Posts Tagged ‘acceptance’

The Problem:  I feel massively unproductive of late.  Pep talks (from me, to me) and chastisement (me to me) have not moved me into action.

The Solution:  Combination of Acceptance and Do the Next Right Thing.

I do feel acceptance is the beginning of change, but since I wrote about acceptance in this post, this one is about another method I use to get off the couch and into action.

I’m off work right now (IT contractor between gigs) and I had great expectations of all the things I’d do during this much needed and anticipated down time.  Endless hours of Bejeweled was not on the list, however!

As a former life coach, who wrote a book about goal-setting and achievement (Be Your Own Life Coach:  Dream It! Plan It! Do It!) it’s not like the concept of what to do to set and achieve goals eludes me.  I actually DO a lot of what I wrote about in the book – including setting monthly, weekly and even daily goals.  I know what to do – I just don’t always do it.  Can you relate?

One of the maxims I have encountered on my spiritual path is “do the next right thing.”  My brother first alerted me to this saying and I thought “what the heck is THAT supposed to mean.”  He told me “Don’t worry about being the Doer of All Things (he calls me that sometimes), just do the NEXT RIGHT thing.”


I think one of the reasons some people gravitate towards very structured jobs and lives is that this decision is then removed.  If you have a workplace to be at, a child to pick up at daycare, a meal to fix for a family there’s really not a lot of mystery on the next right thing (the mystery is more “how on earth will I get all of this done?).  For those of us with less externally imposed structure – temporarily, as is my case, or permanently, the days can “roll by like a broken down dam” as John Prine says.

For me there are two issues:  scattered brain and avoidance.

Scattered brain/ADD/Gemini rising/high energy girl – call it what you like, I am more the hare than the tortoise.  So looking at a page long to do list for today seems so overwhelming that “just a few games” seems like it will calm me down.  So to help me do the next right thing and not feel overwhelmed, I pick ‘the next five things” and do those, one at a time.  This has helped a lot.

Avoidance. Ah, this is the harder one.  Sometimes I’m avoiding things because they really are hard and a big deal.  Other times, when I figure out that I’m avoiding something my avoidance seems laughable even to me.  Like not filling in birthdays at all on my new 2012 wall calendar (yes, I know about electronics and actually don’t use a paper calendar at all except this one way – it just makes me happy).  Why was I not finishing this task? Because I have a little color coding system and the colored pens were smearing.  Using a ball point pen would work but then I’d either have to buy those pens in colors or abandon my little conceit.  Once I figured that out, I abandoned color coding and got the task done.

The last piece is acceptance – yes, again.  I had foot surgery in December.  I had not had any measurable time off in 15 months and prior to that I’d had one week off – so a week of down time in approximately three years – of course I want to do a little loafing!

But I’m happier when I am productive (my brother named me correctly – the Doer of All Things).  And now I’ve outed myself to you.  So I’ll cull my page long list to the next 4 (because writing this blog was on the list) and spring into action.

How about you? How do you motivate yourself to do what needs doing?



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Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

The “St. Francis prayer”, above, is one of my favorite prayers.  The first part, asking God’s help in being a better person by attaining specific virtues which help turn difficult situations around seems noble.  It also feels a bit to me like maybe God is doing more of the heavy lifting here and this part seems a bit easy.  Or easier.

Than the second part – in which St. Francis suggests that we (with God’s help, again, of course) put ourselves aside and focus more on the well-being of others.  This too seems noble.  And harder!

I think in big disasters – maybe like Hurricane Irene now barreling up the East Coast – people do pull out their Inner St. Francis and behave well.  Tales of heroism are frequent side-stories to natural disasters and that is very life-affirming. 

I have found that if the going gets really tough, I too spring into action.

But it’s in the day-to-day where I think following the precepts outlined in this wonderful prayer would be most helpful.  And that’s where it’s hardest for me. 

For instance:  the annoying co-worker.  If I stand back from my extreme levels of frustration and anger with her ‘bad behavior’ I can see a frightened, threatened woman, who, in some ways feels backed into a corner and is acting like my kittens do when they are backed into a corner – hissing, clawing, biting and generally making a ruckus.  When my kitties do that, I smile indulgently and try to distract them from whatever is going on.  When my co-worker does that I jump into reactive mode and it’s not my Inner St. Francis who seems to spring out, that’s for sure!

