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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

I confess I spent the first week after Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States in mourning, deep despair, and bewilderment. I felt as if someone I loved had punched me in the chest. Many people I love, in fact, voted for him. They too were feeling despair: despair that I didn’t vote for him, and confusion about why I felt so devastated.

During that first week, I led several meditations on peace in different national and international venues. I offered formal and informal empathy sessions to many people, and listened to many more: hundreds of stories about enormous pain from families, spouses, and loved ones who had suddenly found themselves deeply divided.

It was exhausting — until I said “STOP,” and allowed myself the space to receive empathy, to offer it to myself, and to grieve and grieve and grieve my own grief.

And then I got clear (really clear!) that I wanted to focus on healing the gap between those of us who didn’t vote for Donald Trump, and those who did – and all our life experiences that led us to this point.

Thich Nhat Hahn says, We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us.  Then, we will suffer less. But everyone is suffering, and no one wants to listen.”

I am listening.


Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

I first heard this quote many years ago and it took a little longer for the deeper meaning of it to sink in. At the time, I was working for a small organization. Each week we’d hold our staff meetings and I’d leave discouraged and disappointed because I didn’t think we were hearing each other or connecting at the depth I’d hoped for. My judgment was that the others didn’t want to connect.

I chewed on my judgment for several months, became more disgruntled and judgmental.

Then, one morning as I was waking up, I started grumbling about how we’d have another staff meeting that wouldn’t be connecting or enjoyable, and a voice rang through my head: “Mary, if you want to connect, connect.”


mary-mackenzie-150I’m in Hawaii for three weeks offering a variety of trainings.  Nearly every day I express my gratitude that I get to do work that I love so much, in a place that is so beautiful to me, and to work with people whom I love.  Ahhh.

There have been many moments that I have thought, “remember this for the blog, Mary,” but have been distracted by all the beauty and joy and snorkeling and hiking with friends.  So, this morning, I will write about one thing and I hope to write again tomorrow.

I was in the second day of a 4-day retreat and I noticed that I felt uncomfortable with one of the participants and my inner chatter was saying, “He’s not satisfied with the workshop” and “He’s smirking” and “I actually have no idea what’s going on with him!”  I became aware of my jackal howling at the lunch break.

Does your jackal howl in your ear for a while before you notice her?  Sometimes, mine howls for a while before I become aware of her.  I believe this is because it is so familiar to have judgmental or critical thoughts.  NVC is teaching me how to become more aware of my jackal inner voice and to respond to her much more quickly, rather than be complacent in my judgments.


mary-mackenzie-150Yesterday I boarded a flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Oahu, Hawaii.  It was to be a 6.5 hour flight.  I had taken special care to reserve a window seat.  Upon boarding, I realized that I was seated in the middle seat, in the middle of the plane.  I was so frustrated and annoyed!   6.5 hours in the middle seat!

So, I was getting myself settled in my seat with an undercurrent of grumpy judgementalism.  The first thing that happened was a man in the row behind me offered to hold my tea while I got myself settled.  Next the man sitting to the left of me offered to hold my tea while I buckled my seatbelt.  Next, the man sitting to the right of me offered me the Phoenix newspaper that he had just finished.  This all transpired while I was grumbling internally, empathizing with myself, feeling worried about how uncomfortable I’m going to be for the next 6.5 hours, blaming airport employees for my miserable situation, etc.

Within 10 minutes, well before the plane started moving, I remembered that if I continue on this course, I will ensure that my flight is utterly miserable.  So, I took a deep breath, began empathizing with myself in earnest (not just enjoying the jackal show!), and began to shift my attitude.  Then, I napped for about 30 minutes because I realized (through self empathy) that the biggest obstacle for me was only getting 4 hours of sleep the night before.


mary-mackenzie-150I had an incident happen about a week ago and it took a few days for me to take the time to give myself self-empathy.  What came up was my longing for softness.  I have had a series of things that have happened in my life since September that have been harsh and hard and sad including my mother’s death, a very long and cold winter with over 160″ of snow, and a more intense than usual allergy season and many other things.  So, when I connected to a desire for softness I cried and cried.  I gave myself a lot of time to let this sink in and to remember other times when I’d received tender softness.

The mourning was very healing.

In an effort to support the need for softness I allowed myself long baths, longer than usual quiet time in the morning, and time to connect with a few friends who I find especially nurturing to be with.

Two days later I was on a plane that was VERY turbulent.  It was only a 30 minute flight but the plane rocked vigorously the entire time.  I ran to the connecting flight and only had about 3 minutes before getting on the next flight.  So, I boarded feeling nauseous.

I wrapped myself in my shawl, turned the overhead fan on, closed my eyes and tried to calm myself and my body.  I had a 3-hour flight and then a 35 minute ferry ride still to go on this trip.  After a few minutes the man next to me tapped my shoulder and said, “Do you want the fan on?”

“What?”

“Do you want the fan on?”

“Yes,” I said.  “Is it bothering you?”

“No,” he said.  “I just saw you wrapped in your shawl and I thought you might be cold.  I wanted you to know that I could turn it off for you.  I’m okay with it being on, though.”

He said all this with a huge and inviting smile.  He had one of those really warm faces.  The kind of face you just want to crawl into.

I felt so touched by his simple act of kindness and regard.  And I instantly remembered my self-empathy and my request to myself and the universe for softness.

This is one of the reasons I love self-empathy….because I clarify what I want and then I recognize it when it arrives.  Had I not just discovered through self-empathy that I wanted softness, I wouldn’t have noticed that my request was answered.  I still would have enjoyed this man’s kindness (probably) but I wouldn’t have seen it as a response to my request.

When I see it as a response to my request then that meets my needs for appreciation, gratitude, reassurance, trust and so many more.  My enjoyment and wonder deepens as a result.  In this particular moment, it helped alleviate my physical discomfort too.  And, ultimately moved me from an experience of fear (of throwing up in a bag!  Ack!)  to gratitude.  Awwww.  I just love that!

Here’s to the people who touch our lives so sweetly and who probably have no idea how sweet our passing was to us!


mary-mackenzie-150I leave this afternoon for a 1.5 week training trip.  I’m leading a weekend retreat this weekend in Arizona and then leave for Washington State Tuesday to lead a 4-day retreat, followed by time with my elderly Dad.

I have noticed that whenever I am getting ready to leave for a trip, I feel a lot of stress and it would be easy for me to express myself in a grumpy or disconnected way.

Yesterday, I had a long list of things I wanted to get done and my phone rang way more often than usual, a couple people stopped in to see me at my office unexpectedly, and many of the things I was trying to complete weren’t getting done as easily as I’d hoped.  So, by 2:00pm I was starting to really experience the pressure of it and my jackals began to howl.

This is all so familiar to me.  Yet another time when if I choose to believe my jackals that I can’t get everything done, that people are interrupting me, or that there’s just too much…, I could fall into a heap of overwhelm and despair.

I could feel myself heading down this path and so I chose to give myself empathy several times in the day by saying or thinking to myself, “Ugh.  I would really enjoy more ease and flow.”  Followed by a few deep breaths and then reminding myself how much time I have before leaving.