More on personal practices.
Last week’s column was on the difference between resolutions and personal practices. This week is on some practices that have some unintended benefits.
The week between Christmas and New Years was very emotionally challenging for me. I will share some of the practices that helped me through in ways I could never have predicted.
I was confronted with the situation of my mother, who is elderly and living in assisted care 4 hours away, and her physical and emotional decline. She experienced a medical crises that brought to light a number of eldercare issues that needed to be addressed.
It was very sad to see her state of decline. Her attitude varied from grateful for the care and support from family members to being demanding, combative and “difficult”. Her condition ignited my Doubter in a huge way and challenged me to maintain my own composure. Here are the practices I turned to:
1. Finding something to appreciate in everyone I talk to. Sounds silly in reference to your family, but the person wearing my mother’s face at times seemed much like a stranger.
2. Compassion for self and others. This practice was a double edged sword. It was easy to have compassion for her. The difficult, less practiced part, was to have compassion for myself. In her so called bad behavior, I saw myself. I used to behave just as badly and just as difficult. The pain of recognition was coupled with the knowledge that at the time I was behaving as she did, I was good and truly miserable. I can easily imagine her being just as miserable and attached to futile behavior as I was. Ouch!
3. The third practice was my spiritual practice of remembering the context of the so called undesirable situation. I was able to remember that I was emotionally reactive, my Doubter was inflamed and hyper aroused. The joy of remembering that was that I also could remember I am not my feelings. These feelings are just feelings and do not define my life. My life is so much richer and meaningful now that it can contain such uproar. I can step back at times and regain my perspective. Every now and then, I can become my own coach for a moment and listen to my own inner wisdom.
4. The fourth practice was that of gratitude. I was viscerally reminded of that after a long afternoon going through 4 files drawers of papers for her estate planning with a family member and noticing a beautiful sunset. The family member and I stepped onto the porch and enjoyed the moment. A large colony of turkey vultures returned to roost in the surrounding trees and put on quite a show for us. Joy and beauty was still available, even in the midst of yuck and drudgery.
What personal practices could you use as well developed muscles in unforeseen circumstances? What well developed strengths could you use? And as in last weeks column, do you have a coach to support you in creating and nurturing your new practice? How could a coach help you to benefit from creating new personal practices for 2012?