Mercy and Compassion: For Ourselves First

I received a thought-provoking article recently on Mercy. I’ve not thought about mercy in a long while. It is an archaic word in our culture, yet so many of my acquaintances and clients struggle so mightily to do ‘what’s right’ in the world. Here’s the line that pulled me up short and got my attention:

“What we really need is to become mercy ourselves.” What does that even mean????

Mercy Article

Please click on the article to read more. It was brought to my attention by my dear friend and colleague, Debora McDermed-Peila, and Interfaith Minister, Spiritual Coach and former Business Coach to Fortune 100 companies. The article itself is part of a course on Spirituality being offered by Sister Joan Chittister, a radical, compassionate and edgy Benedictine Nun. Then let’s talk! This understanding may very well be how to finally have our focus be correctly placed so that we can relax and fulfill what is ours to fulfill.

Yankee Remembered March 12, 2015

Yankee on chair 2014

Ch Wisdom’s Gate Let Freedom Ring, CGC

July 2, 2005 – March 12, 2015


We lost our beloved Yankee yesterday after a valiant battle with advanced heart disease and cancer, almost exactly a year from when we lost his mother, Annie, at 14. True to his terrier nature, he was diagnosed last June with a heart that would only last 2 months at most.  Nine months later, it was the cancer that finally got him, not that huge and faithful heart.


Yankee is the best Norfolk I have ever owned or bred, both in temperament and in structure.  Barbara Miller once said of her boy, Storm, that what she missed the most was gazing out at him in the run, seeing his gorgeous stature.  I now know what she meant.  Both Tim and I would comment weekly on how even at 9 years old, with cancer and a bad heart, he was gorgeous.  He will forever be the image of a male Norfolk for me.


Yankee was weaned while I was in the hospital, so he was first and foremost my husband’s dog.  Tim would visit me, then come home and play with Yankee, who as a singleton, had no other pups to play with.  His mom weaned her pups at 3 weeks, so Tim was it.  Throughout his life, Yankee loved lying on Tim’s chest just under his chin, ‘praying’ and loving it.  Last night, as we sat on the couch with our remaining three girls and our grief, Carmel, our small red 6 year old Norfolk, began that praying motion for the very first time.  We swear it was Yankee saying all was well.


Yankee took me to Westminster, to the National Dog Show, as well as all over the country with Michael Lynch as a special.  He was the consummate show dog, and even on his final day, was excited to go into his crate in the car because he might be going to a show.  I thank Mike Lynch every day for making sure he loved showing.


We miss you, Yankee.

If love could have saved you – you would have lived forever…

 Yankee Great Western 2008093 cropped


“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.” 

Byron Katie

There’s nothing like watching a beloved family member or pet in a dying process to get one’s attention.  It happened to me when my Dad died almost 4 years ago.  And it is happening again as my dear Norfolk Terrier, Yankee, lives out his final chapter.  It’s such a meditation, this process, if I let it be.

I am reminded each morning of the gift of relationship, and the gift of life.  As I breathe deeply before opening his crate door in the morning, I am fully prepared for whatever happened overnight.  So far, I’ve rejoiced in another day well spent with him.  I like, now, to stick closer to home, reveling in the energy exchange between us.  And I notice the exquisite moments that are available when I am quiet and with his process, and with him.

Dogs don’t use thought the way humans do, you see.  They are present to what is, for the most part.  Consciousness is much weaker in dogs than it is in people.  Dogs don’t self-reflect to the degree humans do, if at all.  They connect, they experience, they act from wisdom and instinct.  And they don’t worry about the future or the past.  They take what they have and go forward, not judging themselves or the situation.

How would our experience differ if we could let go of our past and our plans?  During this process, I’ve found I am much more stabilized, much more balanced, and much more creative.  I love more easily and forgive more quickly.  I notice what has meaning, and I side-step what doesn’t.  I rest in grace, and am thankful.

 The Peace of Wild Things

 When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s live may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.  I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.  And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.  For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 Wendell Berry


Finding the balance point

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.”
Byron Katie

One of the most common things I overhear as I move through my day is what’s wrong.  Wrong with others, wrong with ourselves, wrong with what’s happening to us.  I love Byron Katie’s view of all of that.  What if we began to consider that all the circumstances that happen are part of honing us to be our best selves?  Can you imagine trusting life that much?

The blessing of aging is the ability to look back and see this to be true.  From THIS vantage point I can see that living life well is much like learning to ride a bike.  There’s a balance point for every human being, one that allows us to live well, with interest, compassion and ease, in the flow.  If you remember back to learning to ride a bike, there were falls along the way as we leaned too far in one direction, then over-compensated in the other.  It took practice and something intangible, like a sense of where the body was in space, to be able to master this balance thing.

Living life is like that as well.  What if the things and people around us are life’s way of helping us find our balance point.  Whoa, way too much to drink last night….OK, not doing that again.  Wow, doing what I love makes the time fly.  Great, let’s find work that feels like that!  Relationship woes?  How do TWO people find balance?  That’s a more interesting question than thinking there is something wrong with you, or them!

2015 is the year for learning to live from the inside out, to find that balance point.  If you imagine a channel between you and the wisdom of life that allows for life to guide you, the most important thing to do is keep that channel clear of debris and noise.  The more you can practice quieting your mind, even for 3 minutes a day, the more that muscle will strengthen, and the more normal that quiet mind will become.  Isn’t that worth 3 minutes of practice a day?

Just start by sitting.  Set a timer for 3 minutes, and just be.  Pretend your mind is a new puppy, and gently corral it if it wanders.  I like to come back to my breathing as a focal point.  If you try this for a week and like it, gradually increase the time to again strengthen the muscle of quiet mind.  And suddenly, what happens on the outside doesn’t overwhelm you quite as much.  And that balance point is easier and easier to locate.

I get overwhelmed, too!

I often come across as having it all together.  My clients and associates often think I have this amazing, care-free life.  Closer inspection would have you see otherwise!

Wednesday I was preparing for an early morning meeting (7 AM), and noticed my sweet 10 pound Norfolk Terrier was not feeling well. I was already reeling from news that my 9 year old dog has an inoperable mass, and now this!  Canceled my attendance at the meeting, spent 2 hours at the vet (and $700), came home, doctor’s appointment myself, drove home, 2 hour client, lunch at 3:00 PM…overwhelmed and near tears from worry about my dog (s) and not enough to eat!  The difference is I knew that I would re-balance as soon as I cleared some room in my schedule to stop and rest.

And that’s exactly what happened!  My understanding clients allowed me to reschedule the rest of the day, and I awoke the next morning refreshed and ready to go.  And my tiny dog was better as well!  What might have been days or weeks of worry about ‘letting people down’ or over-working to catch up became only 24 hours of frustration and upset, with the background certainty that my innate ability to heal was still operating if I would leave myself alone.

This is what an inside out life feels like, and looks like.  No miracles, just a perspective that gives different, healthier choices.