compassion #tinyhearts

unnamed-28From Sharon Salzberg

Compassion is the movement of the heart in recognizing our own or someone else’s vulnerability. We move towards that person, to see if we can be if help.

In day to day life that might look like simply recognizing our own humanity, or the humanity of someone else.

I was teaching recently and a woman told me, after a sitting, ” All week long my boss has been a tyrant — unfair, judgmental, in a very uncharacteristic way. It’s only been here, meditating, that it occurred to me to think, ‘ She might have something going on in her life that is provoking this.'”

Here’s the first post of this series, Hearthstones.

The Magic Moment #tinyhearts

unnamed-11

February is a good month for so many reasons – Birthdays, Valentine’s Day (love and hearts), and Sharon Salzberg’s annual meditation challenge. I’ve meditated daily for the past two February’s, and the experience has been valuable. Despite the fact that over the year I turn into a sporadic meditator, certain concepts stick with me–one of them being ” the magic moment.”

Many people think that when you meditate, you clear your mind of all thoughts. But minds wander–that’s just what they do.  Rather than thinking that this is a sign of failure (“I’m horrible at meditation), Sharon describes it as a magic moment.

The moment that we realize our attention has wandered is the magic moment of the practice, because that’s the moment we have the chance to be really different. Instead of judging ourselves, and berating ourselves, and condemning ourselves, we can be gentle with ourselves.

—Sharon Salzberg

This magic moment message can be extended in so many ways.

  • The magic moment is when we go from driving ourselves too hard to letting ourselves rest.
  • The magic moment is when we move from trying to be perfect to being real.
  • The magic moment is when we move from isolation to realizing we’re all in this together.
  • The magic moment is when we stop fearing change and embrace uncertainty instead.
  • The magic moment is when we come home to ourselves.

Oh, and by the way, I’m meditating again this February. The old me would have said, “Why are you even doing this again. It hasn’t stuck before; what’s going to be different this year?” but the new me says, “Hmm, I wonder what will happen…New habits take time to develop and lots of tries…It’s great that I’m willing to begin again.”

I wish for you many magic moments in your life.

photo-63Sharon’s books on meditation are very practical, down-to-earth, and not attached to any particular religion. I just bought her newest book, Real Happiness at Work with a Barnes and Noble gift card I just got for my Birthday. (It’s actually in the business section; I had to ask because I couldn’t find it.) Her other recent book is Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation.

To see the first of the Tiny Heart series, click here.

I hope you’ll join me on Facebook. I like to hang out there.

Kicking Open the Door

medium_1805045379I’m going to start keeping track of when the word “open” (my word-of-the-year) shows up in my life. Today I was flipping through Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, and the book just opened to this section:

At Bob Dylan’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, Bruce Springsteen described hearing Dylan’s music for the very first time. Springsteen was 15, he said, riding in the car with his mother, idly listening to the radio, when “Like a Rolling Stone” came on. It was as though, Springsteen recalled, “somebody took his boot and kicked open the door to your mind.” His mother’s verdict: “That man can’t sing.” Mrs. Springsteen’s response reminds us that we don’t all react the same way to the same experience–and her son’s reminds us that life holds moments when our perspective dramatically shifts, when our assumptions are deeply challenged, when we see new possibilities or sense for the first time that whatever has been holding us back from freedom or creativity or new ventures might actually be overcome.

There are moments when we sense that tomorrow doesn’t have to look like today–that the feeling of defeat that’s been flattening us for what seems like forever can lift, that our anxiety needn’t define us, that the delight we been postponing and the love we long for could be nearer at hand than we’d thought.”

Sharon’s 28-day Meditation Challenge is going on right now. Click here for lots of inspiration and resources.

photo credit: seagers via photo pin CC

The Grass Grows Where You Water It

I saw this saying, “The grass grows where you water it,” and it speaks to how I’m feeling today.

