Showing posts with label Daring Greatly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daring Greatly. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Numbing; To Take The Edge Off Discomfort

Elder Neal A Maxwell-
" We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering that when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon."
   The subject of numbing brings me to divine discontent. What is numbing? Simply, it is engaging in behaviors that take the edge off feelings of vulnerability, discomfort, and pain. These behaviors can be obvious addictions but they can also be everyday behaviors that allow us to check-out. Life is plainly challenging and I found it helpful to identify my reasons to numb.

  When I numb my feelings of depletion, frustration, and dissatisfaction I also numb the positive feelings of work well done, joy in my family, and gratitude for being alive. I am looking for the ways to have joy and numb pain at the same time. Can't seem to see a way through the dilemma. I think it can't be done.

   What behaviors do I use to numb? It is certainly not writing blog posts about my bad habits. I need chocolate just to write this.

   The hardest part of this assignment was coming up the antidote. How can I comfort my feelings instead of numbing them?

 This list looks a lot like my Six Habits of Happiness. Clearly I am receiving revelation in regards to my own weakness. I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hope Is Something We Can Learn And Teach

    "I was shocked to discover that hope is not an emotion; it’s a way of thinking or a cognitive process." These words ricocheted out of the book, "The Gifts Of Imperfection" as I read the next chapter. Dr. Brown's description of hope was so close to Elder David Bednar's description of Learning Through Faith,
  "So, hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities."
   Bro. Bednar's description was a combination of finding assurances, especially those coming from the Holy Ghost, taking action and walking into the unknown, and then seeing evidence of God's hand in the results of our action. So Paul and Moroni are right on; Faith produces a cognitive process called hopefulness, and that way of thinking connects us to God and others, blessing us with charity.
 "Snyder suggests that we learn hopeful, goal-directed thinking in the context of other people. Children most often learn hope from their parents. Snyder says that to learn hopefulness, children need relationships that are characterized by boundaries, consistency, and support."
    In my opinion, we learn it best by the power of the Holy Ghost, but it certainly can be learned around supportive people who model that hopefulness in their lives. For example, my grandson wanted to have a sleepover at my home. He tried it before and felt overwhelming anxiety so we took him back to his house. With a failure hanging over his head, he ended up being with us due to a siblings emergency run to the hospital. As bedtime arrived I assured him that he was tired and would be able to fall asleep. I told him I would check up on him later. It was quiet, I drifted off to sleep myself. In the morning he came into my room with a smile. I reminded him that he slept all night long. There was evidence of his success. Hope had given flight to power.

So people who are resilient are hopeful.They also have these things in common.

  • "They are resourceful and have good problem-solving skills. 
  • They are more likely to seek help. 
  • They hold the belief that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope. 
  • They have social support available to them. 
  • They are connected with others, such as family or friends."

      They also have a foundation of spirituality. And, their faith in a power bigger than man's produces hope.
   "From this foundation of spirituality, three other significant patterns emerged as being essential to resilience:

  1.  Cultivating hope 
  2.  Practicing critical awareness
  3.  Letting go of numbing and taking the edge off vulnerability, discomfort, and pain"
Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection
  That third one, Letting go of numbing, that is a kicker. We all do some numbing of uncomfortable feelings. But, the hard fact is, you can't selectively numb some feelings and allow others to rise up. Numbing means you can't feel anything; for an hour, a day, or years of your one precious life. More on this subject to come.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Whispers of Compassion

It is common among all of us to hear the negative voice in our heads. "That was a dumb idea." You look like a klux on the treadmill." "They will find out what a fraud you really are." Negative talk is the default voice; whispers of compassion are rare.

Here I am at age 9. I look angelic but by then I was an accomplished liar. It was a tactic to avoid work, confrontation, and being seen. Because I was "such a good little girl" it was hard to own up to this trait. If I could send her some whispers of compassion they would be, "The truth will become more precious than your image." "You have a loving heart and you can risk trusting in your goodness."

   This is my second apartment at the university. I made some drastic decisions here that changed my life. Some of these decisions were based on fear and some were based on a new desire to hear the Holy Ghost. Whispers of compassion I wish I'd heard are, "Let your schooling be about enhancing what you are good at. Then be brave and stay the course." "Find a counselor to help you plot a path to success." "The voice you are beginning to hear is sure. He won't leave you." "Marry this man who lets you be real."

