Archive for December 2016

Post-Election: Be Kind-but it DOESN’T mean be nice! || Mary Coday Edwards

Post-election: Be kind – but it DOESN’T mean be nice!

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

December 13, 2016

And Santa JUST shifted me to the “naughty” side, if I wasn’t there already.

An old word, “nice” appeared in English in the 13th century. It’s derived from a French word that meant “foolish”, which in turn came from the Latin nescire, meaning “Ignorant”.  By the 17th century it had evolved to signify “timid,” “fussy,” and “precise” – a far cry from our current usage meaning kind, or polite.

Of the word, says “the word is used too often and has become a cliché lacking the qualities of precision and intensity that are embodied in many of its synonyms.”

As noted in my November blog on loving kindness, on the heels of our election I attended the 2016 International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS; Note 1), hosted by the Mind & Life Institute (Note 2).

Amishi Jha, Associate Professor at the University of Miami, closed our Saturday evening session saying, “Be kind – but that doesn’t mean be nice!”

The Director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, her words were intended to aid us attendees in finding our way through a new political order.


Spiritual teachers and psychotherapists often associate “nice” with being a people-pleaser, with the need to look outside oneself for certain emotional needs to be met. In other words, if I’m nice to you, you’ll validate me in ways I’m not getting from myself. You’ll make me feel important, valuable, or worthy of love. And to get what I want from you, I will even contradict my convictions.

Being kind, on the other hand, entails a deliberate doing good to others, choosing consciously. And evolves into loving kindness – again, see my November blog. Returning to its 13th century roots, nice implies acting unconsciously – I am ignorant of my motives and perhaps foolishly waiting for someone’s approval, or to get something from him/her.

Which is spot on to our seasonal usage of “nice”: If I punch Susie, Santa will leave me a lump of coal – I won’t get the cool stuff. I don’t really care about Susie’s wellbeing, but I DO care about what’s under the tree.

Defined in this manner, niceness comes with strings attached: I will please you and make you happy in order to get something out of it.


For me, training in loving kindness enables me to move beyond the superficialities that divide our species. Mentally, when I now engage either in person or through social media with those whose values frankly leave me stunned, I visualize that deeper spiritual commonality.

For me, that visualization is of a changing form of no specific shape, an intense sky blue color with sparkles of light, in a background of midnight blue.  There I can be kind without being nice; I can extend loving kindness to them without contradicting my own values. They are fighting battles I know nothing about in that deeper place.

By the end of our interaction, they may want nothing more to do with me – they may be unfriending me! And that’s OK. My intent is to be kind to myself also in this interaction, by speaking my truth, by showing up as me.

So, be kind – but mindfully, paying attention to your motives, but without judgment.


Notes & Sources:

1.) ISCS “brings together scientists, scholars, artists and contemplatives to explore distinct though overlapping fields of research and scholarship, using a multidisciplinary, integrative approach to advance our understanding of the human mind.” This symposium hosted about 1,200 attendees.

2.) The mission of the Mind & Life Institute is to alleviate suffering and promote flourishing by integrating science with contemplative practice and wisdom traditions.

3.) Sources include Marcia Sirota, at


About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation

Here is a list of the other blog Mary has written for People House:

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Golden Rules of Respectful Behavior || Dorothy Wallis

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Golden Rules of Respectful Behavior

By Dorothy Wallis


It may seem old fashioned in this day and age to be polite.  If you want to have friends, be liked and create a fabulous first impression, it makes sense to acquire courteous and respectful behaviors.  More importantly, it is a matter of safety.  Civility has become a societal problem.  The public affairs firm, Powell Tate and KRC Research found that 95% of Americans say that civility is a serious problem with 86% of Americans reporting they have been victims of incivility.  Most of these encounters with disrespectful behavior have been while doing the normal everyday activities of driving or shopping.  Cyber bullying is on the rise as well as hostile and disturbing comments on social media sites.  Anonymity has reduced responsibility.  We are sliding into a culture where nasty, rude, intimidating, and hateful behavior is seen as “normal.”  It is anything but “normal.”  This lack of civility, care and regard for others is destructive and damaging to the well-being of every citizen and especially the young who model their elders.


