Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Kindness Begins at Home: Family Dynamics

Post by Nikki Starcat Shields for the Kind Kindred series.

Linocut Print "Sisters" created by StageFortPress on Etsy

Okay, so you’re feeling pretty good. Practicing self-love and taking care of your needs, and focusing on being radically kind to those you meet. Working on giving your attention to the things you love, living mindfully, and nurturing your highest expression of love and creativity. You find yourself nodding, “Yeah, I think I've got this.”

And then it’s time to go to that extended family gathering. Oh boy… Suddenly you feel like a powerless five-year-old, or an insecure adolescent.

My father-in-law loved to argue, debate, and generally rile people up. He’s been quoted as saying “Peace on Earth, but not in my family.” Umm…okay. My own father loves to tease people and poke fun at them. I've learned over the years that he does it to show affection in his own gruff way. I didn't understand that as a young, sensitive child, though, and it felt like he was being mean to me.

Family interactions can be the biggest challenge to your practice of kindness. Your family of origin knows just how to push your buttons, and they often do. Even those of us who feel fairly centered much of the time aren't safe from the effects of the dreaded “family dynamics.”

Is there someone in your family with whom you just can’t seem to see eye-to-eye? Is there a family member who can reduce you to feeling angry, unworthy, or ashamed with just one sentence? Even if you know that they don’t do it to be hurtful?

The complex web of relationships within families is built up over many years. We start out living in close proximity with our parents, siblings, and perhaps others, and all of our collective issues get projected outward and mirrored back, over and over. When we were growing up, it was relatively rare to admit to our own shortcomings. It was all about blame and trying to control others’ behavior. Even when you've done a lot of inner work, recurring patterns and memories can be easily triggered when you return to those old family dynamics.

In order to keep your center and not revert to your old reactions - whether that means shouting, crying, or giving them the silent treatment - you can deliberately change your focus. Examine your expectations for the interaction. If your challenging family member acts like they usually do, well then, so what? Can you choose to be yourself anyway - the self you are now, in the present - in the face of their bad behavior? Can you give love even when you might not think they deserve it? Can you forgive? How about seeing through their unpleasant behavior to their own suffering and neediness?

“Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are.” - author unknown

By choosing to relate to this family member in the present moment, the way you are now, you can change your own response, and that will shift the energy. Being aware of your own old patterns, you can decide not to buy into those worn out stories. This gives you the freedom to see, and perhaps even enjoy, the things you do value about your loved one. But don’t do it for the hope of some reward, like getting them to finally see what a jerk they were being. Do it because you value kindness and compassion. Do it because they are human, like you, like all of us. Do your best not to take their behavior personally.

One technique that helps is to interact with a difficult family member while focusing on and recognizing their higher self. All of us are connected to a non-physical entity, a part of the divine whole that the cosmos is made of. We come here to Earth to learn new things, yet some part of us is still connected. When you can step back and see your family member in that divine light, you’ll catch a glimpse of who they really are.

My father-in-law used his tenacious ability to debate in his later-life career as a successful environmental activist. My Dad has a great sense of humor, has taken care of older people in the community all his life, and loves animals. Look to the good things about your family members. Be grateful for their presence in your life and the lessons you've learned from them. A caveat - if you’re dealing with truly abusive people, the kindest thing to do may be to not spend any time with them at all. Seek the least harmful path for all concerned.

Challenging family dynamics can show up in your immediate family, too. Being unconditionally kind in immediate family living situations is an ongoing lesson. Who is able to push our buttons even more than our parents? Our kids, of course. Partners? Yep, them too.

In the family you've chosen to create as an adult, you have more leeway in how people treat one another. You are a role model for the members of your household. Of course, you’re only human, as are they. Everyone makes mistakes. If you’re a parent, it’s confession time. Have you ever yelled at your kid? Even if you don’t believe in yelling? I sure have. Did I apologize afterward? You bet.

Modeling healthy family dynamics means working on your own issues, and being honest and open about your failings. The best way to avoid the issues that complicate your family of origin is to be conscious about your own behavior. By choosing kindness, you’re prioritizing love over being right, in a way that might not have been possible for the previous generation.

