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Hi Community,

We "sprang forward" into Daylight Saving Time a few days ago, and Spring herself is right around the corner. Here in San Francisco, the winter rain is still with us, but now so are cherry and magnolia blossoms, and I even spotted some lilacs in Hayes Valley today. Now that the days are getting noticeably longer, you may find that you have an urge to clear out some things or habits that settled in over the winter.

With this in mind, the practice for March is Compassionate Spring Cleaning. It's an invitation to recognize what you may be ready to let go of, or put in storage, so that there's room for the new growth that is sprouting in your life. Are there some items or habits or mind and body that feel like obstructions or obstacles? Let's take a look at those, and practice responding with compassion.

On Saturday, April 9, I'll be at San Antonio Zen Center, offering a morning talk and afternoon self-compassion workshop from 1-5pm. If you're in the area, I hope to see you there! And if you have loved ones who might be interested, please let them know about it.

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets Sunday, March 27, from 6-7:30pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. We'll share a check-in, group discussion, meditation, and self-compassion practices. It is a very welcoming circle of folks, with a mix of newcomers and regulars.
If you would like some support in deepening your self-compassion practice, please join us.

~ March 2016 Newsletter ~

Compassionate Spring Cleaning

Even in a place where winter comes without snow, the dark time of the year is often a period of hibernation and focusing inward. There are fewer opportunities to be outside, and many of us spend more hours indoors than we do at other times of year. Without the comings and goings of living life indoors and outdoors, things can get stagnant. This is normal; not something to judge yourself for.

At the same time, the cusp of Spring offers an opportunity to explore how things are in your physical, and mental/emotional spaces.

Are there rooms or areas where you live and work that have gotten dusty or cluttered? As kindly as you can, have a look at your spaces, and notice what you see; let it register. It can also help to find humor and humanness in what you observe. Is there a way to make it playful? For example, you can quickly compose a haiku:

pink buds say, "spring!" while
papers own the table top.
are those christmas cards?

Once you've recognized and acknowledged how things are, see if there is a way to engage compassionately with what's here. You might adapt the self-compassion break phrases to this situation: "This is a cluttered space. Cluttered spaces are part of life. Can I be kind to myself; can I give myself the compassion that I need right now?"

And then see what's possible. Maybe you can start going through pile of papers. Perhaps there's a shelf that you can clear our and dust. See if you can identify the compassionate response to the way things are right now. There's no "right" answer; just the one that feels right for you.

The same process can help in looking at the "clutter" of your internal spaces. Are there certain habits that seem to have taken root over the winter months? Maybe, for example, you've been less physically active and you've become self-critical. See if you can look gently and directly at what is happening, and identify it. Again, it's optimal if you can also find some kind-hearted humor in the situation, perhaps with a haiku:

running shoes, so clean
inner critic, so noisy
all of this is true

And, again, you can try the self-compassion break, or adapt the phrases to your specific situation. Then, see what's possible, once you've acknowledged the state of things and opened to the possibility of responding with compassion. Maybe you can acknowledge that your inner critic is trying to help you stay active, and maybe you feel like taking a walk or doing some stretches. Once you name what's happening, there's more room to come into relationship with it, to recognize your choices, and to experiment with taking compassionate action.

Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting:
Sunday, March 27
self-compassion circle
Love Yourself,
No Matter What

afternoon workshop
San Antonio Zen Center
April 9, 1-5pm
Speaking of Self-Compassion...
"Empathy minus boundaries is not empathy. Compassion minus boundaries is not genuine. ... Boundaries are not division; they're respect." ~ Brene Brown
"We are a radically bottom-line society, eager to act and to end tension, and thus we lose opportunities to know ourselves for our motives and our secrets.”
~ Thomas Moore."  
"I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing ~ a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process ~ an integral function of the universe." ~ R. Buckminster Fuller." 
"It’s important to live life with the experience, and therefore the knowledge, of its mystery and of your own mystery. ... You learn to recognize the positive values in what appear to be the negative moments and aspects of your life. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure." ~ Joseph Campbell 
"Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you're already in heaven now."
Jack Keroac 
"the wise know
nothing at all

well maybe one song."
"One is never afraid of
the unknown. One is afraid of the known coming to an end
Jiddu Krishnamurti

Call Me By My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh


Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow

because even today I still arrive.


Look deeply: I arrive in every second

to be a bud on a spring branch,

to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,

learning to sing in my new nest,

to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,

to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.


I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,

in order to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and

death of all that are alive.


I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,

and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time

to eat the mayfly.


I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,

and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,

feeds itself on the frog.


I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,

my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,

and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.


I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,

who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,

and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.


I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,

and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my people,

dying slowly in a forced labor camp.


My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.

My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.


Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.


Please call me by my true names,

so I can wake up,

and so the door of my heart can be left open,

the door of compassion.

Lea Seigen Shinraku

I’m Lea Seigen Shinraku, a San Francisco-based Marriage and Family therapist, and I see self-compassion as one of the most powerful skills a person can cultivate. In addition to one-on-one client work, I also offer workshops, groups, trainings, consultation and supervision, all focused on self-compassion. In pursuing my interest in self-compassion, I have trained directly with Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Chris Germer, pioneers in the field. My work is also informed by ongoing consultation and education, as well as 15 years of regular meditation practice. To learn more about me, I invite you to visit

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: MFC51836
Copyright © 2016 Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, All rights reserved.

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