And for me, the hardest line in this prayer is “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned “.  Honestly?  I think the dying part sounds easier than that.  How I can love my grudges!  How much harm they do me!

Last night I dreamed about a friend with whom I’ve had a falling-out.  I have felt enormously self-righteous about it all – how badly she behaved, how she’s wrong and I’m in the right.  In the dream she was a caricature of a “bad guy” – she really looked like a low-life loser and was behaving very badly.  She asked me to do her a favor. I said I would but then lit into her with a resounding lecture and added, for good measure “and you look like a low-life loser – what the hell is that outfit you have on, your hair is all straggly what is WRONG with you?”

It was then, in the dream, that I realized she was behaving so badly and dressing so outlandishly to call for help.  That something really WAS wrong – it wasn’t just bad behavior.

When I woke up this morning I thought “I wonder if that’s true?”

I know my thoughts about my co-worker are true – that she IS threatened, scared.

In all 3 cases – my co-worker, my friend in real life, same friend in the dream – their outer behavior is “bad” and certainly quite  disruptive.  So here’s my prayer:

Dear God.  I am not St. Francis – not even close.  I try to be a good human.  I have a bumpersticker on my car that says “Compassion is the Radicalism of our time – the Dalai Lama” and I believe.  But when R (co-worker) or D (former friend) behave badly, I become a crazed killer-instinct out-of-control toddler – at least inside.  And a cold bitch on the outside.  Help me to remember lofty thoughts and sound spiritual precepts, and, just how to be a decent human in my day-to-day life.  Your friend, Diane



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Sundays are Spirituality day here at Taking it to the Streets

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.  Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.” – Bill Wilson

I needed this reminder this week as I faced a Kafka-esque nightmare with the IRS whilst attempting to fulfill my duties as executor of my friend’s will.  I was amazed at how quickly I went from mostly serene to raging lunatic.  More humbled by how long my ill-temper lasted (days, not hours, alas!). 

And if ever there were an immovable object, it’s the IRS!  So, I guess, in that way they are the perfect spiritual teacher – providing opportunities to practice acceptance, compassion (these people truly WOULD be unemployable anywhere that required independent thinking and some modicum of intelligence) and lack of judgementalism (oops!). 

If I stayed in the land of brain and ego I became more enraged – for truly the situation was beyond absurd.  Easy to feel self-righteous, unduly wronged and vindictive.  But since they will win, no matter how wrong they are, this stance on my part was not particularly helpful.  And as the IRS lady directly told me “we don’t care – we are the IRS” – so it wasn’t hurting them, my self-righteous anger.

Only me.

The Swiss Army knife in my messenger bag that they confiscated and the four hours of lost time are truly goners.  But my serenity did not have to be.

So as I reviewed the situation I realized that it was my ego – my drive to be right, my desire to “save the day” and help my deceased friend, spare her partner from more tasks with this odious chore – those parts of me that wanted to be both right and heroic were in the way of the part of me that is essentially good, centered, close to God, and love (aka spiritual).

Normally, Dr. Diane’s prescription for such maladies might be more prayer and meditation or gathering with like-minded souls.  But Thursday night after this little run-in with the IRS and the mighty wheels of frustration and rage, I picked up Tara Brach’s great book “Radical Acceptance” and began to reread it.  Only maybe 40 pages into rereading it, I already feel better, as I am reminding myself to not only accept the seemingly unacceptable situation, but also needing to accept my own human-ness.  No, I don’t like being an enraged, flailing infant-like creature, raging against the machine.  No, I don’t like feeling so vulnerable and powerless.  Or wronged.  Or babyish.  Yes, I want to save the day. To be right. To have it be easy (especially that – I love it being easy).

But it wasn’t easy. I was ‘wronged’.  I acted very very imperfectly.  And it’s all what it is. 

As Marianne Williamson said “forgive yourself, and get back to work.”

So I will trust that God has some plan.  And that part of the plan for me has ALWAYS been about learning how to handle frustration with a bit more grace and aplomb.  I’m hopeful that if I  keep practicing and getting better the opportunities to learn that lesson will, well, LESSEN.

How about you?  What’s your take on acceptance?  Valuable spiritual tool or akin to resignation?

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Just two posts ago I wrote about Openness, so when a topic along those lines came up for me this morning, I was resistant – no! I have to have something new.

Then I laughed.  That’s sort of the point of openness, no?  To be willing to do it differently.

