Are you a people pleaser?

There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?” ― Dalai Lama 

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I read a great article this week by Robina Courtin, a Buddhist nun who teaches Buddhism for modern living, about why you mustn’t live your life for others.  It was fitting in that I interacted this week with a number of people who please others, are terrified of upsetting anyone else and work terribly hard to appease or satisfy those around them.  I reflected over times I had done the same. The cost to me was corrosive. It ate away at my peace. It ate away at my self-respect. It ate away at my joy in life.

Fulfilling other people’s expectations is, according to Buddhist philosophy, an “attachment to reputation” and is so strong in some of us as to be more important than other basic needs such as security, money, food etc. I’m not talking about genuine kindness here. I’m talking about the fear of saying no, the fear of upsetting someone else, always putting other people’s needs before your own. Courtin dispels the misconception that it is selfish not to put others first. She explains this “attachment to reputation” is fuelled by fear and our innate need to be seen as a ‘nice’ person. It also sets us up to define ourselves by how others see us.

Are you starting to see how destructive this can be?

This concern over what others think of us is one of the reasons we hold on to friendships, relationships and situations that have passed their used by date. The need for approval and acceptance from others is often the reason we find ourselves saying ‘yes’ to something, so someone else feels good, at the expense of our time, energy or our own wellbeing.

Courtin encourages us to be ‘the boss’ of our own lives. This is imperative. But first we must ask ourselves what is it we truly want in life?  The Dalai Lama says we should aspire to do what is most beneficial, in the long term. In other words, get our motivations right.  Agreeing to help someone with a project in itself isn’t what counts but the motivation behind it does. Do you give those two hours every weekend freely, or are you resentful of the time you’ll lose with your family as a result?  We need to look inside ourselves for the answers, says Courtin,  to what motivates our actions.

With deep introspection we will more likely aspire to do what is most benificial. From this pure place of decision making and honouring ourselves we will then be free to enjoy the pleasure and fulfillment that comes as a result.

With this coming week have some fun with this information. Be mindful of the motivations behind your decisions. Are they the most benificial to all involved? Are your decisions building or eroding your self-respect?

It isn’t selfish to address your own needs.

Here’s to a week of noticing what drives our decisions and actions. Here’s to a week of doing the right thing by our own selves.

Shannyn

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Boogie boards, sticks and snorkels.

My friend, a brilliant business man, powerful speaker and motivator, called me at the end of last week to discuss a few ideas and we had an interesting conversation to say the least.  It all started off well, we were on task and focused but then, he paused. At first I thought we’d been cut off. Then I heard a shrill scream in the background and my friend called out to his son to “Put that boogie board down Thomas*”.  After what I can only imagine was a stern fatherly look in his son’s direction to enforce his command, my friend returned to our conversation; momentarily. We had only exchanged a few words when he again called to his son “If you don’t put the boogie board down and stop hitting your sister with it you will go inside.” ( Are you chuckling? I was. I guess it also had something to do with boogie boards being so topical in the Australian news recently)

Not three minutes after our conversation had resumed there was another pause. I thought it was a pregnant pause, offered to allow me time to digest what he’d just said. But no. He was training his concentration on his daughter who had decided to take her revenge on her brother with a snorkel. So again, I heard my friend holler to sweet little Georgia*, “Put the snorkel down Georgia and get back in the pool.”

With the boogie board and snorkel safely retrieved our conversation began, again. Only to be interrupted several minutes later with a call to “Put the stick down. Put the stick down Georgia. We don’t run with sticks.”  My friend then told me with mirth in his voice that his determined daughter was standing in front of him, hand on hip, naked and staring him down after his latest admonishment.

Seriously, it was hilarious and I was ever so grateful I’d only had one child and that he was now an adult. My parenting skills weren’t all the best so I was lucky, while my son was a cheeky little imp at times, he was a fairly docile little fellow.

The fun and hilarity didn’t stop there. The best was yet to come and I nearly peed myself when I heard him call “No, no. Don’t roll around the grass naked.”  Crossing my legs and trying to tame my laughter I said to him, “boogie boards, sticks and snorkels – there’s a blog in that” and we laughed.

I so admire people who, after their first child, go back for more. The weight of the responsibility and a lack of confidence in my own ability, to perform well in the role, deterred me, ever so strongly, from having more children.

Children are a source of great joy. Watching them grow up and interact with the world is a delight. Listening to their perspectives and ideas is refreshing and insightful.  My friend, who is one of the best parents I know, may not have been seeing those positive attributes that afternoon as we wrapped up our conversation. The last thing he said to me, tongue in cheek, was “I’m done. I’ve had a huge week and I’m going to drink scotch. Straight from the bottle.”

That short, colourful conversation with my friend (and his kids) was a powerful reminder to have some fun and to inject a little childlike silliness into life.
Have some fun this week.

But …. Just remember, don’t run with sticks or roll around the grass naked, you might get bitten on the bum by ants or get itchy. Be aware too, that if you hit someone with a large piece of surfing equipment you might just be clobbered back with an equally unusual object.

And, above all else … if you drink scotch, why dirty a glass?

Yours in joy, fun and silliness,
Shannyn

The agony of regret.

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Who are the important people in your life?
Have you got an ever expanding bucket list?
What activities, hobbies and pastimes give you joy, fill you up and satisfy your soul?

Are you happy with the amount of time and attention you’ve allowed for these recently? Have you seen those loved ones lately? Have you ticked items off your bucket list and do you engage in those life giving activities you enjoy often enough?

Life delivered me a very abrupt wake up call this past week and I realised that life is far too short to live with regrets and miss opportunities that enrich us.

A friend of mine, who has lived on the Sunshine Coast, just over an hour’s drive from where I live, moved to New Zealand this week. A few weeks ago, when we were taking about the possibility of her moving, I thought I had plenty of time to catch up with her before she left. To my surprise she packed her bag and bought a ticket allowing only a two week window of time for a final visit.

Unfortunately, in that time I had a packed schedule and simply couldn’t make the trip to see her. I was lamenting with another friend and sharing how I deeply saddened I was and how I regretted not being able to see our mutual friend before her departure. She too felt a similar regret and what she said next was like the universe giving me a little smack. My wise friend said, “We feel sadness and regret because we could have seen her more often, and we didn’t”.

She’s right you know. I was busy the last two weeks before my friend left but I could have made the time to see her more regularly before that, and I didn’t. Now, instead of living an hour away she is across the ocean, in another country and it is no longer quite so easy to pop in for a cup of tea, a hug and a chat.

Then I started thinking about the other people in my life who I treasure and yet don’t see often enough. My grandmother lives in my city, about forty minutes away from me and a dear friend moved into a nursing home some time ago and I haven’t seen her for several months. Both of these beautiful women are important to me and have played integral roles in my life and I’ve not made the time to see them as regularly as I’d like.

Interestingly, this same week, an associate asked me what was stopping me from volunteering at Meals on Wheels and the hospital and writing my book – things I’ve long wanted to do. To be honest, using lack of time seemed like a weak excuse and I heard myself respond by saying “nothing”. To be honest, nothing was stopping me but my own self created story of being tired, too busy, putting more importance on mundane things. I realised too, it has just been easier to long for something rather than to actually get off my butt and do something about it. For years I’ve  wanted to do these things and all I really needed to do to make these dreams a reality was to make a few phone calls and actually “put my money where my mouth is”.

We are all busy and there are times when we are sick and tired and just need our own time, away from the world. But let me ask you, do you want to reflect back over your life and regret missed opportunities?

I encourage you to pick up the phone today and connect with friends and family. Schedule your fun. Yep, put it in your diary and gift that time to yourself to go climb that rock, hike that mountain, ride your bike, learn to dance, sew, cook and sip tea with a friend.

Life is too short for regrets. Life is so much richer filled with love, fun, enjoyment and a sense of achievement.

Go ahead. Start now. What’s stopping you?

Have a fabulous weekend.

Shannyn

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Resurfacing from the brain drain

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Sometimes it’s hard to keep your spiritual centre in a practical world.  This last week has been particularly challenging with several technology issues: the home computer crashed with a virus, iPad issues arose that required a hard shut down with the very displeasing outcome of it not rebooting and, as if that wasn’t enough, I lost four days work when a document I’d been working on corrupted.  These challenges came along with work deadlines, personal study deadlines, and other projects to complete.  Oh, and my son came home for a short visit in the middle of it all.

I became a little teary at one point, my head hurt and my thinking was fuzzy. I also fellt quite queezy.  Old patterns of dealing with stress knocked at the door to be released (I’m talking emotional eating, self medication via sugar intake etc, etc).

In the face of losing my centredness, balance and calm, I put a plan in place. The following tips may help you when you find your spiritual self slipping away into the practicalities of a busy life.

1. People first.
Okay, the work stuff was super important and the deadlines became more imminent with the loss of four days work but my son was home for a short visit and I really wanted to spend time with him.  Something had to be sacrificed and I figured it wasn’t to be our time together.

Together we headed to the Apple store to see to the iPad. We enjoyed a tea and a latte and discussed all sorts of topics as we waited for our appointment. We chatted some more while the restore/ reboot was happening and then we had a nice day together doing some fun things and enjoying lunch and generally catching up.

I had to make a conscious effort to put the deadlines, the work, the problems out of my mind for that time but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that day with my son for anything. There was a positive outcome with the ipad too. After being told I could potentially lose all my data, a lovely young man was able to reboot my device and restore my data. Win win!

2. Prioritise
I made a list of everything that needed to be done and then prioritised those tasks into daily actions.  The daily checklist, which chunked the multitude of tasks into daily tasks, helped to reduce the overwhelm. I could clearly see what had to be done each day and not be distracted or side tracked by other tasks.

3. Maintain a commitment meditation
Last week I wrote about my twice daily meditation practice keeping me sane and strengthening my coping abilities in a busy world. Without meditation I’m not sure I would have made it through this week. There was no compromise here.

4. Make self care a priority.
The first thing to go when we hit the skids is self care.  As tempting as it was to skip my morning walk to work for an extra hour I had to make a conscious effort to put on my runners and hit the pavement. Exercise has all sorts of physical and mental health benefits for me.  Okay, to be really honest, I did skip my walk one morning but I had a two hour yoga class that evening that I would not compromise.  So I figured I was still being true to myself, just.

I remained mindful of keeping my diet clean by eating healthy, fresh food, drinking lots of water and herbal tea. Healthy fats; including coconut oil, avocado and nut butters provided feelings of satiety and curbed the sugar cravings.

5. Sleep
I had a few late nights rewriting the workshop that I lost due to the corrupted file and cramming reading for my course.  I really started to feel the effects this placed on my body and mind.  My eyes burned, I was tired during the day, my thinking was hampered, my speech slightly slurred and my interactions with others were effected.  Despite these hideous side effects it was very tempting to push ahead with late nights to meet deadlines but, in the end, common sense prevailed and I realised I had to sleep. Going to bed early supported clearer and more focused thinking the following day which enabled me to be more productive.

6. Take time out
After a particularly busy day I zoomed home and started thinking about all the things I had to do – cook dinner, make lunches, wash the clothes, iron, water the garden etc, etc. Thankfully, by the time I had arrived home ‘clarity’ had shone its bright light on my thinking and instead of ticking off all the tasks I had mentally noted I kicked off my shoes, popped on my comfy house clothes, made a cup of tea and headed barefoot into the garden. I sipped my tea while inspecting the herbs and then I plonked myself down on a patch of lush green grass and just sat there feeling the connection between my body and the earth. I lay back, after securing my tea cup in a nice clump of grass, and drank in the sky, the birdsong, the sound of children playing and laughing next door.  The earth soaked up the dross I’d been carrying around.  I was restored.

garden1The life I want for myself relies on the presence of joy, creativity, wisdom, compassion and harmony. I’ve worked long and hard to create that for myself but, once in every little while, a situation or series of situations will arise to challenge me.  I’m no yogi or spiritual guru so at times I find myself slipping into the abyss of confusion, overwhelm and chaos. The key, however, is to notice it is happening and pull it up before it gets out of hand. The above steps worked well for me. Yes, I’m still getting on top of all the work I have to do but I can approach it from a centred place and hopefully in a few days I will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Some people say life wasn’t meant to be easy. I agree that at times it isn’t but it doesn’t have to be a burdomesome struggle, bereft of joy. Find the little moments of joy in each day or create them for yourself.

Wishing you a week full of joy, peace and harmony.

Shannyn