Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Compassion in the Face of Evil

Watching the news often catches me aware. I am horrified by the reported actions of others. I generally try to stay away from calling something evil, but lately I do not know how to describe some actions as other than reprehensible, and, yes, evil. I do not understand how some people self righteously hurt others. This premeditated behavior has me questioning how I can be compassion’s presence in a world gone awry.

As I hear the words of reaction pouring out of my mouth and toward the broadcaster flickering on the television screen, I recognize that I am judging instead of knowing that at the core of the violent behavior is suffering. I forget that I can judge the behavior as hurtful while compassionately holding the perpetrator accountable for their actions. In my angst and anger, my spark of compassion seems to extinguish. 

After minutes, or hours, of angst, I feel it — that warm glow of my compassion spark resurrecting. In that moment I am suffused with the joy-filled knowing that my spark of compassion can never be extinguished. In times of great angst, it provides a pathway to the release of toxins from my body, mind, spirit, and heart. Toxicity levels lowered, compassion flows through my being re-igniting the fire in my heart. Now comes the hardest part — arguing with myself over just how to be compassion's presence to a perpetrator of suffering.

Acknowledging my own personal struggle opens me to being compassionate to both perpetrator and victim. It is easy to practice compassion to one whose suffering is visible — who has been directly harmed. For the perpetrator, I must find the grace to stop objectifying them and fashion my compassionate response. 

Compassion is not possible unless I acknowledge the behavior is somewhere along the continuum from disturbing to downright reprehensible. Compassion asks that I do not justify or excuse the behavior; rather, that I seek ways to alleviate suffering that stems from its roots. That suffering is present in both the victim and the perpetrator.

My personal reflection propels me into my own dark side, my shadow. I recognize that I wouldn’t be so angry unless the behavior touched something in me. I search for what their behavior is pinging off of in me. I identify what judgments I make, how I defend my own beliefs, and how I objectify people based upon their behavior. And, then I find the deeply hidden, repulsive glimmer of who I do not want to be, but who I am. The behavior might not be the same, but the energy of the glimmer resonates with the actions of the other.

Before I am able to show compassion to the other, I have to acknowledge the roots of my own woundedness — of the suffering inside myself that unconsciously informs my reactions toward the one I would objectify. Through the practice of self-compassion I not only heal myself, but I become a font of strength. By owning my shadow, compassion is my response even when I struggle to judge or condemn another for their actions.

Compassion requires mindfulness. Unless we are aware of our judgments of others and defenses of our self, we are unable to be compassion’s presence in a polarized, increasingly violent world. With the stance of the objective observer, we are able to maintain a balanced compassion core while recognizing how the actions of another trigger us. Instead of thinking negative thoughts or saying hurtful words about the person who exhibits disturbing behavior, our initial thoughts are, “How can I alleviate the suffering that they spewed? And, how much the perpetrator, must suffer.” Those thoughts trigger compassion of the person not of their action.

Objective, we do not judge. We do not defend. Our energy is no longer held hostage by suppositions and assumptions. We are really free to notice what is happening. No matter how terrible, how evil, how bad the behavior is, the armor of our objectivity protects us from engaging in ways that exacerbate the other’s behavior. We do not become part of the escalation; the person’s behavior is their own.

Being compassionate in these circumstances never equals agreement. Because we refuse to enable, we may be judged as devoid of compassion. But, our compassion is present on the deepest levels. We hold space for the person to experience the breadth of their behavior — to learn the life lesson, no matter how difficult or painful, that is inherent in the bad behavior.

The compassion of “I love you enough” holds a person accountable for their actions. We trust that, with compassion, the perpetrator comes to know the ramifications of their behavior.  Even if they do not, we do not allow our self to be consumed by the angry face of evil perpetrated. 

The compassion of “I love you enough,” for me, is the most difficult form of compassion. I am required to be gentle and love unconditionally while not enabling another person’s hurtful behavior. Being compassion in this way is not easy, but it is our most deeply authentic practice of compassion.  