   Eleven years later I was the mother of five children. I had a new baby, we lived in a new state, without family, and my husband was traveling two weeks out of the month. Many days found me undone and frantic. Whispers of compassion just right for this situation would be, "There are people praying for you everyday." "You are already digging out and you are such a survivor!" "Your children will help you if you ask for their assistance." "Ask for help, friends want to connect to you."

    Hearing whispers of compassion towards me seems to soften my heart towards others. All this work I am doing requires courage to be real, compassion for myself and others, and best of all it builds desires for connection. We are all flailing in the same sea of vulnerability.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"There Is A Crack In Everything. That Is How The Light Gets In"

   Another week of class begins. I have a little saying I'm borrowing, with a personal improvisation.

      I shall be saying this many times this week as we tackle the subject of perfectionism. Someone surely has heard me say, "I am not a perfectionist". I believed that until Brene Brown started defining terms.
    "Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight. Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance."
   I witnessed this belief in action years ago as my college roommate launched a program of having "perfect days". I watched her frustration and self- doubt as time and again she failed at something and thus had an imperfect day. As an observer it looked crazy. But, most of us act and live in ways to minimize blame, judgement, and shame. For example, I am and have been a martyr about the housework. I do the cooking, cleaning, washing, so don't mess with me. Some years ago, my husband started doing the wash on Saturdays. My twenty ton shield took this action on his part as an attack on my role. Was he telling me that I was doing a poor job so he had to pick up the slack? I know what you are thinking. She is crazy! Let him do the wash already. But perfectionist actions can't see accurately. They are not motivated by wholehearted living. It took time for me to see his efforts as wholehearted because I was protecting my position as a homemaker to avoid blame and judgement. You will be happy to know that he does all the washing, folding, and putting away without being asked or without my irritation. It has nothing to do with my worth but everything to do with wholehearted help.
  As I sail this sea of the gifts of imperfection, I do value them so much more. What are the gifts? Courage, compassion, and connection make such uncomfortable yet life affirming rewards for opening the doors to our imperfect selves.

   Along this journey, I will open my sails to self-kindness, mindfulness, and the knowledge of the common humanity of my imperfect self. Now, on to a very emotional assignment. I have to find two pictures of me at a time when I could have used some compassion. A time when I was struggling and needed self-kindness. Who takes pictures at those events? There are, however, pictures that were taken around the approximate time of those events. I see them on my desk and know it will take some effort to look back without judgement and blame. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

An Authentic Moment

I was looking through my old pictures to fulfill a Brene Brown class assignment to find myself in a wholehearted moment. The point was to see what that looks like. Starting at birth I noticed the open face, the big smile. I kept going until somewhere around ten years of age the posing began. I was self-conscious.; trying to appear like someone instead of being candid. Seeing the picture below I found what I was looking for.
        At thirteen I see a dorky, sweet girl with arms open wide. I might have been twirling. As I think back, these things impeded my ability to stay authentically me.

  • I wanted to be more American
  • I wanted to stay Papa's little girl
  • I wanted to be super smart like my brothers
  • I wanted to be the quiet, talented kid my older parents assumed I was.
  • I wanted to be popular at school
  • I wanted to be churchy to get back at my Dad
  • I pretended that I could be all things things at the same time.

   If I could talk to her now I would give her permission to be ordinary. To continue doing things that she loved like swimming, drawing, making scrapbooks and such. Being smart and cool sounded desirable but I wore these traits like a jacket. It was so nice to take them off to get some fresh air.

   "We don’t talk about the hustle for worthiness that’s become such a part of our lives that we don’t even realize that we’re dancing."

                                    Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection (p. 37).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Is Being Authentic?

    My Hibiscus plant is peculiar. She puts out one blossom at a time, for three days duration, then falls off. It is the second day that it opens wide, wholeheartedly wide. Other flowering bushes hold their blossoms longer, but this is authentic to the Hibiscus.

   My class encompasses the ideas of authenticity this week. Are we authentic with those around us? Is that like saying, "Are you honest with your fellowman?" I'm asking because I don't have the answers. I do know that I pretend sometimes; to like what I am doing, to be happy when I'm not. Pretending is not equal to being real. It has potential to become real but it also has potential to leave us empty.

