Tuesday, April 25, 2017

from empathy to compassion

Tired. Exhausted. Fatigued. These are descriptions that friends, colleagues, and clients are sharing with me. This malady surpasses the physical and has sunk deeply into the marrow of the mind, heart [emotions], and spark [spirit] of many of us. 

This fatigue is due, in part, to our empathetic natures. As an empath, we vicariously experience another’s feelings, thoughts, and attitudes. Unable to break free of the arousal of empathy, we create an endless loop that unconsciously wears on us. It exacerbates our feelings of exhaustion and thoughts of unease. 

To break this endless loop, we make wake up to our empathetic arousal. When we are aware, we are able to discern what is ours and what thoughts and feelings are another’s. Only then can we move from the arousal of empathy to the calm of compassion. 

Empathy. While putting our self in another’s shoes is a pathway to understanding their suffering, unless we are carefully mindful, their feelings hook us. We risk becoming overwhelmed. Unable to find respite from the barrage of emotion, we get stuck in a state of emotional arousal. Becoming unstuck and moving through the arousal to calm requires awareness, courage, and understanding. 

Awareness. Being caught in the emotions of another is a result of our loving and generous nature. We feel someone suffering and do not want another to go through this time of despair alone. We emphasize with them. Once aroused by their suffering, it becomes difficult for us to disengage from the frenetic emotions. 

In an emotionally aroused state, we may be shocked by the depth of what we are feeling and be unable to discern the source. Without proper energetic protection, our emotions blend with theirs. We may believe what we are feeling is ours. Without a clear understanding of the emotion’s origin, those emotions burrow deeply into our mind, spark, and heart. Once they attach, our ability to think clearly and respond is diminished. 

When we are aware, we notice physiological and psychological cues that alert us to how external influences  impact us. We may have a burning sensation in the pit of our stomach; our chest may be tight. We may be overwhelmed with sorrow or feel discouraged. Being mindful of the sensations in our body empowers us to identify what is ours and what is another's. We awake to the potential of another’s emotions to debilitate us. Once awake, our courage empowers the shift from being a vessel for the emotions of another to being an alleviator of suffering. 

Courage. Compassion requires the courageous choice of empowerment over enabling. This choice calls us to share compassion in ways that are not warm and fuzzy. Rather, compassion says, “I cannot change your circumstances, but I can help you shift how you respond to them.” This is the I love you enough of compassion that begins with courageous self-compassion which is the gateway to outward directed compassionate action.

Being brave is acknowledging that while we cannot fix anything, we can be a fellow sojourner on a path rife with suffering. We recognize that we are not meant to digest suffering but to be a lighthouse shining compassion into the world. That beacon, our light, is energized by courage and guides us to understanding. 

Understanding. More than just knowing the whys and the reasons, understanding allows us to hold the other gently as they experience their own suffering. Our listening and compassionate response gently guide them through the obstacles suffering presents. We practice self-compassion as we navigate fully aware of our own strengths and limitations. With understanding, we balance self-compassion with compassion for another. 

When we are aware, courageous, and understanding, we vicariously experience the feelings of another, but those emotions are unable to hook us in a state of arousal. We realize that empathy is not meant to be a dam for our compassionate essence. When we are mindful, the arousal provides the initial boost of energy that powers compassion’s flow. Empathy is a precursor to sharing compassion. Empathy is a call for us to be aware of the need for compassionate presence.

Our challenge is to transform the energy of our empathy into the power of compassion. In this transformation, the energy of empathetic arousal spirals through us and toward the suffering.  Being empathetic is a gift that when shared appropriately propels us into compassion’s presence. It powers the transformation that comes from compassion. Moving from empathy to compassion, we become compassion agents, warrior healers who are compassionate action in a world of suffering. 

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, April 18, 2017

Stop. Breathe. Listen.