October is a big month in my life as I believe I’ve mentioned here before.  The most birthdays of any month of the year for me. And the month in which I’ve had numerous not-so-happy surprises.  So happy days – 🙂 – followed by sad days – :(.

This year my plan for slaloming through October is to not have a plan, so much. To just be with each day and notice what’s up with me.  I know that years ago when my Tough Norwegian self thought I should just “buck up” as my Grandma said and ignore those anniversary days (one such instance – October 15th – the day my mom died) it didn’t work so well.  For not only does the heart remember, even if the head is resolutely turning away from the calendar, but, in my experience, the body remembers, too.  Some events get stamped inviolably on one’s soul.

I talked to my friend Thea yesterday.  Thursday was the 15th anniversary of her Dad’s death.  I told her I had thought of her, and of her closeness to her dad, on that day.  She said, “yeah, it’s weird – it’s 15 years now and yet this one really hurt.  I was sad all day.”

I think the key with both the joy and the sorrow is to just be with it.  Don’t anticipate, don’t wallow in (good or bad), just be.

My friend Sue reminds me often of Rumi’s wonderful poem, The Guest House.  He says it so much better than I, this being open to what is.  So, for your reading pleasure, here’s one of my favorite poets/spiritual teachers, Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

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I am supposed to be camping right now.  Have had a women’s campout on my calendar for months.  Planned for it, looked forward to it.  Then earlier this week my friend Steven said he’d be in from LA and the one night he had free was Friday – could I (and two other friends) meet him for dinner?  But of course!

Thursday I got a new job. It doesn’t start for a week, but honestly I thought I’d have a bit more time off between gigs.  VERY grateful for the new job, but the one week off seems so short and so much to do.

Many of the folks who usually go camping aren’t.  I was feeling especially bereft that my friend Claire, a fellow writer and someone who is very physically active wasn’t going.  While other people sit around all afternoon Claire and I typically get in at least one, often two hikes.

Then it started raining.

I’m finding that I want RIGHT NOW is some quiet time.  I want to clean my house, do my laundry, write, meditate, just BE in this day as I sit between the recent past (my 2+ years as a contractor at Kraft) and the very-soon-here-future.

There was a time in my life when I would have dutifully run around frenetically pulling together camping equipment, rushing to drive up to the campground, putting my tent up and then sitting around in the rain under a tarp.  Why?  Because I had said I’d be there. And because – for whatever reason – I consider myself macha/tough/stoic.  Good Norwegian?  maybe.  Mars conjunct the Sun? Perhaps.  Bossy big sister? But of course. 

But now I know that while it’s important to honor obligations in which I am needed, I can be flexible with things that are open invitations.  And while it’s important to be tough when it counts (I’m a big fan of “stand and deliver” in terms of being strong enough to withstand life’s vicissitudes when needed) it’s dumb to do things that don’t make sense just to be tough.

I was laughing with my Dad the other day – we were talking about golf (his passion) and the apparel on the professional tours.  Dad told me that the golf superstars only wear long pants in tournaments but when they practice they wear shorts. Which led to him saying he wears shorts in the summer when he plays golf.  I told him that I didn’t wear shorts til I was over 50 – because when we were kids my brother and I observed that Dad didn’t wear shorts so we came up with a rule that “tough guys don’t wear shorts.”  Between Chicago’s summers and menopause I decided being tough wasn’t so important. 

So while it took me decades to figure out the shorts thing, it didn’t take much time this morning to switch gears and plan to go hang out with my pals at the campground this afternoon after the rain passes.  And to give myself the gift this morning of unstructured “what do I WANT to do” time.

So do you let yourself be a willow?  Sticking to the oak side? Or are you a wee little forest of some willows, some oaks and some beautiful maples?  Standing strong, being flexible, just focusing on beauty.  It’s all good!

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I know. You knew that.  Me , too. But it is a lesson that seems to pop up frequently.  My dad tells me that’s why he gets out of bed every morning  “Because you never know what will happen, Diane…”

So I went on the three job interviews today and they didn’t turn out totally the way I thought they would.  Let’s call them companies A, B and C.  I thought C would be my favorite, kind of tied with A and that B was not going to like me or me them as much.  Turns out it NOW feels like A is the outlier and C is still my favorite, but B is looking kinda good too.  See – it ain’t over til it’s over.

