The Gift of Hate-the nastiest four-letter word

No one wants to talk about hate, unless of course, they are talking about someone else’s hatred.

The thing is that hatred, while it is an excruciating experience, is one of the most useful emotions we have.

How is it useful?  Hatred is not the opposite of love.  Apathy is the opposite of love.  One must have a vested interest in the object of hate in order for them to care enough to hate.

What this usually means is that the object of hate is merely reflecting back at the hater that which they hate within themselves.

Hatred can be a pointer or an indicator for us to complete something that has been left incomplete.  It can be a call to expose a fear or heal an old wound.

It may be the signal that we need to forgive ourselves for being vulnerable when we were unable to protect ourselves.

No matter what they cause, those who activate hatred within us are gifts.  They show us those shadows that could use some light.  They show us how to further integrate our emotional natures instead of judging, denying, or repressing them.

Hatred, like any uncomfortable emotion invites us to “love the unlovable” as Gay Hendricks calls it.

We can do it, but it takes courage.  We can stop wars before they start if we listen to the inner war and answer its highest request.  The problem is, too often, we answer the human animal’s demand that we blame, project, and lash out.

Your Turn:

Are you willing to do a little heavy lifting and allow yourself to see and feel your darker emotional nature in order to give it the compassionate attention it craves?  Can you steel yourself for the momentary discomfort of feeling so that you may be more integrated on the other side?

Break Your Heart OPEN

With the recent sudden death of a dear friend, I am blown away at the far-reaching effects one life can have on so many.
This particular soul was one-in-a-million and deeply touched many lives. His presence was so huge, and his absence is profound.
While many of us were gathered, reminiscing, grieving, and celebrating, I was truly touched by the capacity for his circle of loved ones to “go there.” What I mean is that each person dove into their grief in their own real way that was deeply beautiful.
I saw no dysfunction, which can be rare, since profound grief can bring out the worst in us. Instead I saw and experienced the exquisite agony of deep sorrow and loss. I realized as we traveled this journey together, that this beautiful soul has given us the opportunity to break our heats open.
What that means is facing full on the depth of humanity: our emotions in dazzling Technicolor.
When we allow ourselves to experience this full spectrum, we increase our capacity for sorrow, yes, but also for joy. The clamp that we so easily (and often, quite early in our lives) place on the hose to our feelings does not differentiate between “good” emotions and “bad.”
We must be able to show up for the tough stuff to expand our courage to fully embrace the sweetness that life has to offer.
After all, none of us gets out of here alive. We might as well play full out, right?
Your Turn:
Can you be truly present with your emotions today. It takes guts, but once you allow yourself to do it and overcome the fear of feeling, you can experience freedom beyond your imagination.

No such thing as good and bad

What?  Our minds are constantly evaluating all things around us and within our thought environment.  This is good, that is bad.  She is right, he is wrong.

This constant discernment is a part of our primitive mind running amok.  It is like giving the car keys to a toddler and letting them drive us around.

Yes, we need to be able to differentiate between some thing, however, we have taken this ball and run with it to a detrimental level.

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”


When we are able to observe, rather than judge, we give ourselves a wider scope of experience.  We allow for the miraculous to occur within and around us.  Instead of limiting ourselves to what we think we know,  we can open up to a wised range of feeling, experience, and lessons.

Your Turn

The very next thought that you have, can you leave it as it is instead of judging it?  Can you open yourself up to what it could be if you left it as neutral? The possibilities are endless!

Being OK with Perfectly Imperfect

One of the biggest blessings that we learn on the path is this: that everything happens for a reason, and the reason is good.

This blessing can also be used as self-inflicted torture.

Too often we make the jump from an emotional event to “it’s all good” without pausing and allowing for our humanity to be expressed.  It can be very distracting and uncomfortable to have to actually feel our feelings, so we force ourselves into a willful “acceptance” that is as phony as it sounds.

When we bypass the actual emotions caused by internal or external stimulus, we deprive ourselves of our humanity and cause more suffering by judging ourselves for being human.

Somewhere along the line, many of us got it into our heads that if we do this growth thing long enough, that we will know better and be absolved from our humanity.

This is an ego-driven situation.  Having unrealistic expectations of our perfection is arrogant and lacks compassion.  When we lack compassion for ourselves, there is no room for compassion for others.

When we can be sweetly accepting of our own humanity, we expand the realm of compassion and offer a more heart-centered experience for all.

Your Turn: Can you allow yourself the dignity of your full human experience?  When an uncomfortable emotion gets activated in you, can your approach be, “Oh, how cute.  He’s having an emotion.”?  Will you allow yourself to be perfectly imperfect today?


People Who Annoy us are Great Mirrors!

When we get annoyed, it is so easy to put all the blame on the annoying one.  The truth is, every time we get annoyed is an opportunity to grow.

I find that when people annoy me there are a few simple, but often hard to see things going on.

  1. They are reflecting back at me a trait that I have and despise in myself.
  2. They are reflecting back at me a trait that I used to have and worked hard to overcome and a part of me is jealous that they get to “act out!”
  3. They are reflecting back at me my own impatience, intolerance, or self-righteousness.

