Monthly Archives: January 2018

Year of Self-Compassion #2

There must be at least fifty shades of bravery operating in each of us at any one time. We hear from our doctor health results we don’t want to hear, say no to a child knowing it will lead to being ostracised, offer assistance that may put yourself in danger, open up a can of worms that turns into snakes and slugs. David Whyte talks about being a shade braver, and while this is an everyday invitation, each day we find out about another shade of brave.

Embracing vulnerability is the pathway to finding out what each shade might actually look and more importantly, feel like.

What is a shade? A lighter or darker colour to the colour it references. A shade is comparative, it is in relationship to what it is referencing. The colour of brave is already one of mixed hues. I long to live with more of a light touch, a gentle coax here and there, rather than heavy pushing and pulling. The darkness is an opportunity for the candle to shine brightly and I will never tire of the flicker of a flame to light up a whole room. When my husband had to have oxygen every day we couldn’t have a naked flame near him and one of the things I missed the most was candles and he missed campfires, providing a lightscape for conversations, reflections, intimacy. We get closer to our thoughts and truths in the dark when a light shines and there is the potential to discover another shade of bravery.

Last night, in a new country, in a new car, at night, in the dark and in torrential rain, I drove across the town we are staying in and with the practical help of google maps, a calm navigator, patient drivers around me and lots of deep breaths we all got home safe and sound. Before we got in the car I was already anxious about something else, time for another shade of brave to appear! Everyone in the car, and on the road it seemed, had my back. There was 1% charge left on the phone and between other people’s phones and creativity a solution was banded together and all I really had to do was follow the instructions and keep calm.

This is everyday bravery in many shades. Brave of the passengers to get in the car with me, brave of us all to trust each other and our common shared vision to get home safely. I think this is true of all kinds of everyday bravery in all its shades. We find ways to lean on each other that just look ordinary and necessary and forget it is an act of bravery. We find ways to be vulnerable and pilot one another through dark and stormy times. We find ways to escort each other from threshold to threshold regardless of the conditions we all find ourselves in. We follow our plans to get to a destination and rely on others to give us the directions as we go into unchartered territory.

There is something optimistic about these shades of bravery, tiny glimpses of things get better, getting to your destination. And once you get there the satisfaction of success and safety is a big hug you can receive from yourself (maybe after a good night’s sleep, valium or gin and tonic).

Bravery feels like fear. Bravery feels like fearlessness. Bravery feels like fearlessness and fear at the same time. Bravery is embedded with hope, and that hope is the flicker of the candle growing stronger and drawing you towards the light. Hanging onto the optimism, even when you aren’t feeling confident might just be enough to pull you through. Don’t go alone though, have a navigator, some technology and a cheer squad.

Optimism and vulnerability are bound together in little acts of self-compassion for every shade of bravery.

Year of Self Compassion #1


How does a Year of Self Compassion begin?

Making appointments for body and soul is where this pilgrim started, the past need not define the future for the heart to find a new beat and rhythm.

Do you remember that feeling of being on a swing getting higher and higher, more light headed and giddy with of the movement as if you were flying? Pure joy. Self-love swinging yourself into your own bliss. I used to love being on a swing and would sing softly and loudly,  compose melodies and lyrics filling the air with song going back and forth – an embodied metronome. I remember distinctly a couple of very joyful swings – one in the back of what was actually Ian Fleming’s home in the UK (author of James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – it was an education centre and my Dad ocassionally worked there) and the other at a country school location being turned into a camp site where my Mum and Dad were helping to get it ready for the next season.  I think I would have been about 8 in the first one and quite old, perhaps 11 in the second memory. These childhood memories of singing to my heart’s content in complete abandon from the world. I was truly in a self contained exhilarating world, slightly expanding with the energy pushing forward, and contracting to slow down to a steady, more gentler pace before hopping off and back into the world again. I think self-compassion might be a bit like that – playfully making music in space and time in the deep security of knowing you are safe and your sounds wafting into the air around you and all whose ears could hear you getting a glimpse of the uncontaminated bliss of abandonment.

My year is beginning in song, but one I don’t yet know the name of or the tune, and, I am just warming up to the swing. The musical style of swing may well have a few clues, with its emphasis on the off-beat. The off-beat is always the weaker pulse in the music, the weakness is the reason it works.

Self-compassion is an invitation to love the weakness, that off beat, to make the whole sound swing. We’ve all heard swing with a soloist heading over the top of all the sound with an improvised voice of the melody overlaid. Making it up as you go along in the security of the pattern holding it all together.  Just as I made up words and music as a child on those swings, and I am improvising now, having forms and knowing their functions to employ as they are thrown at me. The lesson of ‘yes and’ is a great teacher – there is no compromise – you must accept the offer and do something with it. You don’t have to like the offer, you just have to accept it.

Pages of pain are real.

Explicit. Nothing left to imagination.

All the soil has been shoveled.

The first of the choir arrives

Tall and slender in the hot bitumen

Striding down, missing me, calling me to come back.

Laying hands on me at the bakery.

Forecasting: This is your year.

The second arrives

Offering a centurion service

A kind of protective custody

Armed with weapons of mass distraction

In fast succession

Guardians, escorts, witnesses, wise counsellors (after all it is Epiphany)

The choir is now bursting at the seams

In harmony, each knowing their part

Yes, and … I surrender to the sound

Gabriel’s trumpet heralds a mighty day.

The choir of self-compassion is in session.

A self compassion discernment question is forming: Is this an action loving me into my self?