth, as with everyone else’s, is intrinsic and not determined by others.
Hitting pause has helped me to be a better listener I find myself talking less and listening more. If you are like me or at least like I have been in my recent past, you may feel the need to talk when you walk in the room, the silence feels awkward, notice that impulse to fill the silence, pause be present, relax and enjoy the silence and think about only breaking the silence if value is added. It is a very powerful exercise. If you are a shy person and would never consider breaking the silence but sit in quiet suffering hoping another will break the silence, be present relax and enjoy the silence, you may feel less inhibited to break the silence if value is added. I love this quote by Abraham Lincoln – “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” And what amazes me is he was such a great orator, of course as I said if you can add value then speak and if you have read the transcripts of his speeches and debates it was certainly true in his case. Of course in my own case I have on many occasions removed all doubt. The pause has helped me not only to avoid removing doubt but it has done more, I am, in very stressful situations, witnessing them, almost observing myself and the events.
Life is so much more interesting when you become the observer and not the actor. If you have ever been on a stage you know what I mean, the actors cannot see the audience, only what is happening on the stage, the audience on the other hand can observe the actors as well as the rest of the audience, they have a more complete picture of the moment. So the next time you lose your train of thought or forget your excellent comeback, just pause, don’t judge yourself and witness your thoughts, trust me you are seeing more, experiencing more than if you did get that awesome comeback, it’s powerful.
Mahatma Gandhi said “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” Remember we are all on a quest for truth, how powerful. (pause).