Wise Selfish and the People Pleasing Trap: How Speaking Up and Saying "No" Can Be Acts of Compassion April 20, 2024 13:26


 If you prefer to listen to this post, please click HERE for the audio link.

I recently read a quotation that a friend had posted on her FB page that stopped me in my tracks. I read it over and over. I took time to contemplate it. It resonated for me--and it was exactly what I needed at that time.

"Emotional availability is being present to your feelings and needs and being willing to share them, and allowing the other person to have their own feelings and responses to your needs.

It's vulnerable because we're never sure what's going to happen; we have to let other people have their own experiences in relationship to us."
This quotation was an excerpt from a longer post by EQ School, and the focus of the post was about people pleasing.
This blog article is actually two blogs in one--or, a blog with reframing added. I had posted the original article below in late March.  My intention in sharing it was to highlight one of my flaws--not setting healthy boundaries and speaking up for myself in a timely manner. I had described an incident (and a series of incidents that led up to it) in which a dear friend had helped me to recognize and to work on remedying this self-sabotaging habit. In other words, this dear friend taught me something extremely important, and I was grateful to her for giving me the courage to finally speak up.
I had taken time, thought, and effort to write and later post this blog in March. I had also shared it with my friend out of respect and transparency. We'd had a follow-up phone conversation about it, and everything seemed fine.
Everything was not fine...
My intention was not to harm or hurt my friend's feelings, but the article did. She took it to heart and was deeply bothered by it.
I looked her in the eyes and sincerely apologized to her. I listened to her point of view, and then, out of respect for her, I took the article down, removing it from view.
For weeks, I felt deep shame and regret for having written this blog. I thought I was a horrible person.
I was also conflicted and confused--because, usually, when I am in the process of making a mistake or an error in judgment, I feel it in my body. I'll have an anxiety spike, I'll feel tension in my jaw or shoulders, I'll feel an uncomfortable itchiness in my gut, or I'll feel a sense of doubt or hesitation. When I wrote this blog a few weeks ago, I didn't feel any of those things. All I felt was gratitude.  And when I reread it today, I can honestly say that I stand by every single word.
I'm not sorry for writing the blog--I am sorry that it hurt my friend's feelings.
I am a chronic people pleaser--and, unfortunately, for most of my life, I have been a kowtowing, over-accommodating, walking-on-eggshells, don't-rock-the-boat kind of person. It's embarrassing! 
I have denied my own feelings and the validity of my own experiences. I have put others' perspectives in higher esteem than my own. I have taken responsibility for the feelings of others, which is absurd!!!
I am entitled to my own viewpoints. I am allowed to share my own experiences with others, as long as I express my views with kindness, respect, and compassion.
This quotation that  I mentioned earlier was a healing balm and wake-up call for me! It pointed out that I need to work on my own emotional availability and integrity. It reinforced the importance of speaking up for myself and expressing my views--and to be careful to avoid taking responsibility for others' reactions--or from taking their reactions personally.
During the Q and A portion of a Dharma talk that I heard this morning from Sravasti Abbey, Venerable Semkye said, "Being overly sensitive to feedback is a form of self-grasping laziness."
You know what? She's right!
It's a hindrance and an obstacle that exaggerates the self-- the "I,I,I, me, me, me."
Therefore, taking everything into consideration, I have decided to make my original post visible (see below). I had a valid message to convey, I had a legitimate experience that I wanted to share, and I hope that it will be of benefit to others.
If you are reading or listening to this, know that I am choosing not to take responsibility for your reactions. 
Living in Samsara is not easy--but learning and growing from dear friends makes the journey more interesting and bearable.
Keep practicing and moving forward, peeps!
Much love to you all--
(Photo Credit: Wangphan aka Duy Anh Phan courtesy of Pixabay)
I typed "people pleasing" in the search bar of the Pixabay website, and this image jumped out at me. People pleasers get caught up in their own nets and can be blinded by the opinions and reactions of others when they disregard their own feelings and experiences. 



 If you prefer to listen to this month’s offering, please click HERE for the audio link.