Returning to respectful behavior is good for society and good for your own well-being.  Being respectful, polite and having good manners creates harmonious relationships and connections. We all enjoy people that make us feel seen and heard.  When people are interested in your opinions and interests, you feel valued and accepted.  When people pay attention to making you comfortable and safe, and respect your personal space and possessions, you feel their care.  A person who offers generous doses of kindness and consideration is likable, attractive and more successful in life.

The Golden Rule of Respectful Behavior is treating other people with Dignity, Consideration and Loving Kindness, and to treat Yourself with the same Regard.


We can do our part to turn around the demise of civility by being an example of respect.  The small and seemingly inconsequential “niceties” make a difference. The Prime Question to ask yourself is: 
What affect is my Behavior having on the Experience of those around Me? 
If you are unsure of what is appropriate or acceptable behavior be aware of the reactions and responses of the people around you.  Watch their body and facial language for cues.  Are you being excluded in some way?  Are you invited back to social gatherings?  On the flip side, how do you feel about the behavior of the company you keep?  Do they act in ways that make you feel good or not?
The Basics of Common Courtesy, Respect and Good Manners:

The Good: 

  • Always use Please, Thank You and You’re Welcome.
  • Be friendly and helpful; Greet people with a smile.
  • Listen attentively with curiosity, be sincerely interested in others; be considerate of other’s opinions.
  • Be generous with praise and celebrate other’s successes and accomplishments.
  • Apologize when you have made a mistake.
  • Respect people’s personal space and belongings.
  • Be Kind and Considerate; treat people with dignity.
  • Do good deeds without needing anything in return.

The Bad:  None of these actions are endearing or will create harmony.  They push people away.

  • Ignoring when someone is talking to you; silencing, looking the other way, walking away, not making eye contact or rolling your eyes
  • Interrupting (because you want to make your point or you think you already know what they are going to say)
  • Not helping someone when you have the opportunity.
  • Lack of consideration for others disabilities and frailties.
  • Using personal property without asking.
  • Invading someone’s personal space or imposing on him or her.
  • Staring or pointing at someone.
  • Asking personal or inappropriate questions; prying.
  • Gossiping is mean.
  • Profanity (It shows a lack of respect for yourself as well as others.  Tame your tongue and increase your vocabulary)
  • Being consistently Late (It is disrespectful of other people’s time.)
  • Cutting in line or not allowing a person with 1 or 2 items at the grocery store go in front of you.
  • Promoting your own agenda; pushing your opinions, bragging, or only talking about yourself

The Ugly:  These behaviors move into the abusive category and are Boundary Violations.

  • Humiliating, embarrassing, ridiculing or shaming a person.
  • Harsh criticism, insults or demeaning others.
  • Infringing on the rights of others.
  • Dishonesty.
  • Touching without permission.
  • Blaming, manipulating, belligerence, sarcasm and hostility.
  • Exposing others to illness or physical injury.
  • Patronizing; treating someone as “Less than.”
  • Calling people names: stupid, idiot, asshole, bitch, weakling, etc.
  • Yelling and screaming.
  • Gaslighting: spinning information to make someone doubt their own perception
  • Dismissive & Condescending Remarks: What NOT to say
    • You are too sensitive, you’re overreacting
    • Not now, maybe later, don’t worry about it
    • Don’t be that way
    • Calm down, relax, chill, don’t panic
    • It doesn’t matter, get over it, there’s nothing to be done about it
    • What’s your point?
    • I hear you (repeatedly)…yeah, I heard that
    • Not this again…let’s move on….let it go
    • Who knows, who cares?
    • Get used to it

Cell Phones and Electronics
The Good:  Cell phones and computers allow ease and almost instant communication and access to information.  They connect us to our global community.

