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Hi Community,

Thanksgiving is next week. Perhaps you are looking forward to the holiday spent with loved ones, or maybe it's a challenging time of year for you. Maybe you are troubled by local and world events and don't know what to think or how you feel or how to respond. Or maybe it's some combination for you. Whatever your situation, I hope that you can find some awareness, acceptance and compassion for how it is to be alive right now.

It can be hard to stay present with both the challenges and the sweetness ~ the full breadth of what it is to be human. Sometimes you might feel like you need to dive in to the news and gather as much information as possible. Other times it may seem like you just want to escape from reality with some kind of distraction: Netflix, food, shopping ~ anything to not think about what's going on. Both of these responses are understandable. When survival fears get triggered, most people find it very difficult to stay present with moment-to-moment experience. We so badly want to believe that we can control what's happening. The unknown can feel very frightening. And sometimes you just need a break.

I'm offering this month's tool as a support for tapping into gratitude to navigate difficult times. I call it The Odd Couple: Grief and Gratitude. For most of us, when we're feeling grateful or happy, we aren't in touch with grief; and when we're grieving or afraid, it's hard to remember what we appreciate. But, the deeper truth is that grief and gratitude are often two sides of the same coin. For example, if you weren't grateful for or didn't love someone or something, you wouldn't grieve the loss of that person or thing. So, letting in the full range of your experience can help you find balance and a sense of wholeness and integration in challenging (
and joyful) times. I hope you find this practice supportive.

The current Mindful Self-Compassion course I'm teaching is a little more than half-way through, and I really enjoy sharing self-compassion work in this way. It's powerful and deeply moving to guide people as they recognize and unlearn old patterns, and begin to practice with new ways of relating to themselves.


Also, I'm happy to announce that I'll be offering the Mindful Self-Compassion course again in 2016, starting in February. There will be one class that's open to everyone on Monday nights, February 22-April 11, 7-9:30pm. I'll also offer a class for therapists and healing professionals, which meets on Thursday mornings, 9:30am-noon, February 4-March 24. I've already got a few folks signed up, so if you would like to reserve a place, please get in touch. I'd also appreciate it if you would pass this information on to others who might be interested.

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets tomorrow, Sunday, November 22, from 6-7:30pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. We'll share a check-in, group discussion, meditation and self-compassion practices. It is a very welcoming group, with a mix of newcomers and regulars. Also, t
his is the last meeting of the Self-Compassion Circle in 2015 as we don't meet in December. If you would like some support in deepening your self-compassion practice, please join us. 


All my best,
Lea
~ November 2015 Newsletter ~
The Odd Couple: Grief and Gratitude
 
 
You may be familiar with research that indicates how powerful gratitude can be. Perhaps you have a gratitude practice already, or you've been meaning to write down the things you're grateful for every morning. Gratitude is strongly associated with well-being, and this is the season when a lot of people's minds are more inclined toward thankfulness.

It's less common to recognize that gratitude does not always stand alone: it sometimes has grief in its shadow, and they can be viewed as two sides of the same coin, as I wrote above. However, rather than seeing this, most of us are somewhat split in how we think about them. We see gratitude as "good" and grief as "bad." If you saw the movie Inside Out, you're familiar with this phenomenon. 

For much of Inside Out, Joy is in charge, and she wants to keep Sadness in the background. At one point, she draws a circle on the floor and tells Sadness to stay inside of it, so Sadness doesn't ruin things. However, what Joy (and Sadness herself) discovers over the course of the movie, is that Sadness is not an obstacle or a ruiner of good things. Both Sadness and Joy are fundamentally necessary and contribute to a sense of balance and wholeness. And when there is room for both, wisdom and stability arise.

The same is true of grief and gratitude. Grief is a powerful teacher that reveals who and what actually matters to you. You only grieve what you care about; what you feel grateful for.

Gratitude gives you a sense of meaning, and a deeper understanding of who you are. If you suppress your grief, which may be necessary for a period of time, you won't fully know the ways that a person or experience or thing nourished you. You may feel numb. Suppressing your grief means suppressing your gratitude, too. And that can leave you feeling depleted and disconnected from yourself.

The following practice is meant to help you get in touch with both sides of the grief/gratitude coin so that you can find greater wholeness and balance in yourself. You'll want to find a time and place where you can reflect without being disturbed. You'll also want to have paper and pen; or a tablet or phone where you can write out and record your feelings and thoughts.

1. Begin by bringing to mind a situation that has challenged you or evoked feelings of grief or loss. If you were impacted by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, for example, you can practice with those feelings.

2. Write down the situation you want to work with. Note what happened, and be as clear as possible about how you felt or feel about what happened; for example ~ angry, sad, scared, frustrated, hopeless, disgusted, lonely.

3. Look deeper and consider what you feel grief and loss about in this situation. For example, if you are reflecting on the attacks in Paris, maybe you feel grief about the people who lost their lives, or about the ways that a sense of safety has been disrupted there. Write that down. 

4. Now, see if you can reflect on what you are grieving and recognize what you are grateful to have known or had. For example, if you feel grief about the people who lost their lives, perhaps you feel grateful to be alive. Maybe you feel a sense of what it would mean to suddenly and violently lose someone you care about, and you realize how grateful you are to have loved ones, to live in relative peace, to have some measure of predictability in your life. Write this down, too.

5. Write a few statements that convey your feelings of gratitude in very straightforward and simple language. For example, you might write:

I feel grateful to care about people and to have people in my life who care about me.
I feel grateful to live in relative peace.
I feel grateful to have some stability in my life.

6. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Silently read the phrases you composed, or see what it's like to read them out loud. 

Notice how you feel having recognized both your your grief and your gratitude.
 
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: Nov. 22
monarch emerging from chrysalis
Mindful Self-Compassion 8-week Course
Mondays, 7-9:30pm
Feb. 22-April 11
monarch emerging from chrysalis
Mindful Self-Compassion
8-week Course
for Therapists

Thursdays, 9:30am-noon

Feb. 4-March 24 
Speaking of
Self-Compassion...
"The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself."
~ Maya Angelou
"May you have the strength and courage not only to face your suffering, but to
also embrace the opportunities for
love, laughter and compassion that are near you every day."
~ Jack Kornfield
"Hatred, violence and anger can only be neutralized and healed by one substance, and that is compassion. The antidote of hatred,
of violence, is compassion ~ there is no other medicine. Unfortunately, compassion is not available in the supermarket. You have to generate the nectar of compassion in your own heart."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
"We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful or afraid, or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder. We always have
the choice." 
~ Dalai Lama
"Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I've found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love."
~ Gandalf

Blessing in the Chaos
by Jan L. Richardson

To all that is chaotic
in you, 
let there come silence.

Let there be
a calming
of the clamoring,
a stilling
of the voices that
have laid their claim
on you,
that have made their
home in you,

that go with you
even to the
holy places
but will not
let you rest,
will not let you
hear your life
with wholeness
or feel the grace
that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you
cease.
Let what divides you
cease.
Let there come an end
to what diminishes
and demeans,
and let depart
all that keeps you
in its cage.

Let there be
an opening
into the quiet
that lies beneath
the chaos,
where you find
the peace
you did not think
possible
and see what shimmers
within the storm.

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 www.leaseigenshinraku.com.
 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: MFC51836
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