Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Month: April 2016

Difficult People: Love Them, Don’t Reject Them

Toxic People: Love Them, Don't Reject Them

If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished? – Rumi

I often see memes on Facebook and blog posts that advise you to stay away from negative people, remove difficult people from your life, and surround yourself with happy people.  I can understand this perspective because it’s encouraging and uplifting to be around positive people.

But isn’t it limiting to try to create your “happy bubble” and forget the rest of the world?

And, it’s not always possible to eliminate every single “negative” person from your life.  Even if it were, it wouldn’t bring you genuine, lasting happiness.  True happiness comes from developing the capacity to go beyond pettiness, preferences, and personal desires.

  • How will you grow your love and compassion if there’s no one that rubs you the wrong way?
  • How will you learn to set healthy boundaries if there’s no one pushing your limits?
  • How will you develop patience if there’s no one trying to get your goat?

This does not mean you should be a doormat or accept abuse.  Sometimes, the appropriate action is to step away. But let’s not wall ourselves off from everyone in the world who happens to be struggling in their own way.

Stretching Your Love

At an earlier time, I used to feel constantly annoyed by a restless woman in my Tai Chi class.  She could barely stay still for a moment.  While the other students rested relatively motionless during standing meditation, she swayed back and forth.  During the 108-movement long form, she would flail her arms about like an expressive modern dancer.  When we stopped to hold the form for a few moments, she would repeat it several times, dramatically flapping her wings once again

She reminded me of the archetypal “class clown,” desperately seeking attention.  She didn’t hesitate to make jokes during the long-form, which we had previously been practicing in personal silence while flowing to serene music.  She even spoke back to the teacher, seemingly without a second thought.

One day, I arrived early and set out a pair of giveaway shoes.  Apparently, she didn’t realize they were my shoes.  She wanted to know why I didn’t take them.  I explained that I have a high arch so they don’t work for me.  In response, she suggested I get an insert.  I looked at her and said clearly, but without a charge, “I don’t need help with this.”  She backed off in a friendly way.

Her comment may seem innocent or well-intended.  But knowing her intrusive ways, it made sense to set a boundary to this conversation – for her benefit as well as mine.  Who knows, I may have ended up with the very same uncomfortable shoes.

Yes, I felt annoyed.  But, I decided in my heart that I wouldn’t hold her ways against her, be rude, or ignore her.  At the next class, I made a point to say a friendly hello and ask how she was doing.  I also offered my support whenever I noticed she felt stretched by the physical challenge of the long form.

I’m not a saint by any means.  I’m just learning to practice loving-kindness in my own small way.  It’s through practice like this that you can begin to extend your circle of love beyond your favorites.  Which, paradoxically, brings you more ease and contentment.

6 Ideas for Relating with Difficult People

Rejection isn’t the only way to respond to someone you perceive as difficult.  It depends on your own degree of strength and emotional immunity.

1.  If you’re fragile, it might indeed be best to remove yourself from a difficult relationship.  But you can do so with a kind heart, wishing others the very best rather than aggressively slashing them from your life with glee.

2.  In loving-kindness practice we begin with sending love to ourselves.  You can’t truly love others without loving yourself, whether they’re your preferred people, relative strangers, or people you dislike.  Once you feel loving-kindness towards yourself, it naturally begins to flow towards others.

3.  Sometimes conflict occurs as a sign to move on.  Only you know in your heart if that’s the case.  But again, you can keep kindness in your heart as you close one door and open another.

4.  You’re responsible for your own psychic hygiene.  Practice grounding and then clearing and filling your aura with love and goodness every day.  You’ll feel less effected by other peoples’ shenanigans.

5.  Instead of running with the crowd, when you feel strong enough, have the courage to be kind to unpopular, odd, or challenging people.  You might make their day, learn something unexpected about them, and may even enrich yourself.

6.  Be grateful to everyone.  You will learn some of your most powerful lessons in relationship to others, especially the difficult ones.

None of the above means you should put yourself in harm’s way or suffer unnecessarily in a relationship.

We all want to be happy and no one wants to suffer.  It’s on this deeper level of understanding that you can find common ground with others.  Always remember that difficult behavior can be a confused way to seek love, happiness, and validation.

So don’t just reject difficult people without taking a moment to consider that they might be wounded too.  Start by working on strengthening your own self-love.  Then slowly you can become an unlimited source of love for others – friends, strangers, and even enemies.

You may need to leave an unhealthy relationship, but the quality of feeling you hold in your heart will make a difference in your own well being.  The healing may take time, but if you hold anger in your heart indefinitely, it will only erode your own happiness.

What are your thoughts on responding to difficult people?  How do you stretch your love to include people that feel testy?  I would love to hear.  Just scroll down to add your thoughts.

