What Types of Friends Do You Value?

When you look around your circle of friends, are they truly the type of people you want surrounding you?  Do they help you be ever-more the person you want to be?  Do they engage with the world in meaningful ways that you respect and admire?  Then as you look around, turn your glance inward: are you the kind of friend to yourself and others that you desire?

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship for several months now.  Initially a couple of finger-pointing-300x185interactions with people led me to think about who my true friends are and what I really value in them.  These experiences lit up a hyper-awareness and time of reflection as I’ve engaged with friends since then and tried to remember the image of a finger pointing out mean three are pointing back at me.  So it seems reasonable that any standard held for others must be one I uphold for myself.  Here is a chance to consider some of the traits you may seek in friends…

 

A Genuine Listener

listen dogTo be honest, this was the first trait that struck me as vital to being a true friend in my book.  Someone who listens without an agenda to teach me something or prove a point.  A listener who is open enough to consider where I’m coming from out of genuine care.  Thank you Kritika for showing me this.

 

Humor

Not everyone is blessed with the gift of being funny, and some may struggle to even mildly learn the skill.  I know I’ve always wanted to be funny, but let’s face it, we can’t all be great comedians.  At our wedding, my vows brought mostly a few sentimental tears while my husband had our guests rolling with laughter.  I get to appreciate that he brings something to the table with far greater potency than his counterpart.  

Another consideration is that some of us live more serious existences than others.  Do you tend to prefer conversations with complete sobriety, a sprinkling, splash or ongoing waves of humor?  Do you have friends who bring what you’re looking for?  And even if you aren’t that funny, do you show your appreciation of those who are?

 

Motivator or Empathizer

I have found that there tend to be very different types of listeners.  Commiserators and motivators at times are found in the same person, but more I often I think they are separate individuals.  Do you know who to call when you just want someone to hear you and say: “Wow, sorry, that sounds rough!” and someone else when you know you could use a little: “Dust yourself off and I’ll help you back up on the saddle.”?  

 

Honesty, Tact, and… What You Think Someone Wants to Hear

avocado-fat-jokeDo you prefer the friend who tells you there is something in your teeth at a dinner party or the comrade who tells you look exquisite no matter what?  In the honest framework, there is also tactful and then there is knit-picky or unable to let things go.  Some of us are gifted with more gentle ways of giving feedback than others.  Like humor, this can be a skill to learn, while for others it may come more naturally.

 

Acceptance

Do you know anyone who absolutely loves you -just the way you are?  Isn’t this why we love having dogs for pets? A dog will faithfully comfort, accompany and adore you no matter how your hair looks, what right or wrong thing you say, and will endlessly forgive you for showing up later than you planned.  While I’m all for healthy personal boundaries, there are people who for one reason or another put you on edge and then there are those who put you at ease because it feels like they truly accept you as the person you are.

Kindness

Is it just me, or is this the factor we (at least under stress) tend to struggle with the most around those for whom we have the deepest regard and the closest relationships- including ourselves?  When I started at one of my previous jobs, I walked into my office the first day to find a pearl of wisdom left on the whiteboard: 

be-kind-quote

The Dalai Lama’s simple, poignant statement remained as a wonderful reminder all three years I taught at that school.

There are countless other points you can consider, from respect, to shared interests, to people you like learning with and from.  The bottom line: friendship is a choice.  You get to decide with whom you associate in your free time (even on social media), how you treat others and how you treat yourself.  So I hope you invest your precious time with the kinds of people you truly value and who value you.

 

New Resolutions or New Approach?

It’s a New Year, so…..out with the old, in with the new you!  Right?  Let’s be honest, are you just setting new goals because you feel like you’re supposed?  Do you even feel an urge to say goodbye to anything from 2016….or maybe a lot of things?

Confession: I love fresh starts.  That new energy when I feel motivated, energized, excited for change- that thrills me.  Consistency and routine are much harder.  Maybe one or two people reading this can relate (it’s okay to admit if this is you).  Let’s get real, a lot of us struggle with persistently working towards goals and building a routine that sticks.  We jpsearsclaim to do this to become more of the person we want to be, hence the countless jokes  and unused, but newly acquired gym memberships (you may want to check out JP Sears’  latest youtube episode on this trend if you haven’t watched it yet.

This year you are invited to join me in trying something a little different.  If you are tired of January/February guilt, and by March completely forgetting your unaccomplished goals, here is a little exercise to reflect and set some intentions.

First, consider: did you notice something in your life in 2016 (and maybe 2015, ‘14, etc.) that you hung on to but really isn’t serving you anymore?  Is there a habit, tv show, snack, maybe even a relationship that is draining and not really benefiting you?  I’m not talking about something you aren’t ready to let go of.  I’m referring to something you are ready to tell: “thanks for the memories and it’s time for me to move on.

What isn’t serving you anymore- or maybe never was- that you’re ready to say “ADIOS!” to?

Next, is there something or someone who came into your life in the past year that you are -excited about? -want to invest more in? -can really help you grow?

How can you spend more time kindling that new, excited energy?

tonyrobbinsTony Robbins says that “goals are like magnets.  They’ll attract that which makes them come true.”  I think that for big dreams you really desire, this is true.  Sure, plenty of resolutions get easily dropped.  When you start really forming a plan, make some investment and talk about (the research actually says regularly report on) your goal, my experience and that of many people is that dreams come to fruition- and the supporters we need arrive to help us on the way.

Right around thanksgiving a friend handed me a copy of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.  An interesting concept is raised in this allegory about pursuing one’s deepest desire.  Coelho writes that when we try something new, we tend to have beginners’ luck; this pulls us in.  Then, after a little more delving in, we reach the struggle and muck that inevitably is a part of any journey.  stuck-in-muckI can absolutely attest to this being my experience.  After a flow of encouragement and what looked to be an easy transition, I’m currently enjoying the resistance and challenging muck * of setting off on a new career.  Most of these elements are my own mental barriers (fear, procrastination, feeling overwhelmed with all the learning and to-do’s).  Don’t we all do this?  Hence why a little mindfulness and meditation (a.k.a being aware of my thoughts and moving to the next stage of accepting, dismissing or countering them with a new idea) are key.

So what are you ready to ditch?  What are you ready to give more umph to in your life?  Whatever these are, I hope the next time you find yourself reconsidering what doesn’t benefit you , or putting off what you do want, you remind yourself why you wanted the shift in the first place.  If you digress or meander a bit, that’s a part of your path.  It doesn’t need to be a cause of shame.  Like a cloud, see it, and let it go.  Then move forward with your day -whether it’s stormy or sunny today- one thing is sure- that will change.  But ultimately, you get to choose to let clouds move on.cloud-watching-sunbath

Happy Cloud Watching!

*stuck in the muck image from: https://www.weasyl.com/submission/987782/stuck-in-the-muck

Manifesting Your Magnificence

Brightly shining rays  

Masked by “should be’s” and “to-do’s”  

What will you peel off?

eclipse1

Do you realize how great you are?  How awesome your talents, passions, quirks and curiosities are that make you you?  For a long time, I didn’t.  I pined for compliments but struggled to actually let them in.  It wasn’t for a lack of love from others.  It’s just hard to feel love from outside  when you don’t accept yourself.  As I’ve worked towards appreciating and accepting who I am, it has helped to consider what traits I particularly value in myself and others, and letting those shine.

American yogi, Baron Baptiste, poses the question:

“What do you want to manifest?”

As I began to contemplate and journal about this, I pondered what manifest means.  How often is the term used as “how others perceive someone”?  Yet, consider for a moment, how manifesting something isn’t just acknowledged, but how it actually impacts people.

Looking at the sun, one might say it manifests light.  My perception is that I see light.  Yet my skin feels warmth.  Plants receive nourishment.  Your emotions can actually be lifted to a more cheerful state and alert/wakefulness is more prone to align with light than darkness.  These are just a few ways the sun’s light impacts us.  So…

 How could you make a difference in the world through what you emit?

Think of Gandhi, a human with true purpose and sense of self.  Can anyone know all the details of responsibilities he held, relationships he maintained, words he spoke?  Yet, consider how many people know what his sense of purpose was.  He was a bold human rights activist.  His life centered around bringing awareness to others that people with brown skin should be treated with the same liberties and respect as people with lighter colored pigmentation.  He manifested human dignity, progress through pacifism and equal rights.  These ideas were not just people’s perception of him.  These were the rays he spread, brightening the world so that others felt his passion and joined in the movement.  Change came to India, the British Empire and the world because one person, to start out, was willing to recognize and unabashedly share his passion.

gandhi

There was only one Gandhi.  I certainly don’t aim to replicate who he was and all he accomplished.  You and I can, however, decide what we want to manifest.  Day by day, with focus, we can hone in on how to shine with a sense of purpose.   We can peel away distractions, responsibilities we put on ourselves that aren’t really necessary, biases or prejudices, fears, habits and even addictions that prevent us from remembering, expressing and being what we truly want to be about.

So far, I’ve narrowed down that I want to manifest love.  I surmise that this yearning to share love is strong due to years of depression, self-loathing and a sense of inadequacy.  I know all too well what a lack of love feels like. I know many of us can relate by being in or having been through that lonely place.  So I want to give and facilitate for all people a sense of self-love, acceptance, and openness to feel the love of others.     That is what I wish to spread on the earth.

What do you want to share?

Plethora of Perspectives

Do you ever find yourself analyzing a situation, resolving it in your mind, and growing emotional about how someone’s choice that impacts you in the situation is clearly “wrong”?  Whether it’s with politics, work, your friends or family, we all run into moments of disliking the choices another makes that impact us in some way.

Why are we so convinced that our own perspective is right?

I recently read an adaptation of Rumi’s poem “Elephant in the Dark” and found it eye opening on this matter.  A group of people, curious about what creature has be placed in a dark room, decide they cannot wait, but must reveal the room’s contents.  One by one they enter, each eager to uncover the mystery, each sure of what she has found.  One feels the ear- like a large fan.  Another feels its long, curving trunk-it must be like a snake.  Someone else encounters one of its thick, strong legs-it is solid and wide like a tree trunk.  Each person  is sure he leaves the darkness with a firm understanding of what the creature is.  Yet with their limited perspectives, none grasp the full measure of the elephant.

This past weekend, I found myself in several situations in which the involved parties grew emotionally charged and all had their own perspectives: with colleagues reflecting on a workshop, my partner as we discussed communication styles, even my dog as we walked. 

A small illustration: Last night, Naya, my dear canine companion, was absolutely convinced that she needed to lick whatever was stuck to the street.  I had no idea what the substance was, but a) I was sure I didn’t want her tongue running along the foreign substance and we had somewhere else to go –right then– as I saw it.  I called.  She tried to hold her stance.  I started to walk away, she continued anxiously licking.  What was more important in that moment: moving on or embracing what I perceived as appalling and perhaps sickness inducing, or what Naya thought was an absolutely delectable road treat?  She licked and scraped.  I walked forward.  Eventually she followed and fortunately no sign of sickness has appeared- at least yet.  We certainly saw things differently.

I often present my  challenges to one or two people to hear their opinions when I’m upset about something, just to get some alternate views.  Like looking through a fly’s eye.  Consider how many different angles and slightly different views a fly perceives when looking at a given image. If we’re being “open minded,” we may consider more than one side of any situation, but how many opinions and perspectives are we actually willing to consider?

How often do we remember to consider and look through others’ lenses?

While perusing some of photographer Jon Sanwell’s recent work from Myanmar, I encountered a series of photographs of betel leaves in baskets, including the one below.  Just from my own lens, I initially thought about the beautiful shades of jade green, the eye-catching angle of the shot, the juxtaposed glossy leaves and natural matte finish of the wicker baskets.  I wondered why someone would so carefully stack all the leaves in spirals around the containers.  But perhaps some people look at these leaves as the means to fitting in (chewing betel is a popular social practice in the region), the destroyer of their loved one’s health (betel is carcinogenic), or maybe just a really unique way to capture a part of Southeast Asia.  That’s just some of what I considered.  What are your thoughts looking at this photograph?

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So the next time you find yourself frustrated, hurt, confused, or even elated, consider how others are impacted by the situation and your actions.  Perhaps you will listen and learn a thing or two from someone with a different take.  Remember, everyone’s lens is unique.

 

Dare to Dream

 This week my partner and I walked our dog down the dimly lit streets of our neighborhood, bantering about what we might do had we won this week’s Powerball.  He encouraged: “Everyone has to dream.”

Sometimes it takes an opportunity to utilize one’s imagination.  There are those dreams that we can and some of which we ought to fulfill, like building a dream career, falling in love with a wonderful person who treats you the way you deserve, or developing a hobby that interests you.  Then there are those dreams, like holding a family gathering without awkward drama, living in a nation free of political corruption, or raising your child in a world in which there are no longer religious wars.  These loftier dreams may not actualize in your lifetime, but how energizing to the human spirit is it to hope, imagine and ponder?

What do you believe is possible?  

This past week I read to my students Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier.  The book was thought provoking even for a group of 3-5 year olds who are just starting to grasp the concept of inequality.  But even with such deep-rooted societal problems that racism causes, these young children grasped the heart of Dr. King’s dream.  As one of my students shared with her family over breakfast the next day: ”Love is the key and it doesn’t matter what your skin looks like.”

What do you value?

Imagine how Dr. King would feel hearing those words today from such a young child?  Our world still has a long way to go, no doubt, before racism is completely eradicated, recent Oscar nominations attest to that.  However, a world in which a mixed-race man can be elected president of the USA, or where people from any ethnic background can legally marry, when we see people of all colors in every stratum, it shows that some people’s dreams, through working together, can and do shape the world.

What changes do you see?

It is not always easy to go after our dreams.  We only reach them if we dare to stretch beyond our comfort zone.

So whether you want to become a writer or find a cure for AIDS, I hope you will ask yourself:

What do I dare to dream?