Category Archives: Acceptance

The Way to Finding Powerful Human Connection

human connectionHuman connections can bring so much value to our lives. Relationships give us a sense of belonging in a group, a sense of identity within the group and reason not to feel lonely. We learn from others’ experiences and insight, and we learn together by pursuing new experiences alongside those we befriend. Our fear is diminishing how far we tread beyond our doorstep. We don’t smile at strangers like we used to. How much are we missing out on by not taking that chance? – Terri

The Way to Finding Powerful Human Connection By Leo Babauta

As I write this, I’m sitting in a cloud-filled rainforest at a retreat in Ecuador, surrounded by the calls of thousands of tropical birds and creatures, dense lush greenery, and some of the most open-hearted human beings I’ve ever met. Before I came here, I had some anxiety about meeting everyone, worried what they might think of me, worried that I would be awkward at talking to everyone or not fit in. This anxiety made me not want to come. That would have been a huge mistake. I realized that I was telling myself a story about how bad I am at public speaking, at meeting new people, about how unworthy I am of others liking me. This story was not helpful and was getting in the way of me doing something with the potential to be amazing. So I asked myself if it was definitely true, and the answer was, “I don’t know.”

That “I don’t know” scares me. I decided I had to look at the “I don’t know” in a different way — so I told myself instead, “I don’t know, and I would love to find out. Who knows what I’ll discover?”

This helped me to get on the plane, and then I was forced to meet an entire group of 24 strangers. And I could see them as 24 people who were potentially going to judge me … or I could see them as fellow human beings, who have aspirations and who struggle, who have love for others and frustration and anger, who want to be better people and who are disappointed in themselves that they are not, who want to make a difference in the world and feel guilty that they procrastinate, who are beautiful but who judge themselves, who are so different from me in many wonderful ways but who at their core have the same tender heart of humanity beating with strength and fragility, just like me.

I met them and smiled. I felt the anxiety coming up again, but I turned with curiosity to them. I felt myself wanting to run away and be alone and comfortable, but I tried to find their aspirations and struggles. I opened my heart to them, and they came in with kindness. And changed me. And made the effort of overcoming my fear and anxiety of being judged and failing completely worth the effort, a thousand times over.

Human connection is not so common in our age of connectivity. We see lots of people but find our little cocoons to hide in. We don’t realize we’re craving a deeper connection with others until we find it. 

It’s hard to connect because cultural norms get in the way — we’re supposed to talk about the weather and sports and the news, but not our deepest struggles. We’re supposed to say cool or witty things, but not share our greatest hopes for our lives or the person we want to become. It’s hard, but human connection is one of the most powerful forces available to us. We don’t realize we thirst for it, but we do, and the thirst is deep. When I find a real human connection, it nourishes my soul, changes me, moves me to tears. I can’t count how many times I’ve cried this week. My heart feels raw, in a way that opens it up to further connection.

So how do we connect, when it’s so hard? I’d like to share some thoughts:

  • Put yourself in a place with people with your interests. This retreat is filled with people trying to change their lives and interested in mindfulness. That’s such a rare thing, to be with a group of people like this, but we each made the intentional choice to come here. Find a group like that — at a small conference, a retreat, group meetings, a running club, a tech meetup, anything. Do some online searches for ideas, but say yes to at least one.
  • Overcome your resistance. I always find resistance to meeting up with people and big resistance to coming to give a presentation and meeting with a bunch of strangers. The resistance can keep us from ever getting out of our comfort zones. Don’t let it. The benefit of connection is so much greater than the resistance that you should push through it.
  • Smile, and be curious. When you meet these scary strangers, open yourself up. Smile, ask them about themselves, try to find out more. People often appreciate a good listener, and questions can start a conversation and keep it going.
  • Share when you can. While listening is better than talking, I’ve found that when I can be vulnerable and share my fears and struggles, people feel they can do the same. This is when you make a real connection, getting below the surface. It takes a little skill to know when you can open up, and how much you can share — you don’t want to share your deepest secrets as soon as you meet, but you can slowly open up, as the other person does the same. Some people are not comfortable opening up, so don’t push it too deep or expect everyone to want to make this kind of connection, but be open to it.
  • Open your heart. These are other human beings in front of you — and they have tender hearts and pain and hope just like you do. Open your heart and see who you find in front of you and appreciate who you find. Be yourself, and trust that you are worthy of others’ love as well. Let others in. Give hugs.
  • Connect in groups and one-on-one. If you’re at a conference or in a big group of 20 or more people, it can be hard to really find a connection. I much prefer one-on-one, so I’ll try to turn to someone and start a private conversation if they’re open to it, getting to know them better. I also value small group conversations, from three to six people, and think they can be great bonding experiences and a lot of fun.
  • Don’t hide in your phone. Many of us have the tendency these days to use our phones when we’re in crowded public spaces, but when you’re going somewhere (like a conference) that has a lot of people, it’s a big mistake to shut yourself off. Instead, seek interaction, even if you feel awkward about it. I like to start off with a simple question, or sometimes with a simple joke that diffuses the tension.
  • Practice makes you better and more comfortable at it. I’m certainly not the world’s best conversationalist, nor the most comfortable talking in a group. However, I’m better now than I have been in the past, because I’ve been purposefully practicing over the last decade or so. I still have a long way to go. But it’s amazing to see the progress I’ve made, and the more I do it, the less nervous I get.
  • Use each other do dive deeper and find clarity. If you can have good one-on-one conversations, or even small group talks, challenge each other to go deeper into your struggles and challenges, aspirations and life purposes. You’ll often find a lot of clarity in these talks.
  • Use each other for continued support. I often offer to give someone accountability if they say they’ve been struggling to deal with a habit. Or if we’re both struggling with something, we might try to support each other’s efforts to overcome the struggle in the near future.
  • Make an effort to keep in touch. If you make a real human connection, find a way to keep up the conversation, and even meet again in person if it’s possible. If it’s not possible, make a skype date so you can talk face-to-face.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, nor to be any kind of expert. I still get nervous and awkward. But these ideas have helped me, and I hope they help you. Because simple connections with wonderful human beings have changed my life this week, and the power of the love from these connections has left me completely devastated.

