Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Stoke The Wildfire of Transformation: The Winds of Change

The winds of Change swirl around my feet. Like  the crips yellowish leaves of autumn, Change pokes and prods. Does change urge me on or encourage me to stop and pause?

The winds of Change muss my hair creating a tangled, tousled mess. Hair in my eyes, I cannot quite see what lies just in front of me. Should I comb my hair, clear the tangle from my eyes or trudge blindly on? 

The winds of Change are gale force in one moment and a gentle caress the next. Just when I find my balance in the bluster, the winds diminish to a breeze. Should I anchor myself against the wind or allow it to carry me forward? 

I wake up in the early morning at 3:27 a.m. and feel the drums of change pounding in my head. In the recesses of my mind a voice whispers, “Hail Mary, Full of Grace,” and I whisper along. Not knowing why the words or there or why I chant, I trust and do. Is the message that I, too, am filled with grace?

In moments when the fear of change crashes over me like a tsunami, I feel myself being carried out to the sea of the unknown. Being dragged below the waves, one…two…three, I choose not to drown. Instead I breathe into the strand that connects me to the Sacred. Will this connection bring safety?

As my breath travels from my nostrils into my lungs and throughout my blood vessels, this tiny, infinitesimal, particle of the Sacred flows with it. It becomes the breath nestled in my breath. I feel my resistance dissipate as I become malleable to Change. Should I trust, let go, and ride Sacred’s breath into to the unknown new? 

With each breath the fire in my belly is stoked. The sparks flare throughout my being touching my fears, my self constructed boundaries, my arguments. Will my defenses hold against the holy fire of those divine sparks? Or, will the fire burn away the illusion of what I am leaving me nothing but courage to meet my fears?

My fears and resistance are no real competition to this sacred wildfire racing through me. It burns off the old, the dead, the underbrush that was uncomfortably comforting. How free I feel when what I did not need is gone. I don’t miss what I desperately clung to. The way is cleared for the new. And, I recognize that this thing, this Change really is inevitable, isn’t it?

The wings of change feed the fire of transformation at the ground of my being. The debris of illusion burns away. I welcome change as companion to my transformation. Change is not an enemy but a most intimate stranger-friend. 

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, June 13, 2017

The Compassion of Meeting Need

Be nice. Do unto others. Treat people as you want to be treated. Navigating the day in connection with others is not an easy task. We get stuck in how we want to be treated instead of what the other person needs. Both of us wind up being frustrated. 

In my book, A Constellation of Connections: Contemplative Relationships, I invite the reader to reflect upon their relationships using two questions:
  • What do I need from a relationship?
  • What does my partner need from the relationship?

We want lots of things, but how much do we really need? Probably not nearly as much as what we want, but we get stuck in a cycle of want that eclipses our needs. (I am fond of telling people that my home is a reflection of want vs. need. I have many things that I purchased at a time when I had more money than sense.) We balance our wants and needs as partners in relationship. When we really reflect upon our wants, we discover they mask what we truly need. We begin to have “more sense” as we meet all of our needs and some of our wants.

Relationships, whether they are with significant others, friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers, all have certain foundational needs. I believe we can all agree that mutual respect and compassion are givens. And, surely treating others as you want to be treated is imperative. Really listening to the other moves us past our needs into an awareness of theirs.  

The needs of your partner may be based on the woundedness of the other. Your partner may have a history of being abandoned. They need someone who will support and love them unconditionally. Another may have a strong independent streak and needs freedom to be. Yet another may need regular doses of physical touch or affirmations. The list of what partners need in relationship is endless. 

A friend of mine refers to this way of being with another as the platinum rule. A rule more precious than gold, we are invited to listen to the words and actions of another. Through our listening we discern what they need. Of course, this listening leads to questions that, when answered honestly, bring clarification and deeper understanding. Living the platinum rule requires great communication skills. 

At times we may discover that we cannot be what the other person needs us to be. In an attempt to be what we cannot be, we are fatigued. Exhausted, we cannot even tend to our own personal needs. So, this platinum rule applies to us as well. 

Ask yourself
  • What do I need for me?
  • What is the best way for me to be in relationship with myself? 
  • What do I need in relationship with another? 

Each time we live from those answers, we increase our ability to authentically be our self. In our authenticity we can honestly be what the other person needs or be honest about our inability to be what they need in relationship. Only when we intentionally explore our needs and wants do we open to hearing the needs and wants of another. This is the basis of entering into deep lasting relationship.

At the foundation of relationship is treating our self as we want to be treated so we can honestly treat others as they want to be treated. In giving what is needed we are compassion’s presence.

