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Meditating at Tire Kingdom

I had a life changing experience yesterday morning at Tire Kingdom!  Needing to get new tires before my summer vacation, I woke up early – had my morning run, but did not have time for my routine yoga/meditation practice.  I thought to myself, “maybe I will just meditate while waiting for my new tires.”  And I did just that! 

Picture this… out the front door of Tire Kingdom, just to the right, there was a little concrete bench facing the parking lot and adjacent to the garage where cars were getting worked upon – in other words – lots of noise, chaos, comings and goings.  And that’s where I decided to have my morning meditation.  What an unexpected treat!

I was wearing clothes that allowed me to sit cross legged in the “authentic” yoga position.  Using my handy dandy iPhone, I pulled up Deepak and Oprah’s recent meditation series (which I highly recommend), closed eyes and sat right in the midst of the front entrance/parking lot of Tire Kingdom. 

Once in my “sacred space,” I experienced fully and consciously the contrasting sensations of uneasiness/ embarrassment and sweet, deep peace and gratitude.  I noticed as my mind brought up thoughts about what other people might be thinking when I felt and heard them walk by.  I imagined some believing I was a little off my rocker and others not noticing me at all.  I heard the loud noises as cars drove past and as the Tire Kingdom workers took off and put on the tires – the latter being super loud.  And through it all I just sat, eyes closed, legs crossed, straight back, breathing and bringing myself back to full presence and acceptance of the moment which also included a sweet morning breeze, a mantra to remind me of love, and a profound sense of divinity and peace. 

Before I was wanting, the bell sounded on my audio file, signifying the end of the meditation.  I opened my eyes to the parking lot and day in front of me and felt blissful.  I realized that years ago I could never have done what I had just done… I would have been WAY too embarrassed, way too concerned about the opinions, thoughts and reactions of others.  And while there were still remnants of discomfort in the process, the epiphany I had was  - what an amazing process I had just come across to deepen my way of  being more fully human and fully present in more moments of my life. 

I figure if I can practice getting connected in the midst of chaos intentionally and as a regular practice, perhaps it will transfer into more everyday moments.  I’ve always known this is how meditation and yoga worked, but I never thought of doing it in the middle of the world and practicing presence while the world was watching.  But isn’t that what we are all wanting – to be able to be in the world, experiencing it all – the good, the bad, the noise, the judgment, and be able to stay connected to that thing larger than ourselves – to experience the bliss in the midst of the storm.  And perhaps, if I can look “crazy” outside of Tire Kingdom, it will give other people permission to slow down and do the same – and maybe, just maybe we won’t have to have war!  It’s a stretch, but, in my opinion, not an absurdity.

So the next time you are waiting for your new tires or any rendition of that – I invite you to close your eyes, sit crossed legged, breathe and “Be the Change you Wish to See in the World.”


Entering Rumi's Field through Non Violent Communication

This is a "guest blog" from one of my students.  Hope you enjoy.

“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”  Rumi

NVC is a process of communication developed by Marshall Rosenberg.  Nonviolence is more than an absence of physical harm, it is a way to communicate with compassion from the heart.  The process helps us transform old patterns of defensiveness and aggressiveness into compassion and empathy.  It helps us remain focused on what is happening right here, right now.  It has 4 main components:  (1) Observation (2) Feeling (3) Needs (4) Request.  I will illustrate the effectiveness through a recent incident at work.

Just a little background to this story so you have a better understanding of the dynamics in the situation.  I grew up in an anti-religion household, and chose a spiritual path that focus on acceptance and compassion for all beings.  I also chose to hang out with people with similar believes that all beings are good, but their goodness might be covered up by dark clouds.  I have been rather sheltered in my loving, compassionate worldview. 

A couple of months ago I started working at the _____ office, and was paired with more senior attorney who has very “traditional” Catholic believes.  I’ll call this attorney Frank.  Frank is very knowledgeable and an impressively good attorney, and I felt blessed to be paired up with him.  However, I was a little shocked and uncomfortable when he talked about his believes. 

One day, we were having lunch together.  He had a meal replacement bar, and I was having salad.  He was impressed with my healthy diet, and started talking about how he eats lots of wheat and beans because he purchased pounds of wheat and beans just in case the government fails, and he has to eat what he buys.  Next thing you know, he was talking about how there are many signs the government is failing, such as: 

  • ·       Openness to homosexual relationships
  • ·       High rate of divorce
  • ·       Lack of faith in God.

I became uncomfortable and dashed out of the room with some lame excuse of having to use the restroom - not a skillful way to handle the situation, but I just needed a minute to breathe.  Thankfully, Frank gave me a second chance to handle the situation better.

Later that afternoon, he asked me if the conversation we had earlier made me feel uncomfortable.  I decided to utilize my nonviolent communication training in hopes of having a honest, compassionate conversation with him regarding the issue.  I took a deep breath and went through the 4 components of NVC: 1) Observation 2) Feelings 3) Needs 4) Request. 

My “typical” thought was how did I get stuck with this religious freak who hates everyone who does not fit into his box?  Doesn’t he see that it is people like him that is causing the hatred and division we see on the news everyday?

WAIT – these are all judgments and stories in my head.  What actually happened?  He told me about his belief that the government is failing, and his belief of the cause of the failure. 

I observed sensations in my body, and my feelings and realize that when he said homosexuals and divorced people is the cause of our governmental failure, I felt angry and afraid.  

Needs are not things like a fast car, a hot date, or lots of money.  Those are methods to meet one’s needs.  For example, a fast car may meet one’s need for power, a hot date – to meet someone’s need for sexual connection, lots of money – to meet one’s need for independence, comfort, and/or security.

The reason I felt angry and afraid when Frank talked about how homosexuals and divorces are causing our government to fail was because such statements do not meet my need for inclusion, harmony, emotional safety, and acceptance.

After taking an inventory of my observation, feelings, and needs, I told Frank that when he speaks of government failure because of social acceptance of homosexuals and divorces, I feel angry and afraid because such statements do not meet my need for inclusion, harmony, emotional safety, and acceptance.  I made a request to Frank to speak about happier matters, such as good things that are happening in our society.

To my surprise, Frank actually agreed with me and said the Bible actually instructs people to think only good thoughts, and he started telling me about good news – such as actions of certain saints.

Later that week, I worked through the situation again during a NVC practice group.  The instructor role played the situation with me and I realized that Frank has his believes to fulfill similar needs as mine – he believes that a tight family unit without divorce and clear expectations of society (i.e., heterosexual relationships only) would fulfill his need for security, harmony, and acceptance.  Through the NVC process – I entered Rumi’s Field, where there is no ideas of wrong doing and right doing.

Nonviolent communication is a process to communicate with yourself and others compassionately from the heart.  The process has been proven successful in the workplace, in family settings, and even in negotiations between warring nations.  The process is simple and consists of 4 main components: 1) Observation 2) Feeling 3) Needs 4) Request.  Practicing NVC in your daily life surely leads you to Rumi’s Field where right doings and wrong doings do not exist.    


Are you Overwhelmed with the Trayvon Discussion? How Can We Do it Differently?

As our daily news highlights the events around the Treyvon Martin case, I can’t help but feel a swell of pain around my heart.  Not just for the tragedy itself but for the way that it lives on in our daily interactions and discussions.  When will we use such events to actually grow in our interactions and our dialogue, instead of continuing a debate of right and wrong which only perpetuates some of the same thinking that likely led to this event?  When will our media and our officials step up as leaders to learn new ways of sharing information and help our people to hear one another?  Almost every segment of our society is steeped with judgment and this blame mentality – who is right, who is wrong, who is the good guy, who is the bad guy – all the while missing the opportunity to really know one another.

I’m not some utopian; I understand the many crises and tragedies in our world.  I’m just waiting for us to wake up and say we want to do things differently.  Wouldn’t healing and harmony be the greatest legacy we could leave to Trayvon?  I’m not talking about some pie-in-the-sky ideology, I’m talking about real, concrete, skills we could all use to learn to heal and connect with one another – black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jew, and so on. 

Instead of just blaming  – let’s begin to listen and learn empathy.  I’m not talking about the kind of empathy and listening you probably already think you have.  Check out Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication (NVC) work.  If you are telling yourself, “I’m not violent in my communication,” think again.  This kind of empathy involves listening to another with pure presence, understanding (not agreement), and figuring out the underlying needs of that person.  How many of us can do that when we are charged about something?  If we could learn to hear each other and hold conversations without judgment and with this kind of empathy – we would be on a whole new path for healing the race relation issue that seems to still pervade our country.

So, instead of taking a position, or consoling, or giving advice, or correcting about the facts or all the number of other ways we tend to respond in conflict situations, the next time someone starts the Treyvon discussion, try keeping your full attention on the person and listening without judgment and without an agenda.  Try to really hear that person’s NEEDS behind his/her words and connect with those needs. This does not mean giving your power away.  You do not have to agree with the point of view, but you can learn to care about the underlying needs the person is trying desperately to convey, while keeping away from judgment which only keeps the cycle of violence alive.  If you, yourself, are too triggered to be able to hear another, then get empathy yourself – from another person.  I’m not talking about someone to agree with you (that will likely only increase your trigger), I mean get someone to listen deeply and be present to your needs.  We can do this on an individual basis or even during our panel discussions and town hall meetings.  We must first connect deeply before we can ever begin to find solutions. This is the initial step in healing the hurt and finding solutions that work for all.