05/30/20

Fierce Compassion: Speaking Truth to Power

Fierce Compassion: Speaking Truth to Power | Photo of Agapanthus buds by Mary Marcdante

May we all speak truth to power with fierce compassion—for others and ourselves.

On several of my walks this week, I was captivated by this same lavender-colored Agapanthus pod of buds, all crowded together like its own little flower community getting ready to bloom something beautiful. Then I noticed one bud that was somehow forced out and laid deflated on top of the others. With the next breath of wind, it would soon fall to the ground and never get a chance to bloom like the others.

As I’ve been reviewing my photos from the past few days, I paused again at the image several times. I’ve never thought about flowers that way. “Why now?” I asked myself.

I closed my eyes and took a few breaths, sitting with the question. My answer surprised me:

Maybe because it’s easier to watch a flower die than a human?

I felt tears well up and let my heart keep talking. Between mounting COVID deaths—my Aunt Francie included, the horrific murder of George Floyd, and the riots in Minneapolis and protests around the country attempting to speak truth to power and be heard by people with that power, this heart aches—again.

“I can’t breathe.” George Floyd

I can only imagine and barely touch the grief family members are experiencing as they lose people they love through racism, agism, narcissism and every other “ism” that divides rather than encourages the gifts and answers that a diverse community and world offers humanity, nature and the earth. I know others who are feeling this, maybe you are too?

Every flower bud and every human being needs a safe home and community that protects, provides and motivates them to grow into their full potential: Agapanthus buds, Torrey Pine trees, George Floyd, Armaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, you, me—all of us, and the rest of the world.

What will it take to create that space for everyone?

I’m discovering one answer for myself through the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion: F I E R C E C O M P A S S I O N. Even when it’s scary, maybe especially when it’s scary, learning to use your anger at injustice to motivate you, your courage to protect yourself and others, and your voice to provide awareness, understanding, and connection within your community, your friends, your family, and most importantly, within yourself.

“It only takes one person
and a good idea to start a movement.
-Maren Johnson

What inside you is waiting to be listened to and compassionately acted on by you today? What in your world needs your voice to speak up with fierce compassion?

May we all find and use our courage and voices to help the world bloom into all the beauty, joy, and love that lives within us.

Agapanthus blooms by Mary Marcdante
“Riots are the language of the unheard.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
May we all listen to each other for
greater understanding and connection.

05/4/20

Inspired Action: The Power of Savoring

S A V O R . . .

What did you savor today? What could you savor now?

Since quarantine started over a month ago, I have been aching to stand on the sand at sunset at Torrey Pines beach. Tonight was no different. I felt the familiar disappointment as I walked out my door for a walk in my neighborhood at sunset. As I reached a canyon overlook where a tree had recently been cut down, I felt sad for the loss of this beautiful tree and then happened to glance over my right shoulder and saw the sky melting into shades of butter that reminded me of the butterscotch oatmeal cookies I’d baked earlier in the afternoon that called for two sticks of butter—haha, with half the batch already eaten and savored.

I paused to drink in the sky and felt tears well up. I took a deep breath and inhaled the scent of eucalyptus, one of my mother’s favorite fragrances. I heard the wind rustle through the canyon and felt it brush my cheeks. I could still taste the butterscotch and oatmeal cookies in my mouth. I also noticed I was smiling without trying and felt a warmth flow into my heart. To paraphrase a prayer from childhood, “Blessed be life. Blessed be nature. Blessed be me.”

We double our pleasure when present moments and past enjoyable memories meet. Triple delight when we pause long enough to allow the thoughts and memories to flow from our mind into our body and practice savoring through sensory awareness.

One of the key elements of mindful self-compassion to lessen feeling bad and increase feeling good is using our senses to savor a beautiful moment or anything that we find lovely, inspiring or touching. So often we don’t even notice the exquisiteness around us because we’re caught in a negative thought loop us or we move on so quickly and forget to feel the good feelings moving through our senses. Yet, savoring is one the great gifts of being alive.

Next time you notice something that makes you smile or feel good, slow down and let yourself enjoy it a little longer. In your mind walk through your senses—What am I seeing? What am I hearing? What am I smelling? What am I tasting? What am I touching? What am I feeling emotionally? Where am I feeling that emotion in my body? Or…you can just pause and smile and bring your hand to to your heart and say thank you.

It’s all good.

“If the only prayer you ever said was thank you, it would be enough.” ~ Meister Eckhart

What did you savor today? What could you savor now? Please share your thoughts in the comments below—I’d love to hear from you.

04/25/20

COVID-19: Please Wear a Mask

“In short: Staying safe is half a head game.”
Arianne Cohen, Fast Company on COVID-19 behavior.

It wasn’t lost on me when I watched from my metal railing balcony as my little 5-old-year neighbor wandered to the edge of the canyon in our community backyard for his daily “let-off-some-steam” time that the bars between us had many layers of meaning for me. Paying closer attention to him after I returned from an unsettling interaction out in public earlier in the day, I noticed this little guy was wearing a mask.