Perception Reset. Attitude Adjustment. Change in Perspective. These phrases are ways of of changing the way that we see the world. A transformative power lies within our abilities to look past the humdrum world where we merely survive and peer into a vibrant world where we live extraordinarily. We live  as Dione Fortune advised when she said, “Magic is the art of changing consciousness at will.”

An attitude adjustment brings back memories of being scolded as a child. A change of perspective reminds me of those times when I edged closer to the dangerous abyss of fatigue and burnout. Both are different ways of referring to changing the way we see the world. How do we do engage in a perception reset? Can we expect any perception reset to be long term?

The simplest way to trigger a perception reset is to stop, breathe, and listen. We can do this at any point in the day spontaneously or at set times during the day. A combination of scheduling set times and spontaneously stopping, breathing, and listening creates a bridge to seeing the world differently. Over time, through practice and routine, this way of perceiving becomes your new normal — the way that you naturally perceive and respond to the world. 

Stop means stop. Put aside whatever activity you are doing. Allow yourself a moment to quiet your mind and just be. Disengage for a moment be that 90 seconds or five minutes. The quantity of time matters less than the quality. Turn your attention to your breath. 

Breathe. Focus on your breath. Don’t attempt to shift your breath. Be aware of the ebb and flow. Attempting to manipulate the flow of your breath catches you in the distraction of your breath. Notice that as you attend to your breathing, it begins to even out. Focusing on your breath heightens your awareness and encourages listening.    

Listen with ears, eyes, nose, taste buds — the entire body, all of the senses. When we focus with all of our senses, we notices nuances of the world that might otherwise be invisible. We identify subtleties that make the world magical and extraordinary. We discern the differences between the mundane, humdrum world and the magically extraordinary world. 

Stop. Breath. Listen. Engaging in this way of being allow us to change the way we answer, “How does way we perceive our self, others, and the world change?”

Stopping, breathing, and listening creates a path to a world that offers much more than survival in the mundane. On this path we peer beyond the veil of our distractions. We are intuitively drawn to the extraordinary. And, within this extraordinary, we find possibilities that invite us to thrive. We recognize who are are in our authentic essence. With authenticity we shine our true self into the world.

Does changing our consciousness make everything better? No, in fact, we may experience despair as our suffering comes fully into the light. But, changing our consciousness clears the path to living authentically. Our perception reset increases our awareness that within each life lesson, each challenge lies a nugget of magic — that magic is the ability to be our best, truest self. 

Living in the extraordinary one shift of consciousness at a time,


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 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Warrior Farmers & the Communal Plot

I am a warrior. You are a warrior.  Each day we fight battles that are seen and unseen, known and  unknown, conscious and unconscious. We are skilled artisans of the challenge. We are warriors who enter each battle with weapons forged in the furnace of peace and compassion. Our warrior spirits are courageous, curiously daring, and intentional.

Starbucks has a new program that offers a free cup of coffee for those willing to dialogue with someone who has opposing political views. These individuals are self selected, which to me, means that they willingly cross division’s barren land with the intent to really listen to another. Crossing the divide and entering the middle ground requires those weapons forged with peace and compassion.

I imagine that these two people sitting over coffee are warrior farmers. They meet one another in the middle ground with scraps from their dinner tables. Tossing their individual scraps into a collective compost pile, their meeting become a place of rich discover as they identify, respect, and discuss differences. Differences, like the decomposing items that cannot be separated, become nourishment for the garden when respected and understood.

Listening provides the turning of the compost. Through listening they identify the beliefs and judgements that create differences. Within this conversation, both are able to recognize
that amid their differences they do have commonalities. They respect the importance of similarities and differences to nourish this common garden.

As compost is worked into the soil, these two warrior farmers move beyond surface arguments to enter into a place of deeper listening. A listening only possible with deep respect of one another. When each really listens to the opinions and beliefs of the other, both gain a greater understanding of why one or the other chose to plant different ideas and concepts in their garden plot. 