For more on living in mindful relationship: A Constellation of Connections, Vanessa F. Hurst

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, June 6, 2017

From Anger To Compassionate Response

Anger…we all experience. For some of us, our reactions are like volcanoes that lay dormant until somethings triggers a spewing forth or anger lava. Others have hair triggers that explode for seemingly no reason. Then there are the ones that I admire. These people are able to respond to their anger by channelling its energy away from violent outbursts into compassionate response.

A Facebook friend suggested that instead of using the anger emoji for every post that threatened to push us past our boiling point, we use the sad emoji. Reframing our emotions allow us to get underneath our feelings of anger. As we dig deeply uncovering the tip of the root, we discover the feeling buried by our anger. Those feeling are often surprising. 

The emotions that I most often find in the taproot of my anger include:

Fear — lately the world seems like a runaway train. I am not even the engineer on this out of control train. I feel the train gaining speed and careening, but I am unable to see exactly what is happening. I feel that I have no control over what is happening. I fear the inevitable impact. 

Sorrow — I find myself wondering how I or the collective could have reach a point of impasse. I feel that there is no painless way out of the current situation. I ruminate over past choices. I am paralyzed by how I reach to my current situation. Nuances of this sorrow may be unresolved grief and unacknowledged loss.

Anxiety — as the world changes, I do not know what the future will bring. Instead of being in the moment, I run potential scenarios in my mind. Any detour, real or imagined, results in increased anxiety. I believe erroneously that the route I have chosen is the only course I can take. 

Anger is triggered by out of control feelings. The ground beneath us is moving. We put all of our energy into standing. We ignore all the overwhelming stimuli and the knowing that maybe we just need to fall to gain a different perspective. We cannot quite find balance and in our fear, our frustration, anger erupts. 

Jill Bolte Taylor in her book, My Stroke of Insight, identifies the life span of an emotion. From the time it impacts the physical body until it leaves it is approximately 90 seconds. When we get caught in those unacknowledged underlying emotions, we often misname what we are feeling. What should be 90 seconds trip though an emotion goes on much longer. Instead of the flow and subsequent ebb, anger bursts forward. Our angst and fears feeds the cycle. 

When we are in the moment, fully aware of our emotions, we stand as witness to each incoming emotion. We adopt the stance of the objective observer as we dig beneath our feelings to name the emotions at its roots. This naming alleviates some of the stress and reduces the potential explosive harm of anger. 

Circumventing the high emotions such as anger require that we know our self — body, mind, spirit, and heart. And, in the knowing, we gain the ability to identify our emotions, accurately name them, and ride the flow to the ebb. 

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, May 30, 2017

Never Doubt: You Make A Difference

Have you ever wondered if your life is just a series of moments in which you move through life from one task to another? Or, have you known in the marrow of your being that life was more? Have your realized that within each moment lies the potential to knowingly and unknowingly change the life of another? And, in living within the potential of life, you are a change agent.

All of us can name people who have made a difference in our life. One of those people is my fifth grade English teacher. After class one day she asked to speak with me. Mrs. Lueken was confused by my English class placement. Although I had always been in advanced classes, I started the year in remedial classes. She was convinced that the placement was wrong and that I would shine in advanced classes. I was placed in all of the advanced classes. She was right, I thrived in those more challenging classes. 

Within a year, I was testing at twelfth grade levels in most of my subjects. Although I had the potential, it was Mrs. Lueken’s belief in me that helped me realize it. I have never forgotten her support. It made all the difference in the choices I made as I moved from middle school and into high school. I became a voracious learner. 

Several decades after her life altering help, I wrote her a thank you note. At a high school reunion I mentioned how she had helped me and heard stories of her support of others. I am but one of many students that she encouraged over an almost five decade teaching career. To this day, I am forever grateful that she took a stand against my homeroom teacher who was adamant that I belonged in the remedial classes. 

Each of us, whether we realize it or not, has made a difference in the life of another. We may say something seemingly inconsequential only later to discover the impact. I can attest to clients and students who have shared the difference my words have made in their life. And, those are only the ones who have the courage to share my impact on my life. Not only have I made a difference, but their sharing has made a difference to me.  

Seldom do we begin the day thinking this is day I contribute to the radical transformation of the world. We may not even be aware of how the guiding hand of our intuition plays a role in our compassionate actions. But, when we are in the moment, we act in ways that are true to our essence. It is this authenticity resonating with another that opens the gates of transformation for individuals and, ultimately, the world.

As I write this, I am aware of the ultimate acts of compassion that have brought about a tsunami of difference. The three men who stopped the abuse perpetrated by a white supremacist on a commuter train in Portland call us, individually and collectively, to make a difference. Two of those three men, Ricky John Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, lost their lives making a difference. Through their actions two girls know how much they matter. The three, including Micah David-Cole Fletcher, made a big difference that spans the globe. 