Thank you for reading!  If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends. With love, Sandra


Open Your Heart to YOU

Open Your Heart to You - Free Loving Kindness Course
There’s an epidemic of low-self esteem, self-doubt, and lack of self-confidence spreading like wildfire, especially among girls and women but men are often effected as well.

So I’ve decided to offer a FREE 5-Day Loving-Kindness course from May 16 – 20 to help turn the tide, in my small way.

Often, these emotional states seem hyper-real, continuous, and impenetrable.  But they’re not.

In fact, research shows that the practice of loving-kindness can increase your positive emotions and sense of connection with others, lessen self-criticism, and switch on empathy and compassion.  On a physical level, loving-kindness has been shown to decrease migraines, chronic pain, and PTSD for a significant number of people.  The relaxing effect of the practice can serve as an antidote to everyday stress as well.

How Open Your Heart to YOU Can Help You

Loving-Kindness is a simple practice. Even short sessions of 10 minutes have been proven to be beneficial.

I’ve created Open Your Heart to You, 5-Days of Loving Kindness to help you:

  • Get in touch with the love that resides within you.
  • Dissolve guilt, low-self esteem, and self-contempt.
  • Quiet your inner-critic.
  • Feel more confident.
  • Shine love on your shadow sides.
  • Love yourself in a healthy way without becoming self-obsessed.
  • Soften your heart so love for others naturally flows forth.

The lessons in this course center around three potent Loving-Kindness phrases that have been used effectively since ancient times.  When practiced regularly, they work far better than a bubble bath as they engage your unconscious mind and so gradually release your invisible blocks to self-kindness as well as the ones you know far too well.

After all, self-love is not just giving yourself a few treats, now and then.  It’s fully hearing, knowing, and accepting yourself and that’s a process.

If the thought of self-love feels creepy, uncomfortable, or self-indulgent to you, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.  I would encourage you to give the course a try. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Self-love is not selfish unless you’re self-obsessed.  It’s natural and healthy.

This practice is rooted in the authentic Buddhist teachings, which I’ve studied and practiced for over 20 years.  I’ve led online courses on mindfulness meditation and loving kindness for many years now as well.  The practice is universal however and relevant for everyone, so you don’t have to subscribe to Buddhism to benefit.

What You’ll Receive

During the course you’ll receive 5 lessons, e-mailed to you daily, which cover the following themes:

  • How to practice loving-kindness for yourself, step-by-step.
  • How to lean into and transform whatever emotions arise in the process.
  • Sending love to your shadow sides.
  • Practical expressions of self-love in everyday life.
  • Extending your circle of love, an introduction to loving-kindness for others.

You’ll need about 30-minutes a day to read each lesson, contemplate the prompts, and practice the loving-kindness phrases.

Support for Your Practice and Process

During a course like this, it’s always helpful to come together as a group.  So we’ll have a Loving-Kindness Circle on Facebook, where you can share your experience, ask questions, receive support, and connect with like-minded people on the same path towards healing and wholeness.  Participation is optional, of course.

Let’s put an end to low-self esteem, self-loathing, and self-hatred, shall we?

Because you deserve your own love.  There’s no one in this world who is more or less deserving of love than you.  When you learn to love yourself you’ll feel happier, healthier, and more complete. The invisible line between you and others will dissolve, and you’ll feel inspired to extend your love and kindness in all directions.

Are you ready?

Registration is now closed.

The course is free.  And you’ll also receive Wild Arisings {my monthly note} and be able to download  21 Simple Stress Tips {my free 50-page e-book}.  You can unsubscribe anytime, of course.

I’m so looking forward to immersing myself in Loving-Kindness practice once again.  I can hardly wait.  Please join me.  And please help me spread the word by taking a moment to share this special opportunity. Who doesn’t need a little more self-kindness?

Important Note:  I’m not a doctor or mental health professional.  This course is not intended as a replacement for psychotherapy.

What Happened to Sisterhood?

What Happened to Sisterhood?


What Happened to Sisterhood?

In college, I worked at the Women’s Center as an Administrative Assistant and Counselor.  Not a counselor in the licensed sense, but as a listening ear for women facing struggles on their college path.

I co-founded a 24-hour crisis line for survivors of sexual assault.

I participated in a feminist Consciousness Raising Group.  We read books like Sisterhood is Powerful and The Feminine Mystique to raise our awareness of inequality, awaken our power, and transform society.

I went on plenty of dates with men, but my circle of girlfriends nurtured and sustained me.  We waited tables in the same restaurant, wearing a ridiculous uniform that featured a gathered skirt and puffy sleeves.  At 2 am, after the doors closed, we took off on wild adventures like driving to the California desert for sunrise, searching for the Integratron, and then turning around and traveling miles to the coast for sunset.

After university and a few other jobs, I became the director at a Battered Women’s Shelter.  Later, I served on my city council’s Committee for the Prevention of Violence Against Women.

All this would be considered second wave feminism.  There was a third wave to come, but I missed it entirely.

The Decline of Feminist Awareness

What happened to my feminist awareness?

I entered the spiritual life. I immersed myself in Tibetan Buddhism.

From a spiritual perspective, you’re a soul, a spirit, or pure awareness that’s beyond gender.  You might be female in this life and male in the next. You might have ended up with a female body due to a karmic debt.  For example, having treated women poorly in a past life, you’re now on the receiving end.

That doesn’t mean anyone deserves to be treated unfairly, subjected to violence, or denied an eduction.  But ultimately, you can only break the cycle of rebirth in these ever-changing forms, by recognizing the transitory nature of the self and reality while also cultivating spiritual qualities like love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.

I didn’t consciously take leave of my feminist concerns, but they took a backseat for decades.  I didn’t place my attention on the patriarchal, hierarchical, or oppressive aspects of Buddhism, which certainly exist.  I focused instead on making the spiritual teachings, which I believe to be the cause for ultimate liberation, available to others. I concentrated as well on my own spiritual evolution so I could be of service with a kinder and clearer heart.

Did Sisterhood Disappear from Your Lens Too?

Did sisterhood simply disappear from my lens only or has this occurred for others too?  Maybe I’m no longer in the right circles, but I rarely encounter discussions of women’s rights in, what some  consider, our post-feminism or anti-feminism era.

Fortunately, the movement for women’s rights in developing countries is alive, but is it receiving the attention it deserves?

It seems like priorities in the West have moved away from social action, flower power, and equality to personal concerns like:

  • Habit change and productivity
  • The power of introverts
  • The search for personal happiness
  • Simplicity and decluttering
  • Healthy living in the face of devastating diseases like cancer

Sure there was the “occupy” movement a few years ago, but where is that now?

Is It Time to Revive Sisterhood?

Is sisterhood relevant any longer?

A few months ago, I wrote about unifying the masculine and feminine for the Joyful Wisdom Circle.  Suddenly, I felt the fire of feminism alive in my belly once again.  But it took a different form.  Maybe I should call this urge something other than “feminism” because it includes but goes beyond equal rights to consider the survival of this planet.

If I attribute any specific qualities to the feminine or masculine, I know I’m guilty of gender bias.  But let’s be honest.  For the most part, men are still in charge. During their reign, the world has gravitated dangerously toward qualities like aggression, power, and unbridled consumerism at the expense of qualities like intuition, collaboration, and nurturance.

As we collectively stand at the edge of survival, I feel sisterhood is more important than ever in taking a stand against violence – just like these women said no to violence in their town.  I feel sisterhood is more important than ever for ensuring equal rights for women around the world.  I feel sisterhood is more important than ever to give rise to an earth-centered, collaborative, and receptive mode of being that may indeed save this world from self-destruction.

Coming Together As Women

However, if we wish to revive sisterhood, we need to be intentional about it.  Men gather via the Mankind Project to focus on “building and supporting the emotionally mature, accountable, and compassionate male role models that our communities need.”

How are women gathering to reclaim their power, activate their wisdom, and engage in social action  in our current times?

If we wish to reconnect with our feminine power and act boldly on behalf of this world, it’s essential to be wary of an over-focus on the self as well.  A sole focus on the self cannot bring lasting happiness.  Whereas thinking of others naturally brings our own concerns into perspective, making them feel far less consuming, far less imprisoning.

It’s not a question of spirituality, smoothies, or simplicity versus social action.  All of these can be integrated into a balanced approach, if you wish.  In addition to sitting on meditation cushions, many Buddhists engage in social action.  My friend Maia Duerr from the Liberated Life Project blends these two aspects of working for inner and outer peace well.

But there’s not one right way either.  If you don’t work with your mind, social action can become a venue for negative emotions.  And secluding yourself in a three-year retreat provides value to the world in a way that may not be immediately obvious.

I don’t know what’s next for me in terms of sisterhood. But putting this question out in the world is one action I can take.  I would also like to support women’s rights in developing countries.  And I would like to be more aware of what’s already in motion when it comes to connecting with our sisters and our own feminine power.

So I would love to hear from you.  Do you think sisterhood is important?  If you’re a woman, how do you connect with other women?  How do you connect with and express your own feminine power and wisdom?

Just scroll down to join the conversation.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

P. S.  I’m grateful for my small tribe of women in the Joyful Wisdom Circle, where we explore mastering our own minds and hearts. Although I haven’t restricted the group to women, it’s naturally evolved that way.  Want to learn more?

Thank you for reading! If you have a moment, please share this article with others. Until next time, may you be well, happy, and safe. With love, Sandra

Can Illness Be a Path of Self-Transformation?

Illness As a Path of Self-Transformation

I hesitate to share any longer about illness on my Facebook personal profile as I inevitably receive unsolicited and unhelpful advice on how to set my thinking straight or questions like, “What on earth are you eating?”

Some people with a bent toward the Law of Attraction try to correct my thinking and my words, which according to their belief system causes my physical woes. Others offer lectures on the superiority of a vegetarian diet and imply I’m not ready for the “new awareness” because I haven’t adopted one.

I used to feel upset when I received these comments. Now that I’m growing in my self-sovereignty, I delete them.

Of course, I don’t mind people promoting their views on their own Facebook page or blog just like I do. When I visit a page or blog, I have the option to stay or to go and never return, if I wish.

But I feel invaded and invisible when people use my personal profile as a place to proselytize.

What Comes Around, Goes Around

I confess I have a history as a busybody, arrogantly assuming I could solve other peoples’ problems. No wonder I receive comments like this now! As they say, what comes around, goes around.

I finally learned that my interventions were usually not helpful. They only kept me occupied so I didn’t have to look within and heal my own life – too scary a proposition at that point.

I understand people are trying to help in their own way, just as I was. But, at least for me, this type of behavior is not helpful. I find sharing our personal stories empowering, but thinking you have the only correct approach and pushing it on others – no way!

Of course, there’s always something to learn even from cloaked criticism. I try to assimilate any truth or lesson before I hit delete and to do the latter without enmity. I also aspire to be more self-confident and less perturbed by such happenings.

Illness Is A Journey

Unless you have the capacity for profound seeing, it’s very difficult to know the best healing path for someone else. Sometimes a doctor or natural healer will give someone the right treatment, but they never have a 100% cure rate, do they? In fact, their success in numbers falls far short of that.

Also, there’s nothing “wrong” with being ill so there’s no need to rush in to fix someone else. It’s a valid path of potential self-transformation just like any life challenge. Do you want to steal that away from someone else?  Some people face financial troubles or relationship issues, addiction or problems at work. Illness is simply another path that can lead you to your true self.

Whatever path you’re on, this is your journey and your opportunity. And, resisting the journey of transformation is as much a part of the process as learning to embrace it.

As Kris Carr, who has been thriving while co-existing with a slow-growing Stage 4 cancer for more than 10 years, has said that cancer is her guru.  I’m sure she didn’t feel that way in the beginning, however – because most people go through several different emotional stages before they arrive at acceptance.  But now Carr she says:

“This WTF moment sparked a deep desire in me to stop holding back and start participating in my well-being. Though I can’t be cured, I can still be healthy — I can still feel better, love harder and have a more joyful life. So I hit the road on a self-care pilgrimage and haven’t looked back. More than a decade later, my life is more connected and magical than it was before my diagnosis.”

But even if your outcome isn’t so rosy on a physical level, it doesn’t mean you haven’t succeeded in transforming your heart and mind – the only truly important outcome in this life.

When it comes to change, healing, and transformation, it takes as long as it takes. No one can figure it out for you. They might be able to give you pieces of the puzzle or lead you to the right door, but you still have to do the physical, mental, emotional, and energetic work. These elements work synergistically. Without one, the whole shebang might fail.

And don’t forget karma. There’s a timeframe attached to each karma. However, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck forever. You can shape your future by being intentional with your thoughts, words, and actions now. But when it comes to past karma, sometimes you have to wait it out. Acceptance (not resignation) makes this easier.

There may indeed come a moment when the karma exhausts itself and the situation suddenly shifts. So don’t get stuck in impossible or forever thinking either. It’s all about lightly holding what appears to be paradoxical.

The Healing Power of Mind

Although I don’t believe in the Law of Attraction (here are 4 reasons why), I do believe in the healing power of mind.

In a recent talk, contemporary spiritual teacher Prem Baba said the miracle of healing can occur through faith in the ultimate alone. The body is made of the 5 elements – earth, water, fire, air, and space – which can be manipulated through faith and alignment with your spiritual essence.

But, he adds, if you don’t have faith, you need medicine. And, sometimes your faith can bring you to the right medicine. He encourages his students to use natural medicine, but he says sometimes allopathic medicine is needed. Every case is different.

And that’s the key point: Every case is different so don’t presume you know what’s best for someone else.

The path of illness is an opportunity to learn to trust yourself. Only you know for certain, what’s the right approach for you. Some people heal cancer through hardcore surgery, radiation, and drugs. Others, juice it to death. Different formulas work for different people so there can’t be a single right way.

In any case, healing is not just about the physical outcome. It’s about what you learn, how you grow, and the way you transform your heart and mind along the way.

What are your thoughts about illness as an opportunity?  Do you believe in the healing power of mind?  Just scroll down to join the conversation.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you for reading! If you have a moment, please share this article with others. Until next time, may you be well, happy, and safe. With love, Sandra

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