Maybe there still isn’t agreement; maybe the differences are just too fundamentally opposed. But, I would like to believe that one and the other, together, discover some noxious plants in both garden plots that must be weeded out. Both warrior gardeners, through respectful listening help one another tend to the garden collectively. Perhaps they come to an understanding that a it matters less how right you are and matters most how respect and understanding feed the collective garden.

As these warrior-farmers leave the table at Starbucks, I see them grabbing coffee grinds from the free to all bin. Together, they journey to that shared garden and sprinkle the grounds on the compost pile. They turn the grounds into the compost. Understanding doesn’t just end with one conversation over free cups of coffee; that is the beginning. The work of community continues by spreading those ground like collective wisdom gained through understanding. 

Maybe I am a warrior dreamer. But, I believe if we can cross the barren land and intentionally listen to one another, that we can grow our gardens into a bountiful harvest that provides for all. But, that garden nurtured by mutual respect and understanding while using the weapons of peace and compassion.  

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.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Equation Solution: Compassion

“There will always be haters.” 

“I cannot imagine the suffering that person [the hater] must be going through.”

Do you have someone who continually does hurtful things to you? You might have no idea what triggered the dislike. Or, you know exactly what created the wounds that have become their identify. It is safe to say that each of us has at least one person who does not like us. And, we have no clue how to heal that hurt. If we are honest, we may find our self acknowledging that we are in the same place — being unable to let go of a perceived transgression of another. 

What do we do when we find our self on either side of this equation? We can rest in our impotence and frustration or we can dive deeply into the well of our compassion. Within these refreshing waters, we recognize the power of compassion to release suffering and heal old wounds. First, we attend to our wounds. We soothe our own suffering while fully recognizing that we may never change the behavior or attitude of the other. 

Whenever I am blindsided by the active dislike of another, I become quiet and enter my silence. There I reflect upon the relationship and the roots of joint suffering. Within the embrace of self compassion, I own my humanness and flaws as I acknowledge the other’s suffering. I identify my woundedness and intend that compassion heals those sore spots. 

I ask myself if there is something tangible or intangible that I can do to reconcile the relationship. Connecting with compassion at the source, I listen to what I need to do. Then I act in whatever way is most compassionate. Often it is an energetic intent that the connection between us be healed. Sometimes it is tangibly reaching out to another.

No matter how I choose to share compassion, I realize that within each of these hurts lay opportunity. Each time someone expresses passive or active animosity to me is a catalyst for looking at my role in triggering that person’s woundedness. (While I am not responsible for their ongoing behavior, my actions may have uncovered a deep wound.) I also ask if this person’s behavior is a mirror of my own. If so, I question how I can be compassion’s presence. To learn from the experience, I name the hurt that I cannot release. And, I trust that this identification is the beginning of releasing my suffering.  This process is not easy; it takes courageous mindfulness. 

Compassionate resolution requires courage and daring. While I cannot shift another’s animosity toward me or heal the real or perceived hurt of another, I can change my behavior toward those who dislike me and those to whom I feel animosity. With compassion, I heal my personal wounds, and it become easier to no longer take the reactions of others personally. 

The power of compassion directed internally and externally paves the path of transformation. Internally, I identify the roots of my suffering. These roots usually are growing in the fertile soil of my fears. Self compassion addresses and heals the woundedness resulting from these fears. In this healing, I change the way that I see myself; the transformation of my reflection into the world occurs. 

External compassion is more difficult in these circumstances. I have yet to find someone who is not feeling some level of disturbance when someone reacts negatively to them. The key is to not take their animosity personally. I remind myself that haters are going to hate not because they are wired to hate but because they are suffering; I unconsciously tore the scab from that wound. I can choose to react to their angst or I can practice loving kindness.

This is the difficult work of compassion. It is the compassion of not two, not one. We are asked to simultaneously direct compassion to our self while being compassion to the other. Total awareness in the moment is required so that we do not get hooked by the suffering of another. We must be healed as individuals so that the relationship is healed. As we strive to not be hooked by the behavior of another, we choose to not take their anger personally while acknowledging that their behavior does, in fact, hurt us. Not two, not one. 

