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

 

 

 

Welcome #tinyhearts

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In welcoming everything, we don’t have to like what’s arising. It’s actually not our job to approve or disapprove. It’s our task to trust, to listen, and to pay careful attention to the changing experience. At the deepest level, we are being asked to cultivate a kind of fearless receptivity.

This is a journey of continuous discovery in which we will always be entering new territory. We have no idea how it will turn out, and it takes courage and flexibility. We find a balance. The journey is a mystery we need to live into, opening, risking, and forgiving constantly.”

Frank Ostaseski, founder of the Metta Institute

The Magic Moment #tinyhearts

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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.

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.

 

 

Beginning Again with Self-Compassion: Part One

Dear Blogging Friends,

After my last post admitting the fact that I have no clue what I’m doing with my various blogs and social media pages, my faithful reader, Doug, said he voted for having this be more of a personal blog. Although appealing, it scares me for several reasons. One, I’ve been raised to be very private. (Why not just write in a  journal?)  In addition, some of the things I want to write about involve other people, who don’t want their stories told. I respect that. And then there’s this: a personal blog is, well, personal. Do I really want the world to know how messed up I am? I told my husband a few weeks ago, “I thought I’d be more together by age 52.” He so sweetly and earnestly said, “Being together is over-rated.”

You have been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, and there isn’t and you’re not.

-Cheri Huber

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But, at least for today, I’m going to go for it, and tell you what’s really going on with me.

My self-compassion practice has been a joke. My husband told me the other day that he thinks I’m still way too hard on myself.  I said incredulously, “Really?” I hadn’t even noticed. So I retook the self-compassion test on Kristin Neff’s website and I scored horribly–probably lower than I did when I first started this blog. Oh my gosh. I felt badly because I was feeling so badly about myself! Of course, I started to cry.

My first year of blogging went really well. I was learning to be kinder and more gentle with myself; I felt more peaceful. So what happened? I’m not sure, but here are a few theories (maybe not in order of importance–I’m figuring this out as I go):

1. Chronic pain has worn me down.

  • I’ve felt overwhelmed dealing with doctors and new medicine trials. I’ve had hopes dashed when a medicine gave me so many side effects I stopped taking it, and then read in my records I was labeled “noncompliant.”
  • I don’t have doctors I trust. I feel like I’m flip-flopping around too much, but I can’t find anyone I click with.
  • It’s frustrating having to weigh every decision based on whether I think I’ll be able to manage the pain, and how long I’ll take to recover.
  • The things I like to do the most are the things that exacerbate my pain.

One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.

-Michael J. Fox

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2. Dealing with depression on top of chronic pain really sucks.

  • I’ve had a long, long history of depression, and I’ve come to realize that I have what’s called “treatment-resistant” depression. Despite lots of psychotherapy and lots of different medications, I have a very difficult time maintaining a stable mood. (And going through menopause definitely made me worse!) I’m not Bipolar with highs and lows–I just have varying degrees of lows, with just enough good days sprinkled in to let me know what I’m missing. My last psychiatrist retired, so I’m starting with a new one. Of course, she thinks the previous doc had me on all the wrong things, so I’m trying some new things, which is EXTREMELY scary for me. I am trying really, really hard. I didn’t read any of the information on side effects and am giving this a chance. It’s been two weeks and I’m afraid to be hopeful, but maybe I am, just a little bit.

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.

-Mark Twain

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3. I have an over-active reptilian brain.

The reptilian brain is the part of the brain that deals with threats. From an evolutionary perspective, this part of the brain kept us safe from lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). When confronted with perceived danger, adrenaline kicks in and we swiftly move into survival mode. Our nervous system goes on overdrive and we can do amazing things–run quickly, fight off an enemy, or freeze until our enemy thinks we’re dead and leaves us alone. I would have been great in prehistoric times. But now? My brain is constantly scanning for things to go wrong, leaving me in worry-mode much of the time.

Also, as Kristin Neff pointed out: “…when the threat is to our self-concept, self-criticism does not work well. When you view yourself as the problem (I can’t believe I gained those 5 pounds back, I should’ve gotten an A on that test) the reptilian brain kicks in and attacks yourself, thus the self-critical self-talk.”

To top it off, as neuroscientist Rick Hanson describes it, my brain is like teflon for remembering positive events and velcro for remembering negative events. In actuality, the ratio of positive to negative events in my life is in my favor, but it often doesn’t feel this way. I forget the good.

What does this have to do with my self-compassion practice going awry? I think because these grooves are so deeply cut into my brain that I have to be very intentional to move out of this way of being. And I haven’t been very intentional (partly due to #1 and #2)

We have to have compassion for the self critic. Self-criticism comes from a desire to keep ourselves safe.

-Kristin Neff

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This is getting kind of long, but I’m not finished yet! I’ll continue in Part Two, hopefully in a few days. I want you to know how much I appreciate you reading this and all your support. I am going to begin again with self-compassion, this very moment, and know that it is okay. I’m okay, you’re okay, and everything is already alright.

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you’re beautiful.

-Amy Bloom

Photos by Greg Markway, taken over the past few weeks.

Wise Women Share Thoughts on Self-Compassion

selfcompassionsaturdayUnderneath virtually all of our suffering lies a lack of self-compassion. When Jill Salahub, author of the blog, A Thousand Shades of Gray, realized this, she began the series, Self-Compassion Saturdays. She interviews women bloggers (artists, writers, coaches, and a psychologist—me) all about self-compassion: what it means, what it looks like, and what they still want to learn. Jill is putting together an e-book based on these interviews. Be sure to subscribe to her blog so you don’t miss it when it’s complete!

I’ve shared highlights of each interview on my Psychology Today blog . Sorry to make you click over–search engines (and Psychology Today) don’t like it if you put the same content two places. Click here to read the full post. Thanks!

Anne Lamott on The Big Picture

anne_lamott_credit_sam_lamott_final_small_custom-7e5d0b9ab1f825f3b80131f7594ab88e8c3f9039-s6-c30I recently read Anne Lamott’s newest book, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, and fell in love with her writing, her perspective. I immediately started following her on Facebook.

She shared this today, and I think it might be everything you need to know about life.  Seriously. I’m going to print it out and keep it in my purse to look at frequently. I want to share it here because I know some of my readers aren’t on Facebook, and I don’t want anyone to miss this!

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Last night, at Arborlawn United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, the last of 14 cities on the book tour for Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair, a woman in her late twenties raised her hand and asked, “What is the big picture? I do a lot of things that I love and value, but don’t have a clue what it all means.”
The crowd was actually hushed, as if I might have the secret launch codes, and could answer this for all time.

I said, “Welcome to the monkey house,” stealing one of Vonnegut’s titles. Everyone of every age roared with friendly laughter, because we’re all in the same boat. We ALL think we missed school the day that the visiting specialists stopped by our 2nd grade classroom to distribute the pamphlets on what is true, who we are, how we are to live with the great mystery of life, how to come through dark times, how to awaken. We’re all sort of winging it, trying to learn self-love and respect, trying to be here, now, sometimes, and live lives of meaning and joy.

You do a LOT of things you love and value? That’s the big picture.

You’ve learned about radical self-care, and putting your own oxygen mask on first, yet also have discovered that we can only be filled up by service, by giving? Are you laughing enough? Are you saying “No” enough? Have you taken to heart that “NO” is a complete sentence? That no one over 40 must EVER again help anyone else move to a new house? That no one over 50 must EVER chair a yard–or-parking lot-or garage sale–for a church, or a high school sports team?

Ram Dass said he thought that when it was all said and done, we’re all just walking each other home. That’s the meaning, I think. That’s the big picture.

You’re not squandering your time racing around all day doing meaningless bullshit, multi-tasking, and always feeling like you’re behind on your homework? If not, that’s what it all means. Rest is a spiritual act.

My pastor once told us that you can trap bees in jars without lids, because they look straight ahead, muddling around, panicking on the floor of the jar, bumping into the glass sides, because they don’t look up. If they did, they could fly to freedom.

You’re learning NOT to chase the mechanical rabbits at the Greyhound Race Track, of fame, drama, achievement, ownership? You’re pursuing a creative call of some sort, now? You’re not pretending that you are going to get back to writing, singing, dance, as soon as this or that happens–ie as soon as you graduate or retire, or your youngest leaves home? You’re doing it NOW, badly, herky-jerkily, as a debt of honor? That is the bigger meaning of it all: creation.

You’re living as if you may have a year or so to live, and want to make the most of it, savor and be filled, by spending time with those you love most, much of it outdoors in the beauty of our Mother? Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”

So are you out there, shaking your head with amazement, smiling about the earth’s wild sweet beauty? That is the bigger picture. That is the meaning: wonder, presence, immediacy, being HERE. Like my teenage friend Mason says in Stitches, “I had brain cancer. I was in a coma. Then I was HERE again.” Are you here?

That’s the big picture.

Happy People have Happy Habits

Happiness is circular.

Happy people have happy habits,

which in turn, makes them happier.

Here’s a list of habits that have a high chance of giving you a happiness boost. (This links to my Psychology Today blog’s newest post.)

A few weeks ago I went to a continuing education day-long workshop on developing positive emotional habits. The presenter was a psychologist and a comedian, so it was one of the better workshops I’ve been to.

Here are a few key points:

  • Happiness has many influences: 50% is our based on our “set point” (temperament/genetics); 10% is based on our circumstances; and 40% is based on intentional activity.
  • Despite increases in our standard of living, Americans are no happier than they were 60 years ago.
  • Money brings happiness to the extent that it alleviates poverty; beyond that, it does little to increase sustained happiness.
  • Developing skills to increase happiness/contentment is not frivolous. Happiness is linked to many important life outcomes such as health, problem-solving ability, creativity, less depression and anxiety…

Okay, I don’t know what you’ll think about this, but the presenter said this has been determined the world’s funniest joke (according to the Richard Wiseman LaughLab):

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services.  He gasps: “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says: “Calm down, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: “OK, now what?”

Did that make you laugh or groan?

I hope you’ll click through and read my post on Psychology Today: 15 Habits to Cultivate Lasting Happiness.

Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt