Monday, October 24, 2016

It's okay and I love you

We sure do judge a lot don't we?  It seems like every other thought is a judgement of some sort.  Most days I meditate for 20 to 30 minutes in the morning.  After I meditate I write in a journal an intention for the day.  I also write a few words about a dream I may have for the future and lastly I write 5 things I am grateful for.  What I write down for intention is often words like breathe, present moment, loving kindness or forgiveness.  But lately, I have been declaring my intention each morning as non-judgement.

I write these intentions down but, honestly, I usually forget them as the day goes on.  But since I have been choosing non-judgement daily for the last couple of weeks I have carried it with me through the day a bit more than usual.

For instance, I may be driving and catch myself thinking,"what a f*&**g idiot" and instead think,""he must be stressed and in a hurry, some days that's me,".  Or I may be waiting to buy groceries and a person is taking forever to pay, writing a check and filling in all the details and I think "what the hell is she using a check for? Hasn't she heard of atm cards?" and instead think "it's okay, but really, checks??" Okay, I'm not perfect.

Of course, judging others doesn't just happen in these classic situations described above.  It also happens at work.  In the morning I get a list on the computer of all the patients I will see that day.  It has the patient's name, medical record number, age, etc and it also has the reason for the visit. When I am not mindful I find myself judging how the encounter is going to go just by the little tidbit I know from the description of the visit.  For instance, routine ob is good (easy), pelvic pain is bad (hard), routine gyn exam of a long time patient is awesome(love my patients!) and recurrent vaginal infection for 15 years is horrible (how can I fix it if every other doctor has already tried).

But the amazing thing about this is that most of the time when I actually see the patients that I think are going to be difficult it either is good and satisfying or at least not nearly as bad as I anticipated.  So that judgement really only caused me anxiety and stress and sometimes if I don't let it go prior to seeing the patient it caused a less helpful visit.

Most days now, I say to myself, prior to seeing each patient,"may I be present and may I be of most service to so and so" and I say it for every patient.  It helps me let go of my judgements and be in the moment with the person.

Another concept that has helped me let go of judgement is the phrase 'just like me".  Most of us want the same things, care about the same things.  We may have different ideas on how to get there.  This certainly is apparent during the political season we are currently wading though.  We all want our families to be safe.  We want enough to house and feed our selves and our loved ones.  We want good schools.  We all, I think, even want peace.  So when I am ready to judge someone for their beliefs I think they are "just like me".  It doesn't mean I don't express or fight for the way I think things need to be done but it gives more common ground and more love between me and the other person.  I am not always able to practice this but I like it as a goal.

We judge others and we judge situations before they ever happen.  A famous quote attributed to Mark Twain is "I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."

And lastly we judge ourselves.

The funny thing, though, is as I am more aware of my judgements of other people and situations and practice letting these go I find I also have more compassion for myself.  I judge myself less too.  Loving kindness, compassion, non judgement; these spread like wildfire.  The more you practice them the more you have.  It's a sweet phenomenon.

From Tara Brach, "When I am in judgement I am no longer in the flow of grace."  May we all be more in the flow of grace.

Friday, October 14, 2016

At Home in Our Hearts

Wherever we go there we are.  But how come in some environments I feel totally myself, happy and at peace and yet, at other times, I feel anxious, lonely and disconnected from myself and others.

Recently I was in Anaheim for a few days to attend the International Plant Based Conference for Health Professionals.  It was awesome.  Not only did I learn a ton and see my heroes in person but I was surrounded by vegans!  And not just vegans but vegan doctors, no less.

Each meal was served at a table of 10 or so people and the conversations were fabulous.  I enjoyed learning how people put nutrition counseling into their practices along with how the plant-based diet has affected their own lives.  I was in my element and felt like my true self.

A while back I mentioned to a friend that if I ever got a tattoo I might want it to say, "let your freak flag fly".  I elaborated on what it meant to me and he said to me that I didn't need a tattoo to remind me to be my true self. He stated that I seemed to be already doing that.  It pleased me that he thought so, but inside, I felt that my real self often struggles to be free.

Another conference I attended last month was in Las Vegas and was put on by Kaiser for Ob Gyns.  A number of fellow San Diego Kaiser people were there.  I knew many but none were close to me.  My close friend from Northern California didn't show up until the second day.  That first day I felt awkward and unhappy.  I felt unseen and alone.  I was away from my family and my safe place.

 I sometimes feel like everyone else is great friends but I am on the outside. I felt like this at school when I was young, sometimes now when out with groups of friends, with colleagues at work, at church events or in big family gatherings.

Now don't get me wrong.  Sometimes I feel very close and connected.  But it interests me when I don't.  Certainly, it happens much more in group environments.  I typically try to avoid those.  Why any one would want to go to a big party full of near strangers I have no idea.  But then again, why not?  If you truly feel comfortable and happy with yourself, does that make group activities easier and actually fun?

When you can't be your authentic self it is hard to feel like you belong.   One of my teachers writes, " Caring what others think of us leaves us not at home."  I am not sure if this sense of isolation in a group is caused by my concern of what others think. But, it is possible, for it happens more often when I am with people I perceive dislike me or with people I don't particularly like myself.

Another teaching that hits home for me is "the self  can not fix the self".  So, perhaps there is not an answer my brain can find to fix this feeling of separateness.

"Forgive yourself for not being at peace.  The moment you completely accept your non peace your non peace becomes transmuted to peace" writes Sharon Salzberg.  I do know it helps to accept myself in whatever moment I am in: the happy, lovely moments and the bored, lonely, anxious moments.

"Anything you accept fully will get you to peace. This is surrender." from Salzberg again.  I believe this acceptance comes not from our minds but from our hearts.  And in this wholehearted acceptance lies true freedom.