Kindness doesn't mean endless sacrifices, though. You don’t need to be a martyr in order to live in a harmonious home. One big example of a challenge for families is the everyday work of the household. I've found numerous lessons in kindness wrapped up in my attitudes about preparing food and doing dishes. Cleaning up after others without resentment is a wonderful spiritual practice. I do the dishes as an act of service, a kindness to my loved ones. When I’m busy or not feeling up to it, I ask for help.

There are as many ways to express kindness in family situations as there are, well, families. Kindness is a spiritual practice, and it’s not just something you do when you’re feeling good and on your game. Practice it with your immediate family, and then bring it with you to the next extended family reunion. The more you embody kindness, the better you’ll feel, no matter who you’re hanging out with.

Nikki Starcat Shields is a published author, Mom, Reiki healer, and licensed priestess. She blogs at Starcat's Corner and shares her callings at Feline Dreamers. Get your copy of her book "Cultivating Self-Love: Your Path to Wholeness" on Amazon.
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Monday, March 2, 2015

Honor the space between

photo by Jenny Ingalls Nelson

A long time ago, I gave some advice to a coworker/friend. He was struggling after missing an important deadline and was completely stuck and paralyzed. He was in hot water and knew that he could never complete the project. It was already late and he didn't know what to do. My advice was: send what you have. Something is better than nothing.

That phrase, something is better than nothing, has stuck with me. Also, that coworker and friend from 15 years ago is now my husband, who like me, can be paralyzed by perfection.

For the most part, we are no longer paralyzed by our perfectionist ways; however, I'd be lying if I told you were were completely free of them. We are in the space between. Not yet, are we fully handling everything with ease, but no longer are we procrastinating, freezing up or numbing. We are in the space between. We have embraced "something is better than nothing" and acknowledge that mistakes happen, and progress isn't linear.

Perfection, quite simply, leads to inaction. We know we can never make our art, or home or book perfect, so we don't even try. We become obsessed with the smallest details (anyone else ever spend hours on PowerPoint fonts & shading???), and miss deadlines or stop altogether.

Friends, there is so much space in between to honor. To take a baby step toward a goal; to risk making a mistake; to accomplish something instead of nothing. These are all in between. Not a single one of us will ever be perfect. Nor will our projects, our clients, our work or our homes. Instead of punishing ourselves by giving up, let's examine the space between and acknowledge the freedom that lives there.

Thanks for being on the journey with me.

❤, Lara

CLICK TO TWEET Honor the space between no longer and not yet. @KindOverMatter via Nancy Levin

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

The history behind things we don't talk about

Over 3 years ago, we learned about the Red Tent movement, book and movie. We featured a post about this powerful work, but where did it come from? What's the history behind it?

The Red Tent has a history, but what is it? 
By Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, PhD and ALisa Starkweather

Was there a Red Tent in history?
Why do women need Red Tents?
There’s a Red Tent movement, where?
How am I a part of it?

Learn the surprising history of the Red tent. 

A new eBook & Audiobook titled “The Red Tent Movement: A Historical Perspective” by Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, PhD and ALisa Starkweather.

An excerpt from the eBook:

There are thousands of women across the globe who are bringing forth their gifts as Red Tent leaders in their communities. Women who are standing in their power are essential to shifting present paradigms; these pioneers are a balm to an ailing world. But after years of oppression, how do women rise up out of trauma to remember the beauty that lives at one’s core? How do we strip away that which prevents us from rising as wise female leaders? This reclamation work is what many are a part of because when we find our voices, our inspired action, and our needed vision then we stand a better chance at creating a world we can thrive in. And it is with this spirit that the Red Tent movement has flourished as a global phenomenon.

Most women have heard of the Red Tent because they read the book. The Red Tent was novel by Anita Diamant, published in 1997 that gave us a story of women who come together in a menstrual hut, known as the Red Tent. In the story, Diamant retells the biblical rape story of Dinah. “The Rape of Dinah” (Genesis, chapter 34) was recounted not by Dinah, but by her brothers. Diamant provided a fictional feminist retelling of the tale, giving Dinah her own voice. The book is presented through Dinah’s eyes and those of the women around her. The story showed us how the women raised young daughters who were taught the secrets held for women by women through initiation, stories, and relationships. For many, the story resonated deeply and caused us to question if there was a place like this in our society.

