Loving Kindness Meditation for Friendship

Once a month, for the last three years, this group of amazing women has gathered together to share their lives, to practice cheering for each other, and to ask for help from the group. This last Monday was our May gathering.

One of the women shared a situation with someone they were having a hard time with at work and she so wisely said, “I don’t think I want advice for how to handle her because then I’ll go into defensive mode trying to explain more about what I’ve tried or why that wouldn’t work. I guess I just wanted to tell you and ask for your support.” (What maturity to be able to articulate what she didn’t need!)

We all thanked her for sharing, validated what we heard her say, and promised prayers and thoughts for her patience and wisdom.  Then a wise sage in the group said, “Are you familiar with the Loving Kindness meditation? I just wonder if that would feel grounding for you?”

The sharer expressed interest and wanted to know more. So this practice was described for those who weren’t familiar with it and I watched as everyone scrambled to write it down, oohed-and-ahhed at how meaningful it felt, and a few even vowed that they wanted to challenge themselves to try it for 30 days.

I knew right then what I wanted to blog about this week.  :)

The Loving-Kindness Meditation

What it is: It struck me how powerful this mediation could be in our community of women who are striving to have healthy relationships with themselves and others. It’s often referred to as metta, which in the Pali language refers to an inclusive, wise, and compassionate love. From a place of meditation, we are choosing to practice love in our minds, not based on whether others, or ourselves, “deserves” it, but because we recognize that love is more healing in this world than judgment, hatred, or fear.

The words: There are many variations– feel free to google to find the phrases you like the best or even write you own. I love the adaption that my friend shared on Monday night so I’ll share that one with you for now:

May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy and free.

How it works: It works by offering loving-kindness to ourselves first, then extending out to people we love easily, then extending out to people we feel neutral about (or maybe people we don’t even know), and eventually extending out to people who frustrate or disappoint us.

  1. So we want to find the time and place to sit comfortably in a quiet place and whisper the words slowly over and over about ourselves first.
  2. When we feel ready, we then can picture that love extending beyond ourselves to those we love with relative ease. For example, “May Lucy be filled with loving kindness…” We replace the I with either their names or we can say she or they if we’re picturing different friends or our family in our minds. Continue doing this as different people you love pop into your mind.
  3. When we feel ready, we then picture that love extending out even more to the next circle of people– whether that be people you work with, the people you have appointments with that day, anyone who pops into your mind, your neighbors, your family, etc.
  4. Then when you feel ready, invite yourself to think of people who trigger you– people you’re having a hard time forgiving, people who annoy you, people you’re no longer friends with, and people who have hurt you.
  5. To end, I like to visualize my love as ribbons going out from my heart to surround the world. For one moment feel what it feels like to simply put love out there– to everyone, to anyone. And pray that as you go about your day that you’d show up as as someone ready to see that everything said to you by others is either their love for you or their call to be loved. Hear it as a gift you can give to include that person in your circle of who you are willing to extend the loving-kindness meditation toward.
We can use the Loving-Kindness meditation on our friends--both the ones who are easy to say it about and the ones with whom it feels hard.

We can use the Loving-Kindness meditation on our friends–both the ones who are easy to say it about and the ones with whom it feels hard.

If it’s hard to do: Quite naturally, sometimes these words are incredibly difficult to say about some people, possibly even ourselves. So it’s important to be as compassionate and tender with yourself as possible when you feel constriction or panic. Try not to judge yourself– it’s like a muscle that needs to developed–most of us will struggle with judgments as we try to extend the words.

Some ideas when you don’t feel the love:

  • One idea is to start the prayer with something like “To the extent that I am able…” or “I don’t feel it yet, but I am willing to say it…”
  • Another practice some suggest is if you feel blocked then go back to saying it about someone with whom it’s easy for you to feel it and say it several times for that person, then try–from that place of love– to let some of it spill over as you return to the person that originally choked the words.
  • Depending on your tradition, another option might be to say it about God’s desire if you don’t yet feel you can say it from yourself, such as “God wants you to be peaceful and at ease.”

