Challenging Times and the Mystics

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Challenging Times and the Mystics

https://lnkd.in/d3g9jX5

—————————————————–
(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is-maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

Karma and the 2020 Election

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“Dangerous consequences will follow when politicians and rulers forget moral principles. Whether we believe in God or karma, ethics is the foundation of every religion.” (Dalai Lama) One way Karma played out in the 2020 election.

https://lnkd.in/dAR9HuB

—————————————————–
(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

The problem is…

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“The most self-destructive thought that any person can have is thinking that he or she is not in total control of his or her life. That’s when, “Why me?” becomes a theme song.” – Roger Dawson

How many times a day – at work, at home, at play or in relationship – do you hear someone say, “the problem is…” in a way that communicates: “I’m a victim;” “someone’s doing something to me;” or “I’m powerless?”  In fact, how often do you make such a comment?

“Problem” does not equal defeat

It’s not a fact that a “problem” means defeat. That’s a characterization you’re choosing to make. Like beauty, “problem” is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately, many react in a knee-jerk manner and gravitate towards the negative whenever a “problem” arises.

“We focus on the negatives, losing ourselves in the “problem.” We point to our unhappy circumstances to rationalize our negative feelings. This is the easy way out. It takes, after all, very little effort to feel victimized.” – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Rather than assume a “victim consciousness” mindset in the face of a “problem,” what would it be like if you stopped, took a breath and consciously asked your heart to help you out? Our heart always has our best interest in mind. Learning to ask and trust our heart is a life-affirming practice that can relieve stress and negativity while leading us to a sense of expansiveness, lightness, equanimity, self-trust, harmony and self-confidence.

See “problem” with a new perspective

The next time you feel the tendency to exclaim, “The problem is…!” stop, take a breath and consider these seven suggestions:

1.    Know that there is no such thing as a negative “coincidence” or accident. While your mind might want to create the “problem,” the Universe aligns every event with a reason and a meaning and presents these events FOR us as learning and growth lessons. Every experience is purposeful, if we choose to seek out that purpose. That is, ask, “Why is this happening FOR me?”

2.    When confronting a “problem” explore what “competence” the problem is asking you to manifest. When something negative occurs, see it as an opportunity to demonstrate your competence. No one is completely and totally “useless” when facing a problem. You may have to reflect some, maybe long and hard, but the Universe has presented you with this opportunity as a way for you to “show up” and use your talents, skills and abilities.

3.    Problems are opportunities presented for us to grow in self-confidence. While our mind might want us to shrink, go invisible and move into denial, our heart will give us the strength and courage to move forward, if we ask and trust.

4.    In addition to strength and courage, facing problems also affords us the opportunity to express other essential heart qualities: understanding, love, compassion, will, steadfastness, patience, discipline and support.

5.    One of the greatest benefits a problem affords is to the opportunity to learn: who I am and how I am in this moment. “What am I seeing in all of this?” is a powerful personal growth question. Viewing opportunities is this manner supports you to live a life that is meaningful and purposeful.

6.    Facing problems allows us to take control of our life, to have our power and be in control. Caving in, and moving into a helpless, victim consciousness results in giving our power away and allowing something or someone to control us in a way that is self-limiting, self-sabotaging and life-alienating.

7.    Finally, know that your soul has created this opportunity for you. Consciously or unconsciously, we attract what we need in order to grow and develop. While we may hate, detest or resist the “problem” in the moment, nothing is ever happening TO you; it’s happening FOR you and your heart and soul know this. It’s a question of coming to terms with this awareness from  “mental” knowing as well. There’s some part of you that requires further growth and maturation and “problems” are opportunities, are “life’s lessons” providing the continued growth and learning that support us to see the meaning and purpose of our life. 

So, the next time a problem presents itself on your life’s journey, rather than resist, hide or blame, be curious about what issues may be arising within yourself – issues you need to own and work with. Curiously enough, when we deal with our issues – honestly, sincerely and self-responsibly – various types of “problems” seem to disappear over time.