Vanessa F. Hurst, ms, is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who weaves her inner wisdom into all she touches. Vanessa offers Neural Synchrony™ sessions to assist clients in navigating their life paths with intuition.  Contact Vanessa @ hurst.vanessa@gmail.com 

Website / LinkedIn Profile / Facebook / Twitter: @fyrserpent / ©2017

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Intuitive Awareness: Heart-Soul Perception

The world we live in is amazing. When we get stuck in the routine of the day, we miss opportunities to see the wonder. By listening with the ears of our heart and seeing through the eyes of our soul, we move beyond the mundane. With a shift of perception we are propelled into the extraordinary.  Through this heart-soul perception, we access our inner wisdom — our intuition. 

Now, I can almost see the creaking door of denial edging shut. I can almost feel that denial rising from the depth of being. I hear some of you say, “Me? I am not intuitive.” But, intuition, whether conscious or unconscious, is the chief navigator of our life. Throughout the day we respond to our intuition in ways that we may not even be aware.

How do we move from unconsciously reacting to intentionally responding with our intuition? By accepting that we are intuitive, identifying intuitive cues, deciphering the meaning of our inner wisdom, and responding to the received message with gentle love. These 4-steps are not linear; rather, each is occurs at any point in the cycle of evolving intuitive awareness. 

Accepting: Acknowledge that you are intuitive. You fall some where along the intuitive awareness continuum. Accept that no matter where you fall upon the continuum, you are evolving as you gain additional intuitive skills. Perhaps your abilities are not as physically evident as another’s. You may not see auras or hear voices. This does not mean that you are not psychically connected to your intuition. Your intuition may manifest in ways you are not aware. It often is an inner knowing that rises into your consciousness.

Try: Each morning when you wake, affirm, “I am intuitive. My intuition makes itself known to me at least three times today.” Then notice how it manifests. Make notes how your received your inner knowing and the message.

Identifying: Sometimes we receive information without being aware of how our inner knowing informs our actions. It may present in the words of a friend or a physical reaction in the body. Unless we are mindful, we miss these intuitive cues. When we are mindfully aware, we are better able to identify the cues of our inner wisdom. 

Try: Close your eyes and attend to your breathing. With each inhale, bring your breath deeper into your body until you are taking belly breaths. As your breath travels throughout your body, notice any sensations. Are there messages in those sensations? Open your eyes. Let your awareness go to where it needs to go. Note what your are drawn to. 

Deciphering: At times we get information that seems to be more of a distraction and less of an intuitive knowing. Or, we may recognize a nudge but have no idea what is it telling us. Instead of negating or ignoring the message we receive, we remain objective and openminded to any information. With this stance, we are better able to increase our awareness and decode the message. It becomes easier to recognize additional cues.

Try: When you recognize an intuitive message, ask yourself what it is saying. If you are unsure, look up the word’s definition, consult a dream dictionary, or look up the symbolic meaning. Ask for additional information. Listen to the words of another to discern the meaning of your inner knowing. I also journal to find meaning. There is no right or wrong way to uncover the meaning of your inner wisdom. Deciphering takes practice.

Respond: Every intuitive nudge we receive requires a response. It might mean being loving and gentle even when you feel like reacting in harsh and cruel ways. Our response is fashioned through asking, “How is the inner wisdom requiring me to act?” Our answer is an echo of our authentic self. And, each time we respond instead of react, our connection to our intuition strengthens.

Try: Name an intuitive morsel you have deciphered. Ask yourself, “How am I called to respond?” (Even if you are unable to answer this question definitively, respond to the best of your ability. It is not that you are lacking in intuition. You might not have all the information needed to decipher the message). Our intuition guides us into the most loving, gentle response. It powers our honest response in difficult situations. We have only to trust.

Intuitive awareness is not for the faint hearted. It requires courage, trust, and curious daring. When we connect with our intuition, we peer into the extraordinary world. We see the amazing and are given opportunities to respond in loving, gentle, transformative ways. Through our inner wisdom we are not longer stuck within the chaos; we journey the path of transformation.  