It’s crucial to realize that you don’t need to feel these words to have them do their work on us. In fact, that’s kind of the point.  We’re slowly re-wiring our brain toward love so chances are slim that we already feel these things automatically. It will not feel easy or authentic. Keep in mind that we’re not obligating ourselves to anything, letting anyone off any hooks, or justifying their behavior.

This meditation is more for us than it is for them. 

We are practicing becoming more loving people and this is how we get there.  We may not think we believe the words, but there is a voice in us, somewhere, that knows these words to be true. We are calling out to that voice and letting her be heard above the voices we all too often listen to.

We are choosing our peace over our defensiveness.

With so much big love for you,

Shasta

p.s. Do you practice this meditation? What’s it been like for you? Share with us your tips or testimonies!

Posted in "Toxic" Friends, Exercise & Yoga, Forgiveness, How To?, Judging Others, Personal Growth/Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are You Motivated Toward Pleasure or Away From Pain?

A guy giving me a sales pitch last year said to me,

“We’ve found that only about 20% of people are what we call ‘Toward People’– the ones who move toward pleasure; the other 80% of people are ‘Away People’ who move away from pain.”

How Are You Motivated?

How Are You Motivated?

Am I able to see what I want and go after it or do I wait until the pain of what I have is so heavy that my motivation comes more from avoiding discomfort?

Any parents, teachers, managers, or other professions that necessitate motivating others know first-hand that this rule holds some truth. With one kid you have to promise ice cream to get the desired results; whereas with another it’s not until you threaten to take away their TV privileges that they feel inspired. With weight loss as the example, some friends are chasing a goal–say posing in a bikini– that motivates them; others, if honest with themselves, are just tired of feeling shame and would give anything to stop feeling that way.

It seems important to know which one we are. The last thing we want is to be in a bikini and still feel shame.

Why Do You Want to Make Friends?

Are you seeking new friends because you know how much fun it will be? Are you already looking forward to the activities, the sharing, and the bond?  Are you motivated to invite now by thinking about what you can be experiencing a year from now?  Are your eyes on the prize? Are you moving toward the pleasure you want?

Or… are you seeking friends because you’re tired of feeling disconnected? Are you feeling the loneliness, the ache, and the angst of what it feels like to not have the friends you most want?  Are you motivated to invite now because you want to stop feeling the pain of feeling unsupported or unknown? Are your eyes on the pain? Are you moving away from the pain you feel?

Of course the two are interconnected: accomplishing one hopefully impacts the other. But that’s not always the case, is it?  The strategy and results might look different based on which one is the primary motivator.

  • For example, if you’re a Toward Person then you probably have a vision of what you want. Perhaps it’s sitting in your backyard with a friend watching your kids play, meeting up with a group of friends for lunch downtown where you can talk work and vent, or having one person who knows everything going on in your life because you’re both texting each other all through out the day?  Knowing the picture you want– gives you instant information about the strategy you will want to employ, whether it’s finding other women who work nearby or other women who have kids who will play with yours.
  • Whereas, if you’re an Away Person then you could theoretically reach any of those visions listed above but still feel angst if you didn’t first identify what pain you’re trying to avoid.  Maybe it’s the pain from being mad at someone, the pain of feeling misunderstood, or the pain of feeling isolated.  Sitting in the backyard watching your kids play may not be the answer?  In fact it may exacerbate the pain because you’ll be confused why you still feel mad, misunderstood, or lonely if you didn’t figure out why you were feeling those things and articulate what you believe would help you move away from that feeling.

I don’t actually think one is worst than the other as much as they both just describe human nature and how we’re wired differently. What could be damaging is not knowing which path feels most motivating to you.

