bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: acceptance

fencing lesson

I try so hard to be a cool cucumber when dealing with confrontation, but this morning I was all hot pepper! I called Reliable Fence of Woburn to contest a $250 charge for a 5 minute quick-fix on a gate hinge in my front yard. The guy who answered the phone over-talked me, didn’t listen, acted evasive, and was downright insistent on proving me wrong. He offered no solutions, service, or understanding. I boldly let him know what I thought of his interpersonal and customer service skills and somehow instead of him apologizing for swindling me, I was apologizing to him for raising my voice.

I try to share positive posts on BUBs, so I was hesitant to write about this episode, but isn’t this the sort of crap we deal with every day? Often times when we interact with frustrating service issues, we feel powerless. We’re paying for something and we expect that our payment entitles us to a perfectly balanced transaction. “Here’s our hard-earned money, now you give us what we want.” When perfect balance is not achieved, sometimes we can let it go; other times we become infuriated.

We project our expectations onto people who aren’t capable of or have no interest in fulfilling them. Maybe it’s a professional interaction and we’re the disappointed customer. Or maybe it’s something more personal – we’re the offended friend, the betrayed lover, or the exasperated parent.

All of these contentious feelings are happening because we’ve exposed ourselves to them through human experience, through vulnerability. We voluntarily sign up for these relationships and we trust that we will be valued. When we feel undervalued, like we’ve been taken for granted or been taken advantage of, we can either harden or soften with the blow.

Every time we harden, we make it more difficult for higher thinking to fully express itself. Softness allows more flexibility, more space for consciousness to flow. This morning I hardened. But next time I’ll work on remaining soft. I will not engage. I will maintain composure. I will breathe when I’m ready to blow. I will be patient, and wait to speak to the person who better matches my energy vibration. Good advice for dealing with a bullish fence guy, or a challenging relationship.

There is nothing more frustrating than the feeling unheard or misunderstood. This morning’s tiff was a good lesson for me, and I’m grateful to the guy at Reliable for reminding me that I have no control over the way other people receive me. I have no control over the way other people behave. I have no power to change anyone’s mind. And it’s not his fault I got frustrated; it’s mine, because I allowed him to get under my skin.

Oh, and I can’t forget the most obvious lesson: When multiple online reviewers warn you that a company is sketchy and has sh*tty customer service, believe them.

From mine to yours,
Vanessa

permission to be yourself this thanksgiving

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Very cool age map photo by Bobby Neel Adams

I’m an adult.  A wife.  An experienced mother of several.  A spiritual seeker.  An educated woman.  But on family holidays I become the youngest of three girls.  An eight year old.  An oversensitive baby.  An insecure child.  A sloppy slacker.

So often when we reunite with family we regress to our youthful attitudes, behaviors, and sensitivities.  The oldest might start bossing around the younger ones, though their guidance is no longer needed.  The middles might perform for the others, demanding their time in the spotlight.  The youngest might be lazy, expecting the older ones to take care of them.  There are hundreds of roles that we take on, and often times the roles are not reflective of the people we’ve grown into.

Through mindfulness, there is a beautiful opportunity to release the roles of our youth and reclaim the essence of our present selves.  When we notice that we’re slipping into habitual patterns, we can take a breath and acknowledge the regression without judgment, then release the feeling and settle back into our present selves with confidence and ease.

A lovely way to kick off the holiday weekend is to meditate on joy.  By setting our frequencies to joy, we can filter our experiences through a sunnier lens and invite ourselves to engage in the best of what our families have to offer.  And as an added bonus, forgiveness and acceptance are more accessible when we come from a place of joy.

So take a few minutes before you engage with loved ones this holiday and connect with your heart, the sacred space where joy lives.  While you’re riding in the car, showering in the morning, stirring the risotto, or waiting for the next football game to start, take 10 minutes to meditate.  Imagine your joy as a beautiful light, radiating from the heart, and allow it to fill your entire body.  Watch as it extends through your fingertips and reaches far beyond your physical body.  End your meditation with a minute of toothy smiling then prepare to receive family and friends with big hugs and kisses, knowing that it’s okay to be who you are today, and every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

 

 

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do you believe you’re perfect?

Self work (that’s Self with a capital “S”) is something that we all experience over the course of a lifetime.  This work begins with our very first breath, when we start figuring out how to survive on earth, how to use what we learn to create new experiences.  Some make choices that lead to hardship and struggle.  Others experience hardship and struggle that lead to better choices.