If he can wear his mask to play games outside, surely the 20ish male runner without a mask coming toward me as I stepped onto the grass more than six feet to the right on a short walk to avoid his heaving breath can too, right? And what about while I was waiting to pick up takeout today to support a local restaurant, the unmasked man with his masked wife in front of me and the three young unmasked men standing behind me who brushed right past me? Why no masks? Rhetorical question, sort of. But not really.

What is it with men?! With young people? Sorry, men friends and millennials I love who are wearing masks, for lumping all of you together; I know it’s not all men or just men, or young people but it is so unsettling to see the number of people who seem to have so much entitlement for themselves or so little regard for themselves or others and all the incredible life-saving going in by medical professionals and family caregivers or so little social-emotional intelligence that they won’t comply with what we know helps prevent COVID from spreading and killing people! What will it take? Do they need a personal reason like their own intubation or someone they love suffering, or worse, dying—and alone, like my aunt and the loved ones of two friends or the 202,272 other people who have died of COVID-19 as of today!? https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-toll/

I am not normally publicly vocal about these kinds of issues, but a quote by Rabbi Hillel that I’ve theoretically spouted as a speaker for years keeps playing in my head: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? If not now, when.” And the community version of it, “If not us, who?”

Are you wearing a mask when you’re out? If so. thank you. (If you live in San Diego, they’ll be mandatory May 1.)

If you aren’t wearing a mask yet, please do. And adapt the premise, “If you see something, say something.” And for those you see wearing masks, thank them.

What would you say to someone not wearing a mask to help them comply without shaming them? Let’s create a list of responses in the comments because I could use them. I didn’t do so well today. To the older man in the takeout line four feet away from me as I continued to back up, I said under my mask and pointing to it, “Where is your mask?” He said, “I don’t need one.” I said, “Yes you do! For yourself, for your wife, and for me and everyone in this room. Please wear a mask.” He shook his head no, his wife shrugged her shoulders and they turned around and walked away.

Outside of neighborhood walks, I’ve been out in public to grocery shop four times in five weeks when very few people are out. Today was different with so many people outside. I get it. No one likes wearing a mask or being cooped up as long as we have, especially on a beautiful day, but, please—pretty please with f-ing sugar on top…PLEASE WEAR A MASK.

I really had to work to shift my fear and anger to compassion. But as I’m learning from my mindful self-compassion teacher training, there are two types of compassion—yin/gentle and yang/fierce. Gentle compassion comforts and fierce compassion protects. We need both and sometimes, like today, we need to use our courage to call in fierce compassion.

What are you doing to protect yourself and your family, co-workers and community? Please wear a mask.And consider reading this article from Fast Company: “6 Reasons Why You Engage in Risky COVID-19 Behaviors and How to Avoid Them. (Thank you, Arianne Cohen) bit.ly/3570ZFQ

03/24/20

Mindful Self-Compassion Breathing Meditation

Clouds above Pacific Ocean at La Jolla Shores photo by Mary Marcdante
“One for me and one for you.”

As you read that, what did you think? Did you question what I meant? Did you judge it as selfish because I put myself first? Did you feel included? Did you worry about others who might not feel included or just start scrolling?

In my #mindfulselfcompassion teacher training practicum through the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion (an awesome community), one of the core meditations we are practicing is “Giving and Receiving Compassion” using the breath. Any breath you take can become a wish for yourself and another.

If you’re someone who always puts others first, and then feels exhausted, resentful, disappointed or any negative feeling that depletes your energy, research has shown that self-compassionate people tend to be more caring, supportive and compassionate with others, less jealous, and better compromisers. The challenge is giving yourself the same care you give others.

Drawing on the Creative Life Force and breathing in good wishes first for yourself gives you the energy to send it to others.

On your inhale, if it feels right, say “Breathing in for me” and on the exhale, “Breathing out for you.” Or actually, any words that conjure up a feeling of care for yourself and another person or group, country, pet, or the earth. “One for me, one for you.” Or “In for me, out for you,” or even as simple as “Me” on the inhale and “You” on the exhale repeated for as long as you like in a slower-than-normal breathing rhythm while savoring the feelings in your body. Adding a smile can help connect your mind and body and shift your energy from stressed to blessed.

This meditation can be done silently when you’re in a stressful conversation with someone, worried about someone, or just thinking of them. You can do it for one cycle of inhale/exhale that takes just a few seconds or 15 minutes in formal sitting practice, or for a minute when you wake up before you get out of bed, just before sleep, while walking or even sitting on the toilet while you are rationing toilet paper. “One for me. One for you.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist a little levity given how serious everything is with #coronavirusprotocol and #coronavirusstress.

“One for me and one for you. One for All Beings and one for the Earth.”

 

PS. If you like this or have other topics you’d like to learn more about, please leave a comment or share your favorite meditation. I love hearing from you.