The Compliment Club

Happy New Year! 

I'm not one of those people who shun this time of year, when we try to make resolutions and set intentions, start the New Year off on the right foot.  Years ago, I went to a party where the host actually made you step through his door with your right foot.  I think humans really benefit from the reflection and ritual that many of us engage in at this time of year.  There's a quality of hope in it that I think is vital.

We were talking in class this week about the power of our thoughts and 5 different ways of engaging with them.  One of my favorite reflections - especially when I catch myself in some dark or negative loop- is "the mind is the author of all things".   The notion that  a) I'm choosing to think this thought and b) I'm choosing the lense through which I'm experiencing this thought.   

  The Buddha said it best:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts. If a man speak or act with an evil thought, suffering follows him as the wheel follows the hoof of the beast that draws the wagon.... If a man speak or act with a good thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.” 

Today I came across a blog post from 2015 by Joy the Baker that struck a cord with me. 

Over the years, I've been included in lots of gratitude lists, spent months doing "random acts of kindness", paying it forward, etc.  This isn't breaking new ground- but NEW isn't what about NEW YEAR is about for me.  It's about REMEMBERING.  We can put tons of reminders in our calendar, schedule all those things that will make life feel juicy and fulfilling.  Problem is, I forget to check my calendar- I miss all those appointments, and the problem for most of us is just that. 

We forget to remember.

The power of a compliment is that you're intentionally looking through the lense of what's good about your life, a person, a situation.  Wasn't it Bing Crosby who sang: 

"You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

I hope to write another post- about the dangers of the "no bad vibes" movement.  This practice is not about spiritual bypass.  It's about discernment.  If things are hard- feel that first.  Then let the optimism lift you up out of the muck so you can carry on.

So I offer you Joy's words below.  Find a friend or two to do this with- wise friends being the whole of the path and all that right?  See if it works for you- don't believe me.

And do check the link and give her blog some love if you feel motivated.  Perhaps that's your first compliment.  See you're off to a great start!

COM•PLI•MENT // noun // a polite expression of praise or admiration.  

COMPLIMENT CLUB, it would follow, is a group of people whom actively, enthusiastically, sincerely, and frequently offer words of praise to the people around them.  My maj Tracy and I came up with Compliment Club as a way of encouraging each other to send good vibes into the world.  It’s not an exclusive club… you should totally hop on in! 

Let’s talk about compliments.  You’ve likely gotten them when you’re wearing a flattering dress, when your hair is flipping the right way at the right time on the right day, when you’ve made an impression on someone… BOOM!  Sometimes they drop a compliment in your lap.  It feels great!  It feels like you’ve been seen and appreciated for your hard work to be a good human.  Right?  

Well… giving is more important that getting.  I think it was Socrates that said that.  Definitely Socrates.  

There are some guidelines for offering compliments.  We can’t just go throwing them around willy-nilly.  Here are the rules of Compliment Club.  Join.  Follow them.  Let’s be better together.  (I sincerely mean that… don’t look at me like I’m crazy.)  

•  First rule of Compliment Club (yes… we can talk about Compliment Club): Look for the positive in other people.  This is imperative.  You can’t offer a sincere compliment if you aren’t looking for the beauty in the people around you.  Naturally, sometimes seeing the light in people is easier than others. In gridlock traffic?  Hard…. very hard to see the good in people.  Behind the lady writing a check in the express lane at the grocery store?  Challenging…. extremely challenging to see the beauty in that situation.  

It’s ok.  Not every moment is the right time for a sincere compliment.  But!  If you’re regularly looking for the good in people, those moments of frustration will likely (hopefully) have less of a tinge.  

•  The second rule of Compliment Club:  Be genuine.  Mean what you say.

Stay away from hyperbole.  Hyperbole is saying things like “oh my gosh you’re the best person in the world.”  An exaggeration.  I mean… they’re probably great, but literally the best person in the world?  Is that accurate?  

I’m guilty of hyperbole.  I think it’s the way of the Internet these days… exaggerating to make things sound like the best, the biggest, the coolest thing EVER.  Hyperbole has no place in a genuine compliment.  It actually makes the compliment rather empty.  

Root yourself in the compliment.  Stand tall in it.  I think we use hyperbole to separate ourselves from the genuine words we really want to say.


•  The third rule of Compliment Club:  Be Specific.  Specifics go a long way.  

People want to be seen and noticed for their efforts in the world.  See them.  Comment on them specifically.  

•  The fourth rule of Compliment Club:  Be heartfelt is how things make you FEEL.  Throw some emotional language into your genuine compliment.  Make yourself vulnerable.  

Here’s one, ” When you stood in line for an hour and bought me every single treat available at Tartine, you made me feel really special. I see so much kindness in you and I really appreciate you.”  

(That was a good day.)  

•  The fifth rule of Compliment Club:  Chill on the back-handed compliments.  Don’t do it.  Rude.  

•  The sixth rule of Compliment Club:  Just go for it!  There’s no time to waste and sometimes the window to offer someone some kindness is short.  

I saw the most lovely old lady walking her dog this afternoon.  I admired her but hesitated.  No compliment.  I lost my chance.  

I suppose the lesson is:  don’t worry about embarrassing yourself.  Life is short.  Say it and mean it! 