“The stupid way to be selfish is seeking happiness for ourselves alone. The intelligent way to be selfish is to work for the welfare of others.” His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Sometimes, saying “No” is an act of compassion and wise selfishness. Women, in particular, tend to have trouble with this—we often feel pressured to take on more than we can handle in order to appease, please, and help others.

However, not standing up for ourselves and saying “No” when the situation may be too demanding or inappropriate can be detrimental to our emotional and physical well-being.

I am not a fan of suppressing, masking, or ignoring emotions. I am also not a fan of indulging, lashing out, and bombarding others with them either. Keeping feelings bottled up without acknowledging or processing them usually leads to bigger problems for me later on. Whether it’s because of a single major trauma or an accumulation of several small issues over time, my body will let me know if I’m not paying close enough attention to my emotional well-being.

For example, over the years, I have dealt with the physical consequences of frozen shoulder syndrome, Bell’s palsy, and shingles as either the direct or indirect results of not dealing with my emotions effectively.

According to HHDL, “There is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing one’s own interests. On the contrary, to do so is a natural expression of our fundamental disposition to seek happiness and to shun suffering. In fact, it is because we care for our own needs that we have the natural capacity to appreciate others’ kindness and love.”

One recent, and very mild, example that comes to mind happened recently after a Dharma teaching at TMBCC.  A kind-hearted and devoted sangha member stopped me after the teaching to introduce me to a visitor who was new to the Center.

We exchanged greetings, and he told me that he recently graduated from IU and wanted to attend a Dharma talk. My kind-hearted friend then said, “Teresa is great! She will give you her number, and you can text her if you have any questions.”

Keep in mind, this man was a complete stranger to me. As she was saying this to him, I looked this man in the eye while shaking my head and said, “No…I will not be doing that. I will not be giving you my number. You will not be texting me. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. If you have any questions while you’re here, please feel free to ask. I'll be happy to help if I can.”

He nodded his head in agreement the entire time I was talking as if to say, “I get it. It’s OK. No worries!”

Now, this response may seem logical and normal, but, believe it or not, it required time, processing, courage, and work on my part to respond in this way, mainly because this was not the first time that this kind-hearted sangha member had said this sort of thing to new visitors.

“Being foolish selfish means pursuing our own interests in a narrow, short-sighted way. Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our long-term individual interests lie in the welfare of everyone.”  HHDL

On a few previous occasions, this same kind-hearted friend had escorted strangers over to me who happened to live in Greenwood, a town which has a population of 65,000 and is an hour’s drive from Bloomington, and had told them that we could ride share, and that I would drive them to the Center. Then, she’d walk away immediately, leaving me to have an awkward conversation with people who I didn’t know.

I’m not going to lie; these rare, unexpected exchanges were extremely anxiety-producing for me. Each time, I felt pressured to do something that I did not feel safe or comfortable doing. (I’ve seen far too many Dateline episodes to know better than to drive strangers around in my car by myself.) In addition, these brief exchanges made me feel resentful and frustrated toward my Dharma friend.

During these previous incidents, I didn’t have time to react or feel anything. I was caught off guard—confused and blind-sided—and I didn’t have the wherewithal to speak up and set a healthy boundary.

In fact, somewhere out there, there is a woman who actually has my cellphone number. My kind-hearted Dharma friend had pressured me into giving it to her, and for weeks, I worried that she would text me and ask me to pick her up to take her to Bloomington. For all I know, she may have wondered if that strange lady she met at TMBCC was expecting her to reach out for a ride to B-town. This may have caused anxiety for both of us.

I can’t speak for anyone else—in fact, that was the root of this problem—someone had overstepped and had spoken for me without my permission or consent, and it took me a while to process the feelings I had about this.

I felt frustrated, not only at my kind-hearted Dharma friend for putting me in this awkward position, but also at myself for not speaking up right then and there.

“Being wise selfish means being compassionate…Compassion and discernment are mutually reinforcing.”  HHDL

Actually, it took some time for me to process these feelings, and processing for me means talking to myself in the car (so, if you happen to see me driving and I’m talking to myself, you’ll know what’s happening😉) or writing about it.