     So I have a story to tell. It will help me clarify my own motivations. I wanted to do sometime authentic for my birthday. I came up with the idea to go swimming with my whole family. Swimming is fraught with vulnerabilities for those of us who have body issues, but it also has potential to be  wholehearted fun. What is not to love about being wet, treading water, and splashing others? Our athletic club rents out their swimming pool so I pursued finding a date. They don't rent the pool often, mostly because their times are after closing on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturday's time was way too late for toddlers and so I considered Sunday. Does swimming together as a family break the Law of the Sabbath? I honor that day as a day set aside for spiritual things. I never go swimming that day personally, but would it be kosher as a special family event? I felt it was right for me so I scheduled the pool and announced my celebratory occasion. Then the trouble started. Not everyone was in tune with my plan. I understood and knew it was important for each family to choose for themselves. I was disappointed but chose not to cancel. For weeks I re-thought and re-thought, each time feeling that I should let things be as I planned. On the day of the party, with some members of the family missing, I proceeded to go to the club to set things up. The employee knew nothing about my reservation. He wanted to close and leave. He called the boss. My grandchildren were lined up behind me excitedly talking with each other. Several phone calls later he announced the boss was coming in himself. We rushed in. I watched the children's faces. They were totally open and having such fun. The Dad's were playing with their children. This was what I wanted. A large place to be together without bickering, without distracted parents, just body and soul participation. Was it right? Yes. Will I do it again? Probably not. It left out people I love. It did, however, teach me to stand. My default mode when I am challenged for doing something wrong is to capitulate.

   "Some of us move toward (criticism and shame) by seeking to appease and please."
   This does nothing to move me towards compassion and connection because it is a pretense. It does not require evaluation, just giving in.
    "Others move away, withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets. And, some of us move against it (criticism and shame) by trying to gain power over others, by being aggressive."
   These reactions move us away from real courage to feel what we feel. To have compassion for what we lack and move us to be more authentically connected to our most important source of truth, the Holy Ghost.
   "Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are."
Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection (p. 50).

   To this I add, it is the practice of listening to the spirit. If the Hibiscus could be shamed into blooming longer would the blossom be as beautiful?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Am Enough

  This morning, after my husband left for work, I turned off the lights, cozied up with my pillows and tried to go back to sleep. For ten minutes…….I pretended I could do that. My seasonal allergies made me sniff and snort, sorry…too much information, and soon I decided the wiser move was to get up to my office and on to my yoga mat. I love being on the mat but I hate getting there. Moving through down dog seems to move my energy around and within the hour I feel released from the allergy and the mental fog. After yoga I had an hour to do classwork. My art journal work was calling me. Today I made permission slips. These remind me to be intentional about my work, yet allow for the pain of growth.

Then an assignment was to write down the names of those few people who I am safe enough with to carry my shame and fears. There are supposed to be a very few. And there are. Not so much because I don't have wonderful close friends, but because it takes tremendous courage to be that vulnerable with someone. To those few names I owe my sanity. God, please don't take them from me, and when you do, please make me enough to go on.

   I also copied my picture to mount into the journal. The assignment made me feel uncomfortable. I was to write on my palm the words, "I am imperfect and I am enough" with a Sharpie. There it was, black and bold. I had these words with me until the evening when they finally washed off in the shower. They peered out at me when I was teaching piano and felt frustrated with my student. They flashed before my eyes as I walked into the pool for an evening swim. Did I believe them? Intellectually I do! Emotionally they are loaded with baggage.

  As I am learning in this class, courage is from the latin word heart. If we move from the heart our courage is more than toughing out a hard thing, it becomes a vulnerable leap into the unknown. That leap often requires compassion for ourselves and the those we leap with and onto. Truly we move with courage to make deeper connections not merely to push ourselves into the the darkness.


  This is my intention for the first week of class. I see it all around me. A friend opening up about a very difficult experience, my son taking care of his sick wife and being the "mom" to his children, my daughter asking for letters from her friends to open on her birthday when she is far away, all these acts of courage, compassion, and connection make me eager to watch and act, myself.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

First Day Of Class

   My e-mail inbox has all the links for the first day of class. Before I click I need to write down what I think I might learn from taking this course based on "The Gifts Of Imperfection" by Brene Brown. Ten days ago, when I paid for the class I was very excited to begin. After reading the forward to her book I wrote down the questions she asked herself about the wholehearted people she interviewed. I have those same questions.

What did these folks value?
How did they create all of this resilience in their lives? 
What were their main concerns and how did they resolve or address them? 
Can anyone create a Wholehearted life? 
What does it take to cultivate what we need? 
What gets in the way?

Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection

   I will refer back to these questions as I journey through these next six weeks. My good friend handed me this leaf as we commented on the amazing color of her bush. The leaf, which had fallen to the ground, was waxy and firm. I noted the wholehearted color, the connected veins reaching outward, and the imperfections. This will be the symbol of my journey. In the autumn of my life I desire firmness, wholehearted color, healthy veins that reach outward to connect, and belief that my imperfections will be made perfect through my faith in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Bring My Messy Heart

  My sixtieth birthday is coming up. It means something to me, different than other years. I made a few plans. I am going to have a pool party for my grandkids. The whole pool to ourselves to splash, yell, and laugh. I intend to do a lot of laughing. Maybe even a little at , with the yellow submarine, my swimming buddy.
  I also signed up for a 6 week E-Course with Brene Brown, Daring Greatly author. This course will cover the material in her book, "The Gifts of Imperfection", which I've read and look forward to studying more deeply. Her class requires watercolor paints. That was the trigger; and I pushed, buy.

   All that was required was a messy heart. I've got one of those. It has potential to be true-blue but it leaks every now and then.

                   Go here if you want to find out more about this course. I am really excited!!!!!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Unused Creativity Is Not Benign

    I have been working on a project. It started with a little nudge from Gabrielle at Design Mom to try our hand at making a family video. Then my piano student, Davis, came to lessons with a piece of music stuck in his head. I didn't know it but found it on U-Tube. While I was writing him a little simplified version I found the music captured me and became the soundtrack to my video idea. My family endured my amateur filming and with just my apple products I started creating. 

Creating is really important, you know. It has very little to do with being good at something. It is more about whole-hearted living.
  "Creativity has to be cultivated. Unused creativity is not benign, it matastizes. It turns into grief, judgement, sorrow, and shame. We are divine beings and we are by nature creative." Brene Brown

    "Although the principle of doing new things to achieve new results applies in many areas of life, the underlying quality is the same. It is creativity. Creativity is what allows us to see things in a new way. We can enhance our ability to think creatively by engaging in pursuits that are different from our normal activities."
    "Search for feelings that prompt you to try something new yourself, and if they are not there strive to generate them. Try art, poetry, prose, music, dance, photography, clothing design, or anything you haven’t done before. Otherwise you may never know the thrill of personal creativity nor enter the doors it opens to insight, enjoyment, and wonder"
Elder Richard G. Scott 

   Here is The Summer of My PianoTeaching

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Beating Vulnerability To The Punch

I thought I read all of Daring Greatly carefully but yesterday I read something brand new which is so very true in my life. I heard it first when Brene' Brown told it to Oprah and then I found it in the book. How had I missed it? Was I skimming at that point? Here is the truth in a nutshell.  
    "When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding. We are trying to dress rehearse tragedy so we can beat vulnerability to the punch."
   I'm sitting with that for a while. When I feel that effervescent bubble of joy rise up inside of me I feel scared. The "what ifs" rise with equal force and I feel I need to mitigate the emotion lest I am caught unaware. What if I lose what I so love and brings me such great joy? Isn't it better to be in an unmoving state of perpetual disappointment rather than let go and soar with the fleeting joy of everything being right? People who feel perpetual disappointment describe it this way: "It's easier to live disappointed than it is to feel disappointed. It feels more vulnerable to dip in and out of disappointment than to just set up camp there. You sacrifice joy, but you suffer less pain,"
   Even as I type these words the sun is coming in and out of the clouds on a very rainy day. The warmth flooding in my kitchen window punctuates the attraction I feel to joy. Seconds later the light fades and I am in gray skies again. Would it be better to be forever under a gray sky?
   "For those who rehearse tragedy, there's a reason (images of terrible things happening) flood into our mind the second we're overwhelmed with joy. When we spend our lives (knowingly or unknowingly) pushing away vulnerability, we can't hold space open for the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure of joy."
    Interestingly enough, according to Dr. Brown's data, those that are aware of the shudder of foreboding at the brink of joy, practice active gratitude as an antidote.

    I wonder if that could intensify joy? Could the act of recording my gratitude bring my mind back to joy?

     I will experiment with this concept as I am unsure. Here are some guidelines:
   1. Joy comes to us in moments-ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.
   2. Be grateful for what you have.
   3. Don't squander joy. We can't prepare for tragedy and loss. When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into a test drive for despair, we actually diminish our resilience.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mind the Gap #2

  There is nothing as unnerving as receiving the prompting from the Holy Ghost that you must "mind the gap". This phrase comes from London where passengers are cautioned about dangers related to the underground subway system. 
   "There is also a sign to remind people that there is danger--a gap between the train and the station platform. The sign says, "Mind the Gap." This reminds people not to let their foot get caught in the gap and not to drop anything in the gap because it will go under the train and be lost. The caution sign is needed and warns people of a very real danger. In order to be safe, people must "mind the gap." Sister Barbara Thompson 
  This is such a great metaphor for the gap between what we say we believe and what we do.
"We can't give people what we don't have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be." Brene Brown
  Rather than bore you with the gaps in my own spiritual life, let me pick on a man from the New Testament whose story has been read for countless years.