The Red Tent novel originally did not have a great impact on women’s lives. This began to change when the author herself initiated a word-of-mouth campaign by giving copies away to Rabbis, female Christian leaders, and independent booksellers. This approach proved successful, and by 2002 The Red Tent had become a New York Times bestseller and a publishing phenomenon. The book has since been published in twenty-five countries and translated into twenty languages.

Following the success of the book, Diamant’s number one question from her readers was whether or not the Red Tent ever existed. Here is her quoted response from her website:

It’s important to note that I have never claimed that the women of the Bible actually used a menstrual hut; there is no historical evidence to support such a claim. However, since there have been menstrual tents and huts throughout the pre-modern world, it seemed historically plausible to give them one. The importance of the tent developed in the process of writing, but the idea of making it a place of community, rest, and celebration predates [the book]. Some years prior to starting the book, I heard a lecture by a Jewish writer…who suggested rethinking a biblical law that required separation of a woman from the community for 60 days after the birth of a girl compared to 30 days after the birth of a boy…. This could be seen as a reflection of the notion that girl babies made mothers more "unclean" than boys. The lecturer asked us to consider a different theory, which was far more interesting to me. Perhaps, he said, this was an acknowledgment that giving birth to a birth-giver was a more sacred, a more powerful experience. The extra month could be seen not as a punishment, but as a reward.

Menstrual hut and moon lodge traditions show us that the Red Tent has a history: The idea of a separate women’s space or menstrual hut is not a new idea. Anita Diamant claims that the Red Tent in her book was fictionalized, but is rooted in research from Africa. Menstrual hut and moon lodge traditions shape women’s understanding of the Red Tent as a women’s power space. There are menstrual hut and moon lodge traditions all over the world that date back to 800 C.E and in some places are still practiced today. These spaces offer a unique view of the Red Tent, but do they reinforce or contradict patriarchal oppression?

To READ MORE or for an audio sample of this excerpt or to purchase the eBook/audiobook visit: 

About the Authors:
Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, PhD is trained as a both a filmmaker, a textile historian, and a feminist folklorist. She holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Masters and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She wants to create world where women believe they can accomplish anything and where they have the courage to change the world. She creates multi-media (films, videos, websites, and other designs) to inspire YOU and improve your life! She believes in creating a world that promotes cooperation rather than competition and believes in the value of sisterhood and women’s community. She has a deep love of textile traditions, which is why she has made 13 documentary films about women & fabric. Her award-winning, internationally known red tent movie “Things We Don’t Talk About,” has been keeping her very busy doing hundreds and hundreds of screenings & facilitating life-changing women’s events.
ALisa Starkweather is the founder of the Red Tent Temple Movement, Daughters of the Earth Gatherings, Women in Power initiations, Priestess Path women’s mystery school, the online Fierce Feminine Life series, and the Women’s Belly and Womb Conference. ALisa is also in the award winning anthology, Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership; Where Grace Meets Power. She has been facilitating women’s empowerment for three decades of her life. 
This article may not be re-published without permission from the authors. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Pin It

Friday, February 27, 2015

Five creative DIY crafts for your garden

Post by Amanda Walters for the Kind Kindred series.

Whether you have a tiny patch of lawn or acres of land, there are many things you can do to make your outside space pleasing on the eye. It’s all about creativity and imagination, so if you’re feeling inspired check out these five exciting DIY crafts:

Create a miniature garden

Miniature gardening is the latest craze from across the pond which is both fun and surprisingly addictive. Like the name suggests it essentially involves creating a downsized garden (complete with accessories of your choice, be it chairs, birdcages, trellises and such like) before displaying it on your patio – or even bringing it inside. The possibilities are endless and with mini garden items available from sites like Spalding Bulb., you won’t be short of choice.

Paint your garden bench

Want to bring your old garden bench back to life? Then why not paint it a different colour or go completely crazy and paint each slat a different hue? If you’re working with a wooden bench, it’s a good idea to sand the surface down to bare wood before you start as this will give you a smooth surface and help the primer adhere well to the wood. To finish, apply a quality exterior primer followed by an exterior latex or oil-based paint.

Make your own wind chime

Wind chimes play a beautiful, soothing melody on a breezy day, so how about making your own? You’ll find plenty of inspiration online but if you want to get the kids involved a tin can wind chime would be ideal. To do this simply gather an array of empty, clean tin cans of various sizes, tape the rims to prevent any cuts and decorate them with paint, glitter or anything else which takes your fancy. Next, punch a hole in the top of each can and thread a long length of yarn through. Attach two washers to the string, one to keep it in place, the other to bang against the inside of the can. Tie your cans round a branch so they overlap each other and hey presto, you’re done!