Once I take the time to contemplate, talk, or write about these feelings that surface, I’m able to settle down, think clearly, and then calmly respond to future situations more effectively.

This takes me back to something one of my graduate school professors said years ago, “Feelings aren’t good or bad; they just are.” Or, stated another way, “You have to feel the feelings before you can heal the feelings.” Taking the time to process feelings helps me to do just that!

“Where we DO have control is at the level of motivation in deploying our critical, intelligent faculties—our discernment.”  HHDL

Because this kind of situation had happened before, on at least two previous occasions, and because I had taken the time to acknowledge and process the feelings that had surfaced, this time, I was able to say “No” with conviction and confidence to this most recent visitor, and, in the presence of my kind-hearted Dharma friend. In effect, I was demonstrating discernment, I was setting a healthy boundary, and I was practicing wise selfishness (compassion).

By the way, my kind-hearted friend did reach out to me later that day via text and apologized for her impulsiveness. I accepted her apology, and all is well.

Suppressing feelings—ignoring them—masking them—pushing them down—all of these are just asking for trouble, if you ask me. I certainly don’t need another shingles outbreak or some weird, neurological episode to remind me of the importance of naming, claiming, and effectively dealing with my emotions.

Over the years, I’ve heard several Dharma teachers explain the importance of contemplating, investigating, and analyzing the teachings before accepting them as the truth. It’s essential to take time to digest and understand them before meditating on them.  

Well, this applies to experiences in everyday life as well—especially for those unexpected situations when I don’t have time to think about how I feel until later.

I love my kind-hearted Dharma friend. She means well, even though she sometimes oversteps.

I love going to TMBCC for weekly Dharma talks, and I enjoy meeting the visitors who come for teachings, too.

I especially love being able to apply what I learn both on and off the cushion.

Taking the time to process what I learn and what I feel helps me to hone my capacity for critical thinking, discernment, and compassion.


I hope the month of March has treated you well, and I hope April treats you even better.

Please check out the current Middle Moon Malas collection, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have custom design requests or if you need to have a mala restrung.

Quotes from HHDL came from the book Beyond Religion.

Photo Credit: Andrys from Pixabay 


Indiana State Fair 2023: A Celebration of Interdependence August 31, 2023 13:02

Jim and I walking hand in hand at the Indiana State Fair

If you prefer to listen to this month's blog article, please click HERE for the audio link (11 minute listen).

The Indiana State Fair is an annual, month-long summer event in Indianapolis that includes concerts, livestock, rides, games, an assortment of fried foods, and family fun.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not an event that typically appeals to me. I’m generally not jazzed about tractor pulls, midway rides, and large crowds in the unbearable summer heat and humidity of the Hoosier state.

This year, however, my daughter was working at the Newfields booth during an afternoon shift on the last Friday of this year’s fair schedule, so Jim and I decided to meet her there for dinner after her shift ended and to experience some family fun, first-hand.

Our first (and really only) obstacle was navigating rush hour traffic and finding a parking spot once we arrived. On our way there, a semi nearly missed plowing into our vehicle on I-65. The driver hadn’t been paying attention and didn’t notice that traffic was slowing.

Fortunately, we lived through that close call only to wait in line for 45 minutes as we inched our way toward a parking spot at the far end of the sandy infield of the fairgrounds.

We arrived just in time to see the fair parade, led by the famous Clydesdale horses and Budweiser carriage, followed by a marching band and several tractors pulling hordes of waving sponsors, farmers, and fair princesses with glittery pink sashes.

Clydesdale horses pulling Budweiser carriage in parade at Indiana State Fair 2023

Elise had wandered into the parade line and met us near the grandstand. We waited in line for ears of fresh buttered sweet corn. Elise enjoyed deep fried Oreos, I chose chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick, and Jim selected pork riblets with a Lemon Shake-up.

The weather was perfect! It was breezy and slightly cool with very low humidity, which is extremely rare for this time of year.

