05/12/2010 12:40 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Loving Out Loud, Even With Impossible People

None of us comes to this moment without standing on the ground others have cleared. So, let me begin by acknowledging a few: Andriette Earl, (, who pointed me to the tracks of the great Howard Thurman, and his heart-opening work, and meditations. His words came back to me last week, after reading HP readers response to my piece "Are You Being Too Mean to Yourself?" Dr. Mia Rose, sums it up:
"It seems to me, that what you're proposing is a life of authenticity. One where we slow down enough to work out what our deepest feelings are and what we truly need, then allow ourselves fulfillment and healing without the guilt that usually goes with filling our own cup.
It reminds me of a session I had with a client just this passing week who told me how much he values kindness towards others, yet he couldn't bring himself to be kind to himself. It made me wonder how we get so disconnected that kindness becomes a one-way street. Like holding a torch, we shine the light away from us while remaining in the dark.

Personally I try to stay in the moment more, and I really have become less mean to myself, but it remains a constant challenge. The gentler I am with myself, however, and the more I allow myself to refuel, the more I settle into tolerance and patience and love."

From where I sit, the question is not only the disconnection, but what do we do to return to the only thing that will save us? I do believe Thurman provides a crucial answer.
I'm referring to his haunting line: "I want to be more loving in my heart...."

Me, too. Nowhere do I notice the need for me to be more loving in my heart than when I've gone astray,, become the judge and jury when it suits my monkey mind, who, apparently at that moment, was feeling neglected, and underemployed. The first of two such cases occurred in the past few days, to illustrate my point.

Scenario #1, Woodinville, Washington, in a Top Foods parking lot while waiting for my husband in the car. Around the corner came a white t-shirt/blue jeans clad man, holding a little girl in pink hoody and pants, as he hurried between tightly parked SUV's. Suddenly, I hear this crash, glass shattering and a loud male voice yell the s-word, in rapid succession. Rolling down the window, I asked if I could help. To which his response was rage looking for a place to land: "Nothing can help! Kids are such a pain in the a--! They're always making trouble, causing problems!" Whereupon, crew-cut guy turns to his little child, now with chocolate brown eyes wide as saucers, and says: "Look what you made me do! It's all your fault! Now the whole bottle of wine is ruined and under this lady's car." By now, tears are rolling down her cheeks.

Meanwhile, I'm hearing Thurman's words: "I want to be more loving in my heart," and Mia's, "Personally I try to stay in the moment more, and I really have become less mean to myself, but it remains a constant challenge." Only I'm thinking, what can I do with this rage-aholic, to deflect the flames of his vitriol from this child and me so we don't gut scorched? How can I be more loving in my heart? Because, I assure you, I've condemned this guy, by now, to the Planet of Bad Parents. Breathe in, breathe out. Warp-speed meditation. Return to center. I relate to how it is when I'm in too big a hurry, too annoyed with myself for trying to do too much, in too little time, and then an accident happens.

The next instant, my answer came swiftly: performing what I call "pattern interrupts."
Turning to the child, I said: "My, what beautiful eyes you have. What's your name?" To him, I added: "Her name?" "Willa," he grunts. "Beautiful name, Willa. You must be so proud of her. It takes a lot to be a good parent, especially when there's more than enough stress going around for everybody these days. I'll bet Willa is a real comfort for you, with so many people wanting children and not so lucky." Not wasting another second for his answer, I return to Miss Willa: "Sweetheart, one thing's for certain. You are a very good little girl, aren't you, (she nods 'yes,') and I know that you didn't want that bottle to drop, either. Aren't we glad no one got hurt? That must have been mighty scary. I'm sure your papa was so frightened that you might get hurt, weren't you?" I said, glancing his way. Again, not waiting for a response, I continue with her. By now, we are in lock-down eye contact mode: "You know, Willa, the good thing about messes is that they can be cleaned up, no problem, not like when people get really hurt. Look, there's a guy from the store. Would you like me to help you get his help?" I hail the worker down, and he dives into action, assuring the customer he can return to the store for a replacement, no charge.

The point is, we get chances everyday to practice Howard's longing. Twenty-four hours later, I'm at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, and hear a father racing out the gate in the other direction, a good 20 feet ahead of his 7-8 year old son running to catch up. Dad shout's over his shoulder at the crying boy: "Life just sucks! Get used to it. That's how it is. Deal with it." Now, can you just imagine the beliefs this child, like Willa, is probably forming?

What can we do in situations like this? Sure, sure, I know that people say this isn't smart, with so many toting guns, knives, whatever, these day, but I think of your wise words, HP readers, as well as others, who inspire me just when I need them most. Never think for a moment, that your words don't matter. They are among the most powerful antidotes we've got to ameliorate the sting of cruelty, either self-inflicted, or towards others. As I caught myself, again, in judgment of parent number two, Desmond Tutu's word-medicine circled down the hallways of my mind:
"We must care for one another in order to survive."

Anthropologists refer to this as "obligatory gregariousness," meaning, the way
the herd survives by sticking together, improving our survival and emotional well-being. So, while I might not like how another person is treating an innocent, I must remember that I am in the path for a reason. I can pretend that we are not part of the same herd. I can remain silent, and do nothing, telling myself that it's not my child. Or, I can choose to believe that our children, as well as other innocents, are part of us, and sometimes require someone older to bear witness to what is unfolding, and recall that what 'befalls you,' befalls me.

Sure, maybe family members and people you know will call you nuts. That's not our business, is it? Ram Dass has a way of putting the need for their approval in perspective:

"You'll know when you're enlightened because your family thinks you are."

Authenticity Take-aways:
1. If I stay silent when someone is being harmed, then I become a perpetrator, too.
2. When I stay mute in scenarios like these, I will only end up turning on myself in self-recrimination, later.
3. Love doesn't harm.
4. Love isn't victimization.
5. Love stands steady in the inquiry, focusing attention upon: "I want to be more loving in my heart."
6. Love strengthens self-confidence, empowers your words, reminding us we are all in the soup together: perpetrators, innocents, and yes, even meddlers.
7. Applying what I call 'Pattern Interruptus' can work wonders in the heat of encounters. Apply this skill by assuming the best, distracting the attention from the worst, refocusing on something that resolves the situation.
8. The only way to bring about a greater Good is to move in its direction. Dad Number One actually said, as he walked away: "I guess I over-reacted. It's just that money's hard to come by these days." Yes, "I can relate," I said. "Good thing you're holding in your arms what money cannot buy. You're a very lucky man." He smiled, and kissed Willa's cheek as he put her in their car.
9. There's always more to learn if we choose to open mind and heart.

To be continues.............
What helps you most when you come across mean acts? What have you learned? Take the 21 Day Challenge: No Self Mean-ness! O.K., so you'll slip now and then. Begin anew. This Challenge is a process, not an exercise of perfection. We are taking on the practice of Self-Courtesy to discover what can come alive. Are you willing to give yourself a break? Let me know. I'm listening.
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Coming Soon! "The Art of Authenticity," "The Audacity of Love", as well as others, and a teleconference series this summer culled from your requests and comments.

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