Vanessa F. Hurst, ms, is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who weaves her inner wisdom into all she touches. Vanessa offers Neural Synchronysessions to assist clients in navigating their life paths with intuition.  Contact Vanessa @ hurst.vanessa@gmail.com 

Website / LinkedIn Profile / Facebook / Twitter: @fyrserpent / ©2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Window Of Possibility: Pause, Silence, Focus

and if one door opens to another door closed, I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window. My Wish, Rascal Flats

Opening a door of hoped-for possibility only to find another door closed is disheartening. Feeling that stagnant air of dashed hopes is something we have all experienced a time or two. That moment where instead of finding limitless possibility, we find seemingly no possibility is pivotal. We can choose to continue to be mired in despair or navigate into a new, better way.

Instead of being frustratingly stuck in a stagnant place of disappointment, our inner voice can guide us to the open window. No matter where we find our self, no matter how stuck we feel, we can find that window. While this discovery may seem improbable in the face of yet another disappointment, trusting there are the options prepares us to find them. Trust powers the pause, our ability to rest in the silence, and the focus our awareness on the breeze of possibility.

Pause: Enter the pause by focusing on the breath and noting any somatic, emotional, and mental reactions. Ranging anywhere from several seconds to hours, the pause is a time to regroup. As we withdraw from the current situation, we gain the power to objectively notice what is happening in our life and how the circumstances have impacted and continue to impact us. We identify how we react and how we respond to these disappointments.

Silence: Once we attend to the breath, a gateway to silence is created. In this place unrecognized possibilities lay dormant. Here our frazzles are soothed. In the silence we become aware of distractions. A new focal point appears as we move away from distractions. The ebb and flow of silence washes over us coaxing us into a place of wide openness and increased awareness. Once calmed, we feel the gentle wafting breeze, and sometimes gale force winds, of possibility.

Focusing: The natural progression of pausing and resting in the silence is an increase of awareness. As we focus our attention, we are able to reset our angst. Once we are calm, we are able to actively search for the gentle breeze wafting through the revealed window. As our inner wisdom wafts through the window, we are showered with sparks of possibility. These may occur as a renewed ability to reframe the current situation or our attention may be drawn to something out of the ordinary. 

We further relax as previously named dire straits are reframed to curious adventure. No longer do we hold so tightly to the old way of doing things. We see potential. Through the pause, silence, and focus, we open to approaching life differently. With courage we edge closer to the window, peep over the sill, and peer into a world of possibility. And, maybe, just maybe, we open the window, climb onto the ledge, and leap into the waiting world knowing that our wings of possibility unfurl in our daring.

Just like that, we move beyond locked doors and unknown possibilities to a wide openness of living in innovative, transformative ways. 

May you see the window, 

Vanessa F. Hurst, ms, is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who weaves her inner wisdom into all she touches. Contact Vanessa @ hurst.vanessa@gmail.com 

Website / LinkedIn Profile / Facebook / Twitter: @fyrserpent / ©2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Intent & Action: Gentle Encouragement

Sleepwalking through life is increasingly the human condition. For many reasons, it is just too difficult to be in the present moment. Our day becomes a routine to get through. We miss the small things that make big differences. We multitask: texting or talking into the screen of our phone while driving, going to the grocery and forgetting why we are there, trying to do too much and not doing much well. In our multitasking, we miss what is important — being in the moment.  

Being in the moment requires mindfulness. This way of being awake physically yet not aware of life blooming is the antithesis of mindfulness. Instead of being in the moment, we try to stuff as much into the moment. In doing so, we miss opportunities to recognize and fulfill our needs and the needs of others. Lost in a maelstrom of minutia, we focus on our wants and lose our self in the storm. Those fragile life blooms, only possible in the moment, are blown away.

We do not need to be battered by the storm. Simple steps move us from sleepwalking to hyperawareness. This is the state where we really see with our entire being. Instead of merely living in the world, we actively engage the world around us. We rest in the eye of the storm and choose how we will respond to the maelstrom instead of haphazardly engaging it. 

Peering past the mundane, we see how truly extraordinary the world is. We see the veins on the individual leaves of a tree and marvel at their beauty. We hear the joyful laughter of a child. We respond to that beauty instead of trying to accomplish too much in too little time. We not only recognize opportunities for gentle encouragement but we also respond to them with lovingkindness.