After “dinner,” we wandered into various livestock buildings and visited sheep, goats, alpacas, horses, and pigs.

I'm connecting with an adorable goat in the petting zoo


A large goat is vying for Elise's attention while we chat with a little goat

beautiful Belgian horse in one of the livestock buildings at the Indiana State Fair 2023

We sat in plastic Adirondack chairs and listened to an up-and-coming local band. The band members couldn’t have been any older than the high school students I currently tutor.

We circled around the fairgrounds on a shuttle pulled by a large tractor. The long bench seats allowed for easy access on and off during the various stops.

What does all of this have to do with meditation practice? Well, the old me (the version of myself before I dedicated time to a daily practice) would have been very anxious in a crowd full of strangers, disgusted by the mingled scents of exhaust fumes, fair food, and livestock manure. The old me would have worried about the time, even on a Friday night. Honestly, the old me would have never made it to the fair to begin with—she would have insisted that the near miss with the semi was “a sign from the Universe” to just go on home.

The present me, however, was just that—present.

Jim was a little antsy as we inched our way to the infield parking lot, but I was calm and content. We had the windows rolled down and could hear the sounds of cicadas along with the gleeful shrieks coming from people on the midway rides.

The present me wasn’t worried about being late—or the time at all. I enjoyed spending time with my family and taking in all the sights and sounds without judgment, worry, or fear.

I enjoyed interacting and connecting with the animals in the livestock barns. From patting the bellies of the milk-drunk piglets to stroking the soft noses of the sheep, goats, and horses, connecting with the animals was soothing, and being with my family was comforting.

The present me even found connecting with strangers to be enjoyable. I was relaxed and at ease in the crowd. At one point, as we were walking near the midway, I met eyes with an elderly woman in a wheelchair. I smiled, said, “Hello.” Her eyes were bright and welcoming.  I didn’t know her, but I felt connected to her, nonetheless. I felt connected—and interconnected with the thousands of others who were milling all around us, sharing the sights and sounds and space of this beautiful summer night.

The present me appreciated the efforts of all the hearts and hands of all ages, races, and backgrounds who came together to make this event possible: from those directing traffic in the parking lot, those preparing and serving food, those maintaining and monitoring the grounds and rides, those driving the tractor shuttles, those making public announcements, those tending to animals, and, of course, the animals. This evening was a celebration of interdependence.

My practice has changed me for the better, and it’s events like these that most clearly reveal and showcase some of these positive changes:

  • Remain open and receptive to new opportunities
  • See the familiar with a fresh set of eyes
  • Set aside past associations and perceptions
  • Remain calm and relaxed—even under pressure
  • Release tension after danger has passed
  • Prevent unexpected obstacles from spoiling the rest of the evening
  • Remain content and patient while waiting
  • Enjoy the company of loved ones and strangers
  • Feel genuine love, compassion, and joy for others
  • Remain focused, alert, and present without expectations
  • Cultivate gratitude for others’ skills, gifts, and efforts


This is what daily practice has done for me. Over time, it has enabled me to allow, appreciate, and enjoy this precious human life.

Do I feel this connected all the time? No. However, I do feel like this more frequently than I did a decade ago. My practice has improved the overall quality of my life, and, by proxy, it has improved the lives of others around me.


I’m reflecting on this topic at a time when yet another mass shooting has occurred in our country—this time, in Jacksonville, Florida. The contrast of these two events: an enjoyable evening with my family at the fair, and yet another tragic shooting motivated by hate, ignorance, and racism—is jarring and unsettling.


One of the biggest benefits of my personal practice is that it helps me to navigate this paradox—and it motivates me to continue to practice without being discouraged by the hatred and anger of others.  I can’t change other people, and I won’t allow the destructive actions of others to deter and distract me from appreciating moments of connection and presence. Despite others’ choices and actions that intensify suffering and despair, compassion, connection, interdependence, and gratitude—these are the necessary antidotes that a daily practice fosters.

I firmly believe that when enough people cultivate compassion and connection for others, meaningful change can, and will, occur. However, it must begin with individuals before the ripple effects can reach, progress, and improve society.

The Indiana State Fair may have come and gone for this year, but there will be many more opportunities to celebrate and practice interdependence by this time next summer.

Jim, Elise, and I on the tractor shuttle at the Indiana State Fair 2023



My hope is that this article inspires and supports you and your own practice in some way.

May you be well. May you be happy. And most importantly, may you continue to practice…

 While you're here, don't forget to visit the Middle Moon Malas home page to view the current collection of hand-knotted malas and quarter malas.



Trigger Warning: How a Mantra Practice Can Help Manage Unsettling Emotions March 6, 2017 13:48



 Triggers—we all have them.  They can be situations, memories, specific sounds or smells, words and phrases, animals, or even certain individuals that can push us into a vortex of unpleasant emotions or mindsets. It’s easy, too easy, sometimes, to get caught up in this dizzying, unsettling flurry, and it can have a lasting impact, if we allow it.

Last week, I was chatting in the hall with colleagues after school.  I like to laugh—a lot—unfortunately, I have a bold, loud laugh that can sometimes be misconstrued.  At some point in our conversation, I let one of these bold laughs fly, and it triggered one of my colleagues.  She had assumed that I was laughing at her, and that I was judging her, which was not my intention at all.   

 Even though I had apologized and explained to her that I was not criticizing or berating her in any way, I could tell that this did not completely pacify her. It still stung. She was triggered by my laughter—and I was triggered by her response.  I felt awful about causing someone else pain, even though it was unintentional. Later on in the evening, it had an impact on my personal yoga practice.  I couldn’t get that moment out of my head. I had trouble focusing, I didn’t enjoy my practice, and I started to second guess and berate myself as a result.  What was the root of all of this turmoil?

 Meditation can be an effective follow-up for my at-home yoga sessions, and it was perfect for managing the ripple effects of this particular situation. By incorporating the following steps, I was able to halt the negative self-talk, to recognize patterns, to answer lingering questions, and to offer compassion as an antidote.

 Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and sit so that you can be both relaxed and alert.

 *Observe : Identify and name whatever reactions or emotions are associated with the situation. Where do you feel this reaction in the body? Are you holding tension anywhere? Notice what’s happening with the breath. Is your breathing ragged or smooth? Shallow or deep? Simply take time to identify, notice, and name what’s happening in the breath and body.

 *Pause: Without judgment, and without taking these reactions personally, simply take some time to sit and acknowledge these reactions and feelings. They may be familiar to you—you may have felt this way before—and you may acknowledge patterns emerging.  Whatever feelings or reactions that surface for you, be with them…without pushing them away….or looking for a distraction. Simply be still. Hold space for whatever you’re noticing.

 *Reflect: Ask for guidance—what is this person, situation, etc. teaching me? What do I need to learn from this? What’s the message? Trust the information that you receive—and be patient—sometimes you won’t receive an immediate answer. This is usually the place where I begin a mantra recitation practice with a mala (japa practice).  It’s kind of like waiting on hold and listening to music on the other end of the line—only the music doesn’t have to be annoying. Choose a mantra and a mala that resonate with you, and use this recitation practice to help you find clarity, direction, and calm. Again—without forcing an answer—without trying to manipulate or control your meditation session…simply allow…one bead, one recitation at a time.

 *Release: Whether you choose to recite one round (108 repetitions) or multiple rounds with your mala and mantra, at the end of your recitation practice, offer yourself, the situation, and any other individuals involved compassion. Give yourself permission to release any fears, anger, frustrations, etc. that this situation may have stirred up for you. This part of the process allows for a sense of closure (at least for the time being), and it prevents this situation from hijacking the rest of your day.

 Triggers in and of themselves can seem very small and insignificant, but they can explode into major disruptions if they aren’t dealt with or managed effectively.  Using a mantra practice can help you notice patterns about yourself and be more mindful as you interact with others.

 I still laugh—boldly, loudly—and although I may not be able to control how other people respond to my laughter,  the more honest, clear, and compassionate that I can be in relating with others,  the more we can laugh together.