None of these are pretty.  It takes courage and a degree of humility to be able to see our own shortcomings.

Let’s take a closer look:

“They are reflecting back at me a trait that I have and despise in myself.”

When we become aware of this, we can start to be kinder to ourselves and begin to accept our whole being.  It can be as simple as when someone cuts you off in traffic, you can say to yourself, “I have done that” with kindness in your heart toward the both of you.  We all mess up from time to time.  If we can allow instead of resist our foibles, they happen less frequently and with less devastating effects.

“They are reflecting back at me a trait that I used to have and worked hard to overcome and a part of me is jealous that they get to ‘act out!’”

This one is all ego!  Eckhart Tolle said that the function if the ego is that it is never satisfied. This is a great example of that condition.  When we are judging people because they should “know better,” we can turn it around into gratitude that we have been able to transcend that obstacle and compassion because we know what they are experiencing.  They could be acting from pain or ignorance, but if we have been there, then why not give them a boost of encouragement in the form of understanding?

“They are reflecting back at me my own impatience, intolerance, or self-righteousness.”

A Buddhist nun that I knew said that anytime we are impatient, intolerant or self righteous, it is like the mindfulness bell, ringing to remind us to stop, breathe, and go inside to our compassionate nature.  This transforms the struggle that I might have with myself for being impatient!  So much of our misery comes from struggling against what is.  The vicious cycle can look like this: stimulus, reaction of impatience, and struggle against the reaction of impatience.  Instead, can you make a joke out of it?  You may think something like, “Wow!  I was really impatient just then!  How interesting!”

Your assignment:

Next time that you are annoyed, instead of going down the usual path, take a breath, take a look inside at what is going on and see if you can harness patience, compassion, or humor with yourself and the other.

Active Listening

An unsung hero in communication techniques is deep and active listening. One of the ways we want to set people up to win, is to give them a platform from which they can get real! When we give people the space to speak openly, all kinds of wonderful things happen, including connection, elimination of friction, and optimum mental health!

Deep and active listening means that we are not waiting for our turn to talk but are hearing every word that is spoken.

When we do this, we allow the other person to speak and finish speaking before responding. While listening to that person speak, we really listen rather than formulate a response to what they are saying. If needed, we can take notes and refer back to them when it’s time to respond.

Other key ingredients to Active Listening are:

  • Knowing that a response isn’t always necessary.
  • Abstaining from “fixing” the person who is speaking.
  • Giving the speaker the dignity of their own experience.
  • Listening without judging.
  • Not making it about you. Whatever your speaker is saying, you may hold the space and allow them to be who they are in this moment. It is not a reflection of yourself.
  • Abstaining from evaluating it or judging. You can evaluate my own experience and provide space for you to share your experience with me if you desire to do so.

Your Assignment:

The VERY next conversation that you have, try to apply three of the above principles of Active Listening.  Each subsequent conversation, add another principle to your repetoire.  With some folks it will be easier than others.  You will be a champion when you can apply all of the principles to someone who pushes your buttons.  Let me know how it goes!

Who Do You Want To Be In Your Life?

I came home a while ago and my husband, Vj, was in the middle of something.  In an instant, there was friction between us.  I went away and sulked for about 30 seconds before I made a decision to not try figure out what happened, but to just go and clean it up.

I waited until he was done with his project.  Then I went to him and said, “I don’t know what is going on, but I think that I am looking for reasons to get my feelings hurt.”  I got real, and I got really vulnerable.

Vj and I talk in times of harmony about what is effective in times of disharmony.  Because of those talks, he knows exactly what works with me when I am a little off center, so he knew what to do.

Vj looked up, crossed the room, and enveloped me in his arms.  He then apologized for specific things that may or may not have contributed to the friction.  He took full accountability for his participation, even though in hindsight, I don’t think that he had done anything wrong.

Lately, I have heard several very evolved people talk about their humanity and how they overcome ego.

I am much inspired! They each spoke about being in a situation that was unpleasant and that they resisted it, for a time.  Then, because they live an examined life, they asked themselves, “Who do I want to be in this moment?” and found that there was an immediate sense of relief.

Reconnecting with your higher purpose is an amazing tool.  I am able to do so when I make certain that all of my tanks are full.

One of my goals this year is to: Open my heart to failure, vulnerability, and rejection with faith, trust, and courage.  I am not inviting failure, vulnerability, and rejection. I am making a commitment that I won’t let the fear of them hold me back from anything.

Your Homework:

Who are you committed to being?  Decide what qualities that you want to embody and what kind of impact that will have on the world.  Then, write them down and keep them near.  When trouble hits, you can ask yourself, “Who do I want to be in this situation?” and you can consult your list!  As always, let me know how it goes.

It All Depends Upon Your Expectations

I was talking to my mother today about an Oprah show that she watched yesterday called “Marriage Around the World.” She, like so many Westerners (myself included) was really curious about arranged marriages.  My husband, Vj, is from India and so we have several friends and family members who have had arranged marriages.  This by no means makes me an expert, but I have a little familiarity with the practice.