It’s May 1st, and I usually would have already had my monthly goals mapped out in my mind (and on paper). But not this month. I’ve been busy living, so that’s a good thing! I’m loving my writing class, and I’ve chosen to spend my extra time soaking up all that goodness. I also went on a blogging binge last week and posted something Monday through Friday. Whew!

But (I know, there shouldn’t always be a but)…I’m having trouble focusing on more than one thing at a time. In February, I did great when I followed Sharon Salzberg’s 28-day meditation challenge. In March, I focused more on my physical health, managing my chronic pain, and have made some significant diet changes (you know, I reluctantly joined the free-range chicken/organic produce/supplement-popping club). In April, I immersed myself in the Alchemy writing class. In the meantime, I’ve let the meditation slide, although I’m managing to keep the dietary changes intact. I’ve found that when I focus my attention, I’m quite capable of making changes in my life. Yet I have trouble maintaining the changes, especially while trying to introduce new things, as well.

photo by Omega Man, Flickr CC

Does anyone know how to keep everything going?  I think I need one of those really long soaker hoses, so I can keep everything watered at once.

Although I don’t have my May goals to share with you, I want to tell you this. I’m being much more self-compassionate.  I sensed it and felt it, but I wanted proof. I retook the self-compassion test and compared it to the results when I began this project (you can find the test here). My scores show I’ve made significant strides in each of the areas measured. I’m really grateful and excited about that!

I’m not even too worried about not having any formal goals this month. I’ll probably start meditating again, because as Sharon Salzberg says, you can always begin again. I don’t even feel guilty (HUGE change) for not meditating. That’s just the way it’s happened. I’ll keep working on my health and exploring ways to manage my pain. I’ll definitely keep writing. And a huge thank you to everyone who keeps reading The Self-Compassion Project. Happy May Day!

photo by Greg Markway

Take What You Need

I’ve been feeling both antsy and lethargic since Sharon Salzberg’s “official” meditation challenge was over in February. I almost hate to admit it, but I went a few days without meditating. I thought about it. But I didn’t do it.

I noticed a few things. First of all, I didn’t feel as good, just in general. I was more tired than usual, and I spent a lot of time lying on the couch. Now this could be for any number of reasons (a lot of people have been getting sick around here). It did cross my mind, though, that I was going through meditation withdrawal—or maybe even Sharon withdrawal 🙂 The second thing I noticed was a bit of a shocker: I wasn’t beating up on myself.  In the past I would’ve condemned myself for being a “fraud”—here I spent a month blogging about meditation and then I quit. Yet, I remembered Sharon’s words from Week One. The “magic” in meditation is learning that we can begin again. Maybe we made a poor choice about something; we can begin again. Maybe we said some unkind words to someone; we can apologize and begin again. Maybe we ate too many Oreos; we don’t have to wait for tomorrow (or Monday morning) to start eating healthier. We can begin again, right now.

Of course, I didn’t have these revelations with out a tiny bit of struggle.

Yesterday I was pacing around the living room, feeling wound up and agitated, and I told Greg, “I just don’t know what I need.” Fortunately, he sometimes knows what I need better than I know myself. He said, “Why don’t you go and meditate?” Hmm. That sounded okay. So I went into the room that I have dedicated to this practice. I have a picture on a little table that says, “Take what you need.” I lit a candle, gazed at the picture, and enjoyed some soothing music for a while. Then I listened to Sharon Salzburg’s breathing meditation, and followed with some more meditating on my own.

I love the saying, “Take What You Need.”* But what if you don’t know what you need? What then? What if I hadn’t had Greg to nudge me in the right direction? I felt so relaxed and peaceful after meditating. Why had it taken me days to figure out that’s what I needed?

Of course, I always like things to be wrapped up in a neat little package. I asked Greg to help me brainstorm “tips” for how to figure out what you need. It seems like all good blog posts need tips. (My niece would add “LOL” at this point.) Without pausing, Greg replied, “When you don’t know what you need, just let yourself be.” Well, that sounds poetic, but it wasn’t very satisfying to me. I still had the urge to “operationalize” it more. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Accept the fact that you don’t know what you need.
  • Give yourself compassion for not knowing what you need. Say things to yourself such as, “It’s hard when you don’t know what you need.”
  • Try some things on for size: Do you need to call a friend? Do you need to take a warm bath? Perhaps make a cup of tea? Do something you’ve been putting off?
  • Realize that you may need more than one thing. Just try one and see how it goes. You can always change. You can always begin again.

I wonder whether, over time, meditation will help me be more in tune with what I need at each moment. I’m betting the answer is yes. But I’ll let you know.

(If you enjoyed this post, click on over to my Facebook page and hit like. I post shorter tidbits about self-compassion, share good links, and let you know when I’ve written something new. Thanks for your support!)

*See Kelly Rae Roberts blog for some of her awe-inspiring artwork and the idea behind this picture.

This, too.

From Pinterest

I’d about worked myself into a full-blown worry attack. There are a lot of things up in the air right now in which timing is key and I don’t have control of many of the variables. I felt crabby, and I craved a big bowl of New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream. My inner rebel kicked in and my self-talk sounded something like this: “I should meditate, but I don’t want to meditate. I’m sad the 28-day Meditation Challenge with Sharon Salzberg is over, and I probably won’t be able to keep the practice going on my own. Who am I kidding? I’m not the meditating type!”

Before I could go much further (as if that wasn’t far enough), the words popped into my mind, “This, too.”* Now where did that come from? The words came to me in a quiet, kind tone of voice, unlike the critical tone I’m so accustomed to hearing in my head. I can’t believe it. Only a month of meditating and I can’t even indulge in a good worry episode? This was new for me. I felt a gentleness with myself that hadn’t been there before. My worries were still there, but I felt some space…a little more room to maneuver. The quiet voice continued:

Things end. This, too.

Things aren’t in my control. This, too.

I don’t want to do things, even when they’re good for me. This, too.

I worry. This, too.

I laid down on the couch and took some deliberate deep breaths. I said some lovingkindness phrases for myself and others. And then I took a nap.

This, too.

*I’m sure I’ve heard the phrase “This, too” somewhere. I’m getting paranoid that with all the reading I’m doing, that others’ words are seeping into my consciousness and I don’t know to whom to attribute them. Whoever came up with this phrase, thank you. It’s a really good phrase.

(If you enjoyed this post, click on over to my Facebook page and hit like. I post shorter tidbits about self-compassion, share good links, and let you know when I’ve written something new. Thanks for your support!)

Tweeting with Sharon

Sharon Salzberg

A week ago today I participated in my first “Tweetchat.” This is quite an accomplishment for me as six months ago I didn’t have a clue what Twitter was all about, and I still don’t fully understand it. For those Twitter-challenged like myself, a Tweetchat is sort of like a virtual meeting held on Twitter. Everyone gets together at a certain time and uses the same hashtag (#) and an actual conversation takes place (it’s magic!).

This Tweetchat was with Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation. Although I had some anxiety ahead of time (What would I ask? Would I sound dumb? Would I make some Twitter faux pas?), it went really well and I got a lot out of it. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with organizing the content. I saved everything right afterward (because I don’t think Twitter keeps things very long), printed it all out, and then organized tweets by topic. This isn’t everything, but it will give you some of the highlights.

First, as with any social engagement, there are a few pleasantries and introductions:

Sharon Salzberg Getting ready for the #realhappiness #tweetchat at 1:30 PM today! Tweet you soon!

barbmarkway Ready for my first tweet chat with @Sharon Salzberg #realhappiness

HMKoutoukas Happy President’s Day! This Month’s #TweetChat will start at 1:30 PM with @SharonSalzberg. Open to all! #realhappiness

On meditation practice in general:

HMKoutoukas Q: What time of day is best to start your practice via @FaceBook Fan #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@HMKoutoukas The time when U’ll actually do its the best time. Going from thinking abt it 2 doing its the hardest part #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@HMKoutoukas I try to sit first thing in the am, before e-mail! #realhapiness

barbmarkway Sometimes I feel like I’m just daydreaming with a few deep breaths thrown in #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@barbmarkway Sometimes it is just a few mindful breaths! but in the long run, we are still building awareness. It’s good #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@TheBuffyProject They say the Buddha taught med. in 4 postures – sitting, standing, walking & lying down #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@2catsandapencil Even if I’m sleepy or concentration seems crummy. In the end, it’s all good. #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@2catsandapencil Sometimes we think things r going badly but when we look back we see we were building strength and openness #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@2catsandapencil Please keep going. it takes time but meditation really does have an effect. #realhappiness

On dealing with thoughts and anxiety:

SpicedNutmeg When I sit initially my mind is quiet and then there is flood of thoughts and no stop to it. Thank #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@SpicedNutmet Practice cn B more abt getting space from thought than stopping them. Then flood of thoughts is no problem. #realhappiness

CharleySez Hi. Meditating can give more space for anxieties and worries as there are no distractions. How best can we sit with these? #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@CharleySez true. 1st understand it’s normal. 2nd, we work w/balanced awareness & compassion 4 ourselves #realhappiness

SharonSalzbert@CharleySez it includes feeling the worry in yr body then moving attention 2 something easier 2 b w/then back. #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@CharleySez We try 2 call anxiety painful rather than “bad”. that takes practice 2! #realhappiness

CharleySez@SharonSalzberg Thank you. Being with the worry, also with compassion for self, taking it moment by moment – I will do that. #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@CharleySez That sounds great! You will see changes, more in your life than on the cusion. but that’s where it counts. #realhappiness

On dealing with emotions:

SpicedNutmeg I find it difficult to separate the thought and emotion. I’m caught in it. #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@SpicedNutmeg mayB ask yourself “What am I feeling in my body?”. Breath & body will giv sum space w/out denying the emotion. #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@SpicedNutmeg Can u feel your emotions in your body? that is often grounding, and interesting 2 #realhappiness

TheBuffyProject Sometimes it’s important to give yrself the space to feel unhappy, too. That, too, is #compassion #realhappiness

TheBuffyProject “I feel what I feel, and it’s ok.” Recognition leads to potential options. #realhappiness

On dealing with anger:

Stacysingsone Wanted to ask ? about compassion–the more compassion I feel, the more angry I feel when others do not #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@Stacysingsone When you c lack of compassion can u remind yourself that the lack is itself suffering? #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@Stacysingsone It is hard 2 c. The Buddha said, within & without, we are fighting ignorance. #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@Stacysingsone It’s not that anger is “bad” but it won’t work. #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@Stacysingsone If we think of it as bad we usually strengthen it. even tho we don’t want to #realhappiness

Stacysingsone@SharonSalzberg Thanks for thoughts on anger. have more work to do. #realhappiness

On working with pain:

barbmarkway I struggle with “Is pain real?” I blame myself. I sometimes use the mind/body connection against myself. #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@barbmarkway Pain is real @ it’s hard. it also changes w/in itself. we can make it harder due 2 habits. Rt. thr is R work. #realhappiness

barbmarkway@SharonSalzberg Yes, I do a lot of “add on” like you write about. Trying to notice that more. #realhappiness

SharonSalzberg@barbmarkway Very hard. But good to examine what makes things worse. that’s the part we don’t have 2 feel helpless about #realhappiness

barbmarkway@SharonSalzberg So hard not to anticipate more pain when you’re in “chronic pain” cycle #realhappiness

MettBomb RT@SharonSalzberg@HMKoutoukas Research shows Med. affects pain first by helping us not anticipate next hit of pain. #realhappiness

barbmarkway@SharonSalzberg Thank you for this! #realhappiness

(If you enjoyed this post, click on over to my Facebook page and hit like. I post shorter tidbits about self-compassion, share good links, and let you know when I’ve written something new. And of course, you can follow me on Twitter. Thanks for your support!)