I’ve gone both ways – creating messes and surviving them.  And I’ve found that both ways of living are equally valuable.  I can especially see this now, after several years of active awakening.  Though I fail at tasks, though I say the wrong things, though I fall short in my domestic responsibilities and sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotion, I trust that my Self is perfection and I don’t feel embarrassed or egotistical for saying it.

Perfection is funny word.  It’s stacked with all sorts of subjective assumptions.  Can a person be perfect and still make mistakes?  I think so, yes.  Because my interpretation of perfection is through a divine filter.  Every time I’ve royally screwed up, the screw up has led me to a healthier or more productive place.  So in that regard, I see “imperfection” as a catalyst to course correct, and therefore is actually divine perfection.  And I see all of those decisions that led me to the royal screw up as perfect opportunities to more deeply connect to love through the empathy and compassionate understanding that only comes with personal experience.

My meditation practice allows me to see my own perfection and to do the best I can to live in that state of acceptance; but I still get mad.  I still feel jealous.  I still get overexcited.  Just not as much as I used to, and not for as long.  (Thank God for that!!!)

It’s not that feeling these things is wrong or bad.  Anger, jealousy and excitement are important parts of the human experience.  But they are also feelings that manifest physically in the form of conditions like anxiety, depression and IBS among other things.  Contentment, joy and acceptance, on the other hand, manifest physically in ways that can make us feel pretty great:  restful sleep, younger skin, emotional well-being and a thousand others.  The practice helps the practitioner to notice the more challenging feelings when they arise so that they can be processed and balanced in a period of time that does not wreak havoc on one’s body.

But even in the course of writing this story, I’m sliding in and out of my perception of perfection.  For example, sometimes I’ll read articles or books written by gurus who are further along in their spiritual development than I.  And then months later I’ll watch them in an interview or read another account in which they appear to be attached to material things or fame or power, and then I get miffed.  I assume that because the guru seems to be far along the path that he should have the strength and wisdom to resist temptations and challenges – that he should be more resilient to those things – more so than us reg’ler folk.  That he should be “perfect” in his choices and behaviors because he is on a huge platform instructing people how to live through spirit.

But I have to remind myself that for the most part, with few exceptions, they’re just reg’ler folk, too.  Today they’re enlightened.  Tomorrow they’re swirled up in a twister of materialism, competition and Nielsen ratings.  The day after that they may be enlightened again.  (Not that I think it all happens that fast.  😉  The awakening process is a practice, as is enlightenment.  Imagining that enlightenment is a higher level of awakening, even an enlightened person must continue his Self work.  Humans are only human, after all.

This said, I find that more than any spiritual teacher or guru, the person I need to trust the most is myself.  When I follow my heart I can’t go wrong.  And I can never disappoint myself, because I know I’m perfect – in my own way and in my own time.  I need not worry about the state of someone else’s practice because depending on someone else’s state of awakening only distracts me from my own.  I do my own work and I encourage others to do theirs, in their own way.  As the Buddha said, “Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

So we’ll try our best not to judge ourselves or those around us as we all stumble and glide and stumble and glide through life collaboratively.  We can lower our expectations while raising our frequency to find harmony with the perfection that exists in each of us.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

does your kid have superpowers?

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Some superheroes wear capes and masks, crested unitards and holsters packed with magical tools.  But there’s another kind of superhero.  The kind that wears smocked dresses with patent leather Mary Janes or grass stained jeans and Red Sox caps.

My kids are the latter kind.  At least I’ve always told them so.  When they were tiny I’d tell them that they were born with superpowers:  the power to make people feel good by showing kindness and forgiveness, the power to end sadness by sharing their toys and offering a helping hand.

If they ever doubted the strength of their powers, I’d say, “Go on and test it out.  See that little boy crying by the monkey bars?  Ask him if he’s okay.  Use your superpowers to see if you can make him feel better.”  And they would.  And they’d be convinced.  “See?  That’s the power of compassion!”

One day ages ago, I was at the splash park in Belmont with my daughter and her friend.  The girls were whispering and pointing at a woman across the water wearing a beige burqa, black gloves and purple Merrells.  Her face was veiled, just her eyes were visible.  Those eyes were focused intently on her baby girl splashing playfully and wildly in the same pool as my crew.

“I’m afraid of her.  She’s a stranger,” said my daughter’s wide-eyed friend, laying eyes on a fully covered Muslim woman for the first time.

“No, no, she’s not scary.  Let’s go say hi to her and she won’t be a stranger anymore.”  The girls looked at me like I was totally insane.  They resisted and skidded as I grabbed their rigid slippery hands and sloshed across the puddles.  As we approached, the Muslim woman was chatting on her cell phone.

I waved at her and wrinkled my eyebrows apologetically, “Would you mind if I interrupted your phone call to ask a question?”

She looked a little surprised but smiled at me with her eyes and hung up her phone, “Oh yes, is everything okay?”

“My daughter and her friend were feeling a little afraid of you because of your burqa and I wanted them to meet you.”

“Come!  Come!”  she beckoned with one gloved hand.  She pulled the veil away from her nose and leaned into the girls.  They peeked down her dress (as did I) and admired her gorgeous face.  “I only wear this when I’m outside.  But when I’m at home I wear anything I want.  I wear my hair long, I wear make up.  My favorite color is pink.  What’s yours?”

“Purple and turquoise and orange and yellow.  And pink,” said one girl.

“Rainbow and pink,” said the other.

“Come and talk to me anytime.  Don’t be afraid.  I’m a mom just like your mom.”

The girls asked a few intrusive questions, as kids do, and I thanked her as we splashed away, figuring out which superpowers we’d just activated.

“The power of friendliness!”  my daughter shouted, bounding over a shooting stream of cold water.

“The power of fearlessness!”  I cheered.

“The power of pink!”  laughed her friend.

Then we extended our list of superhero garb to include bathing suits, aqua socks and burqas.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Please read this story with children in your life who have superpowers.  Tweet, pin, tumble and share wildly, please.  Thank you!

god doesn’t do ugly

My first grader and I were snuggling at bedtime when she confessed:

“Mommy, I don’t like my face.”

She told me she thinks she’s ugly, that she hates her body, “The girls at school don’t want me in their group because my face doesn’t look pretty like their faces.”

Ummmm… Whhaaaaaaat?

She’s too young for self image issues. I was 12 before I started feeling insecure about my body, which is sad enough, but to be feeling this way at age 6?

How does a mother respond to that? Give a pep talk? Borrow a library book about self-esteem? Make a call to the school psychologist? And after I do all that, then what?

Carrying the burden of an unhealthy self image is like being an addict. You know it’s wrong, but no one can convince you of subscribing to another way of functioning until you’re ready. You’ve got to beat yourself up long enough to learn that accepting garbage into your life makes you feel like, well, like garbage – until finally you explode, “Okay, okay enough already! I want better for myself! I’m ready to make a change! Help me!!!”

My 6 year old is not ready for change because she doesn’t realize there’s a problem. Poor self image is her normal.

She doesn’t understand where her feelings are coming from. And honestly, I don’t either. A challenge from a past life? A side-effect of American culture? A chemical imbalance? I just don’t know. But ugly is her truth.

I can’t force her to believe that physical attractiveness is unimportant. No lecture can convince her that she was born perfect and complete. She needs to learn those things on her own. But she chose me as her mother for a reason – and I happened to be equipped with some pretty helpful tools with which she can empower herself and start fixing the bits she doesn’t know are broken.

To start, I talked to her about challenges, a familiar topic in my household and in my writing. I explained that we’re all born with a set of challenges, and it’s our job in life to figure out how to work through them. Challenges are sneaky. They feel like they’re real, but actually they’re more like a series of magic tricks. Smoke and mirrors. Divine booby traps set up to see if we can figure our ways past them and learn a lesson in the process. If challenges didn’t exist, life would be so boring that we wouldn’t exist either. So we deal with them – even welcome them – so we can continue to learn about love and life on this amazing planet.

Some challenges we can embrace and some challenges we can balance. The challenge that my baby girl is facing is one that requires a little of both of these actions. She needs to work on embracing, or lovingly accepting, her body just the way it is and balancing the way she feels about herself, inside and out, so that she can feel happy when she’s playing with other kids.

This idea is sort of lofty so we broke it down, talking about the divineness and perfection of her soul energy and decided together that she looks exactly the way the universe designed her to look. God doesn’t do ugly, only perfect. And there’s no arguing with God.

We also enlisted the support of my 6 year old’s personal hero – her big sister. Self esteem is cultivated safely at home, the perfect training ground for the outside world. We talk a lot about the power of our family and the strength that we emote through the way we love each other. Big sister agrees to help set the pace (as best she can) to help little sister with her challenge. She can help to provide safe harbor for her little sister by showing her kindness, affection, and forgiveness.