The Bad:  Looking at a screen or listening to a voice does not provide physical face-to-face connection.  It is rude to ignore the person sitting in front of you and focus your attention on your phone or computer.

  • No Texting, browsing or monitoring your cell phone or computer when you are at the dinner table or engaged in a conversation or an activity with another person.  Turn off or silence your cell phone at restaurants, theaters and events. 
  • Do Not Talk loudly on your Cell Phone in public.  Do you really want everyone to hear?
  • Walking with your Cell phone and ignoring everything around you.

The Ugly:

  • Texting while Driving is Dangerous!  Don’t do it.

The Good:  Good driving habits offer safety and happy outings.  By obeying these rules you avoid bad outcomes.

  • Use your turn signals.
  • When stopped behind a vehicle see their back tires touching the road.
  • Be courteous instead of competitive when driving.
  • Leave for your destination with time to spare.
  • Watch out for bad drivers…drive defensively.
  • Don’t drive when tired.
  • Follow driving rules:  When you see a yellow light it means caution.  Don’t speed up to go through it, stop when you can.
  • Wear your seat belt.

The Bad & The Ugly:  Absolutely Dangerous actions to Avoid

  • Texting while driving or other distractions.
  • Cutting people off.
  • Driving too fast (drive the speed limit in residential areas) Yeah, it’s not okay to go 5 miles over or more where children are playing and people are walking!
  • Driving slow in the passing lane (this is also not okay.)
  • Running red lights and not yielding the right of way.
  • Not stopping at crosswalks….Stopping at crosswalks Saves Lives.
  • Swerving in and out of traffic or other reckless driving.
  • Tailgating (following too close is an accident waiting to happen.)
  • Driving high…on alcohol or drugs.

Dining and Table Manners
The Good:  Dining with others is one of the most intimately important social moments in your life.  Having good table manners enhances relationship and is respectful.  People pay attention to table manners and form opinions about you.

  • Be sociable and converse at the table.  Being present with those you “break bread with” is an opportunity to strengthen bonds and connection; it is a time to share with one another.
  • Have gratitude for those that prepared the food and take pleasure in the food you eat; it increases endorphins creating a positive mood.  
  • Eat mindfully and slowly tasting every bite; it strengthens and builds the connecting networks in your brain.

The Bad:  Not following accepted dining protocols is inconsiderate and rude.

  • Do place your napkin in your lap and use it.
  • Do not begin to eat until everyone has been served.
  • No elbows on the table while you are eating…after the meal it is acceptable.
  • Do not fill up your plate with food; take moderate amounts.
  • When passed a dish, take one serving of food and make sure to leave enough for others.
  • Don’t leave the table during the meal without saying, “Excuse Me.”
  • Place your utensils together across your plate when you are finished with your meal.

The Ugly:
If you want to be invited back….Remember to Not:

  • Double dip your bread or chips into the shared sauce.  If you need more, use a clean spoon and place it on your plate.
  • Gobble your food down….do eat slowly.
  • Chew with your mouth open or speak with your mouth full.
  • Stuff your mouth full of food or take exceedingly large bites (it is gross to watch).
  • No Noisy eating, Slurping, burping, or licking your fingers.
  • Monopolize the conversation, talk loudly or over others; allow everyone a chance to talk.
  • Reach over others (ask to have something passed to you).
  • Take the last of anything without asking others.
  • Use a toothpick at the table (do this in private…no one wants to see the inside of your mouth).
  • Drink too much and become obnoxious.

Dorothy Wallis is a former intern at People House in private practice as an Individual and Couples Psychotherapist for over five years as well as an International Spiritual Teacher.  At the forefront of the consciousness movement for over thirty years, she is grounded in practices of meditation, family systems, relationships, and emotional growth.  Her work reflects efficacious modalities of alternative approaches to healing based upon the latest research in science, human energy fields, psychology, and spirituality.

