Category: Fall 2016

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: Just Like Me!

sitting in cirleNurturing compassion, connection, and empathy between ourselves and others can be as simple as affirming the phrase ‘just like me’ where we might otherwise judge, criticize or condemn. This compassion practice invites us to put ourselves into another’s shoes by concretely acknowledging our own likeness to our neighbour, to a stranger, to our family member or friend with whom we are in conflict or are triggered to criticize and hate.

I personally use this compassion practice in my work when at times I have no answer for a client experiencing the angst of loss or even, the fear of their potential unrealized. As I listen, I quietly tell myself, ‘just like me’, they feel ashamed that they have found themselves in this conflict, in this depression, in this place of career deficit.

‘Just like me’ calls me to love, to have compassion for the frailties and suffering we experience as humans. Regardless of background, we all are touched by the fires and waters of the human condition. No one here has been rescued from the pains of birth, nor will anyone escape the path of death. ‘Just like me’ calls me to honour the equality of our humanity regardless of race, sex, class, age, etc.

children-1149671_640Today, I received an email from a client asking for guidance for a relationship situation causing them distress. At the core of this relationship stress, lies the client’s fear and life pattern of being unworthy, not good enough, of finding themselves painfully wrong in their mind. When shame strikes us, it usually cuts into our core sense of self-respect. As I read this email, I found myself saying, ‘just like me’, this client is feeling the oppression of the past. ‘Just like me’, this client is feeling the weight of resentment not yet transformed. ‘Just like me’, this client is searching for the freedom to be healthy and happy in their current life.

Honouring our ‘sameness’ in this way, opens space for me to listen and hear what may not be said, what pain may not be expressed and yet is eerily present in its absence. As a response, ‘just like me’ gives me enough space between my thoughts that I can reach into my heart and find the compassion to neutralize the judgements or criticisms that might be beginning to ride my neuro-pathways. This pause also invites me to remind myself of my practice of loving-kindness, to love all of who I am, to welcome the truth of my being to the inner table of Self. When I return to love in me, I return to love for the ‘other’.

When we consider life in a wholistic way, then a spiritual practice becomes multi-purpose, three fields of experience unified as one.

First, ‘Just like me’ becomes a practice that not only evokes the spark of compassion in our shared humanity when life is painful, sorrowful or even where there is anger and hurt.

women-friends-1577910_640Second, ‘just like me’ becomes the practice of seeing the empowered and dignified essence of the other. ‘Just like me’, my client has the powerful potential to become resourceful and capable to transform their inner experience and change their sense of Self. ‘Just like me’, with a little guidance, my client is loving and compassionate, capable of experiencing a more satisfying life. ‘Just like me’, my client’s inner wisdom holds the inner motivation and life-giving permission to generate new habits and choices that best align with what their heart wants most. ‘Just like me’, my client can ask for the support they need to return to the peace and abundance that belongs to our shared humanity.

Finally, ‘just like me’ awakens us to our creativity and collaboration, our light and love to become what neither imagined in the beginning. As clients and I engage in the compassionate way of ‘just like me’ on our shared path of Wisdom’s Way to Peace, wisdom and peace transform both our hearts, trickling out into our families, our workspaces, our environments, or visions for a more peaceful world. We are no longer just night and day. Now we can enjoy the fullness of life as dusk and dawn as well.

‘Just like me’, our shared humanity is best and most joyfully celebrated when we honour that

  • we have all grieved the loss of loved ones
  • we have all been embarrassed to the core about something we did or didn’t do
  • we have all spoken harsh words in our pain
  • we have all wept at the suffering of another
  • we have all acted in anger when experiencing disrespect and our needs and dreams denied.

And paradoxically, when we honour that

  • we all have been born to this Earth
  • we all have a song that lives in our heart waiting to be sung
  • we all have the potential to be vital and empowered human beings with compassionate hearts
  • we all have gifts and talents, some active, some dormant awaiting the opportunity to breathe into them, to nurture them
  • we all have the need to be loved, belong and live the authenticity of our uniqueness and our shared humanity
  • we all have the capacity to be wise and to benefit from our own wisdom.

I’m starting a new journey in hosting podcast conversations with people ‘just like me’ and that means with people ‘just like you’. These podcasts, I hope, will offer a sacred space for us to be present to our hearts and to discover Wisdom’s Way to Peace. Since Wisdom is as diverse and rich as life on this planet with many paths, may our return to One Peace be useful, meaningful, honest and filled with kindness for all life.

Shirley Sept 2015 frontNamaste,

Shirley Lynn

PS. I’ve just uploaded my first podcast in which Shelley Schanzenbacher [Reiki Master/Teacher, Leadership Coach and Circle Mediator] interviews me about how I got to be where I am. I invite you to join in and share the conversation. It’s simply called Getting to Know Shirley Lynn Martin.

An Attitude of Gratitude

(Originally posted October 2013)

Mary's Garden1These beautiful fall days have made it easy to be thankful and grateful for the harvest we are gathering. As I have been collecting the dahlia bulbs and digging potatoes I have been pondering the attitude of gratitude. What does it look like and how would I recognize it? How does one get it or work for it? What does it actually mean? I went to the dictionary as a place to start finding the answers to these questions.

Briefly, gratitude is “a kindly feeling because of a favor received; desire to do a favor in return; thankfulness.” In thinking about what gratitude looks like I soon recognized what it is not. Gratitude is not entitlement which some people, me included, sometimes struggle with. We may say or think things like ‘I deserve more than that’ or ‘how come he/she gets more’ or ‘is this all there is?’ Gratitude is not keeping a running tally of who has given me what and how much do I need to give back so that things are balanced between us. It is not the ‘owed’ feeling I may get when I am given something which I feel I didn’t do enough to earn.

Gratitude is “a kindly feeling”. A few summers ago, I spent some time in Kenya volunteering in an orphanage and in a school in the slums. I saw and felt this attitude of gratitude that I am trying to describe from the many children who had so little. I saw them going through the food line twice, once to wash their hands with a limited amount of water followed by a squirt of hand sanitizer and back again to get their plate of food with no pushing or complaining. Nor did they check to see if they had as much as the person beside them. They smiled as they ate; they received their gift of food and returned the gift with what they had – a big happy smile.Simple Joys Big SmilesDSC00302

I was taken aback with the respect I received from the children as a grandmother, an elder. They didn’t know me and I had done nothing to earn this deep respect which I felt I didn’t deserve. They were giving me a favour, a gift and I was at a loss how to graciously receive it especially with a language barrier. But I did have a desire and opportunities to return their gift. It may have been a smile, a hug, taking their picture with my camera and then letting them see it, playing catch with a ball or washing dishes with them. This was living with an attitude of gratitude, just giving and receiving as we lived life together!

Our host, Mama Rose, was so honored to host us. A few years previously, she had left her abusive husband and was ostracized by her community for doing so. She was grateful for an opportunity to restore her place in her community and hosting guest volunteers helped this process. Mama Rose needed healing and we needed a place to stay. Again, gratitude in action through living life on life’s terms.

Marys Garden4I believe we can cultivate this attitude of gratitude if we nurture our ability to daily be astonished at the beauty that is around us or to notice the acts of kindness that often go unnoticed. We can cultivate gratitude by reading that which helps to nurture and challenge our mind and spirit and maybe also to move us to think of others and not just ourselves. As we remain aware of what the ever-giving Earth gives to us, not because we have earned it or deserve it but because She wants to give, should we not then in gratitude desire to preserve Her with the care She deserves? Thus we contribute to Her ability to provide us with food and astonishing beauty and we in turn again get to enjoy them.

I seem to have come full circle but I wonder, what does an attitude of gratitude look like to you? For me it is Carlie wagging her tail in joyous gratitude to my scratching her ears. It is Rayna’s hearty response to my giving her the bone she so desired! It is in my inner response to the full moon coming up from behind the barn. I will continue to look for gratitude in the rhythms of life and the giving and receiving which is part of it.

Please join me in seeking and living this attitude of gratitude in whatever ways are fitting to your life. Have a gratitude-filled Thanksgiving holiday – we have much to be thankful for…

Submitted by Mary Martin

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: The Self Kindness Response

Recently I had a conversation with someone who understood she needed ‘boundaries’, but struggled with creating the necessary boundaries in her relationships because she believed what she really wanted was connection. Wouldn’t boundaries destroy the connection she was seeking? And anyway, aren’t connection and kindness to others spiritual virtues? Won’t boundaries constrain our compassion and kindness to others?

These objections (and resistances) are quite common among those who really want to be compassionate to others and who are very sensitive to the energies and emotions around them. These questions and ones like these get to the heart of our inner objections in creating the kinder relationships and inner states of peacefulness that we yearn for.

In today’s blog, I would like to challenge this notion that boundaries exclude a sense of connection by exploring four different core operating beliefs that are commonly played out in our unconscious:

“I’m Not OK, You’re OK”

In this core belief, we enter into the land of dependency and exclude ourselves from the blessings of life, of love and life-giving relationships. Our sense of shame and unworthiness causes us to ‘do for others’ what we cannot do for ourselves. We will not be able to open to love, nor the blessing of another. If we do not perceive ourselves as being worthy of someone’s blessing, we will not be able to stand and look someone in the eye and tell them what we need.

Here, there is a lack of self-respect, a lack of boundaries and a whole lot of people-pleasing. In this land of dependency, we will find ourselves envious, resentful, exhausted and covet what we perceive others have or we give to them because we cannot give it to ourselves nor receive it from another. We lack kindness towards ourselves, remain disconnected with others and often fall into a state of passivity (-aggressiveness) about our lives.

“I’m OK, You’re Not OK”

In this core belief, we find ourselves in the land of arrogance and pride. Our acts of ‘charity’ are really ‘blessings’ imposed … and for the receiver, not really a blessing at all. In this state of arrogance or superiority, our helping another is often wrought with the assumption ‘I know better’.

Entire cultures and peoples have been destroyed in the blind assumption that ‘our way is better than your way’. Consider the disastrous results of the way we have mistreated, abused and fundamentally disregarded First Nations peoples and tribes. We destroyed connection, community and the life-giving spiritual knowing of our country and our Earth in this genocide. It’s often hard to fathom the depth of our failures toward First Nations people because of all we imposed. We failed to create boundaries of mutual respect and kindness, of common dignity for all people. The repercussions for these lack of boundaries and compassionate connection will be our burden for decades to come. What we did in this cultural example, we also do personally to ourselves and others when we come with an attitude of I know how to ‘fix’ you.

“I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK”

In this core operating belief, we find ourselves in the land of curses. Though we may find ourselves in a state of ‘likeness’ with each other, a state of common experience about what is ‘not okay’ around us or in our environment, our ‘joining together’ in this state is destructive, cynical and riddled with mutual contempt and despair.  Though we both may be ‘down in the dumps’, we injure each other to prevent ourselves from being more miserable than the other. All heart connection is lost, annihilated or in perpetual threat.

Again, we have no real healthy boundaries here. Rather, we put energy into creating emotional walls and barriers, leaving us locked away from connection and in the stalemate of our own inner hauntings.

“I’m OK, You’re OK”

Finally, this operating core belief sustains us in the land of blessing. This is the place of joining, of collaboration, of mutuality, equality, respect and appreciation. In this land, we can pray and chant the ‘Namaste’, the light in you is the light in me; the peace in you is the peace in me.

In this land, we can care for each other in dignity and respect for each other. It is not that we are needy of each other; rather, in appreciation for what another values and for what we value, we respect and validate and support the unique worth of ourselves and the other. In the land of blessing, we seek to compassionately appreciate and see the good in all things. Our boundaries here are flexible, clear, growing, strong, consistent and kind, sustaining the vitality of our own core essence. Because we respect and appreciate the goodness in ourselves and in the other, our connections are real, open, compassionate and trustworthy.

As we simplify the equations to see truly the essence of what matters in the heart of connection, we discover that boundaries are a way to sustain healthy and vital connection in “I’m OK, you’re OK.” For women who have been socialized and imprinted upon to care for others first (”you’re OK, I’m not OK”), self-kindness boundaries offer us the potential to choose self-love and joy (trumping self-improvement), to fill our own cup first and offer to others from our inner fullness, and to let our body lead us (rather than denying or denigrating our bodies).


It’s time for a shift in consciousness where self-love and strength, connection and unequivocal kindness in self-regard are the touchstones and daily practices in our relationships and in the joys of our lives. Recognizing and developing awareness and giving ourselves full and complete permission to have boundaries that sustain kindness and connection with ourselves and others is a first major healing of our hearts and psyche.

The next step is to learn HOW to create these kinds of boundaries which support our engagement in creating and living a joyful life, happy relationships and inner vitality. If you are ready to learn the ‘how’ of creating your personal, unique boundaries that fuel your body-mind-spirit connection, happiness and joy, join me at my upcoming The Self Kindness Response: Boundaries for Joyful Living workshop on October 28-29th, 2016.

If you wish to continue to nurture the boundaries you are already creating, please join us to support your self-kindness in love and strength. And if you already have been practising boundaries for self-empowerment, join us to expand the inner waves of self-kindness and joy in the boundaries you practice. In other words, no matter where you are on this continuum of creating and nurturing boundaries, there is more to do and this workshop will definitely offer the necessary tools to help you.

Shirley Lynn

(ps. Thanks to Rob Voyle and his work with the Appreciative Way in helping me to clarify my own understanding)