noun: “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
Last Wednesday afternoon I had the annual parent-teacher meeting for my son, Luca and truth be told, I was unconsciously a little nervous before it. I imagine many parents feel this before these meetings even if they already know how amazing their child is; there is usually a touch of “please be positive about my child, please tread carefully with what you say, I’m doing my best!” It takes courage to listen with an open and non-objective heart to potential criticism whether it is from our boss or a partner about ourselves, or a teacher about our child. However, I think that these experiences present us with a valuable opportunity to observe our reactions and behaviour; some people slip into defensive behaviour as their ego flares up at the slightest mention of faults.
One of the many gifts I have discovered in motherhood is that it highlights our own principles and what we believe is important to pass on to our children.
Having empathy is one of my main principles . To have empathy for others is an essential ingredient in creating a world of harmony and peace. Without it, it’s a dog-eat-dog world and who wants to bring children up in that environment?
After Luca’s lovely teacher outlined all his academic abilities she said: “I have to say he has great empathy for the rest of the children in his class”. At this point I wanted to get up and hug the lady. She is 8 and half months pregnant and I didn’t want to overwhelm her, but in my mind she could not have paid Luca a higher compliment. His English, Irish and maths seemed less signifcant as I value emotional intelligence so highly. It was like the time when I found out I was pregnant with Luca (the teacher’s baby bump reminded me of this special time) after a long road of infertility. I felt tears of joy starting to swell I was so proud of my son. I have to admit that I did take some of the credit myself – all those years of talking to him (nagging him!) and guiding him seem to be paying off.
This week, focus on the principles which are important to you and make a conscious choice to live by them. Empathy can come under many different names; kindness, care, compassion and above all, love. When we can see every creature and person is intrinsically connected to us it allows us to open our hearts, to reach out and express kindness in whatever way we can. As I have previously mentioned, in order to be strong enough to see the world like this you must first and foremost take care of yourself. Please continue to find time to care for yourself, reward yourself with a healthy lifestyle and mindset and allow empathy to flow. It is a win-win situation for all concerned!
This week saw the sad passing of a wonderful woman who was the mother of a primary school friend of mine. I attended the service for her last Wednesday, a warm and sunny afternoon. A mother’s kindness
It’s hard to put into words the impact that this lady’s kindness had on so many lives and in particular in her role as a mother, wife and grandmother. I hadn’t seen her for a long time as I knew her more when I was a child. My most vivid memory of her was how she would arrive at lunch break in school with hot toasted cheese sandwiches for my friend. She wanted them to still be warm and the cheese to be just melted for her daughter (this was when toasted sandwiches makers were a new and incredible invention). I always remember looking longingly at the melted cheese! The memory of this has always stayed with me – a woman who was clearly very dedicated to her family.
The service was beautiful and honest and her best friend said, in her speech, that this was a happy time to reminisce on all the joy that she had brought to everyone’s lives. She had been ill for a number of years and it was a relief to see the end of her suffering. She was a woman who had loved life and who had lived it to the full. In particular she loved being outdoors and she had even come very close to being selected for Wimbledon in her youth. One of my closest friends who was also at primary school with me summed it up when she said “she was an example to us all.”
Life is certainly short and the time we have here is precious. Later that day I sat in the park with my own mother and cherished the time we have together. I remembered all the kindness and love she has shown me and how her positive light is like a beacon that has always guided me.
This week, allow yourself to consciously appreciate the people you have in your life. It often helps to think of the bigger picture when small irritations come your way. Show the people you love kindness and support at every opportunity, surprise them with random acts of kindness, a small gift or even a freshly toasted sandwich when they are not expecting it!
The greatest gift we have is time and how we choose to spend it and with who. A mother’s kindness
It can be hard to recall what it is like to be a child, a teenager, a younger more vulnerable version of yourself or even what it is like to be old or to be very ill when you feel healthy. However, this week I came to the conclusion that it is definitely worth the effort in order to maintain positive relationships with the people I love. Imagine
I love my son unconditionally. However, truth be known he takes conscious eating to a new level and he can literally take a full two hours to finish his breakfast! Now this is all very well when there are no work and school deadlines looming. I promote stopping and smelling the roses and the need we all have to slow down, but I found this week my mindful moments were being pushed to their peaceful limit.