  Peter was an apostle who walked with Jesus for most of his ministry. He was present at mind-blowing events where he saw the power of God manifest in Jesus Christ. Recorded by Luke, written down for all mankind to see are some of his gaps between what he said and what he actually did.
  Luke 22:55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
  How Peter must have wept to look back on his weaknesses and fears.
John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest tho me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
  Would he ever be able to close the gap?
  Acts 4:13 "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
  Yes, there came a time shortly after the ascension of Christ when Peter stood to testify without the fear he had before.
  Acts 4:18 "And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
   Peter is an example of the power that a congregation receives when their leader closes the gap.
Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
  In contrast, just a chapter later the story of Ananias and Sapphira's is told. They must have joined this congregation by choice and covenant, but their gap was sizable.
  Acts 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
  I puzzle how immediate the consequences were of not "minding the gap". Why was Peter given space to grow and change but not this couple? I think the application here has to do with spiritual death.
  "We disengage when we are not minding the gap. It is a way to protect ourselves from vulnerability, shame, and feeling lost without purpose." Brene Brown
  And when we disengage we do things that can damage our spiritual lives. The story does not tell us all about Ananias and his wife, but it reveals their rationalization of the truth. It shows a disconnect to the people who they had alliance with. 
  "Spiritual connection is not built on compliance, it's the product of love, belonging and vulnerability." Brene Brown
 How did Peter mind the gap? He focused on the Savior, Jesus Christ. He took the Holy Ghost as his guide. He was humble in his need to be connected to his Savior. He walked the path of discipleship the best he could and the final gap was closed with the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Disruptive Engagement

     The study of the life of Christ has brought me great joy and peace. However, I have noticed that every person he engaged with on this earth had a disruption to their life. It seems that being with Him brought opportunities for change. I call his teaching style "disruptive engagement", meaning an engagement between teacher and student which is honest, vulnerable, and possibly uncomfortable. My seminary students would like nothing better than to be allowed to sit back in a comfy chair and let me preach, but I make them sit in different places, move from room to room, and try new activities. Real learning and creativity are "inherently vulnerable". It takes courage to make a statement and weigh in with your own thoughts. The teacher could disregard your comment or other students could roll their eyes at your attempts. I remember one of my older students commenting under his breath to the new freshman, 'Why are you such an over-acheiver?" Should we have discomfort in our classroom? Perhaps we should normalize discomfort. Brene Brown says, "If leaders (teachers), expect real learning, critical thinking, and change, then discomfort should be normalized. We believe growth and learning are uncomfortable so it's going to happen here-you are going to feel that way. We want you to know that it's normal and it's an expectation here. You're not alone and we ask that you stay open and lean into it."

   That happened to me yesterday at a regional teacher training meeting. We were learning how to ask better questions. That is an art form, by the way. First we learned the difference between search, analysis, application questions. In smaller groups we discussed a new block of scripture and wrote down more questions. Then the teacher trainer asked for volunteers to practice in front of the class. No one jumped right up and I felt the heat rise in my body. Did I really believe in disruptive engagement? My hand shot up and I committed myself to learning by faith. What I did not remember was that I was volunteering my friend who was part of my group. I vaguely remember explaining the term disruptive engagement to all the sixty teachers in the audience and we launched in with our questions. Of course we had the best possible students, who wanted to participate. Did my volunteering reveal anything? Yes, it showed me that the search and analysis questions were easiest and finding room for the application questions took some time. I also learned that when we allow ourselves vulnerability we become more committed to changing. I am very motivated to teach tomorrow morning and continue my progress. I hope the teacher trainer reports back that the practice part of his class was highly effective because truth be told, we all really need the opportunity to participate in  disruptive engagement.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hope Is A Function Of Struggle

      Every winter neighbors and passersby marvel at the Rhododendron in my front yard. This year it started to bud in December and it is now in full bloom. 

Of course it is genetically prone to bloom early but it is a bush that gets very little encouragement. One year a car off the road ran right over it and it was severely pruned but it came back stronger that ever. It is a symbol of hope for me. There will be spring after every winter.