Insecurity isn’t about physical appearance. It’s about a deficiency in love and my family has no shortage of love to give my little girl.

So for another layer of healing, we coupled our breathing and meditation practice with Wayne Dyer’s “I Am” statements to program her brain with affirmations at bedtime saying, “I am loving. I am loved. I am compassionate. I am bright. I am kind. I am helpful. I am caring. I am good.” And she marinates in those words while she sleeps.

Notice that I do not use the affirmation, “I am beautiful.” I decided deliberately not to use that word because her current definition of beauty is solely external. Instead we focus on intangibles.

In Buddhism it is believed that a beautiful face is a gift from a previous lifetime of demonstrating kindness. But whether or not you believe in past lives, we can probably all agree that kindness and love manifest physically in people. We say things like, “I don’t know what it is. There’s just something about that person.” Or maybe you’ve heard the saying that by the time we’re 50 we get the face that we deserve. It’s rooted in the same idea – kindness IS beauty.

I’d like to tell you that we did this and it worked and my daughter is now a confident, carefree young girl. But that’s not the case. We keep bestowing our love while practicing our breathing and affirmations, and she continues to feel unsure about the meaning of beauty and her place in the social spectrum. I’m confident, however, that with time and mindful commitment, the momentum will shift and she will start to feel the peace that comes with finding balance and acceptance of her life as it is, just like her Mommy did.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.

If you could share this on Facebook or email it to friends whom you think would enjoy it, I’d be ever so grateful.  Peace.

life according to monopoly

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The family was playing a hot game of Monopoly Tuesday night. At one point during the game, we stopped to assess the board.  My youngest was in jail, where he had spent the growing majority of his turns.  He hadn’t passed GO in about 8 rolls.  My middle daughter was banker, maintaining complete control of money, properties and building projects.  The number one requirement for her job seemed to be fuzzy math.  My oldest sat back and sniffed her putty colored hundreds while building hotels from Mediterranean to Connecticut Avenue.  A slum lord in the making.

I couldn’t help but look at this scenario and laugh about it in relation to my month’s spiritual work – acceptance of life as it is, the gentle guidance of my children toward peace and collaboration, the release of bearing the burden of their shortcomings and mistakes.  In 30 years, if my kids are incarcerated, corrupt and amoral, I’m going to blame it on Monopoly.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

a new contender in the race for the oval office?

barak?

mitt?

who do you like?

my social views are very liberal, so i lean democrat.  but if a quality moderate republican comes along i’ll swing my vote in the other direction.

my greatest concern has always been social policy.  don’t take our rights away, that’s all i ask.  live free or die, baby.  the issue closest to my heart is gay rights, which should be re-termed “human rights”, because love is a basic human right.  who we love and how we display commitment has absolutely nothing to do with government, federal or state.  my quick story today is spun from this idea.

when we were kids, my sisters and i played house a lot.  one girl would be the mommy, one girl would be the baby and one girl would get stuck being the daddy.  you might as well tell that poor girl to go clean out the garage while the others play.  for a girl, being the daddy sucked.  so every time my daughters play house with their friends, they inevitably start squabbling, “not fair!  i want to be the mommy!”  and inevitably, my girls realize, “it’s okay.  girls can marry each other.  let’s both be mommies.  yay!”

it’s such a simple act of imagination.  but it’s also a beautiful act of acceptance.  kids today provide me with an extraordinary feeling of hope for our future and pride in this generation of parents who are rearing children to be open and accepting of others as they have been created.

with this in mind, i see clearly that the man in the oval office may wield power over current domestic  policy, but the future of this country lies in the hands of a new generation.  the tides are changing, people.  the emerging generation is aware.  they are awake.  they are becoming mindful.  they are innovative.  they are compassionate and sensitive.  they are already changing the world.  and i have nothing but faith and confidence in these children.

this morning while i was making chocolate chip pancakes, my son XG, my 3 year old son, *3 YEAR OLD SON* said out of the blue, “mamma, did you know giwls can mawwy giwls?”  my husband MG and i looked at each other then looked back at him.

“that’s right, buddy,” said MG, waiting patiently to see where the conversation would go.

after a minute i said, “you are very smart, little man.”

“yup,” he said.  “boys can mawwy boys, too.  and batman defeats spidewman.”

well, that decides it.  XG gets my vote this november.  oh, and he gets an A+ on his acceptance and compassion lesson this week in buddha school.

from mine to yours,
vanessa
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