But the other surprising turn of events is that in my flurry of “omigosh, I should actually PREPARE for these job interviews” it came to me to expand my LinkedIn network.  Me, who has ignored LinkedIn pretty much since I joined (with a few spurts here and there) suddenly became a LinkedIn Connections junkie.  Instead of looking up dead rock stars on Wikipedia or old lovers on Facebook I started frantically looking up old colleagues on LinkedIn.  More! More! More!  Pretty soon I had tapped all the likely suspects, and even asked a bunch of people for recommendations.

There were a few people, though, that I found myself shying away from.  Some had proven themselves snakes in the grass at my BigCo – very clear to stay away from snakes (if  they bit you once, it’s kinda likely they will again – not good sources for business networking).

But I realized that one of the people in the Ooh-be-careful bucket had been plopped into that bucket by my reptilian brain (you know, the I’m Here to Protect You, Little Lady part of our brain) not on her own accord, but solely by her association to the Snake in Chief in my corporate career. 

As I thought about it further, I realized how much I liked this woman.  How when I had been with her on business trips or apart from the sturm und drang that BigCo seemed to specialize in, I really enjoyed her company. 

So I did the LinkedIn “connect” thing and wrote a tiny ‘dipping-my-scaredycat-toes-in-the-water’ note.

And tonight I received a truly lovely reply!

So – life is surprising.

And when I remember what A Course in Miracles teaches – that Love is Greater than Fear, it’s just amazing what happens.

So, as the Cheshire Cat said to Alice:

“I sometimes believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

And that shall be my goal tomorrow – to keep remembering that love IS greater than fear – and all other impossible positive, cheery, and brave things I can.  {Do you think the Cubs winning the pennant is too far a stretch?}

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“…to be present in the moment…you need to slow down and let go of – or at least loosen – the habits you are addicted to.”

So says Sarah Susanka in her standout book The Not So Big Life

I’m in the midst of changing some major habits simultaneously and I’m noticing how resistant I can be (even though, in all cases, it is my own dear self that instituted the change with no outside prod!).  How angry and irritable giving up some of my remaining food drugs is making (dairy, wheat and sugar).  Which, to me, proves the “drug” label.  How much I fight my new exercise regime (which is LOTS).  And how overwhelmed I feel by my increased committment to awareness and change of my environmental impact.

There are days, in fact, in which i become quite churlish.  No ice cream AND turn up (or – gasp! off!) the air conditioning?  PAH! 

And I have chosen these changes.  I remember making other U-turns from habits that were not serving me (I can hear my mean-voiced GPS lady “ReCALculating!”) that were, shall we say, more than encouraged upon me externally and being churlish – no, make that mean and miserable – then.

But I think Sarah is right.  And by the way, if you haven’t read The Not So Big Life – well, you simply must.  It’s superb. 

It’s good that I am choosing health.  I look around and see my contemporaries (and younger folks, alas) beginning a not-so-slow slide into ailment stew.  I don’t want that.  The guy I am working with on these nutritional changes told me that current research says that no more than 18% of disease/sickness is genetically based – the rest is lifestyle.  I asked my friend Kay a similar question when she was working as a nurse in a hospital – what percentage of people you treat are there due to lifestyle?  She said 70-80%.  That rings true to me.  I have always planned to follow Dylan Thomas’s advice to his father “Do not go gentle into that good night – rage! rage! against the dying of the light” – I have a lot of living to do and I want to be healthy for it.

It’s also good that I am choosing health for this planet I love – for Her own sake and my own and especially for my 11 grandnieces/grandnephews (and all that will be forthcoming – we have a prolific family!).  It’s the right thing to do even when I feel curmudgeonly about it. (And, as an aside, I’m reading a GREAT book on environmentalism – Sleeping Naked is Green by Vanessa Farquharson – it’s HILARIOUS too – book review promised as soon as I complete it).

But what’s better yet is what Sarah Susanka speaks of in the quote above – that letting go of habits that don’t serve me – relates to consciousness.  I would say to her that it’s circular – I need to be conscious in order to make changes (trust me, I’m seeing this with the food thing – my reflexive food habits are IN MY FACE) but also, by changing my habits I acquire more presence, more consciousness. 

While it can be painful to wake up (the show I heard on NPR that cows cry, and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma – the combo of which turned me away from eating other mammals) I think the numbness and blindness that we all can dip into in order to try to protect ourselves is ultimately more injurious.

What do you think?  Have you changed habits? How did that relate to consciousness for you?

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