    "Hope is a function of struggle; it is a cognitive behavioral process that we learn when we have experiences that require growth and overcoming." Brene Brown
  It is no wonder that my stories of adversity are remembered so well. They have made me the person I am. If this be true why would we want to shield our children from this kind of growth. "If I could save from you from this heartache I would," I said to my daughter as she wept in pain over the loss of her engagement from a man who turned out different than she hoped. Perhaps I have less faith in my children than God had in us when he sent us here. Babies are hard-wired for struggle and we protect them but sometimes shield them from learning the hard lessons that could insure their hope in themselves. This is the great vulnerability  of all parents. Have we done enough or too little to launch them into being great adults. I don't know about you, but I was not "growed" up when I brought my tiny daughter home. I wasn't finished with tantrums, fear of the boogie man, and freaking out. I am just now daring greatly to be the woman I want my daughters to become. A little late? They still want to engage with me, so I think I may have a chance to be finished. 
  Read a super chapter called Wholehearted Parenting; Daring to Be the Adults We Want Our Children to Be, by Brene Brown 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wholehearted Comes From Brokenhearted- Daring Greatly #7

The fruits of reading Daring Greatly are plentiful and the one most sweet is a desire for living life wholeheartedly. Chapter upon chapter this desire has grown but then I heard an interview with Brene Brown and her statement made my heart skip a beat.
 "Our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be brokenhearted."

  That is chilling! It is spot on true, but scary. I know nothing more vulnerable that being brokenhearted. Let me share just a few moments if my courage holds up. 
  The air was quiet and the halls were uncharacteristically still. I was in the engineering building at BYU on a Sunday evening and I was there to pray and ask for forgiveness. My spiritual life was in crisis and I felt too small and petty to go on thinking I was "all that". I wanted my inside to match what my outside was saying. I knelt on the hard linoleum and started to speak. What I felt was unexpected. A large wash of love enveloped me and left me breathless. I was talking to my Heavenly Father but the love was coming from Jesus. He loved me, and had loved me before, and would continue to love me, and I felt my heart break for not running to him sooner. All these years I had missed out on this amazing love. I wept until there was nothing left to weep for.
  Years later, married with four children, we faced the untimely demise of our business. Having lost all the invested money from people who trusted us we faced no income and no job in the foreseeable future. I watched as my strong husband mourned his failure and I was scared and depressed. As my happiness melted away, my body showed signs of shutdown. I ran a low grade fever with no signs of infection. Each day seemed unbelievably slow and full of effort. My heart was breaking. One day a church acquaintance came to visit. She seemed uncomfortable coming into my bedroom where I rested. 
   "This is weird because I can't align the woman running the meeting last week with the person I see today. You are just like me, broken and a mess."
  At that point she offered to massage my feet and I was too tired to object. A recognition gave over me. The Lord was propping me up even as I was falling apart. Here was a sister who wanted to admire me, who had seen a person buoyed up by the spirit and now recognized my weakness, but served with love as He would if He were here. I was as vulnerable as I could be, yet, there was a wholeness to this experience.
  I have one more story,  believe me there are many. Olea was born at home and her birth was quiet and perfect. One hour later everything changed. My daughter-in-law started to hemorrhage and within 10 minutes paramedics arrived to airlift her to the hospital. The midwife handed me my granddaughter and I gazed at this unsuspecting soul.
" What will I do with her?' I asked. 
"She is in better shape than her mother."
The baby met my gaze and we bonded together, two completely vulnerable spirits. I finally started thinking and looked around to dress her for the first time. She was going to be going with Daddy to the hospital. I held her gently as we waited for the carseat to be found and then off she went. The house was still and I sat down to cry. I prayed. 
Life went on and we are all mostly whole. Do you see why this idea is so scary?

"Our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be brokenhearted."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

If Shame is Driving, Blame is Riding Shotgun- Daring Greatly #6

    I am a recovering blamer. It is not pretty to say that but nevertheless, it is true. When life gets hard I turn to blaming someone for circumstances that are often random.
"Blame is simply the discharging of pain and discomfort." But the consequences are not simple and can lead to disconnection between the people we love. It is very hard to stay vulnerable and open when a family member is consistently blaming us for things that go wrong. I had a huge epiphany years ago when it was suggested that I assume that my husband or child, is doing the best they can. That had never occurred to me as even being possible. But, on the other hand, my own mistakes are rarely made with intent and malice to do harm so could that also be true for others?
    The rumbling of the big garbage truck comes into my conscious mind and I don't hear him stop. Oh no, not again! He forgot to take out the trash. Right there, in this second, two roads open up. On the left, wide and well traveled, is the road of blame. "I can't believe he did it again. Because of his thoughtlessness, we will have trash lined up all along the side of the house. Our neighbors will be convinced we are white trash."
  On the right, a road, small and narrow, is the pathway less traveled. "He had a lot to remember this morning. What can I do to make this work? I'll just check to see if it costs too much more for a second can next week. I should leave him a note on his lunchbox."
   That road on the right is a happier place, but it takes some effort to traverse it's length. It means taking more responsibility for what happens to me. It is a road for grown-ups.