Within the extraordinary, we are hyperaware of the harried expression of a mother or uncertainty reflected in the face of a colleague. Instead of ignoring or discounting these cues, we respond with lovingkindness and connect soul to soul. Recognizing that we are not separate, we act with gentle encouragement. We are compassion.

Even if our initial thought is that we cannot make a difference, this is soon quashed by our awareness. We recognize that no action is too small — even a gentle word of encouragement has a profound impact on another person. What we see as small may, in fact, be a tipping point in the life of the other person. A gentle encouragement is a light that anchors us into the present moment while giving us the strength to move forward.

Gentle encouragement doesn’t begin out there. It begins with our self. To transform the world, we need first to transform our self with lovingkindness. Waking up, we are prepared to be in this world as an active, engaged participant. Once awake we are alert — in a constant state of vigilance ready to be a font of lovingkindness. 

But, vigilance is not our end destination. The natural outcome of being awake and alert is to truly be alive. In our aliveness, we act upon what we discover in our vigilance. We respond with gentle encouragement. Each moment we respond to the other, we move beyond the mundane and are alive to the extraordinary. This is a place where we slow down and are truly in the moment. 

The extraordinary powers our lovingkindness. The other is no longer objectified; instead, they become part of the “we” — an active, respected, engaged member of community. Relationship is powered by a gentle encouragement offered to our self and to others. In this community, we support one another in our effort to be awake, alert, and alive. 

Vanessa F. Hurst, ms, is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who weaves her inner wisdom into all she touches. Contact Vanessa @ hurst.vanessa@gmail.com 

Website / LinkedIn Profile / Facebook / Twitter: @fyrserpent / ©2017


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sow Love, Reap Compassion in the Ground of Being

The ground of our being is love. Thomas Merton has written about this time and time again. In moments of reflection, I wonder what I would find on an expedition into the ground of my being. Would I find love? Or, would I find something else?

Let’s take an adventure together. Me to the ground of my being and your to yours as we see, feel, hear — really experience — what we seeds we plant and what we harvest in the ground of our being. Each inhalation forges a path to the cores of our being. Exhaling we release the blocks, the barriers, whatever prevents us for from being the person we truly are.

Continue to breath as you get closer and closer to your ground. Notice how the landscape changes as you near your core. Perhaps you are deep in a seemingly impenetrable jungle, maybe an arid desert, or perhaps you find yourself in your backyard. Wherever you find yourself is the place between the illusion your present and your authentic self. Once you step into the ground of your being, just notice.

What did I discover? For a while I seemed to be struggling to make any headway through a dense forest. The underbrush scratched my legs. The gnats buzzed around my head. I found myself frustrated until a voice within reminded me, “these are your challenges.” And, I realized I needed to let go of my need to get where I was going. I needed to give up control. What I needed was to be in the moment and experience the journey. 

The brush didn’t immediately thin out nor did the gnats miraculously disappear. As I let go of control, my perception shifted. Peering into the underbrush, I saw berries clinging to spindly branches. Flowers unfurled. Instead of the annoying buzz of gnats, I heard a song urging me on through the challenges as I edged nearer to the ground of my being. With each breath I relaxed. I became more and more curious about what I was finding in the moment on my trek to the ground of my being.

Then I arrived. Stepping into the soil, I noticed that the ground was fertile in some places and barren in others. Fecund where I was in harmony with myself. Barren when I struggle to find my authentic self. And, I discovered piles and piles of compost created from challenges successfully met and life lessons learned.

After seeing and smelling that compost, I realized that I was not just a tourist in the ground of my being. I was the master gardener. So, I took another breath and looked at the beauty surrounding me. The vibrancy of colors, the sun of my spirit warming, nurturing, bringing me to life, the crystal clear water of my lake-soul invited me to step deeper into my authentic self. I surveyed the beauty that was truly me. Within the beauty, I discovered little illusions. I carefully removed any deadheads and weeds. 

With another breath, I gathered my tools of courage, and with curious daring ventured to a barren spot. Getting down on my knees, I plucked a plant or two that did not authentically represent me. I dug into the ground and worked in a bit of compost — new life into the tired, the depleted landscape. 

