827th Week: Cultivating Empathy, Along with Kindness
Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

827th Week: Cultivating Empathy, Along with Kindness

I often write about the importance of kindness. An essential companion to that practice is cultivating empathy. A definition of empathy found on google says: “Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. … “ I would add to this definition, “…and the ability to imagine what any other living being might be thinking or feeling…”

Because I have focused on cultivating a deepened awareness of heart perception in recent years, on the quality of intelligence that naturally arises when orienting to the heart brain, I find that it hurts my heart when I notice the increasing lack of expressions of empathy in public and social spheres of my American culture. And, this lack of empathy is not only focused on a wide array of our human kin. It also applies to many, if not most, of our other earth-kin. What often saddens me is how a lack of empathy leads to a lack of kindness, as well.

For this week’s practice, I invite you to pay more attention to your relationship with empathy. One way to do this is to ask your heart brain, rather than your head brain, what someone else might be feeling or experiencing. I find that heart intelligence has a different take on, or brings different qualities to, most experiences. In this week’s practice, notice what happens if you take the time to ask your heart what it has to say about someone else’s experience.

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826th Week: Being, Doing, and Self-Talk
Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

826th Week: Being, Doing, and Self-Talk

As I write this practice, it is vigorously snowing outside and I am deeply grateful to be tucked in and warm. As I watch the snow fall, I find myself pondering something that came up recently and that is the relationship between, and differences around, being and doing. 

This got me to thinking about the importance of how we be and that our being is so much more important than our doing. That doesn’t mean doing doesn’t play a significant role in how we engage and impact the world, but it seems to me that the bottom line really focuses on the quality and tone of our being.

I’ve said before that our internal self-talk is a form of self-hypnosis and that the quality of our self-talk plays a major role in determining the quality of our internal life, of our felt-sense of who and how we are in the world. There are many practices that invite us to track our self-talk, along with suggestions as to how we might shift from self-critical internal conversations to those that reflect acceptance, support, and gratitude for who and how we are. Some are from cognitive therapy approaches and some are from the ever-expanding influence of mindfulness practices.

For this week’s practice, first, I invite you to become even more aware of the internal conversations you have with yourself and to notice how these moments of self-talk affect you. Do they lift you up and make you feel more able to engage the world, to dive into activities and projects that nourish you, to help you settle into a deeper sense of comfort with yourself? Or, do these moments of self-talk drag you down, generate shame, or make you feel that you want to avoid connecting with your world?

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825th Week: Offering Appreciation to Nature
Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

825th Week: Offering Appreciation to Nature

As I did some exercise in Central Park the other day, I came to a tree that I wanted to greet, so I put my hand on it and kind of leaned in and thanked the tree for being such an important presence in my life. I also asked the tree to extend my appreciation to all the other trees in the park. Together, they create an environment in which we humans can find a degree of comfort and inspiration. As I talked with the tree, a woman walked by and said, “I do that, too!” As I turned to face her, she said it again and we both commented on how lucky we are to have the park as a living part of our urban lives.

Continuing on, I noticed how many other elements of the park speak to me and offer a sense of belonging to something so much more than my individual human self. I noticed, and have as park friends, some of the large boulders that are found throughout Central Park. I also noted and appreciated, as I always do, the earth under my feet, this precious earth. Then, there are the squirrels, hawks, pigeons, rats, and other wildlife who inhabit the park and who appear here and there as I walk along. No insects to honor at this time of year, but they’ll be back come Spring.

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824th Week: Returning to Steadiness Revisited
Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

824th Week: Returning to Steadiness Revisited

With all that has happened in the United States since January 6th, it seems a good time to revisit the process of returning to steadiness. Also, it’s a time to keep in mind that where we place our awareness and attention has an impact on the quality of reality that we experience and engage.

For many of us, it’s challenging to even begin to imagine how we will collectively heal the polarities and divisions we see not only in the United States, but all around the planet. I have framed this current situation as a potential “healing crisis”, where we are seemingly stuck in a collective situation that seems not to have an easy or ready solution.

In my recent return to explorations into dynamics that are more “quantum” in nature, I have been inviting myself to be curious as to how to orient myself to the idea of an “optimal human family” living on the planet in ways that support healthy living for everyone, including our non-human earth-kin. I’ve done this in much the same way as I have worked with the concept of the “optimal future self” over the past almost 40 years. 

When I think of the idea of an “optimal human family”, I recognize that I have no way to envision specifics around this potential. So, drawing on what I have done with the “optimal future self” over all these years, I find myself calling on this potential, more than imagining it, and asking for it to move into this reality, holding the assumption that such a process is possible.

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