Questions to Lead to Your Own Motivation

It’s undoubtedly not as easy as an either/or answer for you, but I challenge you today to try to answer these following questions:

  1. Do you most need to move toward something or away from something?
  2. Based on that answer, write at least one full paragraph articulating either the feelings/experiences you want to pursue or avoid.
  3. Now let an image come to mind of you reaching your goal (what does it look like if you’re not feeling that way, or what does it look like for you to reach the experience you’re pursuing) and describe or draw what you see.  What are you doing? What does your face look like? Who else is there? What are you feeling?
  4. What does your voice of wisdom and maturity say is your take-away from this exercise? Is there an action you want to take? Is there something you want to remember?

Naming which one resonates with us might give us some ah-ha into how to best keep ourselves motivated.  It also hopefully helps us reach our real goals–whether it’s the obtain something or avoid something.  Both are important.  But which one matters most?

If I could wave my little magic wand then I’d hope for you both the joy of pursuing pleasure and the peace from moving away from pain.  But since I can’t find it right now, what I want for you is your clarity in knowing which one matters most to you right now so that your chances of success increase.  May you feel more relaxed in your friend-making journey as you sense that you have landed on what really will keep you motivated.

And, by the way, I bought the software from that sales guy. He won me over. Ha!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  I finished my next book manuscript!  Woohoo!! This was a case of first being a Toward person as it was the joy of writing and teaching that motivated me to write a book proposal last summer for my agent to start pitching to publishers.  But then, in recent months I was definitely more motivated by recognizing that there was pain I wanted to Avoid.  When the book felt hard– and oh this one was squeezing me tight and pounding me with pressure–the only thing that kept me going was not wanting to miss a deadline or disappoint my editor.  I was all about the avoiding pain! Ha!  So sometimes we can use both to our advantage!  :)  I CANNOT wait to share this book with you… as soon as I know the publication date– I’ll let you know!

Posted in Consistency, How To?, Loneliness, Making Friends, Personal Growth/Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Are You Bullying Yourself? Reform Your Inner Mean Girl

Amy Ahlers & Christine Arylo are calling us all to reform on Inner Mean Girls!

Amy Ahlers & Christine Arylo are calling us all to reform on Inner Mean Girls!

I’m honored to host a guest blog this morning from two friends of mine whose book Reform Your Inner Mean Girl comes out today!  Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo, two powerhouses who are filled with love, have co-authored this interactive and transformational book. 

And be sure to take the Quiz below to find out how your inner critic voice might need to be reformed!  :)

Are You Bullying Yourself?

7 signs you are sabotaging your life, happiness and relationships

By Christine Arylo & Amy Ahlers

You hear about Mean Girls all the time. Mean Girls in the hallways of junior high. Mean Girls in the conference room or at the PTA meeting. People even make big bucks off of glamorizing and exploiting Mean Girl behavior. Think The Real Housewives of (insert your favorite city).

And while you may be able to turn off the tv or steer clear of not-so-nice women, there is one Mean Girl that no woman can escape.

Meet your INNER Mean Girl.

She’s the force that lives inside of you that fills your head with negative thoughts, bullies you into making self-sabotaging choices, and can make even the most successful woman feel like crap in two seconds flat. She bullies you into working more, doing more, and saying yes when you should say no. She’s a pro at making you feel inferior by comparing you to others, pointing out what you haven’t yet accomplished, and judging you by totally unrealistic standards.

She’s the one behind your obsessive thinking, worrying, and perfectionism, and the one who makes you eat/spend/drink too much and ask for too little when it comes to what you need and what you are worth.

She’s also the one that sabotages your relationships. She’ll make you over-stay in unhealthy relationships out of loyalty and fear. She’ll become an outer mean girl and point the finger at what your friends or mates are doing wrong, so that you don’t have to look at yourself or be vulnerable. She’ll even make you feel like you don’t belong, don’t enough friends, and are doomed to be alone.

At the deepest level your Inner Mean Girl is a reflection of the things within yourself that you can’t be with – fear, shame, anger, disappointment, sadness, rejection, not feeling loved – that subconsciously you are trying to avoid feeling, but are in fact are running you and ultimately sabotaging the happiness and success you work so hard for.