I believe that haters are only haters until we can raise the level of consciousness of our self, others, and community to one of compassionate presence. Animosity slips away only when the hater and the hatee recognize the suffering is mutual and take strides to alleviate their personal internal suffering and the external suffering of the other. 

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 ProfileFacebook / Twitter: @fyrserpent  

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Silence is the Night Sky

 The night is dark. Look into the indigo sky. The night is silence. Breathe in the quiet embrace. The night is twinkling. Feel the connection of each sparkling star. The night is dark. You are surrounded by it.

The sky is the realm of magic. As the world turns and daylight breaks, the sky streaks with red. The paling sky welcomes us to begin anew. Its palette shifts to brilliant blue as the sun edges across the the day. Clouds float across the sky. Distracted by happenings, we drift through the moments like those clouds. We lose the wonder and awe of sky’s presence. Soon the sky turns from brilliant blue to streaks of red and orange. The sun dips beyond the horizon. The twilight gives way to inky blackness. 

Night beckons us to rest in its dark embrace. Our sight is partially obscured. Perceptions slightly skewed, we enter into a new Real. We wake to a new way of sensing. We are no longer able to depend primarily upon our eyes, we listen with the ears of our body. The wind speaks through a gentle touch, and we feel the song of the night creatures. Our imagination paints a picture of what truly is. 

The inky night sky reminds me of silence. Not the silence of being sushed mute by another. This is the silence that quiets the soul. In this inky dark silence we rest and our heart calms.
This night sky silence is an environment where all our inner sparkling is held in a safe embrace. And, as we rest, we hear in ways that bring bursts of unexpected clarity.  This silent darkness calls us to wake into our self.

Like those stars that we would not see without the inky black, our understanding would not shine so brightly without silence’s embrace. We would not be mindfully aware of all life offers without silence as an anchor. Through the vastness of silence, we can be our self that ember that glows in the center of our being. And, in being our self, we connect with others authentic heart to authentic heart. Our compassionate spirit thrives. 

Because that is what this night sky of silence is. It is a place where I name my illusions and recognize how they warp authentic reality. No one else is in the darkness as I let go the illusions and firmly grasp who I truly are. I can be my best, truest self because in this silence who can really see? I am freed by wrapping myself in the courage’s embrace while giving full rein to curious daring. Within the silence I can be me and grow in comfort of sharing this me with you.

The night is dark. Sitting outside, the city noises of my distractions, are muted. As I draw deeper into the quiet, those hazy lights become inconsequential. I can feel the darkness reach through my light pollution and connect with the glowing spark ember inside. This spark flares resonating with the twinkling in the night sky. In alignment with the smattering of night sky knowing, I am filled with clarity. This dark night silence is a beacon that guides me to myself. 

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

More from Vanessa: www.intentandaction.com
Twitter: @fyrserpent

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Intent & Action: The Bridge

What is your intent? Do you have one? I won’t forget the interview in which I was asked if I believed people set their intent. I had always thought so; the interviewer did not. So, after the television spot, I informally surveyed a number of people. What did I discover? Although many people do not formally set intent, they do so in unconscious and informal ways. 

Our intent is our aim, purpose, or something we would like to achieve. Maybe it is a goal specific for the day. This kind of intent is soul deep. It supersedes our short term goals and many of our long term ones. You could ask yourself, “At the end of my life, how would I want people to remember me?” That answer is integral to your life intent. 

For many, their intent is to follow the golden rule — do unto others, cause no harm, love thy neighbor are three renditions. This sounds simpler that it is. I cannot count the number of times my actions have not reflected my intent. When my intent is out of sync with my actions, I have a choice. I can throw up my hands in the face of this adversity or I can accept responsibility for my behavior. 

Accepting my responsibility is only possible with self compassion. Instead of harming myself with critical thoughts or words, I alleviate my personal suffering. In doing so, I clear the connection between my intent and action. I am able to refocus my intent and lay tiles upon the bridge of my intent and action.

