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Hi Community,

I hope April has been kind to you. Here in San Francisco, it has brought many sunny days, which evokes mixed feelings: It's wonderful to be able to spend more time outdoors, and it's also concerning that El Nino didn't bring as much rain as we needed, in light of the drought.

Self-compassion practice often involves complex feelings, too. While it's important to recognize moments of suffering and respond to them with kindness, it's also essential to remember the many things that are going well and that you appreciate. With the latter in mind, this month's tool is "Let Yourself Be Silently Drawn." It's a practice that is part of the Mindful Self-Compassion course, and I've also been incorporating into workshops that I teach. I hope you find it nourishing.

I'm also sharing a great, short video from Brene Brown below. In it, she talks about the connection between boundaries, empathy and compassion. Boundaries are an important facet of self-compassion, and one that is often challenging for folks who are used to focusing on the needs of others and ignoring their own. 

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets next Monday, April 25, from 7:30-9pm 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.

Warmly,
Lea
~ April 2016 Newsletter ~

Let Yourself Be Silently Drawn

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray." ~ Rumi
 
One of the most-loved exercises in the Mindful Self-Compassion course I teach is one that we usually do on the retreat: the Sense and Savor walk. It's a way to correct for something that we all contend with in having an accurate perception of ourselves and our lives: negativity bias.

Rick Hanson, psychologist and author of Buddha's Brain, writes that our brains are "like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences." We evolved to have this tendency because it helped our ancestors survive: if they paid attention to the things that had threatened them in the past, they would be more likely to recognize threats in the present and future.

The problem with being focused on all the possible things that can go wrong is that we develop a skewed perspective. When we orient this way, we tend to overlook new opportunities or experiences that we appreciate or enjoy. In the process of attempting to live longer, we miss out on the possibilities that our lives are offering us right now.

Rumi's wise guidance to "let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love" is a helpful reminder that we can choose to re-orient. This doesn't mean that we ignore the challenges in our lives, but it does mean that we recognize that alongside those challenges are beautiful, inspiring aspects to being human in this place and time.

On the retreat (and sometimes in workshops) I suggest that students spend 20 minutes silently focused on their senses. The idea is to move like a bee, looking at, listening to, and feeling the things that you feel drawn to. Sometimes, this might be a flower, or a leaf, or a breeze on your face. It might be a rusty hinge, or a patch of peeling paint. It doesn't have to be something stereotypically "beautiful", it only has to be interesting to you. You're just practicing listening to yourself and following the impulse toward joy and nourishing experiences.

You can do this at any time; not just as part of a workshop or retreat. Even five minutes spent looking out the window or walking around the block can help to reconnect you with the part of yourself that moves from a place of interest, rather than a place of fear. This is an inherently self-compassionate act.

Students often return from this time feeling reconnected to a child-like part of themselves. It tends to feel good to listen to oneself in this way and to follow the impulses toward nourishment and connection, rather than the ones based on protection and defensiveness.

I invite you to experiment with this practice. Is there one day this week where you can set aside 20 minutes (or even 5 minutes) to simply let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love? See if you can experiment and notice how you feel after just a few minutes of listening and responding to yourself in this way.
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting:
Monday, April 25
7:30-9pm
Speaking of Self-Compassion...
"For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction."
~ Cynthia Occelli
"Peace isn't an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth. It's an experience that's expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened."
~ Pema Chodron
"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another."
~ Anatole France
"Perhaps real wisdom lies in not seeking answers at all. Any answer we find will not be true for long. An answer is a place where we can fall asleep as life moves past us to its next question. After all these years I have begun to wonder if the secret of living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company."
~ Rachel Naomi Remen
Brene Brown ~ Boundaries, Empathy, Compassion
"I am not as sweet as I used to be, but I am far more loving. ...
Generosity cannot exist without boundaries." ~ Brene Brown

Spring
by Mary Oliver


Somewhere
    a black bear
      has just risen from sleep
         and is staring

down the mountain.
    All night
      in the brisk and shallow restlessness
         of early spring

I think of her,
    her four black fists
      flicking the gravel,
         her tongue

like a red fire
    touching the grass,
      the cold water.
         There is only one question:

how to love this world.
    I think of her
      rising
         like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
    the silence
      of the trees.
         Whatever else

my life is
    with its poems
      and its music
         and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
    coming
      down the mountain,
         breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her—
    her white teeth,
      her wordlessness,
         her perfect love.

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 www.leaseigenshinraku.com.
 

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


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