From the Western point of view, it seems a tragedy that love would not be a part of the arrangement.  However, in arranged marriages, the expectation is that love comes AFTER the marriage.  It may seem more like a business arrangement but, my understanding is that, one’s parents are going to pick the best possible mate for their child and their judgment is unclouded by hormones.  We have all heard horror stories about arranged marriages that result in abuse or alcoholic situations, but in love marriages, that problem is also present.

Generally, in love unions, our partner does something that we view as “not acting right.”  We may not hear those exact words in our head, which can make it hard to identify.  Irritation and frustration by our mate’s habits and quirks is a form of this intolerance.

Often, as my mom pointed out, there is an unspoken desire to “fix” them later!

In an arranged marriage, the expectation is that the first year is the time of discovery.  Then when a mate’s habits or quirks are revealed, this attitude can allow for observation. The sentiment behind observation can be: “Oh, that is how he does that.” The expectation is more focused on discovering who they are rather than on changing or judging the mate.  I understand that this is not a universal truth.  There can be unhappy arranged marriages and love marriages can be approached from an observing and accepting perspective.

I wanted to share with you a simple shift of expectation.  I have seen in many arranged marriages, that each person goes into the union with a beginner’s mind.  They are open to discovering without judging. They observe rather than struggle against what is.

Your Homework:

Look at one of your relationships; it can be your primary relationship, a family member, or even someone less intimate like a coworker.  What can you do to approach them with a beginner’s mind?  Can you look at something that annoys you and think, “Oh, that’s interesting!”?  Are you willing to observe rather than evaluate?

The Art of Appreciation

What You Focus on Grows

Whenever we feel a certain way, it seems to snowball if we let it.  When we “wake up on the wrong side of the bed” or are “just having one of those days” we are caught in a trap of negativity.  The same thing goes for how we view our mate, friend, coworker and that particular relationship.

One time someone that I know who doesn’t know my husband called him “blonde.” This highly offensive comment was a damaging generalization of how blondes are air-headed and personally offensive to me because my husband is a member of Mensa and the nicest person I know.  That said, I went home that day and everything that he did looked absent-minded to me, it was all that I could see.  That simple comment tainted the rest of my afternoon.

When we have these damaging limits set on our mate, either from the outside or from within, it colors our experience of them. Our frame of mind acts as a filter through which we can only see that for which we are looking.

So here are the lessons that I learned from the above episode:

  1. I got an opportunity to use my words and let the person know that she is not allowed to speak disparagingly of my beloved to me.  She got an opportunity to defend herself, and then our relationship just dissolved without animosity.
  2. I got an opportunity to see how what I focused on grew into a monster seemingly beyond my control.
  3. I got to see that only people who are positive about relationships in general and mine specifically get to be in my inner circle of friends. The rest can be acquaintances.

Your Homework

Make a list of all the things that you appreciate in your mate, friend, coworker or family member.  Use “you” not “him/her or he/she”

Nothing is too small.  It can be that they make an effort to smell nice for you, that they soak a dish that they can’t get to right away, they hold the door open, think about you during the day, make a real effort to be punctual for you, etc.

Write at the top of the list:  “These are some of the many reasons that I appreciate (love, adore, respect etc) you” and read it to the person on whom you focused, if you like.  Definitely read it to yourself, especially when the person is challenging you!

Show appreciation for every little thing you possibly can in the next week. You can do this to EVERYONE that you encounter! “Thanks” “I appreciate” and “You are so awesome” are great words to use.  Find your own language.  My husband and I use “Good job, babe” constantly and it never gets old.  We all love appreciation.

What Can You DO When You Are FRUSTRATED?

I often get asked: “Sarah, what do you do when you are just so frustrated that you want to spit (or can’t speak, or what have you)?”

We all get our buttons pushed from time to time. Sometimes, we are so out of sync with our loved ones that we don’t know what to do. Those times are excruciatingly uncomfortable and often quite painful.

The first thing to do is BREATHE. And then breathe some more.

The second thing is to rest in the satisfaction that EVERYTHING is TEMPORARY. It will pass. That is a definite outcome.

The third thing is to remove yourself from doing more damage. The ego is a powerful persuader and can make very convincing arguments that “you” know exactly what will “fix” the situation. That message is often dressed up under all sorts of seemingly great intentions but really those are often masks for mischief-makers.

It can be very difficult to rest in something that is unresolved. It can feel almost like life-or-death urgency. That urgency (ego, dressed up again) can escalate uncomfortable matters into major disasters in a heartbeat.

Lastly, find something that quiets your mind. Go for a walk, go for a swim, listen to loud music, dance around the living room, go throw rocks at an outdoor wall, pray or meditate, create art, view art. Do something that fills your tank and release the other person into the guiding hands of a larger source. It may take some time to get your reward, but it will come and when it does, it will be so much more valuable that a self-righteous outburst.

If you don’t make it and an outburst happens: forgive yourself and the other person (if necessary) and move on.

Your homework:

Take no bait (real or imaginary) this holiday season. Make a decision ahead of time and stick with it to the best of your ability. Forgive yourself and others.

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