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Hello Community,

Thanks to NPR, I recently learned that in Finland, Valentine's Day is a celebration of friendship, rather than romantic love. It's known as Friends Day. I pass this along in the hope that it helps you feel free to celebrate this day however you want to 
(according to NPR, today is also National Ferris Wheel Day, National Creme-Filled Chocolate Day and National Organ Donor Day), or not at all. Despite all the hype and Hallmark cards, there is no "right" way to do it.

Celebrating friendship is a self-compassionate thing to do. Maybe that's why I felt inspired to hear that that was Finland's take on what it means to celebrate love. According to Paramahansa Yogananda, "Friendship is the purest form of love." You can think of practicing self-compassion as a way to be a good friend to yourself, particularly to the parts of you that are challenging. This month's tool, To See Takes Time, focuses on the importance of slowing down with the intention of befriending yourself and your experience as-is. It was inspired by a Valentine's Day experience from my own life. I hope it helps you relate to yourself with greater self-compassion this month.

I also wanted to let you know that I recently wrote a blog post about shame and the ways that self-compassion can help you come into a different kind of relationship with it. When I offer groups and workshops, people often ask about how to work with shame, and it was a topic in the self-compassion training that I attended in January. So, it felt timely to write about it this month. Please click here to read more.

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets on February 23, 7:30-9pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. We have a welcoming group ~ usually a mix of new and familiar faces, so whether you've been before or it's your first time, there will be likely be others in the same boat. We spend some time in reflection and discussion, and some time in meditation: all focused on self-compassion. It's a great opportunity to connect with a community of like-minded folks in a safe, inclusive space. Please join us if you can, and please pass this newsletter along to others who are interested in cultivating self-compassion.

All my best,
~ February 2015 Newsletter ~

To See Takes Time

"Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time ~ like to have a friend takes time." ~ Georgia O'Keeffe

I first read the above quote 12 years ago. It was Valentine's Day weekend, and I had decided to take a trip to New Mexico by myself. The previous Christmas, my boyfriend and I had broken up, and taking the trip was a way for me to make this holiday my own.

Valentine's Day was a Friday that year, and when I arrived at the rental car office at the Albuquerque airport that afternoon, the agent said that for just a little extra I could have a convertible for the weekend. I hesitated for a bit, but then I realized that the convertible felt right. 

The sun was setting as I drove up to Santa Fe, and I felt the impulse to be surrounded by the sky, so I pulled over and put the top down.
It was February, and it was cold. I thought about doing the sensible thing and putting the top back up. But I didn't. And even though a rule-bound part of me said it was wasteful, I turned up the heat. The sky was beautiful.

When I  got to Santa Fe, I realized that if I wanted to eat dinner, I'd have to eat it alone, at a restaurant, on Valentine's Day. The idea made me panic a little. I felt vulnerable and exposed. I considered skipping dinner, or just getting something at a grocery store and eating it in my hotel room. But that felt like hiding out. And some part of me wouldn't allow that. This trip was about me doing things my own way, not the way that Hallmark said they should be done.

So, I went out for pad thai. And I was surprised to find that, instead of feeling mortified, I felt happy. I was surrounded by couples, but rather than feeling sad or self-conscious, I felt at ease. They were all focused on each other. No one was paying attention to me, or feeling sorry for me. there was a welcome simplicity to eating alone. I also felt like I had broken some rule about how a single person was supposed to feel on Valentine's Day, only to find that none of it was true.

The next day, I went to a hot spring, and I read a book at a coffee shop. The day after that, I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, where I saw many of her paintings, as well as her quote about how it takes time to have a friend. I was about eight years into my self-compassion journey, and reading that quote helped me realize more fully that befriending a flower or a person (including oneself) doesn't happen immediately. It takes a breadth of time, as in years. But it also takes a depth of time, as in attention and presence.

As Georgia said, to see takes time. Change and growth are ongoing. If you don't take time and really attend to what is, you'll miss it. You'll think you know what's happening, when really you are relating to an idea of what's happening.

So, whatever your circumstances this Valentine's Day, I invite you to take some time to slow down this month and cultivate your connection with yourself as you are. Even just 15 minutes. See if you can be present with your experience with the intention of befriending yourself. 

What does it mean to be a good friend to yourself? To me, it means being willing to acknowledge the truth, as best you can, about what you feel and what you need or want. It also means being willing to be present with yourself during joyful times, as well as difficult ones. It means not checking out on your experience, but staying with it, and experimenting with how you respond to it.

There's something deeply nourishing about taking the time to recognize what's true, and finding the courage to challenge a belief that isn't congruent with that truth. It's one of the things that good friends do.
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: Feb. 23
Recent Articles
Self-Compassion and Shame
Speaking of
"One time,
you've got to
relax your mind." 
"When you are compassionate with yourself, you trust in your soul, which you
let guide your life.
Your soul knows
the geography of your destiny better than
you do." 
~ John O'Donohue
"It's not your job to like me ~ it's mine." 
~ Byron Katie
Love After Love
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life. 
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 © 2015 Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, All rights reserved.

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