Monthly Archives: December 2018

Year of self-compassion #49 #seesaw

This year of self-compassion is in it’s last month and I am still such a beginner. I am noticing the two planes I seem to be living in – one full of promise the other full of grief. For most of the year I have been trying to integrate these two planes and now as an act of self-compassion, I am letting them each live alongside of one another in parallel and in peace. I can put down one path and go to the other. The quest for unification maybe unwise and too soon. Each has its own journey to run.

I have learnt that grief is a thief, it steals your time, your memories, your past, present and future. It sneaks in and around moments of happiness and ambitiously turns up in all its glory just after you have had a fabulous moment. It refuses to settle and gnaws away on some invisible power cord like a rat, and then the lights go out because you didn’t hear the stealth crafted gnawing amidst the joyful noise.

There are more good days than bad days, but the bad ones can be brutal. I am noticing a pattern though and noticing is helping prepare myself to be kinder and gentler to myself. Preparation to be miserable is an interesting concept and for me seems to include comfort food, maybe a glass of wine, some favourite music to be reclaimed from the archives, a virtual retreat, a time to be sad in the cave that is my little cottage.

I am fascinated at how distractions waft in to turn me away from the wallowing and how I have welcomed those distractions as respite. As this year closes though I am asking the distractions to leave me to my sadness and come back later. I was describing the experience the other day as being like the apex of a see-saw. It doesn’t matter about the highs and lows they will come and sway in whether I like them or not, the weight off the other bumping one into the air and crashing the other to the ground – equilibrium is not possible – but the apex remains there just watching, observing, not moving. I don’t have to be on any end of the see- saw, I just have to notice to swings from the apex.

This change in orientation is surely an act of self-compassion. To be able to say to myself – look at that high, look at that low.  The middle point is the fulcrum, the place where the pivot takes place. This is the place that holds still, the place for the centre, steady and the only place to hold still when all around there is movement. It is said that the word see-saw comes from the French ci-ça, which literally means this-that. There is this and there is that – there is the joy and there is the sadness and both are held in the tension and dynamic of the weight of both as they leverage one another in motions and speeds designed to throw me to the ground or into the air.  If I think of myself not on the see-saw, but at the pivot point, that thought invites stillness and centredness. It is an insight to allow both planes to co-exist.

Equilibrium is not equanimity.

equanimity

 

Year of Self Compassion #48 #spaciousness

In recent travels I caught a few trains and noticed all the transit staff were smiling, they welcomed you in and out of the border crossings between the suburbs and the city.  They seemed to be content, even joyful.  The contrast to my usual experience where I find their peers in my usual transport system auditioning for the Gestapo.  They weren’t orphans there was generally an ease and light touch in all my encounters with people who were serving as guardians of passage, brokering moments to part with money, or to guide you to the right place. It is a bigger  city than mine and still spaciousness appeared alongside the hustle and hustlers, bustle and bustlers. I am curious about a culture that reflects spaciousness amongst the high-rise and high density living.

Spaciousness on the inside and its opposite, feeling so cramped you can hardly breathe. The long exhale and the deep breath inhale, to give your lungs a chance to expand, then to empty and expand again. Each breath an invitation to spaciousness. This is the kind of de-cluttering that understands stuff has to leave, before space can arrive. I have emptied myself of so many things this past year and reduced my footprint and yet there is still more to go. By living with less I am not less and this is one of the lessons I have had to learn. I came reluctantly and wounded to find space by living with less. I came broken and bruised to make a space that could be wide open. But it on the inside, like the Tardis, where it is bigger on the inside, the outside does not define what really goes on inside for any of us.  The space we make for inner selves, the space we make for not knowing – these are the clean benches, an empty rail in the wardrobe of our mind.  I am prone to an addiction of filling up those spaces in my mind with memories, haunting unhelpful, repetitive thoughts and then in breathing out, fill them again with news, ideas, hopes and longings.  That in-between moment of breathe in and out, when caught, is the silent steady still spaciousness of nothingness. It is the smile of the transit officer at Brisbane Central Station, the custodian at the gate between one world and another, quietly checking my ticket enabling safe passage from a carriage to a world full of possibilities. My only task is to turn up, to breathe and let the space before empty and the space after fill, again and again, and to remember that each time a little more is expelled and a little more space is inhaled.

Getting familiar with how to make the space in the first place, and then learning to inhabit it with all the feelings that come with being in space seems to be an invitation to being both comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. The paradox of belonging and not belonging builds an acceptance of uncertainty. This is the kind of uncertainty the impermanence of everything brings alongside the familiarity of the everyday rhythms.  The truth is each moment comes and each moment goes and however hard we try to hold onto them it makes no difference whatsoever, the moment, like the breath, will come and then go. We are always stepping into the unknown, with each and every breath. This is a hard lesson to learn. Where we feel filled up and bursting at the seams is perhaps an invitation to look into that fullness and see what might need to be cleared, what space might need to be made.

I have spent so many hours this past year in particular having little space where it looks like I might have enough. Hours and hours have been filled with grief and confusion, deep, deep sadness of betrayals and hurts from beyond the grave, from lives disappearing and hurting close at hand, from the aches and pains of physical truths of ageing and disease. There have been moments of such fullness that emptiness arrives like a stone in the stomach. And emptiness unsuccessfully masquerades as spaciousness. It is not spaciousness.

An act of self-compassion is to recognise that emptiness is not spaciousness. Spaciousness arrives when you make the space, when you get rid of things that no longer serve you and where you revel and roll around in the empty and are not consumed by its false offering of fullness.  The space makes a path made by breathing out and making space. Perhaps holding on is the same as holding your breath?

letitgo

Let it Go – Michael Leunig