Southwestern College



Posts by Jacob Gotwals

Several Levels of Generosity

I value generosity on several levels: On the physical or material level, generosity could take the form of giving money, food, shelter, etc. On the emotional or heart level, generosity is about giving others my attention, love and compassion. At the level of intellect, am I willing to share my ideas and…
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When I Lose My Discernment

Several times in the past, I've gotten excited about the latest spiritual practice I'm doing, and I've lost my sense of discernment about it. I start thinking it's the best thing ever—everyone should be doing it! I become a true believer, thinking it's the right thing for everyone; the world would just be a better…
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What is Empathic Presence?

When I started learning to empathize with others, at first, I found myself awkwardly guessing their feelings and needs (often, incorrectly). Gradually, I built my feelings and needs vocabulary, and eventually, I was able to guess feelings and needs more easily and more accurately. However, my empathic reflections still felt somewhat awkward and contrived. I'd…
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Life Without Scapegoating

In these turbulent times, there are many people promoting their personal vision for the future, and asking for our support in making their vision a reality. This article is about who I look to for leadership, and why, and how I choose to lead my own life.What is Scapegoating?I'm remembering a talk by an environmental…
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When My World Fell Apart

(This piece is based on a journal entry of mine from January, 2009.)The last couple weeks have been very challenging for me. I've been feeling anxious, off-center, low on energy, and afraid. Lots of things have changed in my life all at once.Watching Everything Fall ApartThe nonprofit that I've been leading for the last year…
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Letting Go of Control

When we stop trying to control ourselves and others, what happens? Perhaps that depends on the extent to which we're resting in love. When we're resting in love, the distinction between ourselves and others evaporates. We start getting attentive to all needs that arise—both for ourselves and others.When we stop trying to control, we stop…
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I Am That, But You Are Not Me

There's a paradox: from one point of view, I am that. From another, you are not me. I believe it's important to remember both of these viewpoints.Remembering "I am that" reminds me of the unity of all things. It reminds me that the entire universe is my body—so of course, I aspire to love it…
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How I Prepare for Sleep

For me, the first step in having a great day is having a great sleep—and the first step in having a great sleep is preparing for sleep. I know I'm going to be asleep for about eight hours—and I know that the last hour or so before I go to sleep is a crucial time…
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How to Resolve Conflict by Naming Expectations

I find that naming expectations helps me avoid and resolve conflict. An unnamed expectation is an unconscious, unspoken, implicit "should" or "should not" hanging between myself and someone else. I'm not saying expectations are a problem—shared expectations are the essence of culture, and culture is what allows us to relate with one another easily and…
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How to Make Difficult Experiences More Meaningful

I'm finding I can make difficult experiences more meaningful by using them to cultivate compassion. For instance, let's say I'm feeling lonely—needing more love and companionship in my life. Feeling lonely can be uncomfortable, and loneliness can seem bleak and meaningless. However, I can make my experience of loneliness more meaningful by using it…
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How to Stop Doing Things You Regret When You’re Angry

When I'm angry (that is, "triggered"), I'm often tempted to gain relief from my triggered state by protecting myself in some way—usually, by setting a boundary. The problem with this is that setting a boundary tends to be a unilateral decision that's unlikely to meet the other person's needs for care, consideration, connection, and inclusion—especially…
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How to Solve Relationship Problems by Owning Your Part

Consider the idea that we co-create the dynamics of our relationships. This implies that when a problem is showing up in a relationship, each person in the relationship has helped create that problem and each person has a role to play in responding to the problem. I find this premise leads to an empowering way…
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How to Transform Hostility into Compassion

When we view others with hostility, we're more likely to try to get our needs met at their expense. Transforming our hostility into compassion can shift our approach to conflict, allowing us to respond in ways that are more beneficial for everyone involved. (By hostility, I mean those strategies, impulses and habits that tend to…
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Three Magic Words for Fostering Respectful Dialogue

In a difficult conversation, when I'm considering saying something controversial, I find that it really helps to preface it with three magic words: "My story is..." This allows me to express my perspective while simultaneously owning it. Owning my perspective creates space for the other person to have their own perspective (which may be different…
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Taking a “Wait and See” Approach to Life

When I'm finishing up a session of meditation, I sometimes set an intention to continue doing nothing throughout my day. That doesn't mean I won't move from my meditation cushion—it means I'll take a wait-and-see approach to my day. It means acknowledging I'm not in control—and letting go. I simply wait and watch what my…
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