Are You (Really) Listening?

by Patricia Spadaro

“I wish to learn, will you teach me?” a man once asked the Sufi teacher Libnani.

“I do not feel that you know how to learn,” answered the teacher.

“Then can you teach me how to learn?” countered the man.

“Can you learn how to let me teach?” was the reply.

What sometimes keeps us from learning—whether from a sage, from our relationships or co-workers, or from the ups and downs of daily life—is that we don’t know how to let others teach us. We don’t know how to shut off our own mind and hear.

Listening Is One Thing, but Hearing Is Another

True listening is an art—one that involves what renowned physicist David Bohm called the ability to “suspend your assumptions.” Bohm worked in the field on quantum physics and was also a champion of dialogue. For him, dialogue was an application of the key quantum themes of interconnectedness and flow.

Dialogue, in the way Bohm means it, takes place with respect and the suspension of judgment as one listens to others. Read the rest of this entry »

The Razor’s Edge of Self-Esteem

by Patricia Spadaro

Self-esteem’s a funny thing—a fine balancing act. You’ve got to believe you are wonderful just as you (because you are) AND you’ve got to keep on trying to improve yourself (because you can reach higher and be more).

That’s perhaps the ultimate razor’s edge of life—balancing confidence with humility. Knowing when to stand up for yourself and when to back down because you have something yet to learn. Taking care not to beat yourself up whenever you make a mistake and, at the same time, not becoming so arrogantly close minded that you shut out the message and the messenger who has been sent to teach you a thing or two about yourself.

As tricky as it can be to balance both sides of the equation of self-esteem, it’s refreshing too. Knowing that self-esteem and humility are necessary partners in your life gives you permission to honor the wonderful in you AND honor what is still waiting to be awakened.

Truth is often a paradox, and that both of these states can coexist within us at the same time—the wonderful and the as-yet-unawakened—is one of life’s greatest truths.

The Zen of Self-Esteem

The Zen masters knew a thing or two about the tricky paradox of self-esteem. The teacher Shunryu Suzuki simply expressed it this way to his students:  “All of you are perfect just as you are . . . and you could use a little improvement.”   (I don’t know about you, but that makes me smile and I see a playful twinkle in Suzuki’s eyes as he said that.)

I found the same sentiment put another way in a novel I read recently by Michael Koryta, where one of his characters, a high school football coach, talked about the balancing act this way:  “The attitude you needed to win football games was a difficult balance. Confidence was crucial; overconfidence killed. Success lived on the blade’s edge between.” 

In the game of life, it’s no different, is it?


Some tips for the balancing act:

If your pride (your ego) is hurt, acknowledge that and try this:

  • Ask yourself: Would I do better and feel better if I admitted that I have something to learn in this relationship, professional setting, or way of interacting with others?
  • If so, what specific advice is this situation trying to teach me so I can become better at navigating situations like this?
  • Stand up, close your eyes, spread your arms as wide as you can, and consciously open to the message or lesson waiting for you. What do you hear or see?


If, on the other hand, you feel yourself melting into a puddle from the heat of your own self-criticism, try this:

  • Remind yourself that the problem that’s happening right now does not define who you are. The labels people have given you—and the negative names you may call yourself—are not the real you.
  • Imagine a line on the floor, the fine line of self-esteem separating self-condemnation on one side and arrogance on the other. Physically take a step to stand right on that line as a way of reinforcing to yourself that you choose to wake up to the inner reality that is you and get back into balance.

Share your ideas here. How do you remind yourself of the paradoxical truth that you are wonderful AND you still have some things to learn?

 

Get Moving

by Patricia Spadaro

“You’re not good enough.” It’s difficult to step onto the stage of life, spread your arms wide, and say “Hello, world!” when you hear disparaging voices rumbling around in your head reciting the litany of your past “mistakes.” Although we might be adroit at hiding it from others and even ourselves, that feeling of being […]

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Your Heart Is Wise

by Patricia Spadaro

Do you turn to your heart when making decisions? The world’s traditions are filled with poignant lessons that point to the wisdom of the heart. We learn from the sages that the voice of the heart will always tell us the right way to go in any situation. In the ancient Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, when the […]

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The Power of Stillness

by Patricia Spadaro

Stillness creates strength. Does that seem like a paradox to you? It did to me the first time I encountered that concept, but that’s because I was convinced of this myth: Myth: Staying busy and constantly running to do more means I am strong—and successful. The Truth: Stillness creates strength (and busyness does not always […]

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Who or What Are You Waiting For?

by Patricia Spadaro

Are you waiting for someone (a knight in shining armor or a very capable damsel) or something (like the lottery) to rescue you? Okay, you might think rescue is a strong word. Let’s put it this way: Are you waiting for permission from anyone or anything to do what you need to or want to […]

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Beating the Doldrums

by Patricia Spadaro

Put a little wind in your sails… The dreaded doldrums. We’ve all been there—feeling stagnant or stuck, down and out or depressed. Did you know that that word doldrums also describes an area of the world just north of the equator where the trade winds meet. It’s a place that can be either very calm […]

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The Names We Call Ourselves

by Patricia Spadaro

What’s in a name? And what names do you call yourself? First, the story of two kinds of Pepper A few years ago, I met a young teenager who was bagging groceries for me. I saw from her name tag that her name was Pepper. “That’s a very unique name,” I said cheerfully. When she […]

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10 Tips for Coping with Criticism

by Patricia Spadaro

“Pay no attention to what the critics say; there has never been set up a statue in honor of a critic.” —Jean Sibelius, Finnish composer (1865 –1957) We all get hit by life’s slings and arrows from time to time. These can come from a resident critic—a family member, friend, or coworker who always finds […]

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