The person we women bully the most is ourselves. Our girls are doing it too, starting at the age of 6! We are in the midst of a self-bullying epidemic. And the culprit behind it is your Inner Mean Girl.

The good news is there is a cure. Much like outer mean girls, Inner Mean Girls can be reformed.

Step number one is to get to know your particular type of Inner Mean Girl and how she bullies you. Over the past 5 years, we’ve worked with over 30,000 women and girls around the world, and are pretty sure that all of us have at least one Inner Mean Girl. But most of us are unaware that the self sabotaging actions we take, the negative thoughts we think and the pressure we feel is coming from ourselves.

Here are a few signs of self-bullying – see which ring true for you. Do you:

  1. Get down on yourself for not measuring up to the expectations you or others have for your body, career, children, finances or relationships?
  2. Feel like you are not accomplishing enough no matter how much you get done?
  3. Pressure yourself to say yes to others even when you don’t really have the energy or the time to give?
  4. Obsessively think about the future, about other people’s problems, or about what could possibly go wrong?
  5. Continually do things that sabotage you – like eating too much, dating the wrong people, spending money you don’t have, working yourself to exhaustion?
  6. Procrastinate? Avoid completing things? Play it safe and small?
  7. Do everything on your own and then feel stressed, resentful or like the world is on your shoulders?

These are all forms of self-bullying – and that is just the short list! If your friends could hear the hurtful thoughts inside your head or witness the judgments and pressure you put on yourself, they would call the authorities!

From our work, experience and research, we have found that one of the most prevalent reasons women are unhappy, unfulfilled, stressed out and not having the relationships or life they desire, is the mental and emotional abuse suffered at their own hands through their own self-destructive thoughts and self sabotaging choices.

So how do you stop the self-bullying?

Now that you have identified some of the ways in which your Inner Mean Girl bullies you, the next step is to find out what kind of Inner Mean Girl you have. We have discovered 13 distinct types of Inner Mean Girls that specifically torment and sabotage women. These include the Achievement Junkie, Good Girl, Worry Wart, Doing Addict, Perfectionist and more. Perhaps you can relate?

Once you identify your Inner Mean Girl Archetype, you can begin to make shifts in how you show up and think.

To determine your specific type of Inner Mean Girl, take a free (and fun!) quiz at www.InnerMeanGirlQuiz.com

Once you take the quiz, you’ll receive a report scoring and ranking all 13 types of Inner Mean Girls so you can see your highest scores and most active Inner Mean Girls. We’ll also give you with the report, specific Inner Mean Girl Deactivators, simple techniques that give you the super power to disarm her and in the process stop the negative chatter or stop yourself from the self sabotaging, self-bullying actions.

Here’s to you regaining control of your mind, your body and most of all, the relationship and friendship you have with yourself.

Inner Mean Girl book

Reform Your Inner Mean Girl: 7 Steps to Stop Bullying Yourself and Start Loving Yourself

Amy & Christine’s book is available for purchase on Amazon. Order it here.

Posted in "Toxic" Friends, Personal Growth/Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Men Crave Intimate Friendships, Too

It felt like a sacred gift to be invited into a weekend of male bonding.

While there had never been a sign hung that had said, “No girls allowed,” this year when the seven men gathered for the weekend that is becoming a bit of a tradition– the wives were invited, too.

One of my husbands best friends, Paul, celebrated a milestone birthday five years ago by inviting this handful of men to join him for a weekend of sharing life. He graciously covers the food and lodging expenses and says, “Your presence is your gift.” This year, motivated in part, because one of the men is recovering from a health crisis and needed his wife present, the wives were welcomed into the circle for the birthday weekend.  What a privilege.

We women were lucky to get in on a weekend of male bonding!

We women were lucky to get in on a weekend of male bonding!

