Tag Archives: self-compassion

Year of Self-Compassion #45 #pebble

I have been contemplating how to invite more self-compassion into my life and it is a real challenge to explore what kindness to self actually feels and looks like. There is always the temptation of selfishness embedded somehow into the seams of kindness when I think about it.  So as all good teachers would tell you, the only way to get better at something is to practice it. Such a simple instruction – practice. Do it once and see what happens and then you will have a little adjustment and get better at it. I haven’t been returning phone calls, or doing detours to catch up with people who might like to see me, I have been trying to hold space so I can pursue what is life giving for me and I been walking more. It’s time to get ready for the camino, the real one, not the metaphorical one. It is going to be a quest with cobblestones along the way long before I get to the streets in Portugal and Spain.  There is baggage to shed in kilos, fitness and emotions. There is hope to be made and practices to be scheduled.  There are poems to be read and written. There are songs to be sung and stories to be heard.

I am starting my journey to this new frontier with a day with my favourite living poet, David Whyte. Along with other David devotees I am looking forward to his dulcet tones and questions to kick off my thinking and to warm my heart, and hold me accountable to the big enough story and to be half a shade braver every day henceforth.  The poem that has held me of Whyte’s so often is Santiago, and so it was very fitting some of my closest friends chose that one to read to me at my 60th birthday. They didn’t know it was a favourite, but they know and get me, so it was not surprising it was the one they chose.

When you take step closer in to yourself, your truest self, it is a step into depth, to the place where you can be propelled by the discomfort of the pebble in your shoe to recognise it as an irritable invitation to go further by throwing it onto the road ahead, liberated from its confines in your shoe, you too are liberated to walk a little further, comfortably. In Godspell, the pebble is called Dare. I have loved this song since I first heard it as a teenager, I have sung it a thousand times, and again at my birthday a friend recanted how I had taught her to sing it as well. She told the story as an example of me seeing the potential in her when she couldn’t quite see it herself.  It is only now I realize the pebble called Dare has been in and out of my shoe often along the road. This song is the only one not written by Stephen Schwartz and I have gone searching to see what Peggy Gordon who wrote it had to say about calling the pebble Dare. I hadn’t really noticed that the pebble had a name, I had always thought of the words ‘pebble dare’ as an act  and not read the lyric as I shall call the pebble, Dare. So interesting that after 35 years I get another insight. The road hidden and then seen – as the poem goes.  Peggy Gordon  explains about her clown character singing By My Side and says, “ the challenge of walking with this pebble that she masters sufficiently to know that she can walk with him anywhere that he may go. She calls the pebble Dare because she needs to challenge herself to overcome her fearfulness so that she can walk with him anywhere he may go. So, it’s not the pain; it’s the challenge; and, the pebble is called Dare because she knows she needs to challenge herself.”

Calling the pebble, Dare maybe an act of self-compassion to know when to put the pebble in your shoe and even better knowing when it can be discarded.  I feel I have had a pebble, and sometimes a boulder in my shoe for so long, it is time to discard it, imagine how much easier it would be to walk without a pebble called Dare.  Maybe I could walk with a pair of shoes called Ease or Gently, or put on socks called Comfort and leave bags no longer needing to be carried so it is a lighter walk?

So many possibilities. I have already walked along roads with the pebble in my shoe and know I can do that, what I don’t know is can I walk without it? What about trying a walk without the shoes at all?  That might be too big a lean into liberation, but it is certainly an act of self-compassion worth contemplating.

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Photo by Greg Tockner on Unsplash

 

Year of Self Compassion #42 #receiving

This week I was asked a number of times if I enjoyed my party and the answer was a resounding yes. One of the things I have had to learn this year is to receive. I have been so unable to do so much so often, reception is what has been left. Bereft and broken, alone and fumbling around I have had to put down my arrogance and fear and be waited on more than once. Vulnerability and humiliation paired up to remind me I am human.  While I invite others to be together, to find the good in one another, to celebrate and extend generosity – I haven’t been so good at doing that for myself. Hence this year of Self-Compassion.  I still have my L plates on, but as a wise woman said to me this week – L plates is a good place to start.  And starting I am, and learning I am, and practicing I am.

Learning to receive is a practice all of its own.  I think the key is the practice …. like any discipline. I was looking up the history of the word receive and it is declining in its use over of the past two hundred years or so. It has Middle English and Anglo-Norman origins from back and take. I think there is a clue in here for me to think about receiving as giving back. In receiving you are giving back, by acknowledging the gift and honouring the giver. It seems to hold a promise and potential too. By receiving you are moving a relationship forward, taking another step in trust towards deeper intimacy.

Another clue to the power of receiving, is the opposite, the betrayal of a gift being rejected. Having spent yourself and given with joy, to have that thrown back at you is a hurt that creates a hole which is often hard to be re-filled.  You are greeting the good in the other when you receive as they give witness to the good in you.

It is not always easy to receive and so I am growing my reception muscles and my birthday has helped me in that fitness quest. Inviting other to give to me so I can receive is quite a big step. To receive random acts of kindness is a whole other level and to be impacted by a stranger or an invisible human seems to always connect me to the cosmic energy of the goodness in the Universe. Universal love is made visible in those random acts.

And then there is the receiving of what is around us everyday – the big blue sky, the pleasure of a cup of tea, the blossom on the trees, the little ants going about their business underfoot, the magpies calling me to the day and the majesty of the grey box tree offering spiritual direction from broken branches, peeling bark and a precarious nest being held halfway to the sky protected from the elements and predators.

Receiving is an art and craft. I find myself bowing to the giver so often, to recognise what they have done in their lives to make the gift and the cost that has been. The act of receiving is only possible because someone else has eeked out time for me, found and prioritised resources, knowing me well enough to match their giving to what my needs are.  This is call and response. And I know the giver receives as well, I know this better because I am good at giving, and learning to receive is what is opening up  … and I like it!  And may you too be blessed with good friends as John O’Donohue writes in this blessing from The Space Between Us and find your visible and invisible soul friends in many you meet on the road.

Blessing for Friendship

May you be blessed with good friends,

And learn to be a good friend to yourself,

Journeying to that place in your soul where 

There is love, warmth, and feeling.

May this change you.

 

May it transfigure what is negative, distant,

Or cold within your heart. 

 

May you be brought into real passion, kindness,

And belonging.

 

May you treasure your friends,

May you be good to them, be there for them

And receive all the challenges, truth, and light you need.

 

May you never be isolated but know the embrace 

Of your anam cara. 

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Photo credit: Catherine Lawson 

 

 

The year of Self-Compassion #39 #HesaidShesaid

He said. She said. Is in the news all around the world. The fear of exposure. The remembering of pain and loss. The anticipation of pain and loss. It is all there – the great gender war of power and privilege. Always believe the woman. The great act of listening with more than your ears, your heart, your culture, your story all come into play.

Lost in the drama of it all those of us outside the national boundaries of this legal and democratic system on trial, may loose sight of what is at stake – the values of a nation corralled into a very tight corner where most of that nation does not fit.  A land that prides itself on diversity and pluralism continues to contract and gets so small that all that is left is the schoolyard banter of He said. She said.  So small is this banter it is the biggest conversation we are all involved in. Who do we believe and why everyone has their own truth.  The truth is always the one you most want to hold until it is no longer able to be held because of some irrefutable compelling piece of evidence – perhaps shocking, perhaps exquisitely beautiful – that pulls you up and you can no longer believe what has held your story in place, a pivoting point that has enabled you to function with ease and confidence, no need for second guessing, or too many clarifications. You just know and you just do.

Once the axis is disturbed you wobble, you might even be thrown to the ground, perhaps you are slingshot to another universe altogether – it is inevitable though – the orbit you were on is no longer. This is true for a nation too.  Falsehoods and fallacies, proclamations and platitudes of grandeur have made a nation wobbly and this kind of disruption to democracy is creating new pathways for change. The old rules don’t apply any longer. He said. She said. won’t cut it and from my vantage point halfway across the world civil unrest seems inevitable. The gender wars are only part of the story, and while foundational, race and class have already fired their early shots and will add their weight to tipping the axis.

While the billboards say He said. She said. hearts and minds are filled with vulnerability, anger, terror and an almighty thunder bursting to rupture into storms that will not be quelled by investigative journalists or the FBI.  These riots of pain from careless use of power for pleasure, take eons to heal and even longer perhaps to become publicly visible. I hear the anthem of the 60s Blowing in the Wind once again being prophetic. Just how many years does it take for a woman to feel she can testify, or for a man to be held to account, for a nation to face its demons, for a community to rally around an injustice, for a friend to say I believe you, for evidence to come to light to lift a veil?  Truths hidden in the dark are still truths and the dark is still the dark.

What we see we can no longer un-see. What we hear we can no longer unhear. These are truths in the dark, and in the light, and we all have our senate enquiry to reckon with.

How the power shifts in our perceptions is dependent on our axis. The power and privilege of the values, systems and perhaps even a single person, that enables us to orbit safely and navigate our paths with confidence. I came to this year of self-compassion having been thrown off course and have been stumbling around most of the year trying to get back on track. Many times I have been very wobbly and uncertain, second -guessing and often not trusting myself.

The scenes unfolding in the He said. She said. public display of discernment around the appointment of a supreme court judge in the USA, are inviting me to look at who sits on my judging panel and what questions I am asked or do I long to be asked. This is not a trial, it is a gathering of evidence on fitness to serve.  So for me, when evidence comes my way how do I treat it, what values guide me on, what entices me to form a view, what evidence do I interrogate to make a decision, when do I stop and pause before investigating further.  Self-compassion implies some self protection too and the answer to how to do that effectively still eludes me and perhaps is “blowing in the wind”.

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him out as a man?

How many seas must the white dove sail

Before she arrives on the land?

Yes, and how many times must the journalists cry

Before they are forever banned?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

 

Yes, and how many years does she take to testify

Before she comes to be heard?

Yes, and how many years can he twist and lie

Before he’s allowed to serve?

Yes and how many times will we look to the screen

Shaken up by what has been?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

 

Yes and how many times will we look up

Wondering if they sky will fall?

And how many tears will it take til we know

This is for one and for all?

Yes and how many times will we just look away

Hoping it will pass this day?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind

The answer  is blowing in the wind.

 

And the original lyrics, Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

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Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

Year of Self-Compassion #37 #commoncold

The gift of a cold is unwelcome and accepted . My immune system has been vigilant and done an amazing job to keep me cold free all winter, but the change of season is here and it has decided to take a rest. The sniffs and sore throat have arrived and rest is called for … not surprising I am in this state in what has been a tumultuous time. The body will do the work if the brain doesn’t has often been a mantra of mine and inevitably has sent me this invitation to be in the company of tissues, hot lemon and honey, echinacea, menthol and eucalyptus. One of my homemade remedies on these occasions is a cup of hot water with Vegemite in it – unconventional – but it does seem to work more often than not.

I am trying to accept this gift and am beginning to wallow in the heavy head hosting the nasal drip. I have also started thinking about the medicinal properties of chicken soup. My preventative vitamin C tabs, one of my daughters gave me during the early dark days of grief, ran out during the week, and I am reflecting on the irony of an empty jar depleted of its contents and how I am feeling right now.

The “ïf only” mantras are flooding in with each reach to the box of tissues. If only I had got some more vitamin C before they ran out; if only I didn’t do the gig I did yesterday: if only I hadn’t listened to distress of another and batted it away; if only I had rested earlier in the week; If only …. If only …. The If only mantras do not serve me well, they drag me to the past and to regret, they offer no more than a holding pattern and with each nag, lean me into self-flagellation – definitely the opposite of self compassion! I am chuckling to myself even as I write about how indulgent colds are, but giving them credit for arriving to slow you down, hold you in an uncomfortable place and seduce you to rest.  It is a time to allow the flowing out of liquid from the body, carrying the last grams of energy, and when the flow stops it is time for restoration and open-ness to being filled up again begins. Perhaps it is a bit like spring rains, building up slowly and then with a sudden burst of hail, wind and drizzle, the ground is refreshed and the sun comes out so all the creatures can bask in their glory, pampered by the rays warming them on rocks and slowly returning to their homes as the temperature drops.

The heavy head needs attention, over balancing needs a pillow to rest on so the weight of it all is softly supported, being held without holding on. It is the pause button pressed without any urgency to play or fast forward, although there seem to be plenty of thoughts waiting for the rewind button to be pushed with the wallowing mantras making themselves known every now and again. The head is home to the cold and although there is some oozing of aches and pains into the limbs they do not take priority, the head is consuming most of the space the cold is inhabiting. It has got me thinking about how a cold comes and what we do to catch it.  I am mean if something is caught, it means it has been thrown. And I have had my fair share of things being thrown at me in the last few years. I have also dodged a few things coming my way, but this cold has snuck up while my bodily defences were down.  This cold is an external sign of my weariness, my body’s surrender to the change of season and recognition that comes with fogginess, drips and drizzles, gripes and grizzles.

I am comforted, as I am often am, by a blessing from John O’Donohue for those who are exhausted In this Year of Self-Compassion receive the blessing for myself, under the covers, with a hot water bottle, sipping a cup of hot lemon and honey and waiting out this empty time.

 

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laboursome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

John O’Donohue To Bless the Space Between Us

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Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

 

 

Year of Self Compassion #22 #bestfriend

In this year of Self Compassion I have been blessed with the continuation of much love and support from friends of many years and newer ones who have stepped into my inner sanctum offering kindness and witness time and time again. Wiping away tears, offering practical support, delivering flowers, gifting art, books and music, holding me in their prayer and heart. I have experienced random acts of kindness and received professional gifts of free tickets to events and invitations to participate in new ways with new communities. Colleagues have generously been patient with me and held spaces for me to fold and unfold. I have been offered distractions to remind me I have business acumen and wisdom on tap. I have friends who have offered me points to fly away, another willing to plan a holiday for me and yet another who consistently reminds me there are walks and nature just waiting for my footprints. There is kindness all around me and I am filled with gratitude.

Yet despite all this kindness, and even perhaps a bit of because of it, I am noticing the invitation that I have to be kind to myself and love myself in these times of grief. Noticing my own suffering is essential and it is something I am still learning. While self-care is in place it is still routine and not yet fully formed to be an expression of noticing my suffering and acting with kindness to that first and then following up with the care I would give to any of my friends. Partly I don’t always know what I need and can’t quite name it for myself, so my newest practice is if a friend offers me something I work out a way to say yes. That is how I come to be looking forward to two days in the Compassion Lab with Mary Freer this week. Being able to say yes to people who can make an educated guess about what I need, is a bridge helping me to work that out for myself.

In Interplay there is a practice of opening to the day that ends up with giving yourself a big hug and I want to do more of that as touch deprivation is real and I find I am embracing people more than ever before. No one much seems to mind, and I know the health benefits abound for everyone, touch is in slim supply in some of the settings I find myself in and in abundance in others, so overall I am probably getting enough hugs.

I am a bit like Christchurch in 2010 and 11 , having first had a massive earthquake leaving the shell of buildings behind and then all the after shocks to reconfigure the city. I too, need to work out what can be saved, what might need to stand as a magnificent ruin, what can be re-purposed, what needs to be cleared away – and mostly these decisions are cellular and still forming. The plasticity of the neuronal pathways like a giant traffic jam sometimes bumper to bumper and not quite moving forward although there is some evidence that a light has turned green about 5 kilometres up the road. Being kind to myself and being my own best friend in these moments requires my L plates to be on. I am in new territory and I am resistant to exploring. I don’t have a map and I right now I don’t want one. A friend would probably offer me a map, although a best friend would offer me tea to sit on the side of the road until I was ready to go and it is that inner best friend I need to channel. To recognise, really deeply notice the experience of suffering and offer myself the comfort of space and rest, deep rest.

For many years I used to say to others, after a loss, it is not the first six months that are the hardest, it is the second, when the reality sinks in, and the time when re-configurations start to take shape and search for meaning. Now I need to hear this advice for myself. I am hoping winter will have me holed up snug and warm to do some of this inner work in my own good company.

The transience of all times, good and difficult, all things pass and that is central to our human condition. It is inevitable and a lesson to be learnt over and over again. To be in the moment and accept the gift of that moment, is a life times work. As John O’Donohue reminds us the place where our ‘vanished days secretly gather is memory’. Bringing the kind light to my soul for healing and self-compassion til the night is gone.

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The Lamp Post from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

by John Henry Newman 1833

Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

Year of Self Compassion #8 #Footprints

No longer just an imaginative tool in a science fiction story, your finger print is unique and the way to open many a door or transaction.  Yet I am more captured by my footprint. How I live on this earth and how lightly I tread. We have plenty of guides to help us with our ecological footprint, but how about our emotional footprint? How we tread on each other’s hearts, how gently we inhabit our thoughts and steer unwelcome ones away; how we make a mark with hobnail boots or light as a feather plimsolls.

I was pulled up this week and rightly so. While I had been moving through grief and loss, other sojourners were at a different place and on a different tangent, and I had a case of foot in mouth disease …. my footprint not very elegant or helpful. And while a sad emoji face with a suitable coy look of embarrassment might be appropriate too – I know my own journey needs to respect those on the same path. Keeping your own counsel has its place in self compassion and treading lightly on the emotional environment we share with others.

The first place of belonging is to ourselves and finding ourselves dwelling in our own house and creating the garden for all kinds of ordinary and extraordinary beings for us to cohabit doesn’t actually mean we are on our own.  The threads and beads of life weave around us and intersect in places visible and invisible, with the power to be gentle or the power to throttle with a strangulation that silences and suspends life itself.  The space between the two may be gossamer thin.  In these moments catching yourself to ask, is the next sentence, or phrase, an act of self-compassion or perhaps it is a unceremonious fall into a chasm that is going to take a while to get out of, is time well spent in discernment. And I failed to take that moment more than once these past few weeks and there have been consequences all round.

Putting on the right shoes for the walk we are in, helps with the footprint making that follows. I have had a week of stilettos and blundstones, when more slippers and flats would have been a better plan for the maintenance of relationships and my own health and well being. It is a lonely place to be, knowing the footprint is bigger than it needs to be and deeper than it was expected to be, and making more of a memorable mark on others.

Re-purposing the spaces I inhabit and helping my ideas, hopes and dreams to find their way home in me so I can belong to them again, and indeed have new ones find their way to me.  This is the way of the pilgrim to have a footprint that is worthy of the path and a path worthy of the footprint. Somewhere inside the house we belong to is also the one that belongs to us, and in that belonging there are clues to self-compassion. It starts with being merciful to oneself and letting every part of yourself be in sympatico, and in that place of tenderness, perhaps your footprint can be just the right shape, size and weight it needs to be for you and for others.  Sadly that won’t always be so, and unintentional harm will be done because the shoes are a few sizes too big, or maybe the heel is a little sharper than it needs to be, or a sole that is heavier than the ground on which you walk requires. It is not with self-flagellation I come to this awareness, but with gratitude for the reminder, gentle footprints of self-compassion are gifts to others too.

THE HOUSE OF BELONGING

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
day
like any other.

But
the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
and
I thought

it must have been the quiet
candlelight
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

And
I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close-grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

– David Whyte
©1996