She is a leader in the field of emotional consciousness and the connection to mind, body and spirit.  Her compassionate approach safely teaches you how to connect to your body, intuition and knowing to clear emotional wounds and trauma at the core.  The powerful Heartfulness protocol empowers your ability to join with your body’s innate capacity to heal through holistic Somatic, Sensory and Emotional awareness.

Holidays and Grief || Jenny St. Claire

Holidays and Grief by Jenny St. Claire


Grief is about loss.  Many only associate it with physical death, but it is about anything that feels like an ending.  Several common experiences can be a breakup, the end of health through an illness, or losing a job.  Some unexpected examples of grief can be missing how the holidays were when you were a kid, being so busy you don’t have time to take a breath or the state of national affairs, like an election. Grief can surprise us with its depth, breadth and intensity.  Unfortunately, we Americans have been taught to avoid grief, which leaves us vulnerable because we don’t know what to do with it.


What can you do in times like this?  FEEL IT. 

I can hear some people thinking, “Why should I feel it when it hurts so much?  Shouldn’t I just get over it and be positive?”  Too often, we try to get rid of unpleasant feelings, especially during the holidays.  We numb out with delicious desserts, alcohol, TV, movies, surfing the internet or partying.  When you can identify when you’re enjoying yourself vs. avoiding yourself, you’ll gain greater clarity about what you’re doing, and maybe even what you need.  What are your top three numbing techniques? 


Recently, I was feeling really grumpy and couldn’t shake it.  I fought it for three days, only growing more and more irritable.  Finally, I surrendered to it, connected with it and asked for some insight.  My heart responded by filling with sorrow and I started to cry as my dog’s face came to mind.  She passed away last year and her one-year death anniversary is coming up.  I’m grieving!  While I didn’t feel good, per se, I at least felt some relief because I finally understood what was going on with me.  I had no idea my grumpiness was covering my sadness, and it was telling me I need to mourn.


With my current grief, I know I will make my way through it even though it hurts right now.  If there are any of you who are not so sure you will survive the grief, I encourage you to reach out for support.  Talk to trusted friends or family, call a hotline or therapist, or go to a grief support group.  If you would like some things you can do to help yourself, read on.


Connecting with Your Grief

Grief can be informative and transformative.  When you honor grief by being present with it, you may be amazed by what it can offer you.

How can you connect with your grief?  Here are a few ideas:


  1. Breathe – 10 slow, deep breaths
  2. Journal on one of these prompts:
    • What’s heavy on my heart is…
    • What I wish I could tell you is…
    • What I miss most is…
    • If I could change something, it would be…
  3. Be in nature – go to a place that calms, moves or connects you
  4. Move your body – walk, yoga, hike, dance
  5. Listen to a song that speaks to your grief


Once connected with your grief, let yourself feel.  Let yourself mourn what you have lost.  Let yourself be shaken up so you can let the old go, when you’re ready. 

Allow to rise within you what you need now.  Do you need to open your heart again?  Do you need to take better care of your mind, body and spirit?  Do you need to BE more than you DO?  Do you need to create something?  Do you need to learn to play an instrument?  Do you need to change careers? 

Grief transforms us over time.  Whether we wanted to change or not, we honor ourselves when we can accept what is.  Here is one of my favorite quotes from a book called Honoring Grief by Alexandra Kennedy:

“Our grief wakes us up to life.  We learn to hear the exquisite beauty and sorrow of being fully alive, to savor the simple moments, to cherish what’s here now.  If we can hold ourselves with compassion, we can hold others with compassion.  If we can let ourselves be as we are, we can allow others to be as they are.  We can begin to embrace life as it is in this moment and trust the flow of life as it unfolds.  Then we learn to walk the earth with wonder.” (p. 134)

If you aren’t feeling the warmth, love and connection you desire during the holidays, maybe being present with your grief will carry you there.  Remember this quote and hold yourself with compassion as you’re feeling the aliveness of sorrow.  Let yourself be as you are.  Let yourself receive the love you need…especially from YOU.  Now, more than ever.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth