Friday, January 18, 2013

Are You Too Nice?

A friend once said she believed the only thing to really fear was regret. Do you ever regret being nice, or being not nice?

I called the pharmacy to check on my mother’s billing and asked for Janell, the woman who’d helped me before. After a pause, the woman who’d answered the phone told me Janell had died. Though I’d only spoken with Janell a few times, she always remembered me and was so pleasant that I commented on it to her, and thanked her for it. I was glad, when I learned of her death, that I had no regret about our interactions, and that I’d told her how much I appreciated her.

When I first moved to New York City, people kept saying to me, “You’re so nice,” as though it was an anomaly. I heard it so often that it began to annoy me. I even took a Learning Annex class in Manhattan titled, “Stop Being So Nice.” It didn’t work (grin.) I now find this humorous; and instead of being annoyed these days, I would say “Thank you.”

I have “buttons” that can get pushed just as everyone else does, but I tend to aim at kindness or courtesy (often called niceness) first, whenever possible. People with more aggressive personalities think this is a flaw and aren’t shy about telling me so (another grin). But I think that whenever possible during a challenge, conflict, or contrast, it’s more productive to ask a right question than to make accusations or be rude.

This is a good way to stay in integrity and treat anyone else involved with integrity. (No one appreciates being treated without integrity. Look at the strife it causes in families, communities, and around the world.) Being able to do this automatically when triggered is something that happens after practicing it, perhaps after quite a lot of practice. Before this becomes automatic, you may state you need a pause when triggered and that you’ll get back to the person soon; then do so in a more productive frame of mind. 

Here’s a moderate example of keeping integrity. My mother told the physical therapy people that she’d be happy to go to therapy at 2 p.m., but not in the mornings. The next morning more than one therapist came to get her at different times, and she had to restate her preference. When we spoke about this, she expressed her annoyance and feeling that they were ignoring her wishes. I told her this might be what was going on and it might be there was a longer-than-desired gap between people getting therapy and they were bored (which is not her issue, but theirs), or it might be something else entirely. Without asking them, we didn’t have enough information to decide what this was about. I suggested she ask them this question: “What do we need to do so that you to come for me at 2:00 and not before?” This type of question states the issue, problem, or situation and involves the others in the solution. It shines a light on their actions without any rudeness or negative assertions. It is, well, nice.

Being nice can be relaxing, as long as it’s genuine, that is. False niceness isn’t nice at all, nor does it feel good the way genuine niceness does. It’s better to go for politeness based on empathy than false niceness. Genuine empathy and false niceness are both energies that will be picked up on by the recipient. The first one creates connection; the second one does not and cannot, and may, in fact, create more conflict.

I recently read something that really resonates for me: Student says, “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” Master says, “Encourage others.” This resonates because somewhere along the line, this very action, or at least being courteous to others when experiencing personal emotional upset, took root in me. And it never fails to make me feel better and to calm my emotions. I think this is because to do this requires me to take attention away from whatever has my ego-aspect off balance and place it, empathetically, onto others. The good energy my niceness inspires in them washes over me, and we are both nurtured. Whatever’s bothering me may not be resolved by this nice treatment of others, but I feel better. And better energy being matched by Law of Attraction is a desirable path to travel.

We all share a journey that’s not always an easy one. Even the briefest expression of empathy, and appreciation, can make a huge difference. This can even establish the nature of the relationship between you and those you do business with. This can sometimes be easier to do with strangers or associates than with family members you have contrasts with; but it can be done. It all depends on the result you desire; though, no result is guaranteed when one or more others are involved. But it is always a matter of whether or not you want to fill your life with small and large regrets or joys. It matters if you’re invested in evolving you and your spiritual development and connection with all, no matter what others choose.

I watched a Joyce Meyer program when she sang a Willie Nelson song to her husband, altering one lyric line in a poignant way to explain why she’d been so difficult to live with the first several years of their marriage: “I was always on my mind.” It’s like this for many of us. It’s understandable, but it can also be overdone by our ego-aspect that tends to forget we aren’t the only ones in our life with needs, desires, concerns, and fears.

Can you be too nice? I don’t think so. You can be too falsely nice in order to mask what you really feel or to avoid an unskillful sharing of your personal truth with others. But the world could use more niceness based in genuine caring, genuine courtesy, and genuine empathy for our shared experience of making our way through life and learning with lesser or greater or evolving awareness. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

You are welcome to use this article in your newsletter or on your blog/website as long as you use my complete bio with it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Do You React Unskillfully or Respond Skillfully to What-Is?

We want, and think we should have, a rosy path through life; but what we need are skills to navigate through the rose petals and the thorns. How skilled do you feel?

The general attitude about what-is, as I’ve observed and have at times personally experienced, is that it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable for us more than not. What-is is often considered to mean things aren’t going our way. My thought is that some of the contemporary positive mental attitude methods or their teachers may have led us astray in this matter, adding to this common perception about what-is that many seem to hold. Many of us still think we’re supposed to get or have our way, according to ego-based concepts, that is. Some believe this means at all times, despite the bigger picture we are all a part of and participants in. Falling short of this having-our-way leads to levels of frustration and self-doubt.

Although spiritual-metaphysical understanding can and does create desired experiences and outcomes, the belief that if we just do certain techniques or methods “right” we can eliminate anything we perceive as undesirable from happening, leaves us pretty much unskilled to manage our way through undesired what-is experiences that come our way. And they will and do come our way.

I’ll share a few of my own recent examples here. I’d decided the perfect time to take time off was from December 22, 2012 to January 2, 2013. What happened instead was that at Noon December 23, I was at the emergency room with my mother. We believed she’d be in overnight for observation. The what-is of it is that we didn’t leave the hospital until 2 p.m. December 30. It was a difficult, exhausting week for both of us. So you know, my mother is okay; and as she said the day before we left, she’s as strong as an ox, despite her ailments.

While there, I had to surrender to what-is, as well as accept that not only was there to be no time off, but that I had to be on 24 hours a day for 7 straight days, and most of it was quite challenging. I had to face “What you resist persists” and stop any and all resistance. I had to look at how ego-based attachments were a negative influence on me and let them go. I realized that hanging on to resistance and attachments was like clinging to a heavy boulder in deep water. I had to let go and surrender to what-is and rely on my spiritual foundation or sink. Once I did that, good things, helpful things and people, found the entryway clear to come to me.

Another couple of what-is experiences happened once I returned home. The turkey defrosting in the fridge for the Christmas dinner that was never cooked had leaked. It was quite a mess. Everything in the fridge was tossed and the insides scrubbed before I could replace much of what was lost. Then on January 6, my hard drive crashed. At this point I laughed and really let go, which is what I do when “reality” reaches, in my perception, a level of ridiculousness.

One thing I’ve learned is that events are layered; they serve more than one purpose at a time, such as my hard drive crash answering a question I’ve had for a while. Another very important thing I’ve learned is to trust the Universe, no matter what appearances are, though I still have moments where I have to pass through some understandable initial anxiety or upset first. That’s part of being human. You’d benefit by remembering this for yourself as well.

A tech-wiz friend came over that afternoon, pronounced my long-faithful computer dead then gave me good news: He had a newer computer than mine available to give to me (yes, I said give); and, which I learned was unusual, it had the programs I needed on it. He got the computer and set everything up. I had to buy a new keyboard to go with the newer technology, and have a learning curve going on, but what a terrific, unexpected result! The Universe’s resources are infinite and often beyond our limited imagination. When this knowing is part of your foundation, you can relax and even become curious about what’s what much quicker, whenever such experiences come your way.

I share my experiences with you because each of us has stuff happen in our lives that can, could, or does throw us for a loop. During such times it feels very easy to get off balance, or to not manage ourselves well through and beyond these experiences. It’s easy to enter the mental attitude or mindset that causes us to feel awful or devastated by an undesired turn of events, and to abandon any trust in the Universe’s plan for us and its ability and desire to support us.

And this is part of where we’ve gone astray: we believe or think that any time we have such experiences, it means the Universe isn’t supporting us “properly” for some reason, or that we’re flawed or not doing something right. The discomfort or anguish we feel is because WE have cut ourselves off from the Truth.

All manner of pain in life is inevitable, but continuing to suffer because of it is optional. The more skilled you feel, the stronger you know yourself to be, and the less you suffer by choice. Those skills are your spiritual-mental-emotional-creative foundation and true wealth, not what’s in your bank account, not your popularity, not your appearance, and not your success rating according to the opinions of others. If you want to feel the way you desire, strengthen your skills, your inner knowing, and therefore your foundation. No structure is secure on a shaky or undefined foundation. This is one main reason so many feel anxious or frustrated much of the time; this and the fact that a real relationship with the Universe or Source hasn’t been nurtured.

The more you practice, the more natural and automatic using your skills becomes. It may help if you realize there are four levels of awareness and practice:

1. Unconscious Incompetence: You don’t know that you don’t know.
2. Conscious Incompetence: You’re aware that you don’t know, and you can choose to change this, or not.
3. Conscious Competence: You’ve learned new skills and practice them, and are aware of your practice. (Think of a new driver paying acute attention to everything they are supposed to do.)
4. Unconscious Competence: You know something so well and are so practiced that you do it proficiently or efficiently without thinking about doing it. You just do it. (Like a long-time driver whose thoughts wander but can still attend to driving.)

Your, my, and our ego-aspect likely, or usually, prefers Unconscious Competence right at the start, with no need for levels 2 and 3 to learn and to practice what we learn in order to reach level 4. This is a guaranteed path to frustration. Everything in life must go through maturation stages, including our levels of development in every area and aspect of life, if we are to reach the Unconscious Competence level in any one of them. The moment you allow and follow this natural order and process of progression, you empower yourself. You begin to believe in you, and in the Universe, because you become differently-aware of patterns unfolding and merging in the dynamics of your life, as well as your own level of influence.

One thing to practice more often is asking yourself right or better questions like, “What is my head and heart alignment about this” or “What do I know for certain about Universal Laws and resistance,” and even, “What is the right question to ask about this,” and so on. There are more “sins” of omission (not doing what is beneficial) than commission (deliberate wrong actions or choices) when it comes to how we experience life. Even a slight shift that leads you to do more of what is beneficial would make a difference in your experiences and how you experience them.

It’s time to stop aiming solely or primarily at the material aspects of life, and opinions of others, to feel the way we desire. It’s time to aim at honing our skills that assist us to, yes, create roses on our path, as well as navigate through the thorny moments; and to trust ourselves and the Universe. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

You are welcome to use this article in your newsletter or on your blog/website as long as you use my complete bio with it.