“We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.” – Margaret Mead

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Do you spend much of your time feeling like a victim and blaming others for what’s happening in your life? If so, what does spending your time that way get you? How might you invest your time more appropriately?
  • If you’ve been facing your problems responsibly over time, what have you seen/learned about yourself?
  • Do you believe the world is a fearful and dangerous place? Do you find yourself always being vigilant and watching out for potential danger? If so, why? When did you first start to do this?
  • Do you believe your inner life creates your outer life? Have you ever considered this?
  • Do you know the difference between fate and destiny? If you do, or when you find out, which one more clearly defines the way you orient to your life?
  • Do you feel your well be-ing is largely in the hand of others? How so?
  • How did you and your family deal with “problems” when you were growing up?

—————————————————–
(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

Pressure’s on

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I first published this in 2012. With the advent of the Pandemic and its attendant practices of self-isolation, self-guaranteeing, working from home, reduced in-person social engagements, etc., I thought it might be a timely reading. You can decide.


Northern Illinois University professor Larissa Barber, PhD, coined the term “telepressure” – the urge to respond immediately to work-related messages, no matter when they come.”

A study in Time magazine reports: “The majority of US workers (52 percent) check their e-mail during non-work hours, including on sick days. Depending on your employer, it may be an unspoken requirement to respond immediately, but, more likely, you respond right away not because of actual workplace policy but due to a phenomenon known as “telepressure.”

Meshing work and home

The question I would interject is “To what degree is the meshing of your work life and home life affecting your health – mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological?”

Prof. Barber’s research found: “…those who felt greater telepressure, and therefore a stronger urge to check and respond to e-mails at all hours, faced some serious consequences.”

Knee-jerk reactions

Telepressure is a two edge sword – one edge, necessitating the other. On the one hand, our addiction to our devices creates a neurological dynamic in our brains, not unlike addiction, to seek more and more stimulation – checking my iPhone, checking my smart phone, checking my social media sites – non-stop, always seeking more, more and more. It’s the progressive drug that requires ever greater doses in order to satiate.

The other edge is the immediacy with which we feel compelled to reply or to respond. This immediacy often precludes what’s needed in that very moment – time to reflect, time to think, time to analyze and time to step back. This immediacy often results in less-than-optimal choices and decisions. Lose-lose.

Psycho/emotional health

Prof. Barber reports that those who engage in this constant state of stimulus and response, face some serious health consequences: worse sleep, higher levels of burnout (physical and cognitive), and increased health-related absences from work (my addition… even if you work from  home).

One unfortunate downside of always being “on” and “available” 24/7, 365 is pure and simple: exhaustion, stress, burnout, rust-out, disengagement and presenteeism (your body shows up, but you don’t). And, the fact you’re announcing to folks (i.e., “sent from my device” at all hours), “I’m always available. Contact me anytime.”

The constant wear and tear and stress that accompanies always being “on” and “available” has serious psychological effects – suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and other stress-related afflictions such as diabetes, heart attacks, depression, alcoholism and drug addiction.

The body and mind cannot race at 100 miles an hour non-stop and not break down in some way, shape or form. No matter how invulnerable or invincible you think you are.

The challenge for folks today is not how to connect but to disconnect. Our devices have become extensions of ourselves. Folks need to learn how to disconnect from their devices in order to connect or reconnect with themselves (and be OK with “aloneness”).

Other research tells us that spending an inordinate amount of time at night in artificial light, interferes with the body’s production of melatonin which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. People who use their computer or smartphones near bedtime are more likely to report symptoms of insomnia.

Crazy-busy
 
Many folks these days wear “crazy busy” as a merit badge. Many folks regard busyness and “living in the fast lane” as status symbols. These folks seem to think their status is in direct proportion to the number of emails they receive or number of (Zoom or Skype…) meetings they attend. Writer Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, explains:

“…overwork has really become pervasive. I’m not talking about hard work. I’m all for hard work that we find meaning in. But overwork leaves us burned out and disengaged butts in chairs at work and fried at home without the energy to do much more than flop down in front of the boob tube.”
 
Antidotes

There are answers, or antidotes, if you’re able and willing to make some choices. Some suggestions:

Boundaries
Create boundaries between your work life and personal life. Plug-in when you’re at work and unplug when you’re not. Coming home ( or being home) and “plugging in” as a way of winding down and relaxing is powerfully self-destructive. To think of “plugging in” as a form of relaxation at home is a delusion, pure and simple. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unplug!