                             Happy new year and may we dare to live a life for grown-ups. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is really helpful for just this kind of new year's resolution.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mind The Gap- Daring Greatly #5

    To indicate the space between the platform and the subway, London signs warn travelers to pay attention to the gap. On a quest to explore vulnerability I must bring up the subject which plagues families, communities, and businesses. If there is a gap between what we hold as values and what we actually do, shame can flourish and disconnection occurs.

  "Many of us have gaps in our own lives. Sometimes it is the difference between what we know and what we actually do or the gap between our goals and what we actually accomplish. These gaps can be reminders of ways in which we can improve or, if ignored, can be stumbling blocks in our lives." Barbara Thompson, Oct. 2009 General Conference

    The Parable of the Dishes
    A mother of five lived each day with many chores, too many to manage. She, rightfully, enlisted the help of her children to do the dreaded chore of washing the dishes. Personally, this job was her least favorite and so she made a job chart and hounded her children to get their turn finished by bedtime. Weeks turned into months and often the dishes were still stacked on the sink as she started breakfast, which made for a depressing beginning to her day. The reminders changed from charts to words to all out shame attacks. The highlight was the morning she walked into her son's high school first period and told the teacher she was taking her son home to do his dishes. Obviously her children did not love her since they could not do this simple chore once a week.
   What this mother, name withheld, did not mind was the gap. She thought she was teaching the value of cleanliness, cooperation, and work. Instead she modeled her own dislike for the very chore she hoped they would embrace. Why did she dislike it so much? It was one of the few jobs her own mother asked her to do. When she didn't come to do the dishes her mother frequently accused her of being lazy. There was a wash of shame to this mundane work. It was loaded with baggage. She had successfully passed on the shame to her own family and had failed to mind the gap.
   The story ended well. The mother saw her own weakness and started washing the dishes as a mindful experience. She rebuilt the connection with her own desire for a clean space every morning and her willingness to do the work. Her children noticed and improved. They still to this day talk of the Parable of the Dishes.
  If people are pulling away from each other at home, at church, or at the workplace, it mostly likely means there is a gap and it is being ignored.
   Read more in chapter 5 of Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shame Drives Two Tapes- Daring Greatly #4

Not good enough and Who do you think you are

   No one likes talking about shame even though we all feel the warm wash of these two statements rush through our bones. After all, we don't feel shame because we haven't done anything wrong. But shame for wrong doing is not what we are really exploring, it goes deeper than that. It has more to do with who we think we are. 
  I went off to a large university when I was eighteen thinking I was pretty smart. I had a debate scholarship for two semesters and when it came time to register my blood ran cold. Who did I think I was posing as a debate student on a university level? I knew I wasn't good enough so I did not register for debate. I should have sought the help of a counselor in choosing my classes but I was ashamed to admit to them that I was not using my scholarship money correctly. So I made some more mistakes which added to my feelings of not good enough. I took a college level English class in high school so I registered for sophomore English the first semester. I made it through with a B grade. Second semester I registered for a junior level romantic poets class. Not a good choice. I received a D on my first paper. The teacher wrote," You write like a freshman" on the top of my paper. I felt traumatized when I sought him out to admit that I was. Instead of dropping the class I pushed through never quite understanding the daily assignment. He kindly gave me an incomplete. Even as I write this, I still feel the shame of that first year in school. What a young vulnerable girl I was and how I wish I could have given her some shame resilience. She survived, but the two tapes in her head stayed with her for years and still play the same tunes. Who do I think I am to presume to write music? Who do I think I am to teach piano without a music degree? Who do I think I am to teach a yoga class to fifty women when my body is way less than exemplary? Who do I think I am to even write a blog about vulnerability? The only answer I have is that I want to do those things and I show up every day to do them and to do them better than the day before.

   My role model is way cool. His name is Jesus and he models whole-heartedness to me in everything he did. Imagine him in his hometown synagogue, reading out of the Torah about the coming of the Messiah, and then boldly declaring who he was. His neighbors and friends tried to shame him by scoffing at his declaration. Did he armor up and rebuff them with his superior knowledge? Did he strike them down for their insolence? No, he stayed vulnerable and open so that he could feel the sting and understand the pain of rejection. His wholehearted submission to his Heavenly Father required that he take the sorrow and stay the course. I am in awe that he always knew who he really was. I wish I did.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Safe Is Not Where The Joy Is- Daring Greatly #3

     Once on a trip to Germany to visit my daughter I confessed to her that I was all about being safe and coming across the Atlantic felt like a very vulnerable thing to do. She laughed and told me she knew that trait within me and wondered when I was going to grow out of it?
   Securing safety is a legacy I inherited. Oh no, am I going to blame my parents for this? I hope I don't but as a child the quest to feel safe was very strong. I often felt I must gird myself for the eventuality that I could be lost, abandoned, or rejected. None of this ever happened so I wonder why I planned so many ways to prevent it from taking place. Could it be I took on the fears of my ancestors who lived through war upon war, times of hunger and loss, and extreme vulnerability to the whims of extreme leadership in government?
   This said, perhaps you can see why I have latched on to the book, Daring Greatly, which opens the door between fear and shame to the view of living wholeheartedly through vulnerability. The author Brene Brown describes her shock to see the antidote of shame being vulnerability. She was making a list of the traits of people who she interviewed and who were struggling with fear and shame and compared them to the traits of those who lived whole-hearted lives. Perfectionism, being cool, being well thought of, working too hard, feeling scarcity of time, talent, and ability, these were coming out of the list on the left. She saw herself there. On the right, the list of traits of people who lived more vulnerable lives, creativity appeared on the top. That made her angry because she often looked down on people who made time to explore things which seem more ethereal. "You may have your ART, but I have a JOB."  I love that quote. She saw how much she desired control over her life. She told a counselor that she needed help embracing vulnerability. Out of that work came the book. 

   So if the joy is not safety and control how do I lean into more scary places? There is a deep resistance to doing any vulnerable activity. I fight that sticky resistance every day. My gut says it is getting over myself and looking outward. I recall a rather magical evening, (click here to read about it) when a guest at dinner turned out to be a renowned piano teacher who specialized at improvisation. I sat next to him and played freely matching his enthusiasm. How did I do that? I didn't over think; just jumped in and I felt the joy. 
 So here are some vulnerable places I have leaned into this year:
  Losing 30 pounds
  Riding my bicycle all over town
  Going to the dentist after four years
  Visiting a physical therapist for a body alignment issue
  Driving to Houston, Texas in our 11 year old car
  Giving away my baked bread during December to further my Artisan Breadmaking Project
I hope to continue……………...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Scarcity- Daring Greatly #2

     There is a shop in my town called Frame of Mind. To frame a mind means deciding how to see daily life. Will I see that I have enough or will I yearn for something I don't have.. To frame my mind to see "enough", I think I need to be wholeheartedly showing up, at home, at work, and at church. 

  Daring Greatly has taught me this truth. The opposite of scarcity is not abundance, it is being and having "enough" to give my heart, wholly, to those I love and to what I do. The culture I live in right now makes me feel like I don't have enough time, money, or energy to be who I want to be. I believe that to be another deception. Buying into scarcity makes me hold back, waiting to see if the future will bring me what I need. It makes me shy to step forward and be on board. Unfortunately, waiting may strip me of what I already have. That is the message of the parable of the talents. (Matthew 25:20-30) The traveler gives his servants talents and leaves for a undisclosed amount of time. The one to whom he gives 5 talents goes out and increases his amount two-fold, as does the one to whom he gives 3 talents. But the one who receives only one talent feels his master will take away what he has given. He feels scarcity of goods. He feels anxiety and fear before his master and chooses to hide that which he is given. At the time of accounting the two who increased their gifts are praised but the third who proudly presents the master with the original talent is condemned. It seems harsh but by hiding his talent he judges his master in a negative light. So, the question I ask myself is; when I refuse to give my heart wholly do I indicate that my God cannot be trusted to supply my needs? Is it a control issue to clutch what little I may think I have to my breast and refuse to feel open joy?
   Looking through the window at the frame shop I tried to photograph the pretty things in the window. But, what I saw in my photograph was me. I may actually be "enough" to show up in my life and be wholeheartedly present. 

                                More about the book by Brene Brown. Daring Greatly.