•  The seventh rule of Compliment Club:  Don’t expect anything in return.  Everyone absorbs a compliment differently.   Some people feel embarrassed.  Others might want to refute you.  Some with thank you.  Some might back away slowly.  Have no expectations.  Just put your kind words out in the world, let them linger in the air, soak in… and your job is done!  Besides, expecting a compliment in return would make you a jerk and jerks don’t deserve compliments anyway.  

Ultimately, Compliment Club is not about being flashy, outgoing, or overly extroverted… it’s about genuinely liking people, seeing their good, and reflecting their light back to them.  Totally easy.  Go on, have at it! 


Who will you be in 2017?

 Street art on N. 7th street in Williamsburg.  Artist unknown.  

Street art on N. 7th street in Williamsburg.  Artist unknown.  

"Becoming" gets a bad rap in Buddhist Meditation circles- but I always remember Thanissaro Bhikkhu's reminder that we hold onto and cultivate the wholesome parts of this "self" while we are navigating the path.  We can't just wake up one day and decide we're done- it's a process- one that is gradual, gentle, and clear about what is moving us towards unconditional happiness and greater ease.  The first step in that is moving away from the obvious things that drag us down, that cause harm to our self and others.  

So when I say "Who will you be in 2017" it's an invitation to really ask the question.  We all have the seeds within us for the full spectrum of experience. From anger and greed to great  happiness and joy.  Sadness, despair, grief along with tenderness, elation and the emptiness of potential. Which seeds do you intend to water?  Which to you intend to weed out when they sprout?

Being a kind person, a generous person, a person who practices meditation regularly- all these things will lead to openness and ease in the body/mind system.  This ease can be encouraged to expand- to spread out into all areas of our lives if we put the effort in.  Is it easy?  No.  The human condition is one of grasping and avoiding.  When we come into contact with something unpleasant the natural tendency it to try to get away from it.  But if our intention is to meet life with kindness, to "be a kind person"- how might that change the response?  Even if by a few degrees.  

One of the benefits of doing what you love

I got a little love letter in my inbox today.  It's beyond satisfying to hear that you've helped someone connect deeply with their lived experience.


Excerpted from Nina Zilka's article : M N D F L 

Read teh full story here: The ANY Magazine


Even though MNDFL is directly off a busy NYC street, the minute you enter the space, you feel a sense of calm emanate. Impeccably designed by interior design firm HomePolish, light gently hits the wood floors and grey and white cushioned couches, where students and practitioners are encouraged to spend time drinking tea, reading any of the various meditation books on offer, and speaking with other meditators about their experiences. The most decorative parts of the space are the living walls: lush, sculptural pieces of natural art. It's noticeably quite, which Burrows later explained is due to the sound blocking white-washed exposed brick walls. 

As soon as I removed my coat and shoes, the class was ushered from the lounge area to the meditation room, when we all sat on our assigned cushion, with optional meditation back supports (my new favorite accessory), and/or blankets, as we so desired. Kathy Cherry, our MNDFL Breath guide, introduced herself, and explained that she would be guiding us through our session, checking in every three minutes or so throughout the practice. She warned us that as first timers, 45 minutes might feel a little long, which caused me some unwarranted trepidation. 


As I began to focus on my breath, I realized that having Cherry there to guide me was incredibly helpful. Knowing that there was someone else there to keep track of time allowed the control freak in me to take a backseat and focus on my breath. Additionally, knowing that Cherry was checking in every three minutes helped my wandering mind to get back on track. Her words were very instructive. She explained, as we breathed, that it's normal for our minds to wander. It's natural, the same way our lungs inhale and exhale breath, and we can't expect the brain to do anything else. Therefore, meditation is a series of stops and restarts, where we get into a meditative state, and then may come back down to our thoughts. We simply need to begin focusing on our breath again. This allowed me to stop placing judgment on my process, which is never helpful.

As I breathed more deeply, I stopped feeling like a part of my own body. My hands felt like they were throbbing, and soon the tingling had reached the tip of my head, until I no longer felt a part of my body. I felt myself become lost pleasurably in space, and my brain felt outside of myself, part of a larger world.

After what felt like mere minutes, Cherry guided us back to ourselves. I felt a deep feeling of trepidation, like being shuddered back into my body. I didn't want to come back. But then, as I regained sense of myself in my body, I felt that deep sense of calm that I've always heard about enviously. I felt energized and ready for the day ahead. 

I checked in with David post class, and he felt parallel. We both had felt nervous when Cherry had made her "newbie" warning, and agreed that it had been unnecessary; it had felt like five minutes past. I hesitate to use the word blissful- there's something so inherently uncool about feeling that happy- but we truly felt blissed out.



The Door doesn't have it in for you.

This is a talk I gave back in 2012 at DharmaPunx NYC.  If you've ever been to a class at the Bowery location you know about the door.  To say that the front door at 302 Bowery sticks is an understatement. Not only does it stick but the buzzer that indicates that you should start trying to open the door is very faint and doesn't stand a chance agains the clamor and chaos of cars, trucks, taxi cabs and pedestrians. For years I dreaded the door.  I think I probably became the cushion set up person JUST to get a set of keys to that door.