A Sunday Brunch Meditation

Over gluten-free waffles, green juice and coffee Misty, Vince and I talked about role models, and how if it weren’t for our friends’ families, we would never have imagined that parents could be nice to one another, and to their children.

So if you have a half-way decent family situation, you should open your home to your children’s friends. You should let them see how you operate.

If I had not seen my friends’ parents, I would have never believed that it was possible to live in a calm, sane, rational, loving  environment, and I learned this morning that I’m not the only one.

Misty, too, studied the families of her friends, just like I did.

Vince said that the people he hangs around with now  are astounded that he cooks.

He is baffled by this.

I said, “Nobody cooks anymore, let alone buff, single, 32 year-old personal trainers. So that’s why you need to continue to invite people over for waffles.”

(A lame bid to be asked over for waffles again.)

We are all watching each other. That’s why we read blogs, and FaceBook and are entranced by “Reality TV.” I used to love to walk around my neighborhood at night and look into the lit homes that hadn’t closed their curtains yet.

I saw Mr. Ross reading the newspaper. (Nobody read in my house.)

I heard Mrs. Lynn crashing around in her kitchen. (I grew up eating TV dinners.)

My friend Glenn had to come home and practice the piano for an hour every day before he was allowed to go out and shoot baskets in the driveway. (I didn’t take lessons of any kind.)

Joanne Harrigan had a strict curfew on weekends. (My mother always got home way after me on weekends no matter how late I stayed out.)

I took a lot of comfort from these families.

I wanted my friends’ lives.

Everything I learned about being responsible and caring and intellectual, I learned from the parents of my friends.

So if you are sane, and loving, and rational, invite a kid over for waffles. It could change everything.

I Hear You

I used to be uncomfortable whenever there was a lull in a conversation. I used to jump in and fill it with ANYTHING rather than just let any silence be there.

I am noticing that I am a lot more comfortable with silence now.

I am learning how powerful it is.

When someone stops talking and I don’t jump right in with a response, but instead just let there be a gap of nothing for awhile, weird shit happens.

Either the other person gets really quiet and seems to listen to the startling echo of what they just said.

OR:

They rush right in and stuff the uncomfortable gap with a wad of verbal padding.

I used to be a verbal padder. Now I am becoming more of an echo appreciator.

Today I found myself telling a friend about this blog, and how I have been  blogging since Ash Wednesday and have kept it going, daily, up to this point, and today is my 100th consecutive post.

As I was talking, he was eating, and seemed more absorbed in his food than my narrative. I got the feeling my story was tiresome to him, but I felt powerless to stop it now that I had started it. I needed it to end, yet I prattled on, wondering why I had even started down this path.

I wanted so desperately to stop, mid-sentence, and  let the whole narrative die, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

When I finally finished, I wanted some silence to happen. But it didn’t.

Instead, he jumped right in, changed the subject, and flew off in another direction.

Some conversations could really benefit from air traffic control.

 

Tending Things

We tend gardens. And children. And some of us tend to the sick.

Today I tended to my bills, my accounts, my business. I watered the plants, switched the pictures around on the walls, dusted the sills, folded all the blankets and lined them up neatly on the rack.

I tended my meditation practice, and my yoga practice.

I tended my students, and then, afterwards, my friendships.

To tend things is to watch over them, to protect them (when possible), to keep them from harm.

To tend is to pay attention, to mind, to watch.

To tend is to be human, and kind, and appreciative.

Today I tended things.

Stronger This Year

In the mornings I am reading Thinner This Year. This is dangerous for my health coaching client because this book is scaring me. It pulls no punches when it comes to laying out just what happens when you eat crap.

My client eats crap. My client doesn’t exercise enough. Today he proudly told me that he went to the medical supply store in town and picked up a long gripper stick, fitted it out with some foam rubber, and now he can  pick up sticks in his yard without bending over.

My client is a year older than me. He shouldn’t have to use a long handled stick for yard work. Not yet. (Maybe not ever.) Then he hands me his Food Log and it is nothing but white food.

Because I had just been reading about the wreckage that kind of diet does to a body, I told him he had to “Warrior up.” No more excuses. I hope it’s not going to take a bad diagnosis from his doctor to get his diet and life cleaned up.

Then I went to my personal training session with Vince. After a lower body and ab workout, we went out behind the gym and he took some pics of the 2 of us, messing around on the grass. He posted them to Facebook, and now people are saying really sweet things in the comments.

Here’s the pic.  Vince.  My trainer and friend. He’s adorable. And he’s making me so strong!

Vince and Kath, April 21, 2015

The Way I Wish To Be Seen

Today after yoga was over and most people had gone, Vince, my trainer, stopped by to say hi and to give me a letter. As it turned out I had a card for him, too. It had the Rilke quote on it about living the questions.

He sat down in the Poang chair and read his card, which didn’t take long because, what I am going to add to Rilke, right?

But his letter took me a while to read. It was on a piece of notebook paper, ripped out. It was a gratitude/reflection letter in which he expressed how much he values our friendship. It was eloquent, as well as heart-felt.

I don’t think we can ever know how we show up to other people. I don’t think we can see ourselves as others see us, as much as we would like to.

“Do you SEE yourself??!!

I think I have some idea how I appear to others, I think I know what my personality is like, but then I get a letter like this, and I think: Oh, this is very different from how I feel inside and how I think I present in the world. It is extremely flattering though, and I wish I could identify more with the person he is describing in this letter, because these are very admirable qualities, indeed.

Or, alternately, I do recognize a piece of my personality in what they are praising, but I don’t see it through their particular lens.

They see me as finished, accomplished in the things they are admiring—things like my self-discipline, or my serenity, or my ability to pay attention, yet, in truth, I am always working to cultivate these attributes.

For example, Vince said that he admires how I resource myself before I meet with people. He was referring to my need to allow time between appointments to eat.

On Tuesdays I have a 1 o’clock appointment and our session doesn’t  usually finish up until a little after noon. I am sensitive to the time on Tuesdays because I really do need to go home and eat before I meet my 1 o’clock client. If I don’t, I can’t be fully present for him because I am distracted by hunger.

The other thing he said about me is that I am quiet. This is something I continue to struggle with.  I don’t think I am quiet at all! But I am working on it. In particular, I am working on being more comfortable with silence, and letting  big gaps of silence grow in a conversation without immediately trying to fill them. I am trying to be patient with the  awkwardness of long conversational lulls.

We drove over to the Health food store in Wellsboro together last week, and since I really didn’t have anything to say, I just drove for quite a while.  He looked out the window and hummed along to the music.

Eventually conversation resumed, and when it did, I enjoyed it even more, since there had been that quiet gap before.

I do a lot of self-work: reading, meditating, taking notes, writing, doing yoga, staying conscious in relationships, and I must say it is gratifying when someone makes a remark that leads me to believe I might be making some progress.

And this is what happened today. Someone saw me the way I wish to be seen. It felt both exhilarating and humbling.

Namaste.

The Art of the Conversation

Today I spent a bunch of hours talking to one of the best conversationalists I know, Tim Schlitzer.

I am actually really lucky because I know so many people who have taken the dialogue to an art form. Zee Zahava is a  pure master and a virtuoso, as is Anthony David Adams.

Here is what I think it takes to be a world-class conversationalist:

1. Be engaged with the world. If you are not out in the world, doing things, and having new experiences all the time you will have nothing to talk about. But it is not enough to simply have experiences. You must also…

2. Reflect on your experiences.  You can ponder your experiences of course, but I really think it helps if, from time to time, you write down what you learn and how you are personally affected by the people you meet, the places you visit and the experiences you have.  (Most of my favorite conversationalists are also really good writers.)

3. Master the art of listening.  When you listen to someone else with rapt attention, you not only show respect for that person, but you more quickly locate common ground, where you can then begin to interweave your shared interests and create a beautiful new tapestry of ideas and stories.

4. Be funny. In order to be engaging you must be witty, upbeat and charming. No one wants to hear tales of woe and disaster unless you can spin disaster into a great story. Don Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years should be  a primer for all budding conversationalists.

5.Know what a True Dialogue is. A dialogue is not just a matter of taking turns talking. It’s not just me telling you about my vacation, and then I stop talking so you can tell me about your vacation.

No.

There’s no artistry in that. That’s just blabbing and it’s boring. When a dialogue reaches the stage of an art form I can tell you about my vacation and manage to weave you into it. That takes perspicacity, intimate knowledge of the other person, and the ability to to distill the universal essence  of a human experience so that both speaker and listener feel that they have had the same experience.

Lately I have been reading research about how the over-reliance on texting is destroying the art of the conversation. I don’t know anything about that because I simply refuse to  talk —at least for very long, to people who can’t hold a conversation, or who don’t know how to dialogue.

A good conversation involves timing, listening, weaving, and charming storytelling. If you have ever experienced one, you know that it is breath-taking in its effect. And you can’t wait to do it again.

I am lucky. I know some great conversational masters.  I love it when I get to sit down with them and co-create, as I did today, a beautiful tapestry of connection.

Thanks, Tim.