Exercise
Get your body moving; oxygenate your cells, your brain, your muscles, tendons and ligaments. Exercise reduces and alleviates stress. Exercise is a natural antidepressant.

Spend More Time outside
Being in nature, whether you’re actively running or walking, or gardening or simply sitting is a natural stress reducer,and can spur personal growth. And being outside, unencumbered by your devices, is even more so.

Focus on Your Breath
Research is showing more and more today than mindfulness practice, which includes slow, quiet and deep belly breathing, can support your mind, body and spirit to be in optimal balance, harmony and regulation. Every cell in your body responds positively to mindfulness and breathing practices. Mindfulness and breathing practices help to regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, producing states of inner peace, equanimity, serenity, positivity and the like.

Engage in what you enjoy
Do what you enjoy doing without giving in to yours or others’ critiques or judgments. Have fun.

Watch your diet
First and foremost, do you know the science between diet and health, between diet and energy, between diet and well-being, between gut-health and overall health, between eating early in the evening and eating just before bedtime and how food affects mood, the brain and you nervous system? If not, spend some quality time doing just a bit of research about diet and health. Eat mindfully. That is, dispense with the “mechanical hand” that shoves food in nonstop, unconsciously and focus on the “what” and the “how” when you’re eating. Be as peaceful as you can – in mind, body and spirit – when you eat. Learn how to eat consciously.

Monitor your emotional state
Continually ask yourself with curiosity (and this is extremely important) and not with judgment or criticism, “What am I thinking?” And “What am I feeling?” Asking yourself these questions on a consistent basis can support you to become a witness, watcher and observer of yourself in such a that you become more and more able to move away from dysfunctional emotional states into states of positivity, stability and well-being. This practice can greatly help to reduce stress and short-circuit the beliefs and the thoughts which take you into the dark or gray places.

Connect
Loneliness is a huge stress producer. Set your intention to meet regularly with a good friend (or friends) on a regular basis (if you wear a mask and socially distance) or via Zoom, Skype, etc.,  so you can get “outside yourself.” Explore if there are ways you can serve and support others in some capacity to move out of your mental and emotional ZIP Code. Connection is good for the mind, body and soul. Know, too, there are pleasant and unpleasant ways of being alone.T

Take “FSBs” – Frequent Short Breaks.
Get yourself a timer and set it to go off every (30) minutes. When it goes off (be reasonable; don’t plan this exercise if you know you’ll be in a meeting, etc.) and when it goes off stop what you’re doing and take one to two minutes to, for example, just breathe, go for a short walk – inside or out, stare out the window, meditate, walk up and down a flight of stairs, shake your body in place, and the like. Taking frequent short breaks is a powerful way to master your emotions, reduce stress, become more productive and energized, work optimally and otherwise experience a true sense of well-being.

Questions for self-reflection:

  • How often are you “connected” to your devices at home? Are you able to “unplug” at home?
  • Does your spouse/partner ever react that you spend more time with your phone (or other device) than with him/her?
  • How knowledgeable are you about the relationship between diet and health?
  • Are you in good physical shape – but not in good psychological/emotional/spiritual health?
  • On a scale of 1(low) to 10(high) how would you describe your stress level on an average day at work, and at home?
  • Do you incorporate any of the suggestions above into your life? How so?
  • Do you go through withdrawal when you’re away from your devices for a while? What’s that like for you?
  • What’s your relationship with being alone and with loneliness?
  • Are you comfortable with silence?
  • Are you able to share your feelings with other(s) on a regular basis?

other resources:

References

Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults. 2020 National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. https://www.nap.edu/read/25663/chapter/1

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-fallible-mind/201302/would-you-rather-be-happy-or-content-the-choice-matters

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-fallible-mind/202005/escape-zoom-fatigue-and-what-do-about-it

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-fallible-mind/202003/tips-emotional-self-management-in-these-uncertain-times

https://www.cigna.com/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/, January 2020

—————————————————–
(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Are you lost? That’s a good thing.

In the midst of the current political, financial, environmental, and workplace uncertainty, and upheaval and upset many are experiencing these days, it’s not surprising to feel a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Worry has replaced wonder; anxiety has replaced exhilaration.