On my next breath came a bag of  seeds that I carefully dusted into the renewed soil. I intentionally covered them. I sprinkled water from the lake of my soul onto the seeds. Letting go of the illusion that I was a tourist who views the beauty in the garden, I became the master gardener who gives life to the ground of my being.  

Within this ground I found unconditional love — love of who I am authentically and love for the illusions that give me room to learn and grow. This is my ground. Mind. And, only I can cultivate it in the ways that grow love. In nurturing this love, I reaps the seeds of compassion that I can give to other master gardeners. Together we create a community garden of sown with love and giving us a harvest of compassion.

What does the ground of your being look like?  

Vanessa F. Hurst, ms, is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who weaves her inner wisdom into all she touches. Contact Vanessa @ hurst.vanessa@gmail.com .

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bridging Intent & Action

Lately when I hear the word compassion, I wonder how some described actions correlate with ability to alleviate suffering. These actions seem to go beyond the practice of the compassion of “I love you enough” or not enabling a person but instead supporting them as they move through their suffering in order to meet a challenge. While I understand and have practiced the philosophy of “I love you enough” compassion, I do not see how something that has the potential to cause hurt, harm, and additional suffering can be considered compassionate. 

I wonder what the intent behind the action is. I wonder if the person who is being self-proclaimed “compassionate” understands what is at the roots of their intent. Knowing and being honest about your intent comes in really handy when sharing compassion in difficult situations. Identifying your intent requires more than just a superficial statement of the motives behind your actions. It requires looking honestly into the ground of your being while recognizing that the verbalized intent may not be the true intent. 

What we believe is intent, at times, is a manifestation of our fears. Digging into the ground of our being, we uncover the roots of our intent. Through these roots, we identify the truth of our intent. We might see that the bridge that connects our so called intent to our actions is an illusion. That our intent may not be compassion but survival of some illusionary aspect of our self at the expense of others. Once intent is identified, the next step is to see how well it correlates with actions. 

What is intent? How does it correlate authentically with action? Let’s start with definitions. 

Intent is a state of mind that creates the foundation of purpose. We might have a specific intent such as completing an assigned task. We also have a macro intent. This overarching state of being is our life purpose or how we live from a set of core values. My overarching intent is to be compassionate. 

Our action is reflected in all our thoughts, words, and deeds. With every breath and in every moment, we act. Unless we are mindful, our intent may not inform our actions. Overwhelmed by the busyness of the day, our intent is often lost amid our reactionary behavior. We may question how we got to this place of reaction that does not accurately reflect our intent.

Bridging our intent and action begins with a simple questions. 

  • “What is my intent?” Discovering the answer may be anything but simple. But, until we acknowledge lies at the foundation of each action, we find our bridge from intent to action unnavigable. 
  • After naming this intent, we ask, “What are the core values that guide our intent?” Understanding the connection between our value system and our intent, gives us the power of choice. 
This is a choice of response or reaction. Do we choose to get swept away from the moment and away from the opportunity of response? When we are not present our triggers propel us into reactionary behavior. Instead of looking at what is the root of the anger, angst, or frustration, we hurt our self and others through our actions. Our bridge of intent and actions becomes rickety.

When mindful, our core values root us deeply in a place where we can connect our intent and action. Anchored into the moment we stop potential reactions and form responses. In our mindfulness, we notice triggers. We reflect upon what was behind our initial desire to react. Often these roots are fears — of being wrong, of not being lovable, of not fitting in — the list is endless. 

Once the roots are identified, we can use tools like the 90-second pause* to lessen our high emotions thus moving from reaction to response. Our response is the true mirror of our intent. Each response creates patterns of mindful interaction. Our response flexibility strengthens. 

Although bridging our intent and action is a means of living from our core values, is has a variety of benefits. Each time we connect our intent and action, we increase our brain plasticity. We strengthen neural pathways of response and synaptically prune pathways of reactions. Through this connection we become better at identifying our triggers and mitigating their negatives effects. 

When we bridge our intent and action, our life is a reflection of our core values — we show the world the person we are deep inside our self. The end result is increased connectivity to our self and the world around us. Our response flexibility is enhanced and we are more resilient.

