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Dear Community,

Each month, I create this newsletter with the intention of offering something that's honest, supportive, timely and inclusive; something that will help readers meet themselves and their lives with more compassion, skill and dignity. While we all frequently experience both joys and challenges, the last few weeks seem to have brought especially heartbreaking local, national and international news. I hope that what I offer here in some way helps you to navigate the circumstances you find yourself in right now, and to remember that you are not alone.

I was interviewed recently for an article that focused on how self-compassion can help people cope with the shame that often comes with having a mental illness. Here's an excerpt: "Shame relentlessly repeats a very convincing story about how a person is not acceptable as-is; that in order to belong and to be lovable, they have to be other than how [and] who they are." I see self-compassion as a powerful way to work with shame and come into a more empowered relationship with it. If you'd like to read more, please check out the article. And if you think it could help someone you know, please share it

Also, I'll be offering Love Yourself Whole ~ my only Bay Area workshop this year ~ on September 20th. It will be a retreat-like day where we'll focus on relating more compassionately to ourselves, particularly to the parts of ourselves that may feel difficult to accept. I will incorporate self-compassion teachings, guided meditation, partner and group work, and collage. This workshop is appropriate for anyone who would like to come into a more compassionate relationship with themselves. For more information, click here. If you have questions, please contact me. You can also visit the Groups & Workshops page of my website to read what past participants have said about their experience in my workshops. I am offering a discount for early registrations through August 31.

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets on August 25, 7:30pm-9pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. If you're in the area and you'd like to cultivate self-compassion in a community of like-minded others, you are warmly welcome to join us.

Please share this newsletter with others who might be in need of some self-compassion.

All my best,
~ August 2014 Newsletter ~
Self-Compassion for Hard Times
"In hard times, beauty can seem frivolous – but take it away, and all you're left with is hard times." ~ Paul Madonna

One of the most powerful ways to navigate difficult times is to maintain a sense of connection to what you find beautiful. That might be sunlight filtering through trees; a song, poem, book or painting you love; the feeling of caring for a cause, or a person, plant or animal; or the sensation of your own breath and its movement into and out of your body. 

Hard times can bring a kind of simplicity that shows us, often with brutal clarity, what our priorities are; what truly matters to us. And if something matters to you, it is beautiful

Beauty doesn't make pain go away, and pain can't eradicate beauty. It can be easy to forget that beauty and pain can exist simultaneously and that staying in contact with both gives life a fullness and honesty. Sometimes we can get lost in a fantasy that if we just focus on what's beautiful, we won't have to feel pain. Or we might fear that if we focus on what's painful, what's beautiful will get lost. 

I understand self-compassion as a willingness to be present with and responsive to the full range of your experience, recognizing that it all matters and it all counts. So, how do you stay in contact with what's beautiful when you're in pain? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Identify the specific things that are beautiful to you, and consciously give attention to them. We each have a unique sense of what's beautiful. Some people feel a deep connection with nature, and it is a resource for them when they face hard times. Others find beauty in practicing a particular sport or skill, or in art, films, books, or music. Or in taking care of a person, animal, place or object. Or in devoting energy to social justice. As I said above, if something matters to you, it is beautiful. Reflect on what matters to you, and give your attention there.

2. Experiment with saying "and" more than you say "but." This may seem like a semantic trick, but the words we choose are tremendously important. When we say: "The sky looks so beautiful right now, but I feel overwhelmed by the news" we are essentially telling ourselves that our pain/overwhelm trumps the beauty that we experience. See how it feels to say: "The sky looks so beautiful right now, and I feel overwhelmed by the news." Using the word "and" can help you remember that there's room for all of your experience; that it all belongs.

3. Remember what Mr. Rogers' mother told him. Mr. Rogers said that when he was a boy and he saw scary things on the news, his mother would say, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." He added, "I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." When faced with challenging events, you can choose to acknowledge the pain, while also recognizing that there are people who care, who are responding with compassion and integrity. They are part of what's happening, too.

4. Focus your attention and breath on your heart. Sometimes, you just need a simple practice that requires no thought and can be done anywhere. If you feel lost in troubling thoughts, focus your awareness and breath on your heart. You can also put one or both hands over your heart, to help you stay connected to yourself in this way. Notice how you feel as you bring your attention to your heart. You can also notice what it's like to shift your attention to your hands as they rest on your chest/heart, and to your chest/heart as it's warmed by your hands.

5. Reach out and connect.
When we experience hard times, we can fall into old patterns of isolating ourselves and pretending that we're "fine" when we're not. If you notice yourself doing this, you can experiment with interrupting these patterns. There is beauty in reminding yourself, in concrete action, that you're not alone. Call, email or text a friend or loved one. Maybe you want to talk about how you feel; how recent events have impacted you. Or maybe you want to just say Hello, or listen to what they have to say. Sometimes it's not so important what you talk about; being in contact is what matters.

There's no "right way" to navigate hard times. I hope these tools offer you a sense of encouragement and possibility as you experiment with finding your own, unique way to relate to yourself with greater kindness, curiosity and compassion.
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: August 25
Love Yourself Whole
Love Yourself Whole
Daylong Workshop
September 20
Recent Articles
inclusive intentions
The Importance of
Inclusive Intentions
inclusive intentions
Psych Central Interview:
When You Feel Shame
About Your Mental Illness

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Lea Seigen Shinraku

I’m Lea Seigen Shinraku, a San Francisco-based therapist, writer and group facilitator, and I believe in the power of self-compassion to change the world, one person at a time. Through my writing, private practice, groups and workshops, I help people live with greater clarity, joy and meaning by guiding them to meet self-limiting beliefs with loving presence, and wake up from the trance of self-judgment. I draw on my professional training, client work, more than a decade of daily meditation practice, and my own experience of awakening and cultivating self-compassion. 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: MFC51836
Copyright © 2014 Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, All rights reserved.

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