There’s a story of a man on a galloping horse who passes a bystander. The bystander yells, “Where are you going?” to which the rider responds, “I have no idea; ask my horse.”

Uncertainty
Mired in a sea of uncertainty, confusion and overwhelm, we turn to others for help. Experts who come in various shapes and forms, espousing varied hypotheses and theories, can’t agree. No one seems to know what will happen, really happen, a year, or two, or three or more down the road.

When we orient to our world from a place of fear, our orienting response takes the form of flight, fight, or freeze – we run away from our problems and challenges, we fight, often unsuccessfully, to reduce or eliminate our challenges or problems; or we stand still like a deer in the headlights, paralyzed and perplexed. More than a few are dazed and despairing.

The meaning of experience.
The fact is our problems and challenges have much to teach us, about ourselves. Even deep-seated trauma has a message – if we choose to stop, explore, inquire and ask for the teaching. That’s a huge “if.”

Encased in fear, malaise and uncertainly, we have two choices: (1) do nothing, wring our hands and hope that someone or something will take care of us and wait, or (2) ask why such events are happening FOR me, and seek the teachings/learning that comes from honestly, sincerely, and self-responsibly confronting the issues standing before us. There can be no light without darkness.

Getting lost can show us the way.
If we choose, getting lost allows us to open the door to the darkness, the unknown, and seek answers, guidance and intuitive responses to our questions. After all, we came here from the darkness and one day we’ll return to the darkness. So, why not now?

Our ego’s deep need for control is what keeps us fearful and afraid. We can choose to bypass our ego, our conditioned mind, and move towards the uncertainty which is where we find answers, the real answers to our challenges and dilemmas. The unknown does not have to be scary. Only if we choose to make it so.

Embrace the unknown
One of the benefits of welcoming and embracing the unknown is that the experience takes us out of our own rigid box and supports us to change and transform. Clarity and insight often come from confusion, if we get out of our own way and remain open to the journey of discovery.

In these dark days of gloom, fear, upset and discomfort, we can resolve, if we choose, to embrace the mystery, to surrender to uncertainty, and be open to not knowing – from a place of curiosity, excitement, and openness, rather than cringe from a place of anger, terror, angst, hate or vengeance.

There’s beauty in the dark.
There is a certainty, balance and coherence in the unknown and there is a wealth of strength, courage and steadfastness in our own soul that supports our growth and development by seeking what we don’t know, if we choose. This is the essence of true change and transformation – moving consciously through our insecurities. Becoming comfortable with our discomfort.

Getting lost is what allows us to see the truth not only of our self, but of our relationship to our work, our world, and to others.

Endings are always another beginning; darkness never exists without light.

Where is your horse taking you?

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • How are currents events affecting you – financially, emotionally, mentally, psychologically and spiritually?
  • Every cloud has a silver lining; every silver lining has a cloud. Which is your orientation to life and living? Why?
  • How do you commonly react to being/feeling “lost” or experiencing uncertainty?
  • Are you generally a fearful person? If so, why do you think that is?
  • Are you one who always needs to have all the answers?
  • Would others describe you as a controlling person?
  • Do you ever lose yourself? What’s that like for you?
  • At the top of a roller coaster, you can scream with excitement or scream with fear? Which would you do? Why?
  • What was “being lost” like for you, your parents, or your family when you were growing up?

—————————————————–
(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

Empathy comes from the heart, not the mind

Empathy_Improve_Increase_01

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If we look down upon the planet, and the U.S, in particular, from 30,000 miles out, it’s evident that this country is mired in a fair amount of strife, especially our institutions – government, health, education, financial, law and safety, sports…. To me, I believe it’s also evident that one common thread that underlies, and perpetuates, the strife is politics. When cooler heads prevail, one common call is for folks to take a step back, to breathe and to engage in conversation, to communicate. My take is, and has always been, that to communicate effectively one needs to first engage in some deeper, honest, self-reflection (simple, not easy). Self-reflection is what supports us to discover what it is “about me” (my emotional reactivity) that contributes to the strife. Too, self-reflection goes beyond the cognitive, intellectual and mental constructs that “define me” – reified, calcified constructs that I use to make myself “right” and you, “wrong”, the vicious cycle that  never leads to resolution – i.e., peace, calm, harmony, acceptance, love and empathy that can help to reduce and eliminate strife.

