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Dear Community,

It's hard to believe that it's mid-May, but the calendar tells me that it's true. This is graduation weekend for thousands of students across the country, and that means that summer is just around the corner. I hope you are spending these mid-Spring days in whatever way feels right to you.

I visited San Antonio Zen Center last weekend, giving a Saturday morning talk and an afternoon self-compassion workshop.
I truly enjoyed my brief time there, and I felt inspired by the sincerity and warmth of the people I met. Because Mother's Day was last Sunday, I focused my talk on the ways that self-compassion involves a kind of mothering of the parts of ourselves that we find challenging. 

This month's tool ~ Re-Parent Your Suffering ~ springs from the talk I gave last Saturday in San Antonio, and it springs from the reflection I've been doing lately about self-parenting. So much of the practice of self-compassion seems to be about learning how to tend to the different parts of ourselves ~ almost like they are our children. I created this month's tool to help you recognize the ways that you may find it difficult to tend to certain parts of yourself, and then experiment with forming internal connections that will help you find a sense of wholeness.

I also recently wrote a blog post about relating compassionately to inconvenient feelings. This piece was inspired by an encounter I had with a very anxious dog. I found that meeting him and his family gave me insight into how hard it can be to see our suffering for what it is, and to have compassion for it. I hope that this post is supportive as you encounter difficult parts of yourself.

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets a week from tomorrow, on Monday, May 25, from 7:30-9pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. We begin each group with three self-compassion practices that help us arrive more fully. Then we check in, discuss and reflect on a particular aspect of self-compassion, and meditate together. If you're in San Francisco and you're interested in cultivating self-compassion, please join us. Also, please pass this newsletter along to others who are interested in relating to themselves more kindly.

Warm wishes,
~ May 2015 Newsletter ~
Re-Parent Your Suffering

One way that we first learn how to relate to our suffering is by experiencing how our parents relate to it in us. If our difficult feelings were ignored or criticized, it is highly likely that we will ignore or criticize them. If we were seen as a problem when we were sad, angry or anxious, we probably will have very little patience for it within ourselves.

We first learn how to parent ourselves through how we were parented. And we can learn to be better, more effective and loving parents to our suffering.

How do we do this?

Below is a series of steps to experiment with the next time you encounter a part of yourself that you have a hard time accepting.

1. Pause
If you notice that you are criticizing yourself or turning against a part of yourself, pause. Name what you notice, in whatever words make sense to you. It might be, "I'm doing that thing again." or "I'm being mean to myself." Take a breath. By pausing this way, you interrupt the pattern.

2. Acknowledge Frustration & Disappointment
Recognize and name that you feel frustrated and disappointed because you're having feelings that you don't want, and/or because you are relating to yourself in a critical way. Make space for both the feelings themselves, and the reaction that you're having to them. There can be room for all of what's true.

3. Choose Your Priority: Wholeness
When you get into power struggles with difficult parts of yourself, it's easy to forget that your highest priority probably isn't being right, it's finding a sense of wholeness. How you relate to your experience is just as important as what happens in the end. Consciously remind yourself that what you most want is to feel whole, and that wholeness comes from feeling connected to all parts of yourself.

4. Are You Willing to Not Know?
At the root of what makes certain parts of you so difficult to accept are the stories and beliefs you have about what those parts are and what they mean about you. But, the truth is, you don't necessarily know what your inconvenient and seemingly inappropriate anger, anxiety or sadness is telling you. Try acknowledging the beliefs you have about the difficult part of yourself that is present, and then open it up to not knowing. For example, "I think that my sadness means that I'm weak. I'm willing to consider the possibility that I don't know what my sadness means." or "I believe that my anger means that I'm a bad person. I'm also open to the possibility that I don't know what my anger means." or "I think my self-criticism means there's something really wrong with me. I'm also willing to consider that I don't really know what it means."

5. Presence and Listening
Once you have acknowledged that you may not know what your difficult parts mean, see if you have more capacity to be present and listen. Notice how these feelings show up in you ~ particularly, notice any physical sensations associated with these feelings. Stay present with them. Internally, ask this part what it is trying to communicate; what it is trying to tell you. See if you discover something unexpected, or if you're reminded of something you had forgotten. 

6. Experiment with Gratitude
It may seem odd (or even impossible at first) to consider expressing gratitude for an emotion or an aspect of you that typically frustrates you. Just as an experiment, give it a try. Maybe through listening to what it seemed to be communicating, you're able to see this part from a more compassionate perspective. You can try statements like: "Even though I don't fully understand you, I sense that you have something important to tell me. Thank you for being here." or "I'm grateful for this opportunity to connect with you." or "I still believe that my life would be better if I didn't have this part of me, but I'm open to the possibility that there's something about it that I can be grateful for."

Self-compassion means that you belong here, and that means that all parts of you belong here. Of course, it can be very difficult to relate to yourself this way; most of us grew up with a radically different approach for relating to our suffering. I hope you find this practice supportive in establishing warmer relationships with all parts of yourself and connecting with a sense of wholeness.
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: May 25
Recent Writing
inconvenient feelings
Compassion for Inconvenient Feelings
Speaking of
"It's like a mother, when the baby is crying, she picks up the baby and she holds the baby tenderly in her arms. Your pain, your anxiety is your baby. You have to take care of it. You have to go back to yourself, to recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you
get relief. " 
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
"Compassion isn't
some kind of
self-improvement project or ideal we're trying to live up to. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don't even want to look at. " 
~ Pema Chodron
"Simplicity, Patience, Compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.
~ Lao Tzu
is often the greatest challenge people face on the spiritual path.
~ Tara Brach
"Curious is a good thing to be. It seems to pay some unexpected dividends." 
~ Iggy Pop
"They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seeds." 
~ Mexican proverb
One Morning
by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

One morning
we will wake up
and forget to build
that wall we’ve been building,
the one between us
the one we’ve been building
for years, perhaps 
out of some sense
of right and boundary, 
perhaps out of habit.

One morning
we will wake up
and let our empty hands
hang empty at our sides. 
Perhaps they will rise, 
as empty things
sometimes do
when blown
by the wind.
Perhaps they simply
will not remember
how to grasp, how to rage.

We will wake up
that morning
and we will have
misplaced all our theories
about why and how
and who did what 
to whom, we will have mislaid
all our timelines
of when and plans of what
and we will not scramble
to write the plans and theories anew.

On that morning,
not much else 
will have changed.
Whatever is blooming
will still be in bloom. 
Whatever is wilting
will wilt. There will be fields
to plow and trains
to load and children
to feed and work to do.
And in every moment, 
in every action, we will
feel the urge to say thank you,
we will follow the urge to bow.

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, 15 years of meditation practice, and my own experience of awakening and cultivating self-compassion. 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: MFC51836
Copyright © 2015 Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, All rights reserved.

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