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Hi Community,

Summer officially arrived this week, welcomed by a beautiful full moon. I hope the first days of the season have been nourishing for you, and that you have some time to enjoy this time of year.

While summer is often the season for rest and relaxation, it can sometimes feel hard to do that, given the suffering and sometimes frightening events and developments in the world. It seems like the news offers a nearly continuous stream of disturbing stories of what's happening in the world: gun violence, bigotry, political upheaval, ongoing impacts of climate change.

Understandably, news like this can evoke feelings of grief, despair and overwhelm, especially if we don't have a way to relate to it in context. At the same time, troubling news can also inspire us to act and respond in ways that feel meaningful. One of the ways that we can resource ourselves in challenging times is through tapping into self-compassion.

This month's practice is called Appreciate the Ordinary. It's an opportunity to remind yourself of the things in your life ~ often seemingly small things ~ that you rely on every day. When we feel overwhelmed, we can be so focused on not having enough, that we are blind to the resources that we do have. This practice encourages you to pause and reflect so that you have a more accurate view of your situation. It's not meant to erase the things that are troubling, but more to give you ballast so that you can feel more resourced and responsive to challenges, rather than frozen in overwhelm. I hope you find it supportive.

I'm grateful to report that I've had very positive feedback on the 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course and several requests to offer it again soon. I'm currently finalizing the dates for the next round, which I'll offer in the fall, so I'll include details about it in next month's newsletter.

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets Monday, June 27, from 7:30-9pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. As we do each month, 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.

Wishing you well,
~ June 2016 Newsletter ~

Appreciate the Ordinary

When you're busy or feeling stressed, or even if you spend just a bit of time reading about current events, you can easily feel overwhelmed. In times like these, you might be more inclined to focus on all the things that are going wrong or needing to get done, rather than recognizing what you do have and what (or who) is supporting you. Part of this tendency comes from what is known as our "negativity bias."

Negativity bias is something we inherited from our ancestors: their evolutionary need to survive meant that they constantly scanned their environment for danger. Fear and anger helped them to focus on survival threats. Our brains often work in a similar way ~ scanning for what might go wrong or be wrong in our lives, our environment, and ourselves.

And, of course, there are things that you need to be aware of in our lives ~ dangers that you are wise to pay attention to, to avoid, and actions you may want to take in response.

Sometimes, though, you can get stuck in a kind of habitual scanning ~ looking for the next problem to solve, rather than appreciating something about the ways things are right now. Or, you can feel totally frozen, unable to really think because the problems seem too big. This can leave you feeling drained, numb and even more overwhelmed.

In my April newsletter, I wrote about working with/counterbalancing our brain's negativity bias by paying attention to and savoring the things that you feel drawn to. This month, I'm sharing a gratitude practice from the MSC course that can help you tap into the power of appreciating the ordinary. It's a way to relate more compassionately to yourself and your experience, and to find a greater sense of equilibrium during challenging times. It's widely acknowledged that practicing gratitude has many benefits, and this practice is often surprisingly enlivening.

You can practice appreciating the ordinary by sitting quietly for a few moments. As you pause, reflect on your life or a typical day and see if you can name 10 tangible, everyday things that you really and truly appreciate, but that you typically take for granted. Some examples might be: heat, buttons, clean water, soap, erasers, ear plugs, coffee, pens, dental floss, wind chimes, books. You might want to write down your list. Notice how you feel after identifying and appreciating these ordinary things you may have not thought much about!

You can try this practice daily. You can also remember to appreciate the ordinary when you notice that you feel overwhelmed and need to remember what you do have. Taking just a few moments to recognize the small, important things can help you recalibrate when life feels like too much.

Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting:
Monday, June 27
Speaking of Self-Compassion...
"Don't be discouraged by your incapacity to dispel darkness from the world. Light your little candle and step forward." 
~ Amma
"Where does it all lead? What will become of us? ... It leads to each other. We become ourselves." 
~ Patti Smith
"Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door."
~ Emily Dickinson
"We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that something deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." ~ e.e. cummings
"What nature delivers to us is never stale. Because what nature creates has eternity in it."
~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
"If it's not paradoxical, it's not true." 
~ Shunryu Suzuki
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landcapes but in having new eyes." 
~ Marcel Proust
"Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are ." ~ Nkosi Johnson

Summer Morning
by Mary Oliver

Heart, I implore you,
it's time to come back from the dark,

it's morning, the hills are pink
and the roses whatever they felt

in the valley of night
are opening now
their soft dresses, their leaves

are shining. Why are you laggard?
Sure you have seen this a thousand times,

which isn't half enough. Let the world
have its way with you, luminous as it is

with mystery and pain ~
graced as it is with the ordinary.

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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