Make an outdoor chandelier

Who says chandeliers are just for inside the house? They look great outside too and you could even turn one corner of your garden into a tranquil area for peace and relaxation. To do this all you really need is a wire basket with a handle and a flat base. Once you have a suitable container, pop an array of candles inside (they can be coloured or clear depending on your taste) and decorate the basket with old jewellery such as crystal-look necklaces or clip on brooches – this is where it gets fun.

Make a painted wheelbarrow planter

Got a rusty old wheelbarrow lying around? Great! This can be turned into a fantastic planter with just a bit of elbow grease and artistic freedom. To get things started, thoroughly wash and scrub the metal to remove all dirt and sand it down. Cover in primer before spray painting it a colour of your choice. After that you can decorate it with bright stencil designs or whatever else takes your fancy before finishing with varnish. Finally, pop some soil inside, plant some colourful flowers and you’ve made yourself a garden feature piece.

These ideas are sure to spice up your outside space, so go ahead and give them a go!

Amanda Walters is an experienced freelance writer. Graduating with a 2:1 in Journalism and creative writing in 2009, she has since enjoyed five years of creating strong relationships with a range of site owners and is now a regular contributor to Huffington Post. 

She loves to read, and has a passion for all things weird an wonderful. She strives to reach others through her writing. 

Follow her on Twitter
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Finding the kindness of the wild earth

Post by Jodi Sky Rogers for the Kind Kindred series.

photo courtesy of pixabay

I stood looking out at the wetland before me. Moorhen sailed smoothly across the water, silent, serene and seemingly unaware of my pain. My heart ached. My mind could not make sense of what was happening. In a vulnerable moment of desperation, I sent out a silent pray to the Universe. To the Earth. To anyone who was listening. My Spirit needed lifting. I needed help to understand and heal. At the time, I had been trying to come to terms with a deep sense of betrayal. A close family member defrauded me. They ended up in court and were being charged for the crime.

Just as I offered up my desperate prayer, a wind rushed through the three mature trees that stood tall beside me. The branches shook and a shower of beautiful golden leaves danced and swirled as they fell to the ground around me. I was overcome with an incredible sense of peace. I knew in that moment that I was being held. Held by the kindness of these sister trees, held by the kindness of Mother Earth and held by the love of the Universe. I knew once more that I would find a way to be okay, to let go and to release my pain and anger.

I developed an affinity for Nature from a very young age. Throughout my childhood, the natural world was the healing sanctuary that I escaped to when life in a toxic home was hard. It was the healing balm that soothed the emotional wounds from unkind bullies who picked on me. It was the one place where I felt safe and at peace. Yes, it is true that Nature has a hard exterior that can make one perceive it as harsh, destructive or violent. But when you delve below the surface, you find its softness – a delicate interior that emanates a hush of beauty, stillness and sacred wisdom. Its softness wants to hold us in warm embraces of wild comfort.

As I grew older, I learnt to perceive Nature as a sacred space where spirit dwells. Mother Earth is a powerful teacher and healer. Each aspect of nature is a mirror of what lies inside of us. She teaches us how to live from our heart centre and how to love unconditionally. She teaches us what real freedom of spirit and inner peace is. Each leaf, tree and stone is imbued with Divine Spirit. They are wisdom keepers. They are love notes and instructions from our Creator.

When ancient cultures and early peoples first began to develop a conscious sense of spirituality, they looked to Nature. They saw the sacred in the earth, the trees, the rain, the sun and the stars. They connected with the unseen forces of Nature for wisdom, guidance and healing.

So when you are next visit a natural space, be it your garden, a park, the beach or the mountains, take a moment to be present. Invite the wisdom and healing energy of the Earth into your life. Be open to its kindness. You may be surprised at what shows up.

Jodi Sky Rogers is an Eco-Intuitive & Writer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. 
She is a flower charmed and nature loving soul who loves quiet moments in lotus position, dreamy sky-scapes and the magic of the Universe.
Website | Twitter | Facebook
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

3 Weird Lessons I Learned When I Got Rid Of Everything I Owned

Post by Damien Dante for the Kind Kindred series.

photo courtesy of Vincepal on Flickr

Have you ever felt that need?