In my book, Engaging Compassion Through Intent and Action, I share a template for building a bridge that connects who we are in the core of our being with our action. This bridge provides elements that help us focus our awareness, live in the moment, and understand our self. We are encouraged to be courageous and curiously daring as we mindfully take an intentional look at our life. We maintain our bridge through contemplative practices that develops mindfulness. 

You may ask yourself, “What is my intent?” Perhaps it is a spontaneous knowing that you easily name, or you may need to sit quietly and, through reflection, allow it to rise to the surface of your consciousness. A few moments of focused attention — either sitting meditation or attending to your breath — releases your distractions and enables you to name the intent that rests in the core of your being. After realizing your intent, allow it to resonate into your being orally, through the written word, or through artistic expression.

Throughout the day be conscious about how you lay the tiles on your deck of your bridge of intent and action. When you notice that your actions are drifting away from your intent, return to your breath. It roots you firmly in the moment and creates an environment of choice. Rest at the foundation of your awareness. Commit to your intent. Act upon your intent.

It does not matter how often your intent misaligns with your actions. What matters is that you are consciously aware of those moments when your actions do not sync with your intent. What matters is that you consciously, intentionally refocus so that your actions mirror your intent. Through the refocusing, you engaging your compassion through intent and action. 

For more information about building a bridge between intent and action, read Engaging Compassion Through Intent and Action

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

More from Vanessa:
Twitter: @fyrserpent

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Intent & Action: Living With Our Eyes Open

The world isn’t so gray any more. The world is becoming green against a backdrop of grayish-brown. The tiny green buds are popping from the trees. Each tiny bud, in its own time, unfurls to become a leaf. Hope appearing after a bleak winter filled with too much and not enough. No matter what we found lacking or in overabundance, within this winter, like all dormant times, is the promise of spring. 

I remember quite a few springs ago vacationing in Michigan. My friend and I were taking a hike, and he spied a wild mushroom. After that discovery, it didn’t take long for my eyes to adjust to the landscape. When I opened my eyes to see, those morels were hiding everywhere in plain sight. Seeing in a different way provided an abundance of morels to feast upon that evening.

I remember that morel hunting when I am overwhelmed by the bleakness of winter. During those times that we feel trapped in the winter of our soul, we miss those minute, hidden signs of spring. Our life is seldom as barren as we believe. We have only to shift the way we perceive our world in order to find a spring waiting to bud and unfurl into abundance in our life. These miracles that are hiding in plain sight are evident when we open our eyes and see. 

Living with our eyes wide open occurs when we foster an environment of silence. Here we do not live in a cessation of physical noise; rather, we quiet our minds and listen both internally and externally. We are mindful as we listen to our internal conversations — what our thoughts are saying and how our emotions are manifesting. We attend to what our physical body is telling us. Externally we pay attention to the world around us — not only the words of another but all that is occurring. 

In this place of silence we more fully connect to our divine spark. This is our wisdom space where our ability to see past the mundane and see the promise in the world rests. Our inner wisdom shifts our attention so that we see the iridescent sparklies of the sacred. Cloaked in silence we see clearly beyond the barren and into what really is. We mindfully act in ways that bring beauty in response to our inner wisdom.

Each time we see past the mundane, we strengthen our mindful stance. Mindfulness is key to listening to our inner wisdom or that voice that speaks with all of our senses. Listening with intent, we can formulate our compassionate response to the world. We approach the barren in a different way. It no longer is an adversary but a place of possibility.

How can we be loving and gentle and kind knowing that we may never change those barren aspects? We acknowledge that the world will always have barren spaces. When we approach them with love, we recognize that while we may not be able to shift that gray, we can have compassion for it. In doing so, find those minute signs for our self and for others in the world. And, over time, those barren parts of our life with be overrun by the creeping vines of abundance. 

Vanessa F. Hurst, ms,  is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who interweaves her inner wisdom in all she touches. Contact Vanessa

More from Vanessa: www.intentandaction.com