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Dear Community,

The year is almost over, and I know a lot of people are very grateful for that. 2016 has been very challenging in many respects, and now we have an opportunity to reflect on what the year has given and taken from us. I have written before about the relationship between grief and gratitude, and how it seems like they are two sides of the same coin. As the year draws to a close, I invite you to tap into your sense of both what you have lost and what you have received in the last 12 months.

This month's practice is an annual tradition: Digesting the Year. I find this practice to be a helpful way to remember, honor and let go of all that happened throughout the year, in preparation for what is to come. It gives you an opportunity to consider the losses, gifts, milestones and surprises of 2016, and to consider it as a whole as you look toward 2017. I invite you to experiment with it as you navigate these last days of the year. I hope you find it helpful.

As I mentioned last month, dates are set for the next round of the 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course. It will be held at the Cultural Integration Fellowship on Monday evenings (7-9:30pm) from February 27-April 17, with a half-day retreat (9am-1pm) on April 8. I have enjoyed sharing this course with folks, and feel that the tools offered are practical, helpful and truly make a difference in people's lives. If you would like more information about it, please visit my website, or contact me directly.

And, the next Self-Compassion Circle meets on Monday, January 30, from 7:30-9pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. It's a great way to start the year, refreshing our commitment to self-compassion practice as we navigate what is likely to be a challenging period. Please join us if you would like a space to connect and find support in a welcoming community.

Sending you warm wishes for the New Year!

All my best,
~ December 2016 Newsletter ~

Digesting the Year

A few years ago, I began a simple year-end ritual that I have found helpful. Each December I share it here, and I'm sharing it again. I usually suggest that you get a large sheet of paper, and I still think that's a great idea and it's what I'm going to do. But, I also know that most of you probably don't have a big sheet of paper, so I created this simple worksheet that you can print out and fill in.

The idea is to take some time and look back at the year, so you are better able to let it go and move toward 2017 with a clearer, more grounded sense of where you've been, what you've experienced in the past year, and what you're ready to meet in the months ahead.

You want to find a time where you won't be disturbed; time enough to really reflect on each month, and on the year as a whole, so you can get a sense of its arc. You'll need a pen/pencil so you can fill in the worksheet, and I suggest that you also have your phone or 2016 calendar nearby, to help you remember all that happened.

When you're ready, start by looking at January. Were there any major events or milestones? Perhaps you learned something important at the start of the year, or maybe you had a memorable experience. Did you have any intentions or resolutions? What stands out?

You may notice that there were certain things that, at the beginning of the year, you expected or were hoping to experience. You probably experienced some of those things in 2016, but not others. Take the time to acknowledge what you hoped for, as well as what you actually experienced. This can be a helpful way to recognize feelings of both appreciation and disappointment/grief, for how things are at this moment, as you prepare to say goodbye to the year.

Continue on to February, and the months that follow, and reflect in a similar way. Did you have any notable experiences? Hopes or expectations about what might happen? People you met? People you said goodbye to? Was there a celebration or event that was especially poignant? Or maybe a seemingly ordinary day that was meaningful to you in some way. Were there major disappointments and surprises?

As you begin to fill in the squares month-by-month (or by hopping around if that makes more sense), see if you notice any patterns or ways that your year was shaped by certain experiences. Was there an ongoing struggle or an accomplishment that gained momentum over the year?

After you have filled in the square for each month, read it over and see if there's anything that was missed. Try sitting with your eyes closed for a few moments, and just listen and notice if anything else comes to mind about 2016 that you want to include. 

Turn the paper over and write about any patterns you noticed ~ both those that you feel grateful for, and those that you feel ready to let go of.

Experiment with reflecting on how 2016 nourished and challenged you, and how those experiences may have been an initiation for 2017. Perhaps there are ways that the things you experienced in 2016 can help you navigate 2017 with greater wisdom and a stronger sense of inner compassionate authority.

Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
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Monday, January 30
Mindful Self-Compassion
8-Week Course
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Feb. 27-April 17
Recent Articles
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Speaking of Self-Compassion...
“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.” 
~ Brené Brown
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” ~ Thomas Merton
"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."
~ Margaret Fuller
"Society evolves, not by shouting each other down, but by the unique capacity of unique, individual human beings to understand each other."
~ Lewis Thomas
"We must not wish for the disappearance of our troubles, but for the grace to transform them.”
~ Simone Weil
"What is done in love is done well."
~ Vincent van Gogh

For Citizenship
by John O'Donohue

In these times when anger
Is turned into anxiety
And someone has stolen
The horizons and mountains,

Our small emperors on parade
Never expect our indifference
To disturb their nakedness.

They keep their heads down
And their eyes gleam with reflection
From aluminum economic ground,

The media wraps everything
In a cellophane of sound,
And the ghost surface of the virtual
Overlays the breathing earth.

The industry of distraction 
Makes us forget
That we live in a universe.

We have become converts 
To the religion of stress
And its deity of progress;

That we may have courage 
To turn aside from it all
And come to kneel down before the poor,
To discover what we must do,
How to turn anxiety
Back into anger,
How to find our way home.

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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