See what  I mean here:

In his book, Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis,” Jeremy Rifkin, in one of the chapters, concludes, “…what is needed is a more transparent public debate around views of freedom, equality and democracy – a moratorium on the hyperbolic political rhetoric and incivility…and begin a civil conversation around our differing views on human nature. This would offer us a moment in time to listen to each other, share our feelings, thoughts, concerns and aspirations, with the goal of trying to better understand each others’ perspectives, and hopefully find some emotional and cognitive common ground.”

On the face of it, I believe most would agree – at least 99.9% of us would agree. It’s like saying, no one in the world should be hungry. Most would agree. But…

While Rifkin’s book is a detailed explanation of how we came to be a culture of incivility, and how empathy is a “way out,” his conclusion, for me, falls short of a real solution. Why? Rifkin essentially equates “cognition” with “consciousness” and assumes we can talk ourselves into being empathetic. Not so fast.

Love and empathy are matters of the heart, not the mind, and I think here is where Rifkin, and so many others, who posit intellectual and cognitive solutions for social ills, and social change, come up short.

Cognition and consciousness are poles apart
Cognition and consciousness are not synonyms but polar ends of a continuum. Here’s my take.

We live in challenging times – socially, politically, economically and spiritually. Incivility, disrespect, and out-and-out personal attacks are a consequence of this un-ease many are experiencing.

So, can I just “think” myself into being empathetic with those who push my buttons? I think not. At least not in any sustainable way.

Empathy is deeper stuff
Empathy is the ability and willingness to relate – not just cognitively or emotionally – but spiritually, from “within,” to what another is thinking and feeling and thus behave in a more compassionate way towards others. As Psychology Today describes it, “Empathy stands in contrast to sympathy which is the ability to cognitively understand a person’s point of view or experience, without the emotional overlay.”  As social policy analyst, Elizabeth Segal, writes,  “Empathy is more than ‘I hear you’.”

Amy Copland, Ph.D.,  Philosophy Professor at Cal. State, Fullerton, says being empathetic means we take an “other-oriented” approach to another, rather than a “me-oriented” perspective towards another. She writes, “Other-oriented means that I imagine I am you in your situation, not me in your situation. And because we are different people, I may need help to understand how you are feeling because imagining what your life is like is not the same as actually experiencing what your life is like.”

While empathy does certainly involve “brain stuff,” i.e., thoughts, and cognitive functioning, etc., empathy does not “originate” in the brain. Wanting and choosing to imagine what it’s like to be the other (or others), needs to come from deeper recesses, i.e, heart-driven, if it is to result in real, authentic and sustainable social change.

Being empathetic, then, means we do not express any egoistic need or intention (conscious or unconscious) to “fix,” teach, tell, one-up, advise, sympathize, interrogate, explain or “set another straight.” Empathy is a heart-felt choice to engage intimately with others, on a deepest level, by “be-ing” with another – providing a safe container for another to be vulnerable in our presence – feeling safe, secure, valued and heard. Simple, right? So, why is empathy so hard?

Why being empathetic is challenging
“Underneath the hood” of surface-level anger, distrust, incivility and disrespect between folks, there’s an element that sources our incivility – fear. Fear of what? Fear of losing control. Control of what? Our “identity,” our need to feel like a “somebody.” Our need to be seen, heard, recognized. Our need for psycho-emotional safety and security.

When individuals or groups fear a loss of democracy or status, or feel terrorized about losing their jobs, their homes, their health care, their educational opportunities, their families and, most of all, their sense of self, they fear being relegated to the ranks of “nobodies.”

Nobody wants to be a “nobody”
How am I dealing with these marginalized, fearful folks? Am I pushing them away? Do I see them as a threat to my identity, to my feeling like a “somebody?” Do status, ranking and “somebody-ness” depend on my doing, being and having more than them – a “zero-sum” approach to my living life, where I feel, “if you get yours, then I won’t get mine?” Is life a “me. vs. you” proposition? Do I see folks as a means to end? This is where empathy comes into play.