Why it’s important to CARE

In our last post we talked about the “expectation filter” and how unrealistic and/or uncommunicated expectations have a tendency to change our perception of, and possibly even be detrimental to, our relationship.

However, wouldn’t it be somewhat of an unrealistic expectation in itself to think that we would never set expectations for our relationship or our partner?

The fact is, having expectations can be a good thing. Expectations not only create accountability and establish boundaries, but they can also inspire us to be better people, if not for ourselves then for our partner.

So then what’s the problem? Shouldn’t that mean that the more epic our expectations, the greater our opportunity for growth? Well, not necessarily.

Imagine that you and your partner have just purchased your first home together. You can’t wait to have more space after living in a one-bedroom apartment for 3 years. With more space, however, comes more work—new places to collect clutter, more rooms to keep clean, plus the entirely new addition of yard work and house maintenance! You’re both aware of these new tasks, and you both have expectations for how they’ll get done.

Cue the ominous tones.

You expect that you’ll split the work based on skill and interest. Your partner expects that you will simply tell him/her which tasks to take care of as they come up.  The thing is, you have not shared these expectations with each other. So now your lawn needs mowing, and you’re waiting for your partner to do it because he/she is the more outdoorsy one; meanwhile your partner is thinking you’re going to do it since you’ve not delegated the task to him/her.

Cue the chorus of “But I thought you were going to do it!”

As you can see, this situation can be avoided by communicating (assertively and respectfully, of course) about your expectations. This accomplishes two things: 1) It makes both of you aware of each other’s expectations. 2) It allows you to adjust expectations so that they are more likely to be met. To put it simply, remember the acronym CARE: Communicate About Realistic Expectations

Through communication, you might realize that you are both harboring unrealistic expectations: perhaps your partner’s work schedule will make it difficult for him/her to always get the mowing done in a timely manner, and your partner might realize that it would be unrealistic and inefficient to wait to do tasks until you ask. Together, you come up with a new, more realistic expectation that the task will be shared—whomever is available when it needs to be done will do it.

As long as you communicate about what you expect from your relationship and each other and make those expectations reasonable and realistic, you not only develop positive habits such as assertive communication, you also create an environment conducive to both relationship and personal growth.

The Expectation Filter

Let’s say there’s going to be a party.

Expectation A: You’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, building it up to epic proportions in your mind. All of your friends are going to be there, you’ll get to wear that new outfit, and it’s at that new, trendy place in town so the food, drinks, and ambience will be fantastic!

Let’s say there’s going to be a party.

Expectation B: You’ve been dreading it for weeks, wishing you could come up with a plausible excuse to get out of it. You probably won’t know anyone, you have nothing to wear, and it’s at that new, trendy place in town so it will probably be crowded, expensive, and parking will be terrible.

Reality: So the party was last night. Some of your friends were there, but a few didn’t make it. No one seemed too preoccupied with attire—some people dressed up and some didn’t. You were a few minutes late trying to find a parking spot, but you found one relatively close by. The food and drinks were moderately priced and relatively tasty, but nothing exceptional.

Based on the two sets of expectations above, how do you think you’d feel about the party at the end of the night?

The party was what it was. You couldn’t control how it turned out simply because of what you expected from it, and it didn’t change itself to match or defy your own expectations. Instead, your expectations affected how you perceived the quality of the party and your overall experience.