So for my blog post this weekend, I wanted to share a few of the evident truths, as they were played out in a beautiful house along the Gorge, outside of Portland:

  1. Men Crave Being Known.  Wanting to be seen, known, and accepted is a human experience, not a gender preference. Men want to be witnessed and validated and included as much as any woman I’ve ever met.  Our culture may model it as having to happen around a TV, sport, or activity– but many a man has confided to me “I wish men could just get together to talk the way women seem able.” And this weekend that’s just what they did.  Every guy was given an hour (an hour!) to share with the group whatever had gone on in their lives since the last time they were together. I’ve often said that I think the need for meaningful friendship is just as crucial for men, and probably even more important for us to talk about, since our culture has given very little modeling or permission for men to share deeply. But they want to. Yes, they do.
  2. Men Know How To Process Feelings. In fact, if there is a gap in our society between those who like to share feelings and those who may not want to do it as much– I don’t think it’s based on gender as much as it might be based on temperaments, strengths, or personality. These men, shared deeply about how it felt to be aging, how their career changes were impacting their identity, what it felt like to watch their children grow up, and how they wanted to change some of their life values. When given the space– every single one of them shared life with incredible authenticity.
  3. Men Don’t Need Women Prompting Them.  I want it to be clear that while we women were there… we were in the background. Only the men were given an hour.  We were witnesses more than participants.  You could sense that sometimes when our men were sharing that we wanted to jump in and help tell the story, but to the credit of all the women there: we sat back and let them stay in the leading role.  I often watch my friends jump in and “save” their husbands in social settings, or watch as men “lean back” and let their social wives carry the conversations… but sometimes I think that has more to do with habits and roles, than desire.  For in this house, the men seemed happy to have us there, but they didn’t need us to help bring them together.
  4. Men Don’t Need an Activity or Sport. Some experts have said that men do friendship shoulder-to-shoulder (activity or task-focused), while women do friendship face-to-face (conversation-focused). Again, I think that is more temperament-based than gender-based; but second, even if that’s true of more men, in general, I think it should be seen as descriptive rather than prescriptive.  In other words, if that’s true then it’s because we’re describing what we are seeing now, not saying that’s how it has to be or how they prefer it. I’ve had as many women tell me that they don’t like sitting and talking (Come on! Let’s go shopping! Dancing! Hiking! Let’s do something!) as I’ve had men say to me “I only watch football so I can hang out with my friends.” This weekend– these men sat through 7 hours of sharing and when given free time, kept on sharing more. No other activity required.
My sweet husband on the right with one of his best friends, Paul. They talk on the phone for at least 2 hours every week.

My sweet husband on the right with one of his best friends, Paul. They talk on the phone for at least 2 hours every week.

My husband, Greg, and Paul have been friends for nearly 24 years, most of that time their glue has been a 2-3 hour conversation that they have once a week. Every week.  They call and share life together.

Their experience is a bit like what every single man said at the end of the birthday weekend: “I need more of this in my life.” Indeed.  It’s rare and sacred to spend a weekend sharing and being received.

Is it awkward sometimes? Indeed!  Women find sharing awkward, too, so I can only imagine how it feels to be a guy who may not have as much practice (and cultural permission) in sharing.  But does that make it less needed or desired? Not at all. The need is as high as ever.

Oh how I wish our culture would shine a light on men’s friendships in such a way that encouraged and applauded men for initiating time together, for sharing deeply and honestly, and for showing up to really be seen.

Deep and meaningful friendships is DEFINITELY not a girl thing.

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My Equinox Prayer: Grant Us More Love

Today is the last day of winter. A chapter is ending as we come to the Equinox.

This site shows us what the moon looks like at any time... this is right now.  Isn't she beautiful? So full of hope!  (http://aa.usno.navy.mil/imagery/moon)

This site shows us what the moon looks like at any time… this is right now. Isn’t she beautiful? So full of hope! (http://aa.usno.navy.mil/imagery/moon)

That doesn’t mean it won’t still look or feel like winter, sometimes we still feel the impact of the previous life pages, but today the scales tip toward spring as the days begin to outlast the nights. We also have a new super moon and a total solar eclipse today as we head into spring so the message is powerfully consistent: we are moving from darkness to light.

Our story is changing, the pages are turning.  Today, nature whispers loudly that there is new life, birth, light, hope, awakening, emergence, and growth.

Where Do I Need More Light & Love?

For me, there is much power in metaphor. I love taking inspiration from all kinds of places and as I am provoked to look up at the sky and notice what is happening there, I can’t not ask myself:

  • “Do I feel pregnant with anything that I want to notice? Am I being called to birth in this season?”
  • “Where do I crave more light-ness in my life?”
  • “What part of my life feels like it’s be in hibernation? Is it ready yet to emerge?”
  • “Where do I feel like I’m in the dark? What would welcoming light look like?”
  • “Am I short on hope? Am I low-energy? Am I asleep? What might I learn from the days getting longer now? How can I slowly invite in more hope, energy, and wakefulness?”

Grant Us More Love and Belonging

And it strikes me–as I believe we are living in a world that has far too much loneliness– that what we all need more of is the feeling of belonging and acceptance.  To feeling really loved and welcomed and wanted. I want that for you, for me, for all of us so very much.

Often when coming out of hibernation, the idea of socializing may exhaust us; much the way that light feels blinding after we’ve been accustomed to darkness. Often when deciding to courageously connect with someone we feel vulnerable; much the way a brand new sprig must feel when it’s popped out of the dirt, having only known what it’s like to be a seed.  Often the energy of making new friends feels more painful than fun; much the way it feels to give birth, having only to trust that someday the delivery pains will feel far worth it.

My prayer for you today is that you intentionally choose what you want to wake up to, what you want to plant, what you want to birth.  I pray that you don’t feel victim in your life, but fell very much aware that you get to nurture that which matters most, that you get to face the sun and grow, that you get to decide what is planted in your garden.

Don’t fear the weeds that will inevitably come– we don’t stop planting just because we know unwanted growth will also happen.  Don’t stay in the cave just because it’s more familiar and comfortable– there was a season for survival and now there is season for thriving and growing. Don’t keep your eyes closed just because it feels too bright– just turn those safely closed eyes toward the sun and let it slowly wash over you and entice you out.

And May We Seek Love Above All Else

And above all, let’s recognize as we go into this new season that so much of what we chase is really just the stuff that we think will help us feel loved, which is vastly different from simply going straight for love.

We all too often think we’ll feel more accepted and loved if we earn more money, have the baby, marry the man, remodel the house, fit into a smaller dress size, or sign the contract.  We attach meaning in our heads that if we can accomplish these things we value then we will feel good enough, safe enough, and worthy enough to be loved.

But there are a thousand examples of people who feel like they belong without the thing you think you need.

You can create way more love in your life without the stuff, the promotions, or the accomplishments that you’re tempted to think are connected to the hunger you have.

My prayer for all of us today, as the days lengthen, is to look directly at love and ask, “How can I feel more love?” and go straight for love itself rather than pursuing the paths you only hope will lead there.

As the sun shines, may you feel welcomed and very much a part of our human family. And may love follow you all the days of your life.

Welcome to Spring.

———————

All women, no matter where you live or what your schedule is like, are welcome to join this CoachingCircle this Spring!

All women, no matter where you live or what your schedule is like, are welcome to join this CoachingCircle this Spring!

p.s.  I’m opening a virtual CoachingCircle called Closing the Intimacy Gap where I am super excited about working with a group of women to develop the intimacy they are built to experience! We have such capacity for love and deeper longings for community than we currently are experiencing.  I want to teach you the five most powerful actions you can take to deepen your friendships.  If you want to join me on a 12-week coaching journey this April 14-June 30 then request your invitation right here.

 

 

Posted in Personal Growth/Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments