“Oh thats a big chair!” Sharon Salzberg giggled as she came in the room. And then proceeded to sit in it, and with grace and charm hold a day-long workshop on meditation. There were no notes, no power points. Simply deep inquiry, beautiful words, lots of stories and laughter and practice.
You know when you are in the company of a true spiritual teacher, and you are grateful. Not that you have to put them on a pedestal. Not that they can’t also be a work in progress. But still, they have cultivated PRESENCE. Something which you drink in and feel bathed by.
There were many jewels embedded in her teaching — several of which are out of her newest book, Real Happiness at Work. But in having tea with a friend this week, it was a different lesson which bubbled to surface and I found myself sharing: a simple idea, related to lovingkindness. Lovingkindness is an awkward translation in that it sounds so formal, when really it is a quality we can cultivate and experience everyday.
At its most basic lovingkindness is an act of generosity we offer first to ourselves and then to others in our life and world.
And generosity she explained has three parts: 1) motivation, 2) skillfulness of execution and 3) the immediate reaction. The first two elements are invisible to the eye, but visible to the heart. You know when someone gives you a gift and it comes with love versus duty, or an inflated sense of pride on the part of the gift-giver. That is motivation.
Skillfulness of execution simply means we were thoughtful of the circumstances around our gift-giving, to the best of our abilities. Perhaps you take the person aside and give them something quietly instead of in front of a big group or you consider their life stage and try to offer something they can truly enjoy (no breakable knick-knacks to the mom of a toddler, please!).
Lastly, the response of the receiver is just that– how they respond and how you respond to their response. Are they happy and grateful or do they seem put off or uncomfortable? What is interesting is that of the three elements of generosity this is the one we have the least control over.
Yet, and this is the big take-home lesson, we evaluate ourselves almost entirely on the immediate reaction rather than considering the first two elements. Meaning– if someone doesn’t like what we offer, we assume we are a big lamo and down the self-doubt and criticism spiral we can go.
Now this certainly applies in the realm of tangible gifts (and is probably one reason the holidays are so stressful!) but even more so in the realm of sharing our gifts with the world in terms of our work and relationships.
So here is what to do: the next time you feel deflated after sharing a gift (of your friendship, time, creativity, or any other sort) get curious about which of these three elements you are evaluating yourself based on. Is in only the third? Then ask yourself: was I motivated out of a good place? Was I thoughtful of the context when giving this gift? And listen.
Perhaps you have something interesting to learn. Maybe you see that you jumped into something without a good sense of the context or that you were motivated out of a desire for the spotlight. In those cases simply acknowledge that insight and receive it with compassion.
Alternatively you may be able to honestly say yes to the first two categories in which case use that awareness to offer yourself some kindness and get out of the self-criticism spiral. Who knows the mysteries of our world and someone else’s life. Maybe they got a terrible email right before you shared with them or maybe the group is still quaking from a conflict which has nothing to do with you. When we base our sharing on others reactions– it’s an exhausting ride through life.
I invite you to try this practice out and please let me know (in the comments or send an email) how it goes. I hope that it makes your path clearer and supports you in sharing more of your love, creativity, kindness, and authentic voice with our world.
PS. I have space opening for two new clients for my ten week transformational coaching program. If you feel like you could use some extra support getting clarity and relief from habits which trip you up and leave you feeling deflated I hope you will read about my coaching services here and reach out to set up your complementary conversation! xox
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How to Be Your Child’s Soul Teacher Series. Thursday evenings in April and May 1, 6:45-8pm. $35 drop-in per class at Oil & Cotton Creative Exchange. 837 W. 7th Street. Dallas, Texas 75208
Join Courtney and other conscious parents for this special series. Each week includes an experiential lesson, written guide with specific tips and practices for the home as well as a creative take-away.
Join me this week, Thursday April 17th for Week 3: Your Family Story. Come learn this step by step method for listening deeply as well as an ancient meditative practice of “gathering the flowers” out of your story: starting with your child’s birth and weaving in both sublime and challenging elements of life together. We will also watercolor flowers for our May Day crowns.
Week 4. April 24. What is Your Parenting Personality? Do you lead (and filter) primarily with your head, heart, or gut center? Do you tend to lean into conflict? Or need time to retreat to regain your center? Utilizing a powerful tool called the Enneagram you can recognize your own dominant personality pattern and “de-velcro “ from habitual approaches to life to instead find more freedom & choice in parenting and all relationships. Create three aromatherapy blends (in convenient roller bottles for easy application) to balance your mood and help you ground, open your heart, and clarify your mind.
Week 5: May 1. Your Family Culture. Learn strategies for crafting life-giving birthday and holiday celebrations which together create a sacred calendar in which you and your child can live the whole year round. Create paper crowns and ankle bells for our May Pole Celebration!