I am you
One tenet of many spiritual traditions is the notion that “I am you” – a metaphysical (far from cognitive) concept that points to the interconnection of all of life. An “I/Thou” approach to others is not based on the another’s packaging, i.e., looks, net worth, degrees, quality and quantity of material possessions, etc. The I/Thou personalness of relationships focuses on a heart-felt “we,” rather than “me vs. you.” How we are more alike than separate. I/Thou assumes a higher level of “consciousness” – how I orient to the planet and the people on the planet. This yearning, seeking is not simply “cognitive” stuff.

Four levels of consciousness:
Unconscious – instinctual, follower
Subconscious – habitual, robotic, drone-like, reactive
Conscious – aware, intelligent, conceptual
Higher Consciousness – intuitive, guiding, truthful, loving, universal

Empathy reflects a state where one interacts with another with (from) a higher consciousness. It’s not about “deciding” to do so; it’s about an “inner knowing” that I choose to connect. It’s heart-felt, love-based. Empathy results from “going inside,” asking our hearts if our unconscious, subconscious, or conscious “stories” about others are honest, sincere, and authentic or are really defense mechanisms to protect my “ego” self, suppress or repress my fears about others. Higher consciousness allows us to enter into communication and harmony with others from a place of a “universal mind” where we relate to others as “my brothers and sisters.”

From a place of true and real empathy, i.e., higher consciousness, the energy of love and warmth fills the space between two people (or peoples), not the energy of coldness, resistance or resentment of a “me vs. you” ego-perspective. Empathy allows equality between and among individuals, all individuals.

Higher consciousness, not cognition, is the “secret sauce” of cooperation, collaboration, compassion and connection with others. Higher consciousness is a heart-based state that allows me to “feel your pain” – I am you.

Empathy is not thinking
What’s needed is a shift from an unconscious, subconscious and even conscious state, and cognition, that puts a microscope on our emotional, psychological and spiritual orientation to the planet and the peoples inhabiting it. This internal exploration is quiet, slow, continuous and intentional. It’s not “thinking about,” it’s not intellectual. Here we query our heart, not our mind.

Einstein said “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” My take here is that “thinking” is not the problem, but consciousness. While folks may be thinking differently, they are not moving in a sustainable way to a higher level of consciousness, of “be-ing” differently, of truly transforming (I’m no longer the person I was.). And this is the challenge – without transforming, we have old wine, new wine skins. Not sustainable.

The Indian Philosopher Krishnamurti said: “Thoughts are like furniture in a room with the windows and doors closed.” I wrote about  this recently. Much of the dialogue, books, articles and sharings of well-meaning folks who seek “solutions” to incivility, cross-cultural and social issues are in this room, with the doors and windows closed. Lots of listening, agreeing, disagreeing, and “solutions,” but it’s the same old furniture, only now with different colors and textures. Why? Discussions are mostly intellectual and cognitive. Only the heart will allow fresh air and lead to true and real change and transformation.

Empathy is co-relating
The solutions to our challenges are not about new (cognitive) flavors of democracy, freedom, economics and the like; they are about co–relating and co-creating on a spiritual (not religious or theological), deeper, heart-felt level. Our mean-spiritedness, anger, mistrust, and intolerance will not be reduced or eliminated by a cognitive understanding alone, but through the application of the salve of a higher consciousness produced by our hearts and souls. True empathy is not a matter of cognition. It’s a matter of heart. The common ground we seek to find is not in the real estate of the brain; but in the fertile fields of our hearts.

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Have you engaged in uncivil, demeaning, or disrespectful behavior recently? Did you justify your behavior? How so?
  • How do you generally interact with folks who think/believe/live differently from you? Truthfully.
  • Do you live life from an “I need to be right” perspective? If so, why do you think that’s so? Where/How did you learn to come from this perspective?
  • Do you ever view compromise as a weakness? How about being empathetic?
  • Do you ever rationalize or justify another’s uncivil or disrespectful behavior? If so, how or why?
  • Do you ever use “passion” as an excuse to behave inappropriately?
  • Have others ever accused you of behaving in an uncivil manner? If so, how did you respond to their accusations?
  • How did you, your family, deal with disagreement or the notion of being “different” as you were growing up?
  • What do you notice if/when you think others on the planet are your brothers and sisters? What’s your comfort level around this notion?
  • Can you envision a world where it’s possible folks respond to disagreement or differences without being uncivil, bullying, angry, enraged, fearful or otherwise disrespectful?