After a lot of deep breaths and exhortations like “come on, you are going to be late,” I found that I had to take a step back from the building frustration I felt inside that that was leaking out of me.
The morning is an important time for setting the tone for the rest of the day (hence my daily morning walks and mediation). On one of these walks, the words of John Lennon’s song came to me – ‘Imagine all the people, where do they all come from,” which encapsulates the concept of what it is like to imagine the world through someone else’s eyes. I then thought how this might help me to step inside Luca’s shoes and see the world through his eyes. Most kids are much better at living in the moment and we have a lot to learn from their outlook; they are genuinely in, what positive psychology refers to as, a ‘state of flow.’ Their minds’ are totally absorbed with their actions and they are unaware of the passing of time (hence the long breakfasts). It’s an incredibly healthy place to be for us all to be but can be tricky to accommodate on a weekday morning!
This week, if you run into any relationship challenges whether it is with your children, your husband, your wife, your parents, your siblings, your friends or your colleagues it can be helpful to imagine how they see things from their stage in life, their conditioning and circumstances. We owe it to ourselves to work on nurturing positive relationships with those we love and those we meet on a daily basis. Feeling close to others is a strong signal that we feel close to ourselves.
Safe to say, I need to encourage Luca to eat faster on school mornings but also to allow him to keep his natural mindful state. There is a balance and I’m hoping to find it …Wish me luck!
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I have a small wooden chair that I’ve had ever since I was very young. In fact, I think my parents bought it for my sister before I was born. They got it in France and somehow it has moved around with me all of my adult life.
During the week, between clients, I caught sight of the small chair lying in the middle of the rug. The chair is a relic of the past but also very much part of my life today as I still use this chair all the time, in fact, I’m sitting on it now. It’s perfect for meditating, drying my hair and writing! However, something about the empty chair struck a chord with me about how certain items we have had for many years carry an abundance of mixed memories.
A lot of the work I do with my clients is about helping people to become friends with themselves, to be kinder to themselves and to care for and nurture the best that is in them; often it is past hurtful experiences that stop them from doing just that. Most of the time these experiences are not in our conscious awareness but they are present in the decisions and behaviours we exhibit.
Like many people, though not all thankfully, I have had certain experiences in my past that I am not proud of; relationships that have gone wrong, things I wish I hadn’t done or said, silly mistakes made in the tumultuous teenage years. Thankfully, I have come to terms with these things and have no regrets realising that both the negative and the abundance of positive experiences have shaped who I am today.
It struck me while looking at the little chair, that becoming friends with your past is fundamental to becoming friends with your present and truly being able to let the best of you shine through in the now. You are only defined by your past if you choose to be. becoming friends with yourself
This week, consider how your past impacts on you today and consciously let go of anything that could be holding you back. Having buckets of compassion for yourself and anyone who may have hurt you will help you on this journey to nurturing the most important relationship in your life- the one you have with yourself.
All too often in life it is easy to blame someone else when things do not go exactly according to plan, or to put it simply, when things go wrong! We hear it every day ‘If only this person had done this or that, then this or that would not have happened’ or ‘I am so annoyed with x or y as this is their fault.’ Avoid the blame game
This week I was inspired by someone very close to me who rose above blame in a situation where it would have been all too easy to point the finger in fear or anger. A medical error was made, an error that could have had very serious consequences. The error itself was minor and even the most skilled of surgeons are human; any procedure comes with a certain amount of risk. This is true in many areas of our lives. Thankfully, everything has turned out well and there are no lasting consequences.
It occurred to me that the positive outcome of this event is not just a coincidence but because also of the positive attitude and understanding of the patient; the ability to focus on getting better rather than dwelling on what went wrong has played a huge part in the recovery process. The negative emotions that blame bring could only hinder any healing process.
This week, if you find yourself blaming anyone for things in your life that are less than ideal, whether it is at work or in your professional life, please take a big step back and remember the person you are blaming is human and “to err is human” (Alexander Pope). The energy you expend on blame and frustration is wasted and it takes away from reaching a positive resolution to the situation.
Consider also, that very often those who jump to blame are usually twice as hard on themselves. Please don’t forget to avoid playing the blame game on yourself. If you make a mistake remember to take a step back, offer compassion to yourself and allow yourself to see what a ‘mistake’ really is – an opportunity to learn, to grow and to reach your full potential.