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Dear Community,

It feels like a lot has shifted in our world since last month. Doesn't Halloween seem like a very long time ago? And the Cubs winning the World Series? It's really only been a few weeks since those things happened.

This election feels like has ushered us into a new era ~ one where we are confronted with not-knowing in a way that we can't easily turn away from. While it's true that we never really know what will happen next, somehow that seems even more obviously true right now. At times like this ~ where we are consciously meeting the unknown ~ self-compassion can be a real lifeline. In fact, when it comes right down to it, compassion for ourselves and others is the only response that really makes sense in challenging times. 

In that spirit, this month's practice offering is a Self-Compassion Toolkit. Try these tools when you need support. Let them remind you of the resources available in your life right now. The toolkit specifically focuses on the challenges and feelings that are arising in our current political climate, but these tools also are applicable in any difficult circumstance. I hope you find them helpful.

If you are in the Bay Area and would like more in-person support in cultivating self-compassion, dates are set for the next round of the 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course. It will run 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 tonight, Monday, November 28, from 7:30-9pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. We'll have a special post-election group this time, and we'll share, discuss and explore how to practice self-compassion in these challenging times. Please join us if you would like a space to connect and find support in a welcoming community.

~ November 2016 Newsletter ~

Self-Compassion Toolkit

In difficult times, it's hard to not feel overwhelmed by the things that are troubling. What we most need are ways to manage anxiety so that we can stay present and respond as wisely and compassionately as possible. This toolkit provides ways to relate to your situation with mindfulness; a sense of common humanity; and compassionate action.

Acknowledge Challenges ~ Be honest with yourself: These are very trying times. Rather than attempting to push away difficulties, name them for what they are. This is the first step in finding relief, or at least living in reality, rather than denial. Bringing mindfulness, awareness and consciousness to your experience helps you feel more grounded and present.

Connect with Community ~ You aren't alone. Remind yourself that others feel deeply challenged, too. Find opportunities to engage with people in ways that feel supportive, either in person or online. This can be planned ~ go to that party, gathering, meeting or meditation group. If you belong to a spiritual community of some kind, attend an event there. Connecting with others can also be spontaneous: pay for someone's coffee in line behind you, thank your letter carrier, talk to the cashier at the grocery store. Also, remember your ancestors and benefactors: people who have come before you, and whose life and work inspire you; they are part of your community, too.

Take Compassionate Action ~ Once you have acknowledged that you are struggling and reminded yourself that you're not alone, find a concrete way to respond to what is challenging you. For example, if you have political concerns in the wake of the election, contact your members of Congress and let them know how you feel. If you want to know how to respond compassionately and be an ally when someone else is being harassed, check out this guide for suggestions. Find an organization whose mission matters to you and volunteer and/or donate.

Resource in Nature ~ Even if it's just for a five minutes, connecting with the natural world can help you recharge and find a sense of being part of something larger than your individual life. Visit a park, beach, or forest regularly. Or, if all you have is the view out of your window, see if you can allow yourself to become absorbed in the sky or tree that's right here. For more exploration of this theme, here's a blog post from a few years ago about Anne Frank and the chestnut tree that fed her resilience.

Honor Boundaries ~ It might be tempting to stay up late, reading news or scrolling through your social media feeds, but doing this can also lead to burnout and overwhelm. Staying informed is important, but it's also essential that you recognize your limits. Power down at a certain time (say, 9pm). Also, think about the boundaries you need in terms of engaging (online or in person) with folks who challenge you in ways that are not generative.

Practice Gratitude and Appreciation ~ Find something to savor in your life right now. Maybe that's an ice cream cone, or a hot chocolate, or a bath with epsom salts. Maybe it's warm socks, or rain drops on a leaf. Maybe it's a favorite playlist, or a cartoon you used to love as a child (or a newer one). Maybe you really appreciate a friend or loved one. Allow yourself to experience what you appreciate and let it register, even in the midst of challenging times.

Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting:
Monday, November 28
Mindful Self-Compassion
8-Week Course
Monday evenings
Feb. 27-April 17
Speaking of Self-Compassion...
"It's not enough to be nice in life. You've got to have nerve." ~ Georgia O'Keeffe
"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." ~ Mark Twain
"We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking."
~ Santosh Kalwar
"Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/
That's how the light gets in.” ~ Leonard Cohen
"Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being's suffering. Nothing. Not a career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we're going to survive with dignity."
~ Audrey Hepburn
"One day the people of the world will want peace so much that the governments will have to get out of their way and give it to them."  
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
"Hope is the deep orientation of the human soul that can be held at the darkest times.
~ Vaclav Havel
"It's that knife-edge of uncertainty where we come alive to our truest power." ~ Joanna Macy
"In hard times, beauty can seem frivolous ~ but take it away, and all you're left with is hard times."
~ Paul Madonna

There is a brokenness
by Rashani Réa

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open
to the place inside which is unbreakable
and whole
while learning to sing.

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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