Each time we stand up for another, we make a difference. In those moments our actions say, “I see you. We are one.” Each act against judgment, hatred, and victimization bring us closer together in a community. We as members of community recognize similarities and celebrate diversity by acting in ways that make a difference.

In a world that is progressively more divisive, more angry, more violent, even the smallest acts bring us together. Our only choice is clear: to peer deeply into the eyes of another and let them know that they do not stand alone. In this eye to eye connection we are less alone, too. 

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

Her books are A Constellation of Connections: Contemplative Relationships and Engaging Compassion Through Intent & Action.

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Compassion's Reward

One of my most memorable compassion learnings happened in an auditorium filled to capacity. During a lecture on compassion and science, members of the audience were reminded of our responsibilities to share compassion with the depth and breadth of our beings. Through a simple statement, the presenter emphasized that sharing this amazingly healing power is a responsibility and receiving compassion is a right. Acts of compassion are most certainly not for the privileged.

What began as a presentation about compassion and science by Matthieu Ricard soon became much more. Although his talk was inspiring, I could not tell you specifics about the content. But, the Q&A at the end of the session is etched forever into my mind. I share that moment of insight in many of my programs.

The first question was from a woman who was a social justice advocate. She began with a statement, “It is not hard for me to show compassion to those that I love, but those people who cut off mountain tops, those people who refuse to recycle, those people…” I found myself tuning her out as she droned on and on about “those people.”  

Finally, as she stopped to take a breath, Matthieu Ricard gently interjected, “Compassion is not a reward for good behavior.” 

I stopped mid-laugh as I recognized myself in her judgments about the suitability of those with whom she shared compassion. If we are honest, we probably all have a litmus test we use to judge the suffering of others. While our judgments and assumptions might not prevent us from being compassionate, our internal monologue often serves as a guide for our actions and words.

As I reflected on my thoughts and actions, I was humbled by the memories of when I had allowed by judgments, assumptions, and self-righteousness get in the way of being compassion’s presence. I rejoiced for those times that compassion won the wrestling match with my preconceived notions and I was able to be compassionate presence.

My revelations did not stop there as I remember times when I had been judged as one of “those people.” How the judgments of others burrowed deep inside me triggering even more suffering. How suffering then became a vicious spiral that wove tighter and tighter into my self. I wondered what about my behavior was truly so bad that I was undeserving of compassion. When I believed this paradigm, my suffering would worsen.

In the moments when I could rise above the suffering, I realized that being one of “those people” had nothing to do with me. Compassion had been withheld from me because someone judged — the other believed that my actions brought my suffering. That there was something that I was not doing “right,” so I was not worthy of their compassion. Internalizing this knowing, I recognized the role of our flawed humanness in the perpetuation of suffering. 

Experiencing the struggle to be compassionate and being judged as not worthy of receiving compassion have empowered me to be like Matthieu Ricard. I have, at times, been the voice of reason to others, encouraging them to look beyond the surface and see the suffering within the other person. I am my own voice of reason as well. I purposefully allow the not so apparent suffering of another to resonate within me and be compassion to that person. Matthieu reminds me that I do not have to agree with the other, or even like them, to be an alleviator of their suffering. Compassionate response is the only answer to the struggles that are the result of suffering. 

When I am the woman who objectifies others and sees the results of their actions instead of their heart, I look deeply into myself. What scabs have their behavior picked open? Which of my wounds now weep? Why am I taking their behavior so personally? When I dig into my truth to answer these questions, I discover that my own suffering is a reflection of theirs. I clean that mirror with compassion and, in doing so, let go of my need to withhold compassion. Only then am I able to stop taking what they do personally and begin to be compassion’s emissary.

When I am the other who is objectified and misunderstood, instead of lashing out, I acknowledge my hurt. Instead of the hurt boiling over, I gently soothe the suffering by acknowledging how I am feeling and embracing who I truly am. I own the suffering, the seeping wounds, while not blaming the other for their inability to be compassion’s emissary to me. And, as the ember of my compassion glows and grows, I intend that those sparks touch the one who objectified me. While my compassion might not help them; it certainly will not harm.

We give our compassion without the expectation that it changes another. Compassion must be freely given. As an emissary of compassion our only desire is to alleviate suffering. We are lights that reach into a world filled with the darkness of the wounds of suffering. With each compassionate action, we live the words of Gandhi, “my life is my message.”

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, May 16, 2017

Free Fall Into Letting Go

I used to wonder what would happen in the free fall of letting go. Would I gain speed as I plunged to the earth only to go kerplunk as I hit the bottom? Maybe I would bounce once or twice on the unforgiving ground. Or, would my wings unfurl and I would set course to the unknown just beyond the horizon? Maybe the hand of the sacred would catch me in its palm. Surrounded by the divine, I would be rejuvenated in its healing presence. 

