Just For Me

A poem on the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion Website. It just lists “Anon” under the title.

Thank you Anon. This is beautiful and powerful.

What if a poem were just for me?

What if I were audience enough because I am,

Because this person here is alive, is flesh,

Is conscious, has feelings, counts?

What if this one person mattered not just for what

She can do in the world

But because she is part of the world

And has a soft and tender heart?

What if that heart mattered,

if kindness to this one mattered?

What if she were not distinct from all others,

But instead connected to others in her sense of being distinct, of being alone,

Of being uniquely isolated, the one piece removed from the picture—

All the while vulnerable under, deep under, the layers of sedimentary defense.

Oh let me hide

Let me be ultimately great,

Ultimately shy,

Remove me, then I don’t have to…

be…

But I am.

Through all the antics of distinctness from others, or not-really-there-ness, I remain

No matter what my disguise—

Genius, idiot, gloriousness, scum—

Underneath, it’s still just me, still here,

Still warm and breathing and human

With another chance simply to say hi, and recognize my tenderness

And be just a little bit kind to this one as well,

Because she counts, too.

Forgive Yourself

I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.

— Maya Angelou

 

 

 

Duck Meditation

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Tara Brach’s podcast on Equanimity: A Heart That is Ready for Anything kept me company this afternoon while I sat at home going through an entire Kleenex box nursing a cold.

She read what she called a duck meditation, and I just looked up the source. It’s a poem that was published in The New Yorker on October 4, 1947. I wanted to share it with you, along with a personal note at the end.

 

 

The Little Duck

By Donald C. Babcock

Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
No, it isn’t a gull.
A gull always has a raucous touch about him.
This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.
He isn’t cold, and he is thinking things over.
There is a big heaving in the Atlantic,
And he is part of it.
He looks a bit like a mandarin, or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree.
But he has hardly enough above the eyes to be a philosopher.
He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.
He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.
Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.
And what does he do, I ask you. He sits down in it.
He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity—which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.
He has made himself a part of the boundless, by easing himself into it just where it
touches him.

***

It’s been a month of many waves, the biggest of which was Greg’s Mom dying two weeks ago. She had been ill for awhile so it wasn’t a surprise, but it’s hard nonetheless. Both of us getting sick right afterward–Greg last week, me this week–hasn’t helped matters, but all in all I think we’re both being compassionate with ourselves and with each other. I’ve had you all in my heart even though I haven’t been around online very much.

***

Image found on etsy.com

21 Quotes about Acceptance #tinyhearts

 

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             Acceptance is the only way out of hell.

– Marsha Linehan

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Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune. – William James

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Acceptance of one’s life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes and injustices. – Paul Tournier

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Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu

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My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. – Michael J. Fox

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For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.  –Alan Watts

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Of course there is not formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings. –Arthur Rubinstein

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Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness. –Eckhart Tolle

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The acceptance of certain realities doesn’t preclude idealism. It can lead to certain breakthroughs. –Rem Koolhaas

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Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery. ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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When you’re different, sometimes you don’t see the millions of people who accept you for what you are. All you notice is the person who doesn’t.  ― Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart: A Novel

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To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.  ― Thich Nhat Hanh

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I accept chaos, I’m not sure whether it accepts me. ― Bob Dylan

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We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

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To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

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Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. ― Albert Einstein

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You have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you meet it with the best you have to give. ― Eleanor Roosevelt

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And I think that you do not understand that sometimes the only choice is between acceptance and madness.” ― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

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The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom. ― Tara Brach

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God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. ― Reinhold Niebuhr

If you haven’t already, I’d love it if you joined me on Facebook. Thanks!

To see the beginning of this series, read about Hearthstones.

 

 

Hearthstones

I love my little clay hearts that you see on this blog and sometimes on my Facebook page header. My sister-in-law gave them to me a long time ago; she is a School Sisters of Notre Dame nun and she got them while on a retreat. They come in a purple, velvet bag and are called Hearthstones.

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The heart-shaped clay tiles are called hearthstones because when the words heart and earth merge the word becomes hearth, a place to experience safety, warmth, intimacy, story telling, and healing. Hearthstones invite us to reconnect with what has heart and meaning in our lives and to rekindle spiritual values vital to sustaining life on planet earth.

They are described as tools of spiritual healing that invite personal, communal and planetary transformation by returning us to the center of wisdom and spiritual energy – the heart.

My sister-in-law selects one each day and carries it in her pocket and uses it during her devotional time. I’ve used mine in a lot of different ways, but my favorite thing to do has been to give them away to people. Since I can’t physically give them away to you, I decided I’d post a picture of a different heart each day in February. Some days I’ll include a quote or two or three…other days maybe a brief meditation of sorts. You are a very warm and supportive group. I so appreciate you, and hope to give a little something back in this way.
 
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Birthdays: A reminder of the awesomeness of being alive.

Tomorrow is my 52nd Birthday! I’m reposting what I wrote two years ago, because I still really like what I wrote 🙂

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Dad and me in Norfolk, VA

Dad and me in Norfolk, VA

         There’s Something about a Baby

It was January 1, 1962, my mother’s due date.  Relatives had trekked from Tennessee and Alabama to Norfolk, Virginia to be with my parents for my birth. Most were going to stay for a short visit, but my grandmother was going to stay with my mom for several weeks to help out. Leave it to me to be an introvert before I was even born. No way was I going to make my entrance into the world with all those people around. Everyone eventually left. Luckily, my father who was in the Navy, didn’t have to go back to sea quite yet, and on February 1, I made my arrival.

I’ve never given much thought to birthdays before, but turning 50 has thrown me. One minute I feel like celebrating; the next minute I want to pretend it’s not happening and I think I’ll just stay 49, thank you very much.

I casually mentioned my upcoming 50th birthday in my previous post, and I received a thoughtful comment from a fellow blogger (thank you, Doug!). He wrote: “If you were given the opportunity to honor a dear dear friend of yours who was let’s say, turning 40 this year, what are some of the things you might do to honor them? Take your time with that question….and after you’ve given it some thought….I’d like you to apply the same amount of creative energy and passion for yourself…no self-effacing allowed….”

I have taken his words to heart. One thing I’ve done in the past for people is make them a scrapbook. For example, on my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, I wrote to all of their friends (they have many!) and had them write a note and send a picture, which I compiled into a tribute album. Years ago I made myself a scrapbook that I call my “celebration album.” It has meaningful letters and cards that people have sent me over the years; quotes I like; and pictures of people I love. I haven’t kept it up-to-date, but it’s on my to-do list for the year. I took several hours today to look at it in depth, read each letter, and really let the words and images sink in.

On the subject of celebrating, here’s an excerpt from a letter from my uncle and Godfather, Sam Gerth (one who made the trek to Virginia 50 years ago), on the occasion of my confirmation:

Life is not all fun and games. There are many doubts and hurts and pitfalls. And the risks may seem frightening. But we never learn our limits of creative power unless we press on, for if we press on we know how to celebrate and what we are celebrating and why.

This afternoon, I tried to let myself celebrate me–not just what I’ve accomplished, but who I am as a person. I tried to not be self-effacing, as Doug noted that I tend to be. I read cards and letters from previous clients. One card had the inscription, “There are moments when one person make a special difference that no one else can make.” Although I’ve had extensive education and great training as a therapist, I think people not only liked me, but also made sometimes profound changes in their lives, because they rightly sensed I truly cared. I let myself feel deeply blessed to have had these experiences.

Tonight Greg and I went to my parents’ house and they told stories about me when I was a baby and we looked at old photo albums. You could see their faces light up as if it were just yesterday. They talked about what an exciting and special time it was. There’s something about a baby!

When I worked at a hospital, every time a baby was born, a lullaby would play over the loudspeaker. In my current office building, it’s pretty much a given that when someone is on maternity leave, the mom will bring in the baby at some point. Everyone runs out of their offices to see it, hold it, and hear the stories.

All of this pondering about birthdays and babies, led me right back to the topic of this blog: self-compassion.

What if we could nurture ourselves as we would a newborn baby? What might that feel like? What might that look like? How might our lives be different? What if we allowed ourselves to be excited about life, not just when it is new, but also when it is seasoned.

I remember when my own son was born–the powerful and intense feelings of love and attachment. Tonight, I looked at a photograph of myself looking into his eyes when he was only a few days old. I was so young, and so enthralled with the perfection of this little guy. Tonight, I saw that same look on my parents’ faces as they recalled my birth. There’s something about a baby!

Barbara Quick, an author and editor of my first book, once sent me one of her poems. I don’t remember in what context she sent it to me, but I loved this line and have it written in my celebration album, along with pictures of my son as a baby.

I never understood before how an infant is the natural symbol of redemption: everything sundered is made whole again, every mistake forgiven.

Once again, there’s something about a baby!

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Me with my baby…
22 years ago.

Stories and Compassion

“Everything is held together with stories.

That is all that is holding us together,

stories and compassion.” 

― Barry Lopez

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I told you my stories, and you reached out with compassion. It helped. It continues to help. Thank you.

I have had a good few days, and I know it’s because of you. This is no small thing–being there for each other. Yet we underestimate its importance.

At first glance, there seems to be nothing new about valuing compassion. It’s an idea that has been around for thousands of years in both the religious and secular worlds. But perhaps it is the universality of compassion that has lulled us into underestimating its importance.

Compassion is a treasure hidden in plain sight,

which we often don’t notice. -Larry Dorsey, M.D.

A big trend in psychotherapy is  “evidenced based treatment protocols.” Even as a write that, it sounds so cold. Of course, there are techniques and methods that are effective for a wide variety of problems.

But research over a long period of time continues to find that the core ingredient of someone’s progress in therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client. It’s what humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers called “unconditional positive regard.” Psychologist David Myers writes:

Unconditional positive regard is an attitude of grace,

an attitude that values us even knowing our failings.

noname-30Writing on a blog is not the same as psychotherapy, but similar healing happens. You tell your stories. You find others have similar stories. You learn you’re not alone. You are seen.

You find out people accept you even if

you’re a bit tattered around the edges.

Again, this is no small thing.

Again, thank you, friends.