Now think about your relationship with your partner. Have you ever let unrealistic expectations influence your perception of him/her or of the relationship itself?  Whether they are expectations that we set explicitly or the ones that creep in subconsciously, unrealistic (and/or uncommunicated) expectations not only prevent us from experiencing things as they are, but they also distract us from truly appreciating the good in a situation. You might fail to appreciate the thought and effort your partner put into cooking dinner just because it didn’t turn out perfectly, or overlook the fact that you can still talk late into the night because you still bicker about those certain topics. Perhaps you take for granted the way your partner always remembers to buy your favorite cereal because he/she still leaves the dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher.

Many times I have found myself getting angry or upset with my spouse, only to realize that the true reason for my feelings was that the expectations I had created in my mind had not been met. Of course, being that I’d never actually communicated these expectations to my husband, let alone based them in reality, it would be unfair to be angry with him as a result. I’m a person who likes things to go the way I plan, and when that plan is diverged from, I tend to get irritated. But this is on me, not on him. I am definitely not perfect, but I’ve learned to check myself before blurting out a knee-jerk reaction of annoyance. By remembering to remove my “expectation filter,” I can better appreciate my reality.


“It’s Always Something.   If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.” 


It's Always Something.  If it isn't one thing, it's another.

It’s Always Something. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

Do you remember this line from the late, Roseanne Roseannadanna?       I love it, and use it often to cope with the annoyances that come up daily.  It helps me to add humor to the frustration of it all.

Or, there’s this favorite quote, “It is what it is.”

So, what’s it all about, this Acceptance of things that are here.   Well, they are here anyway, so we might as well Allow them to be here.

But, “I don’t want it!!!”, you say.  And of course you don’t, who would?  You aren’t a glutton for punishment.  You don’t want to be suffering.  You want things to be different.  And, maybe you have tried over and over to make things different, and it’s not working.  You are stuck.    Yes, Stuck, icky, sticky, Yuck, Stuck…   Stuck in our lives, stuck in our patterns, stuck in a pile of mud.. .

I was stuck in a pile of mud, a while back, during last hunting season, on a long, deserted road, somewhere in Alabama.  I was on the way to a hunting camp at night, with my 2 young children in the car, and no husband (he was there waiting for us).  We were stuck… and … scared.

Have you ever gone out into the country on a long, desolate road, and then stopped the car and  turned your lights off…. Whoaah.. . that is dark…. And  quiet…  and Scary…   Well, you don’t have much time to sit and worry, when the 2 children begin to speak their minds, “Mommy, what are we going to do?  Mommy we are going to be stuck here forever.   Mommy, we might die here.  Mommy, AAAAAaaaaaAAAHH!  Do Something!”   And on it went.

And needless to say, their little voices did not do much to soothe my discomfort, except that this did inspire me to realize that If I didn’t do something different, we were all going to soon be in a car full of screaming, and that sounded even more miserable than what we were already dealing with.

So, I switched over to positive, hopeful talk.  I stepped out of the car to assess the situation…  and dropped down into a very gooey pile of mud.  And, I then got up and kept on going… looking for a solution, a board of some kind, anything to help.  Not finding much, I went to the road, in hopes of informing a passerby that we could use a hand.  And quite soon, a man with a work truck on his way home from a long day, stopped to assist.  He had some straps and he tied them to my car, then we pulled, and pulled….Snap goes the strap….and, oh no, what else do we have?  He found another option, a safety harness, and he tied this on, and we pulled, and pulled.  Slowly, my wheels started to get unstuck, and then we were pulled out into the road.

Yay!!!   Everyone cheered, everyone thanked the kind man profusely.  Everyone is happy!!  And, if it was only that easy in real life.    Sometimes it is that easy, and we just need a boost.    We just need some help to get pulled out of the muck.  And sometimes we need to be stuck a little longer, to learn a lesson of some kind.  And, until we learn our lesson, we may remain stuck.   And, we can do lots of screaming while we are there, but that doesn’t do much to solve the problem?  Or does that just make it more miserable for ourselves and for others while we are there?

What if we try another approach, when we have tried many options, maybe all of the options, and nothing is giving way?  What if we chose the “Acceptance stance”?

It looks like this… If you find yourself in quicksand, what is the best way out?  Well, it turns out, that, struggling with it, only makes it worse.  You sink deeper.  But, if you move slowly, and stretch out your arms and lay back, relaxing, then you can float.   You don’t like it, you don’t want to be there, but if you just rest into it, relax, and allow, then it will become easier.

Struggle, cussing and fussing, only increases our suffering.  So, let’s all slow down, take a long deep breath, allow ‘It’ to be as ‘it’ is..,    and ….   hope that someone comes along to pull us out of the mud.

Doing my best to ..   Live Life On Purpose….  Terri Mudge