* The 90-second pause is a way of stopping and paying attention to how the triggers of the world are pulling you from the moment. Set a timer for 90 seconds. Breathe and notice how you are impacted in your body, mind, spirit, and emotions to an event. Don’t hold on to what is happening, be an objective observer. It you do not allow the distraction to catch you, it will be easier to stay in the moment. 

Vanessa F. Hurst, ms, is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who weaves her inner wisdom into all she touches. Contact Vanessa @ vanessa@intentandaction.com

Website / LinkedIn Profile / Facebook / Twitter: @fyrserpent / ©2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Free to Be: You & Me

“I want to be like you,” she said.

“I want to be like me, too…the me who dances to the rhythm of my truth…who sings compassion’s lullaby…who lives with curious daring.” said I. “And, I want you to be like you.”

This world is a narrow avenue lined high with tottering boxes of expectations and fears. Who we are might not fit neatly into those boxes. In those moments of authenticity those boxes threaten to cascade upon our heads. Illusion or authenticity? It seems either choice comes with pitfalls of suffering. 

Our community, culture, even workplaces can have expectations of us that are difficult if not impossible to meet. Maybe we can breathe through the fear of not meeting those expectations only to discover that we are living in relationship with family, a partner, or a friend who has subtle expectations we have been valiantly trying to live up to. We might not even be aware that our life was fashioned in another’s image. In an effort to be those expectations, we lose our self.

For a while we may delude our self into being okay with the illusion we have cast. We may convince our self that this is a new, better version of our authentic presence. We might even believe that we are the person others expect us to be. Our outward appearance may reflect the illusions: high heels and short skirts, toning down a hairstyle, removing piercing, covering up tattoos. We may change our spirituality and attend a church that is outside our belief system. We may stifle our political views.

And, we kept telling our self consciously and unconsciously that we have to be open minded. Maybe the other person or society knows us better than we know our self. Maybe the experience based upon another’s expectations is an important part of our journey to authenticity. Maybe, just maybe, that box is an okay home. We say to our self, “Even if I believe that being wild and free is better than being domesticated, I am probably wrong.” 

No matter how much we talk our self into the new, improved illusion, the tremors at the core of our being are felt. The more we refuse to identify that this new way is an illusion not a reflection of who we are, the stronger the quakes. We look for the causes of those quakes never quite realizing that they are the voice of our authenticity screaming to be heard.

These quakes shake loose our confidence. We may be filled with fear and feelings that we are not quite enough. The more we deny or ignore these internal rumblings, the greater the chaos. The tectonic plates shift with increasing violence. In the resulting explosion, anger spews from deep inside. We may react violently to others or the anger may spiral the illusion of who we are not deeper into our being. Despair fills us.

This anger brings with it the message of freedom. No matter how much we attempt to dampen it, this anger will not be denied. Unless we make changes shifting the reaction to a response, it continues to punch through our barriers and explode outward. Others are caught in the shrapnel of anger. Of course, they have no clue that this anger is your reaction to the illusions that trap you. Your anger ignored had no other option but to punch a hole from which the illusion could seep. Your anger was the voice that says, “I want to be free to be me.” 

Free to Be Me. The illusion of who we are not need not end in an anger-generated explosion. We can choose to love our self, be self-compassionate, and be courageously authentic. These will be the acid that eats through the illusion before it takes root. This trifecta shines the light on our truth. And, with our truth exposed and accepted, we can forgive our self for falling into the illusion cast by expectations of others.

Our authentic self beats a rhythm of compassion, courage, and curious daring. Joy is the melody that awakens the possibility of who we are. We fly on the wings of courage and curious daring as we share our self with the world. We soar into freedom. Free to be me. Free to be you.

“I want to be like me,” she said.

“I want to be like me, too,” I said. 

Together we are free.

Vanessa F. Hurst, ms, is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who weaves her inner wisdom into all she touches. Contact Vanessa @ hurst.vanessa@gmail.com.

Website / LinkedIn Profile / Facebook / Twitter: @fyrserpent / ©2017