I had experienced each of these situations in my letting go. Each experience, finding rock bottom, flying, or consciously resting in sacred embrace, all came with a particular life lesson. Perhaps I needed to be shaken up when I went splat onto the floor. But, once there I discovered the ground littered with gems of understanding and possibility. It was in the jar of letting go that opened me to what was to come.

Wings unfurling is a most exciting kind of letting go. Flying high above this mundane world, I gain a new perspective and my life situation looks totally different. I am able to see more clearly what might be when I let go of what I think I want. While this kind of letting go may be exhilarating, I take care of the cross winds that threaten to catch me. Riding the thermals of possibility I fly free into a new me.

Resting in the gentle hand, letting go happens in a safe environment. I have time to be while I calmly take a long, intentional look at my life. I know that I am not alone; that I am surrounded by guidance and assistance. Although the gentle hand of the sacred is with me as I find rock bottom or soar through the sky, I can more strongly feel divine intervention while in the hand. 

Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I cannot let go of the fear that overwhelms me. I cannot relax my grip and trust as I let go. I might even try to convince myself that I am being held onto. How can I let go if something has me in its embrace? Those moments call me to enter a heightened awareness of being awake, alert, and alive.

Awake is more than just opening your eyes and starting the day. This awake is noticing the world in its moment by moment unfolding. We no longer lose spots of time as our mind wanders. We are totally present and aware of what catching us — aware of the resulting fear, and aware of our need to acknowledge the fear before letting go.

Fully awake, we are alert to the many potential triggers in our life. We notice our tendencies to react and our desire to respond. We identify our fears even when we feel helpless to circumvent them. Simply put, we are ready to connect our intent to our action in each moment. We are mindfully engaged and prepared to respond.

Being awake and alert culminates in being alive. More than breathing, we act with intention. Alive we acknowledge our fears and navigate through them with courage. This navigation is the stuff of letting go. With awareness we learn in the environment that results in our letting go — the environment we discover as we enter our free fall.

Letting go is a scary proposition. it opens us to the great unknown. But, in order to grow, we must be willing to experience this free fall not knowing where we wind up while knowing that we will receive exactly what we need. 

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, May 9, 2017

Walking Between The Worlds

We are caught between illusion and reality. Although we may know who we are authentically, how we express that essence is challenged over and over again as what we believe is authentic clashes with what others believe is authentic. In this noisy world of differences, we become fatigued as we attempt to reconcile what we believe is true and what others believe is true with the collective reality.

Walking between the worlds is a way of focuses our awareness that minimizes our fatigue. It begins with an internal understanding of who we are authentically and how we are expressing these our truth. We note how our beliefs and core values inform our responses and catch us in reactions. This is often a difficult task for the noisiness of the world prevents us from listening to the whispers of our inner wisdom. Only within the silence of our quiet mind do we filter the external noises and attend to the clamoring within. 

More than a cessation of physical noise, silence is an environment in which our senses are heightened. We notice with greater clarity the nuances of our true self and the distractions that draw us away from our authenticity. Within the silence, we name how our behavior is incongruent with who we truly are. We recognize what hinders us from responding authentically.

Silence is an environment of focused bi-listening. We intentionally hear what the other is saying while mindfully attending to the nonverbal impact of our interaction with another. This delicate juggling act requires that we are fully present. It also requires comfort with the pause during which we gain information, process it, and then formulate our response. When we bi-listen we realize that even making an addition to a mental grocery list causes us to lose information vital to understanding the beliefs and values of another. 

In this fertile place we really notice the impact the external world has on the four aspects of our self — body, mind, spirit, and heart. We recognize feelings of calm or anxiety, tensed or relaxed muscles, heart rate shifts, anger spikes, or spontaneous thoughts — all these are potential cues to the clash between our reality and the reality of another. With awareness of these cues we move from fearful and potentially hurtful reactions to compassionate response.  

Friending the four aspects of self is vital in the recognition of what triggers reactions and contributes to our fatigue. We learn to navigate through reactions to responses that bring us from the brink of fatigue to a place of vigor. Through this navigation, we balance the four aspects of our being. Four aspects aligned, we are able to be authentic in our interactions.

When we comprehend the message our four aspects are relaying, we gain the power to address our potential reactions and formulate compassionate responses. We are better able to recognize how our beliefs and values power our interactions. We identify what is truly representative of who we are authentically and what illusions we cast to make us more comfortable in a tumultuous world. We walk between the worlds shining the light of our authenticity and encouraging others to be their authentic best.

Walking between the worlds increases our understanding of how our judgments are stopping us; powers us to listen to one another; and creates a world not in my or your image but a world that is better than anything we could have imagined apart. 

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