The need to leave everything behind you and just wander into the unknown…?

I know I have. One day I decided to act upon that craving. Why?

I wanted to completely change my life. Start fresh. Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write it down however I want.

So I packed only one small backpack, bought a plane ticket, and moved to a different city. Hell, it was a different country. A different continent. Basically I ran as far away as possible.

Before that decision, my life was based on living in a nice apartment, eating in nice restaurants, meeting my good-looking friends and owning nice, new objects.

I ended up alone, owning nothing (besides a bed bought at Ikea, a rice cooker and couple books), trying to find the way to happiness and a mind-blowing life.

This journey took me about three years.

Wanna know what I discovered about the essence of living during that period?

Here are 3 weird lessons I learned when I got rid of everything I owned.

1. Why owning things is actually good

We often need to lose some things in order for us to appreciate them.

Getting rid of all my stuff was necessary for me to understand that there’s nothing wrong in owning them.

As long as you know WHY you think they make you happy.

Behind everything we want stands an emotion pointing us to something that we truly need.

We might want money because in the end it makes us feel secure. But we can switch that idea and find a source of security somewhere else.

We might want to lose weight because we believe in the end it will make us feel significant. So what you want to do is find healthy ways to fulfil your need of feeling special.

I wanted nice objects around me because I connected them with the emotion of feeling loved.

Now I know how strong that need to be loved was in me.

Now I fulfil my this need in a healthier way. I find it in improving other people’s lives. I find it in gratitude. I find it in saying, “I love myself” every day.

What emotion stands behind the things you think you want to have or want to accomplish?

Are you meeting your emotional needs in a healthy way?

2. Escaping works!

Most motivation gurus will tell you that there’s no sense in escaping.

That’s nonsense.

There’s nothing wrong with escaping if you want to change. There’s nothing wrong with escaping if you feel like a change of place will do you good.

Escaping works; however, only in the short term. In the long term, nothing will change. If you understand, you can win this game.

That extra boost, that new beginning, that breath of fresh air, can help you and move you forward. It will motivate you to change your life and help you reinvent yourself. Change of place and change of way of living are great fire starters.

But without work, dedication, and everyday small steps towards improvement, the old demons will hunt you down.

Sometimes you need to get lost for a moment in order to find yourself. But to stay on the right track you must know where the right path is and follow it.

What do you really want and what one small thing you can do today to make it happen?

3. The key to kindness is not where you might think

When you have little (like an Ikea bed and a rice cooker), you find people around you who want to help you.

Most often people think they can help you by giving (money), sharing (a moment of conversation), and preaching (word of advice).

But when you have little, you don’t need any of these.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course it’s great to feel compassion, bond, and experience the care around you. And if you lack money - receiving them will help - for a moment.

But these are not the things that will help long term.

If you want to help others, GIVE THEM A CHOICE.

In the long term, you’re not gonna help the hungry kid on the street by giving him money or food.

What that kid really needs is CHOICE.

Choice means the ability to pick your own path. In the modern world it means having a fair start. For some, that might mean getting access to job opportunities, for others it might start with access to education or clean water.

Those who helped me most were the people who told me “I want to make you an offer…” and then invited me into their life. They didn’t see me as anybody worse or different just because I had less than them.

Then we became equals.

How to own more than you can imagine

In the end, we all want to feel the same emotions. Love is the strongest of them all.

The best gift you can give is the possibility of being loved.

When you feel love, you don’t need much more. You don’t need objects, accomplishments. All is swept away by the experience of being in state.

How can you have more than you can imagine?

Become like a tree.

On a hot sunny day, a tree doesn’t judge who it gives shade to. It doesn’t matter if the person who seeks a moment of relief is a good or bad person, what he/she did in the past, what were their committed sins...

The tree gives shelter to anybody who needs it without judgment, no matter who that person is.

That kind of love is what I hope you and I can give to someone else, for the rest of our lives.

I think it would be great if someone else treated US this exact way.

Wouldn’t you like that?

Damien Dante is a writer and life-traveler obsessed with one question - how can we make the world around us a happier place. 

He shows you how to live a mind-blowing life in his new book.
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