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.

 

 

Waking Up from the Trance of Unworthiness: Part Two

images-4I am loving this Sounds True audio/video series on self-acceptance. For those who learn better by reading, here is part two of a rough transcript of the session with Tara Brach, Ph.D. (I watched on one computer, paused it as I went, and dictated into my phone.) I am breaking it into two posts, as it got a little long. You can still listen to this interview online here. And if you didn’t read part one, you can do so here.

Tara’s first book Radical Acceptance helped me so much on a personal level, and I frequently recommended it to my clients over the years. Her newest book is called True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. I have already read it once, and I highly recommend it.

In this episode, Tami Simon speaks with Tara Brach, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. Tara has been practicing and teaching meditation since 1975 and has led Buddhist meditation retreats at centers throughout North America. Her audio programs with Sounds True include Radical Self-Acceptance: A Buddhist Guide to Freeing Yourself from Shame and Finding True Refuge: Meditations for Difficult Times

Tami: Do you think our trance of unworthiness has something to do with our contemporary society, or is it something that’s always gone on?

Tara: I think both. We are hard-wired to feel separate and to look for  something to go wrong. It’s called our “negative bias” and it’s designed to keep us safe. But it’s a very quick step to thinking that something is wrong in the environment to thinking, “I’m wrong.” So there is a deficiency mind-set that comes with being human.

But there’s also a cultural component. Particularly in the West, we have very few natural ways of belonging in which we can experience our basic goodness. We live in a fear-based culture that over consumes and is competitive. We are not invited toward feeling contentment. We’re not invited to relax and say, “This moment is enough.” That would stop the economy in its tracks. Our culture feeds the sense that I should be better. I should be more.

images-7The tend-befriend aspect of our wiring is there, too. It’s just not as well cultivated, and it takes training. But once we get that we’re suffering because we are at war with ourselves, there can be a very deep, sincere commitment to embracing our own being and embracing life everywhere.

One way to wake up the “compassion neural networks” is the idea of conscious community: A place where we share our vulnerabilities; we mirror back each other’s goodness; we take inevitable conflicts and turn them into deeper understanding; and we listen deeply. There is a sense of belonging to each other.

Tami: Do you still struggle with self-acceptance in your own life? Do you still go into the trance of unworthiness?

Tara: Yes. Sometimes I will find I am in a bad mood and I’ll scrape below the surface and I realize I’m down on myself. Sometimes I feel I’m falling short as a friend or in caring for my aging mother.  Or I think I wasn’t as present for a talk as I would’ve liked to be. Sometimes if I know I’ve hurt someone, it can feel very “sticky.” The difference between then (say 15 year ago, although it’s been a gradual shift) and now is there is less lag time. I more quickly recognize that I am caught up in the trance–in the thoughts and beliefs of an unworthy self. The other difference is that I recognize the thoughts and feelings, but I don’t believe them as much. The feelings are there and the thoughts are there, but the sense of who I am beyond the self that I am judging is much more alive and accessible. I know that there is a loving heart, a being here, an awareness that isn’t so identified with the unworthy self. But I still have to find my way back.

One of the ways I find my way back, and I talk about this a lot in my teaching, is by thinking about this metaphor:

Photo by macinate via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by macinate via Flickr Creative Commons

Imagine you are walking through the woods and you see a small dog. You think the dog is cute and you approach the dog, wanting to pet it. It suddenly snarls and tries to bite you. The dog no longer seems cute and you may feel some fear and anger. As the wind blows, the leaves on the ground are carried away and you see the dog has one of its legs caught in a trap. Now, you feel compassion for the dog. You know it became aggressive because it is in pain and suffering. (I also wrote about this story in the piece, Leaving Judgement Behind.) You go from being angry, to this poor thing.

I pause and get that in some way my leg is in the trap. The thing I’m judging is coming from a place of pain. Then I soften and I can be present with feelings  and offer kindness to myself. I’m able to loosen the grip and arrive more fully at that sense of who I am when I’m not trapped in the trance.

Tami: I want to tell people about this tool of RAIN that you are known for. Will you explain it?

Tara: When we’re stuck in the trance,  we may have a vague sense that we are there, but it’s so hard to get out that state. We get reactive and we stir things up more. So this acronym of RAIN is this easy to remember handle. When we’re caught in the trance of unworthiness, we can say to ourself, “OK, just pause.”

R, is to recognize what’s going on. All those thoughts of unworthiness are going on right here.

A stands for allow it to be there. We don’t try to get away from what’s going on. We deepen the pause.

I  is for investigate. We investigate with kindness. We bring a gentle attention to what’s going on. This is where we start loosening the grip. For example, when I turn on myself for being “the sick person” I sink below the feelings– I get under the story line– and I realize I have this core belief that if I’m this bad at being sick, I’ll never wake up and be free…I’ll never be enlightened. I can really feel the fear in the body.

N stands for not-identified with the unworthy self. It sounds like a dry concept, but it’s very freeing and liberating.

So RAIN is a way to detangle the trance. And it really comes down to a mindful awareness with kindness.

Tami: In classic Buddhist teaching we are taught that we are not this solid self that we think we are. How do you understand this paradox that we have to accept and be kind to ourself, when there may not even be a self there?

images-3Tara: I make a translation and think of it that what we are accepting is the life that’s right here. In actuality, what we are accepting is this feeling, this hurt, this sadness, this fear, this anxiety, this whatever… We are embracing the lived experience. What happens is that when we do this, the sense of the separate self dissolves anyway. All of us are doing this together. We’re all doing this project of embracing the life that’s right here–it’s pleasantness, it’s unpleasantness, and in doing so, we get the liberating realization that we are way beyond any story we might’ve told ourselves.

Read Part One of Tara’s interview.

 

Waking Up from the Trance of Unworthiness

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I am loving this Sounds True audio/video series on self-acceptance. For those who learn better by reading, here is rough transcript of the session with Tara Brach, Ph.D. I watched on one computer, paused it as I went, and dictated into my phone. I am breaking it into two posts, as it got a little long. You can still listen to this interview online here.

Tara’s first book Radical Acceptance helped me so much on a personal level, and I frequently recommended it to my clients over the years. Her newest book is called True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. I have already read it once, and I highly recommend it.

In this episode, Tami Simon speaks with Tara Brach, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. Tara has been practicing and teaching meditation since 1975 and has led Buddhist meditation retreats at centers throughout North America. Her audio programs with Sounds True include Radical Self-Acceptance: A Buddhist Guide to Freeing Yourself from Shame and Finding True Refuge: Meditations for Difficult Times

Tami: What was happening inside of you, and in your teaching, that got you in touch with this idea, this need for radical self-acceptance?

Tara: I realized that my deepest suffering was a sense of not being enough, and when it was very bad, even a sense of self-aversion. I saw it in my students and clients.

I believe that the sense of not being enough is the most pervasive suffering in our society.

I had a friend in college who was reading “Learning to Be Your Own Best Friend” and I thought,  “Oh my gosh, I am the furthest thing from that.” And it was even more than that—it was that I didn’t trust myself.

We don’t recognize what I call “the trance of unworthiness”–how much we are trapped in the sense of falling short. And usually it’s on every front in some way. It’s a background noise that’s always saying, “How am I doing now?” Usually we find there’s a gap in how we think we should be and our moment-to-moment awareness. In that gap, we feel like we are always not okay.

noname-1A palliative caregiver told me that the number one grief of the dying is that they didn’t live true to themselves. They lived according to the expectations of others, but not the truth of their own hearts. At the end, there was the sense that, “I didn’t live this life true to who I am.”

If I did a show of hands and asked how many people speak unkindly to themselves, every hand would go up. But I think what we don’t realize is the overall sense we have that, “Something is wrong with me,” and how it pervades our day. It contracts everything. It’s a deep feeling of being flawed and deficient. It’s a trance that imprisons our moments in a way that we’re not aware of.

Tami: What do you think wakes people up from this trance?

Tara: The suffering. For example, if you’re in a relationship and you realize “I can’t really be close to anyone.” If someone got to know me, they’d reject me.

The pain is a wake up to explore how we begin to stop the war against ourselves.

So it’s the suffering that starts as the wake up.

Tami: How do we learn to trust ourselves?

Let me give an example. A woman came up after a class and told me that she didn’t deserve to accept herself because she was not being a good parent to her five-year-old. She was yelling at her all the time and being critical. It’s true, her behavior wasn’t ideal. But I asked the woman, “Do you love your daughter?” She said, “Of course, I wouldn’t be so upset if I didn’t love her.” Then spend some time getting in touch with that feeling of loving your daughter, I told her. That you can trust. (Editorial note: I believe it was implied in the way Tara described the story that eventually radical self-acceptance gives way toward aligning your behavior with what is in your heart.)

We can’t trust our ego self. It is unreliable, out-of-control, striving, and afraid. A true sense of trust comes from connecting with the deeper part of our self, and that takes paying attention.

noname-4Often the pathway to acceptance comes from pausing when we feel unworthy. Training in learning to pause when you feel the suffering is critical. Victor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. So the first step is to pause.

Next, you have to deepen attention–to get underneath the thoughts and determine what is going on in the body and in the heart.

You have to bring awareness to just how painful it is. I call it the sense of “Ouch!”

It’s helpful to put your hand on your heart. All you need is the intention to be kind to that place of suffering. You can’t manufacture feeling kind, but you can say, “I want to be able to be gentle to this place that feels so bad.” Then there’s a shift. The shift is a move from the unworthy self to a compassionate presence that is witnessing the unworthy self.

In the past decade I have had bouts of sickness that have been very humbling. I can feel irritable and self-centered, and then I start not liking myself for being a “bad sick person”. I think I’m not being spiritual in how I’m being sick. The Buddha called it the second arrow. The first arrow is being feeling sick, and then the second arrow is feeling unworthy because I’m judging myself for not being a good sick person.

In part two, Tara talks about how she deals with her own feelings of unworthiness, the importance of conscious community, and how to use the tool called RAIN.

Leaving Judgment Behind

Photo by macinate via Flickr Creative Commons

Sometimes I think I need to change this to a blog about coping with chronic pain. I’m on to a new doctor and another round of physical therapy. I’m frustrated that I haven’t been able to write more and keep up with my blogs. On a positive note, though, I have been watching a great video series called, The Compassionate Brain. The last “episode” featured Tara Brach, a leading teacher of mindfulness and author of Radical Acceptance and her forthcoming book, True Refuge. She told a story that I really liked. Sometimes I have trouble remembering something long enough to retell it, but I really wanted to share it with Greg, so I tried extra hard to concentrate.

Here’s the story:

Imagine you are walking through the woods and you see a small dog. You approach the dog and move to pet the dog. It suddenly snarls and tries to bite you. The dog no longer seems cute and you may feel some fear and anger. As the wind blows, the leaves on the ground are carried away and you see the dog has one of its legs caught in a trap. Now, you feel compassion for the dog. You know it became aggressive because it is in pain and suffering.

I told the story to Greg when he got home, and he really like it, too. The very next evening, he told me about a conversation he had with a colleague at work. She was struggling with another person in the agency. This other person came across as very negative and rigid and they were butting heads over some issue. Greg told her the story of the dog in the trap. She later thanked him because this helped her view the “difficult” co-worker in a different light.

I like this story on so many levels. It helps “depersonalize” conflict. When someone disagrees with us or somehow makes our life difficult, it is not really about us—it may be about their pain. Rather than assigning negative motives to those who challenge us, why don’t we give them the benefit of the doubt?

And, if we can give others the benefit of the doubt, why can’t we do the same for ourselves?

Sometimes I feel that I’m not really doing enough with my life. My chronic pain has led me to work fewer hours at my job. And when I’m at home, I need more time to rest—meaning I am less productive there as well.

At other times, though, I see that I make a difference. I think it’s pretty cool that I heard a story while listening to the warm and wise Tara Brach, and then told my husband, who told a colleague…and that this story helped someone think more compassionately about a seemingly difficult co-worker.  This is storytelling at its best.

My influence may be less direct, but no less meaningful. And maybe it’s not about producing a quantity of work…maybe its about being as compassionate as I can be, to myself and others, and seeing where that leads me.

To be notified of new posts, head on over to my Self-Compassion Project Facebook page and click “Like”. (It’s also on the sidebar, but no one ever sees it there.)

Finding refuge in tough times

I have been in the midst of a pain flare-up and haven’t been able to do much on the computer 😦 I miss blogging and communicating with all of you! I just cheated a little and found this Q/A from Tara Brach. She has a wonderful book called Radical Acceptance, and this was on her Facebook page today. It speaks to where I am–in the midst of struggling, yet trying to lean into the struggle, not fight so hard, and most of all, trying to find the presence of mind to remember self-compassion. I hope to be able to write more soon!

Okay, this is Tara “talking” below:

Question: How can we remind ourselves of what refuge is when difficult times come to life?

Response: There is a deep and powerful question you can ask yourself: How can this situation serve the awakening of my heart and mind? Then let that be your prayer–that whatever is going on in your life be part of what truly can free your heart and spirit. If this is your question and your prayer…then you will be guided home to an inner refuge of peace and freedom.

Sometimes the heart has to be broken open to be free, and the process can feel like a huge confusing, frightening mess. Please trust that within you is the love and awareness to awaken through all situations. The key is to take refuge in presence over and over, with tremendous self-compassion. The more you turn toward presence, the more you trust the process…the more fully you will discover an inner sanctuary of peace and freedom.

Self-Compassion Rock Stars

My son took this at a concert. I love how she looks so free.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on self-compassion the past few weeks, and I thought I’d share the major resources I’m using for my project. I already owned all of these books, but I have a habit of buying books with the hope they’ll somehow seep into my system without actually digging in and doing the exercises. So for the most part, these books have just looked pretty on a shelf until now. (And if you read my last post, you know how I like things to be pretty.)

This time around, I’ve got the books scattered on end tables by the couch and on the kitchen table, with paper and pen nearby to take notes and actually do the exercises. I’ve also got my iPod loaded with guided meditations, and have been listening to these. I hope to, in time, phase out the iPod and be able to do the meditations on my own. For now, though, I need the structure of someone’s voice leading me.

These are in no particular order. I hope you have a chance to check some of them out, and let me know what you think.

Christopher Germer, Ph.D., is a leader in the field of self-compassion. He’s a psychologist, writer, and researcher. His site is full of handouts, articles, and free meditation downloads. You can find his website here. I’m also reading and doing the exercises his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. It’s very user friendly.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D. is another pioneer in the field. Her website is here and her book, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, is an excellent resource. She weaves her personal story throughout the book, which I really appreciate. She has a son with autism and credits her self-compassion skills with getting her through a lot of rough times.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, is quite simply, amazing! She talks about being vulnerable, and she walks the talk. You have to visit her website (which is about the prettiest website I’ve ever seen!) and watch her TED talk.

Sharon Salzberg, author of the classic Lovingkindness, is a true meditation guru and spiritual teacher.  Her newest book, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation offers a 28-day program and comes with a CD of guided meditations. Her site is here.

Tara Brach, Ph.D. is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha. I love this book, and I also have some of her guided meditations. Her voice is very soothing. Her site is also loaded with podcasts (called “Tara Talks”), meditation downloads, articles and many other resources. Her new book is True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.

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