Tag Archives: peace

Thought Experiment I: Loving Messages

This post is the start of a new intermittent series on Intermittent Inspirations where I will consider “what ifs” that pop into my head. Paul Wesselmann inspired this idea when he, Josh and I had dinner the other night, although he doesn’t know it yet. I hope you enjoy.

Last week when I was driving to Milwaukee to teach Taking It Lightly at the Center for Creative Learning, I listened to podcasts. I so rarely take the time to listen in my daily life, so driving trips are a treat for me in this way. I heard an episode of the Get-It-Done Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More. Stever Robbins (yes, Stever) does a fantastic job of sharing truly valuable tips for being more productive, especially with work and technology.
In this episode he focused on saying “no” to difficult requests, say from a boss or a teenager. I was blown away that he interviewed Byron Katie! She’s the author of Loving What Is, which is a fantastic book about questioning our beliefs, accepting reality, and letting go of a lot of the painful and troublesome thoughts that we live with on a daily basis. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Here’s a brief excerpt of one of the role plays that Stever and Katie did:

Finally, a teenager who wants the car.

S: I’m a teenager and you’re a mother.
S: Hey Mom! Can I use your car to go to the movies?
K: No, actually, no.
S: All the other kids’ parents let them use the car.
K: Oh, my goodness, it’s true, isn’t it? You know, we really have different lives.
S: If you loved me, you’d let me use the car.
K: You know, it’s so interesting you would say that. You know, I love you with all my heart, and I’m not letting you use the car.
S: Mom, I hate you! I hate you! Everything in my life that’s wrong is wrong because of you.
K: Oh, honey. I’m so sorry you feel that way. I adore you.

Did you catch that? No matter what message she received that would normally be considered disrespectful, hurtful or hateful, she responded with love. It was almost as if she didn’t hear anything but love. And this leads to my thought experiment:
Thought Experiment: What if we only attended to the Love in all incoming messages?
This doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t hear the words of messages if they weren’t loving; it means that listening to each word we would only hear Love (or perhaps a request for it). When Stever in the role play said “Mom, I hate you!” she didn’t respond by hurting back, punishing or judging, she simply expressed sadness, then said she adored the teenager.
It’s easiest for me to do this experiment when thinking about a small child who is upset: wouldn’t it be easier to understand the child doesn’t believe it when she says she hates you? She’s lashing out because of some kind of pain. I imagine having compassion for the child, holding her and telling her I’m sorry she’s upset, and that I love her anyway.
Well, now apply that to anyone. Let’s say I bump into someone in a store and they say something that would normally be thought of as unkind. If I knew that five minutes earlier they had learned someone very close to them had died, wouldn’t I be able to have compassion for them, and let the less-than-kind words go right by? Would I instead be able to simply recognize they are hurting, and understand it wasn’t about me, so that I didn’t need to take it personally?
If compassion is possible in that situation, why not in every situation? Why should I ever take unkind messages personally? How could they ever truly be about me? Even if it’s someone I know, even if it’s someone who’s very close to me, isn’t everything they say still about them? What is the benefit of taking anything personally that anyone says? Is there one? What is the benefit of NOT taking things personally? I can’t even count them.
I had an experience in this vein while teaching a few years ago: I was leading an activity that had a goal of helping people learn to ask for help. The students were given a task to do individually that was not very possible to do alone, without help. From the previous day, I had identified one of the students as being hyper-independent. She (gender determined by coin toss) immediately reacted when I gave the instructions for the activity. She was angry, and an observer may have perceived that she attacked me. Happily, I was unsurprised by the response. I knew that it wasn’t about me, but about her fear of not having the answer, not being able to control the outcome by herself. I responded, “Whoever told you that you had to have all the answers?” She immediately broke down in tears and told a story of just that–having to be in charge, not getting any support, and having to do it all herself. She did the activity and got a huge gift of being able to let go of some of the charge connected to those thoughts.
If I had taken what she said personally, I wouldn’t have had the resources to respond the way I did. What do you suppose would have happened if I had responded defensively? It wouldn’t have been pretty, and she probably wouldn’t have gotten the gift of releasing some of her pain.
When I’m instructing it’s a lot easier to respond in that way, because I’m in “instructor mode.” I’m not that clear-thinking every moment of every day.
What would happen if we simply didn’t respond to anything but the loving content of messages, or responded only with love or positive regard to all communications? Think about your interactions at work or school. With friends. With family. This last one is probably the toughest, since familial relationships are so primary, and thus so tied into our basic emotions and reactions. Imagine the following interactions:
child: if I don’t get the car tonight, I’ll hate you forever!
parent: I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m afraid you can’t have the car tonight, and I love you.
spouse: Why are you embarrassing me by wearing that again?
spouse: I’m sorry you’re embarrassed. I love you and I’m wearing this again because I like it.
boss: This report isn’t very good–this semi-colon should be a dash, there’s an extra space here, and […]
employee: Thank you for the feedback; I appreciate it.
Do these examples sound ridiculous? Do you get tense just reading them, perhaps thinking another response is appropriate?
Simply imagine what it would feel like to not take anything personally. To see everyone consistently with unconditional positive regard. To not need to get tense or afraid or angry about what someone thinks about us or says about us or anything else. How would things be different in your primary relationships? In your family? At work?
I’m committing to working on this thought experiment in daily life as best as I can. I’ll write about my experiences.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this first thought experiment.


Last week was a bit  hectic. When I discussed it with my friend, Karen, she sent me this, which I think is very cool. Using it really helped me be more relaxed!


Breathing in I know I am breathing in

Breathing out I know I am breathing out

Breathing in I see myself as a flower

Breathing out I feel fresh

Breathing in I see myself as still water

Breathing out I reflect things as they are

Breathing in I see myself as a mountain

Breathing out I feel solid

Breathing in I see myself as space

Breathing out I feel free

Thich Nhat Hanh

See Obama Being Elected

I got this in email this morning and really liked it. Give it a try.

“….stay  at the center of the circle and let all things take their course….” Lao  Tzu

The  year is 2016. We glance at the television one morning and see Barack Obama  having another of his many press conferences. He has now been in office for almost 8 years.

It hasn’t been perfect, but  things are way better than when he took office in January of 2009. You  notice that his hair has whitened and he still has that winning smile and  that take charge/positive energy that he had when he was campaigning way  back in 2008.

You remember back to how  concerned you were about whether or not he would win in 2008 and you feel deeply contented that  he has been safely in office for such a long  time.

He and Congress have done much to address  global warming, health care, development of alternative energy sources and a  variety of other important matters to the country and the planet. You feel  deep gratitude for the past eight years and how things have  unfolded.

See it…

Feel  it…

Breathe it….

Pass it  on.

Lets stop fighting against McCain and Palin, and  start working ‘for’ Obama-Biden. Lets stop driving ourselves crazy with all  of the outrageous mind upsetting details about them and start remembering  all of the wonderful reasons we want  Obama.

THE CHALLENGE: take 30 seconds right now. Close your eyes and imagine exactly what  our country will feel like with President Obama.

Imagine  how good it will feel.

Imagine  whatever it is about him that you desire.

Imagine  the pride.

Imagine  the diplomacy.

Imagine  the peace.

Imagine the wind mills and the clean cars.

Imagine  the citizen groups.

Imagine the earth being healed and revitalized.

Imagine  being very proud of your country and its leader.

Imagine  whatever it is that draws you to support Obama.

Imagine  what your life will look like.

30 seconds. Do it several  times a day. We can shift and change the vibration of this country with  positive visions just like this. It’s only 30 seconds a few times a  day.

Cable? What Cable?

It occurred to me as I was driving home tonight that it’s now been several months since I cancelled cable. I’m amazed to say that I don’t miss it overall. There have been a few times when I’ve wanted to veg and been drawn to the TV. I don’t even have it set up to watch channels over the air – I just don’t care enough. A couple of those times I watched one of the DVDs I own. Often I read. Imagine that.

This is such a major success, as I grew up in a household where the TV was always the fourth wall. Indeed, if I’m in a bar or somewhere where a TV is playing I am completely distracted by it, as I have a strong conditioned response to watch it. TVs are just plain evil.

I thought when I cancelled that I’d really miss some of my favorite shows. At this point, they don’t matter. If I’m at a friend’s and would get a chance to watch, it would be fun, and it no longer has the weight that it used to.

Hm. I wonder if I should be one of those annoying people who puts a “Kill your television” bumper sticker on their car. God knows I’m annoying in lots of other ways, so I’ll have to think about it.