If you have not viewed my video, Overcoming Racism, What Stands in the Way, it’s here: https://youtu.be/nJ3rRSSCnus

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(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!

FFT 8-21-20

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Ever been involved in a situation where there’s conflict to be resolved, a problem to be solved, a dilemma to be unbundled, a conundrum to be clarified, or a story to be heard. Who hasn’t?

Quick to the rescue!
In such circumstances, do you immediately jump in, reactively, with a quick solution, answer, or retort?

How often in such situations are you hearing, but not listening? How often do you find that after jumping in with a solution or other response, you did not get the whole story, see the complete picture, or understand on a deeper level?

One reason we have a tendency to jump in is because our minds are working at 90 miles an hour, making judgments on the fly, wrapped up in our judgments, preconceptions or assumptions judgments, preconceptions and assumptions that are often quick, misguided and incorrect.

Listen to understand.
“Listen to understand before being understood.” is a principle bandied about in most of the “effective listening” literature. We say we “get it.” We feel we have this capacity were “good at” listening. But, how often do we really, really listen before being understood? Honestly?

Listening is not easy, especially today. In an age when we’re caught up in 25-second sound bites, when we’re inundated with input from our electronic devices, listening is a very real challenge a challenge not easily met by most folks. Why?

Products of a “media age”
Being raised in, or living in, a “media age,” many of us have become addicted to the need for hyped and immediate stimulation, resulting in a brain that is under-developed and one in which hyperactivity (moving from stimulus to stimulus – iPhone to iPhone, Smartphone to Smartphone, to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok,  Instagram, email, etc., incessantly, impulsively and addictively). The result is that focused attention for many is impossible – resulting in our inability to listen, reflect and think more deeply.

Because our brains now need change almost every few minutes (seconds!?) to sustain focus, listening, concentrating and conscious attending are often very challenging and sometimes often well-nigh impossible.

Need for ever more stimulation
Since we have conditioned ourselves for more and more immediate stimulation, our low-brain areas require this consistent stimulation and our cerebral cortex (the thinking/listening-related parts of the brain) are underutilized.

One unfortunate result of this conditioning is an inability to listen, to empathize, to be quiet and contemplative in a sustained way in the presence of another or others, especially when the situation calls for deeper reflection and understanding.

When listening is called for, many of us instead have a knee-jerk reaction in some way –  advising, “fixing,” “one-upping,” educating, telling, directing, training, hijacking the others experience, correcting, and, of course, suggesting an immediate solution – our need to “do” something.

Unfortunately, when this happens, those across from us often feel unheard, unappreciated, invisible, angry, resentful, frustrated and, often, attacked anything but “listened to.” Not a great way to build trust, engender safety or create healthy relationships.

So, the next time you’re in a situation that calls for listening, perhaps don’t be so quick to reassure, give advice, or explain your side or perspective.

In other words, in these situations, “Don’t just do something, stand there!”

Some questions for self-reflection:

Do you feel you’re a good listener? How do you know? Would you feel comfortable asking others (at work, at home, at play, in your relationship) what they think?
Have you recently been told you’re not a good listener (at work, at home, at play, in your relationship)? How did that make you feel? Why?
Do you have a tendency to ping-pong from electronic device to electronic device? Be honest.
Are you addicted to any of your electronic devices? If you say “no,” can you do without it (them) for an hour, a day or a week? If not, you’re addicted – justifications and denials notwithstanding.
Would folks say you’re often the first to jump in with a suggestion, a solution, an answer, even when they may not be asking for one?
Do you have a reputation as one who’s always “fixing” others without their asking?
Do you ever feel unheard, unseen, invisible when speaking with others? How so?
Do you ever hijack or “one-up” others’ experiences?
Would you consider yourself to be a compassionate and empathic person? How so?
Do you ever ask others if they think you understood them, before you claim you did understand them?
What one or two ways this week or next can you “listen to understand before being understood?”

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(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering