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Dear Community,

Have you noticed? Spring is really here now. The days are noticeably longer, birds are chirping with great enthusiasm most mornings, and 2015 doesn't feel so new anymore. After the darkness of the beginning of the year, the brighter days of April can help remind you that starting again is always a possibility. If you've fallen down in some way, you can get back up. If you catch yourself in a spiral of self-judgment, you can interrupt it and focus your attention elsewhere  ~ on your breath, or a helpful practice (like a self-compassion break), or on your physical sensations. There is, in every moment, the opportunity to hit the reset button and tap into your innate capacity for self-compassion.

This month's tool ~ The Thread of Compassion ~ provides an opportunity to practice staying connected to yourself in a wise, kind way. It invites you to recall a time in your life when you faced a life-changing challenge, and to acknowledge the people and experiences that helped you make it through. This practice, itself, reminds you that you aren't alone, and that you can handle difficulties, even those that shake you to your foundation. I hope you find it supportive.

On Saturday, May 9, I'll be at San Antonio Zen Center, offering a morning talk and afternoon workshop focused on self-compassion. If you know folks in the area who would be interested, please share this newsletter with them. 

Here in San Francisco, the next Self-Compassion Circle meets a week next Monday, April 27, from 7:30-9pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship. We'll spend time checking in, discussing and reflecting on self-compassion, and meditating together. If you'd like to connect with a welcoming community of like-minded people in a safe, inclusive space, please join us. Also, please pass this newsletter along to others who are interested in practicing self-compassion.

Wishing you well,
~ April 2015 Newsletter ~
The Thread of Compassion

This month's tool was inspired by William Stafford's poem, "The Way It Is", which appears below. In it, he writes about an unchanging thread; something that might not be visible to others but that gives you something to hold on to when you face difficulties in your life. One way to understand this thread is to see it as a metaphor for having a compassionate relationship with yourself and your life.

If you've ever faced a life-altering challenge, you know that such times can make you feel like there's nothing to hold on to, and no solid place to stand. The death or illness of a loved one, a lost job, a relationship falling apart ~ any of these experiences can leave you feeling gutted, distraught, and bereft.

At the same time, if you're reading this, you likely have lived through a life-altering challenge (or you are living through one right now), and something sustained you. What was it? Was it the friend or loved one who surprised you and really showed up when you needed support? Was it your spiritual practice? Was it a stranger who said just what you needed to hear at just the right time?

Perhaps it was the alchemy of the experience itself that showed you something you didn't know about yourself: that even when faced with unanticipated difficulties that completely alter your life, you keep going. You find resources that you didn't know about ahead of time. Even when it's really hard, somehow, you're okay.

I invite you to reflect on a life-altering experience you've had, and take the opportunity to remember who was there; who accompanied you. In addition to friends and family, this can include pets, the bands whose music you listened to, the authors whose books you read, the actors and directors whose movies or TV shows you watched, and anyone else whose life touched and nourished yours, and made it possible for you to live through that dark time.

Let yourself acknowledge the ways that you were supported when you were just feeling your way along, one day at a time. These people, animals and experiences ~ you can see them as the thread of compassion that you follow, that you don't let do of. That doesn't let go of you. As William Stafford said, while you hold it, you can't get lost. It reminds you that you are not alone, that you are connected to your deepest self and to others, that you are woven into the fabric of this world.

Shunryu Suzuki, founder of San Francisco Zen Center, once said:
"Zen is to feel your way along in the dark, not knowing what you will meet, not already knowing what to do. Most of us do not like going so slowly, and we would like to think that it is possible to figure everything out ahead of time, but if you go too fast or are not careful enough, you will bump into things. So just feel your way along in the dark, slowly and carefully. When you do things with this spirit, you don't know what the results will be, but because you carefully feel your way along, the results will be okay. You can trust what will happen."

This feels like a description of the thread of compassion, too. It is present and available to you always, but it often requires you to move slowly and carefully, not knowing what will come next. Not trying to figure everything out ahead of time but allowing yourself to respond and be supported by what you experience, remembering that it's safe to trust your life.
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: April 27
love yourself, no matter what
Love Yourself,
No Matter What
workshop ~ May 9
San Antonio, TX
Recent Articles
Self-Compassion and
Speaking of
"If flowers can teach themselves how to bloom after winter passes, so can you.
~ Noor Shirazie
"In any given moment we have two options:
to step forward into growth or to step
back into safety." 
~ Abraham Maslow
"Fall down seven times, stand up eight.
~ Japanese proverb
"Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced ~ even a proverb is not a proverb until your life has illustrated it." 
~ John Keats
"You're imperfect,
and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging." 
~ Brené Brown
"We are so small between the stars/so large against the sky.
~ Leonard Cohen
The Way It Is
by William Stafford

There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.
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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