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Dear Community,

I hope you are navigating these first weeks of February with some sense of equilibrium. I know that for many people, it is very difficult to find balance right now. As I sat down to write the newsletter today, I thought about image of a wheel as a symbol or metaphor for the experience of being alive right now. At times the wheel seems to be spinning much more quickly and erratically than you might like, but no matter the nature of the spin, there is a stillness at the hub or center. Part of the practice of self-compassion right now seems to be finding ways to stay in touch with that still place, even as we reckon with the chaos and velocity of change.

This month's practice is meant to support you in staying connected to that stillness and help you reconnect when you lose your sense of it. It's called Bookend the Day with Intention. I notice that there is a temptation ~ in myself and in many people I know and work with ~ to want to stay constantly informed about current events. There is value in staying informed, but as I mentioned last month, if you don't take a break, you will burn out. Bookend the Day with Intention is a way to bring more awareness and care to how you begin your day and how you end it. In a landscape of reactivity, responding with intention is an expression of compassion and inner authority. I hope you find this practice supportive during these challenging times.

There are just two spots left in the next round of the 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course. As I have said before, the course has been transformative for myself and many of my students, and I believe that these skills are going to be genuinely useful in the months and years to come. We start in two weeks, and the course runs from February 27 through April 17. If you'd like to learn more about it, please contact me, or click here.

The Self-Compassion Circle meets tomorrow night, Monday, February 13 from 7:30-9pm at 2650 Fulton Street in San Francisco. We'll have time to check in, talk about self-compassion concepts, share some practices, and meditate together. We'll continue our focus on self-compassion for challenging times. If you'd like to practice and learn about self-compassion in a welcoming, like-minded group, please join us. 


"But love is really more of an interactive process. It's about what we do, not just what we feel. It's a verb, not a noun." ~ bell hooks



Next Meeting:
Monday, February 13


8-Week Course
Monday evenings
Feb. 27-April 17
"In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways. And they're still beautiful." ~ Alice Walker


When I lived at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, we began our days with meditation, and we ended them with meditation. I found that this structure of bookending each day was deeply supportive, in terms of mindfully connecting with my intentions and values. This month's practice is inspired by that experience.


Do you have the habit of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning? If so, you're not alone. This is a well-established habit for many people, and there have been times when I have started my days this way, too. You may have noticed, however, that if you dive right into the news or email or Facebook or Instagram, that you quickly lose contact with your own sense of equilibrium or center. Instead, you immediately get drawn in to what's happening in the world, and reacting to what others are doing or posting. It's easy to lose track of time and to lose contact with your own here-and-now experience when there are petitions to sign, or posts to like or comment on, articles to read, events to learn about.

Smartphones can be wonderful, and they can also make it very easy to react habitually, rather than respond with awareness and conscious choice. During times of change and stress, it's usually more helpful to refrain from adding to the already widespread reactivity. One way to support yourself in responding rather than reacting, is to remind yourself of your intention, first thing in the morning, before you have screen time of any kind.

You might connect with your intention by journaling about what matters to you. You could start with the prompt: "what really matters to me today is", and then let yourself write for ten minutes or until you feel clear. You might meditate in silence for a few minutes. In the Mindful Self-Compassion course, we explore our core values and then create a simple phrase that reminds us of what really matters. Students sometimes choose to repeat this phrase to themselves as a way to start the day.

I invite you to take some time right now to reflect on your intention and how you might support yourself to begin your day more mindfully. 


It seems counter-intuitive that, at the end of a long day, we would turn to our phones, laptops or tablets and catch up on potentially upsetting news, but that's just what many people do. Maybe you have found yourself doing this more often than you would like, or maybe you haven't fully considered the ways that screen time before bed can be overstimulating and interfere with rest.

I invite you to experiment with ending your day more mindfully ~ coming full circle from the way you began it in the morning. This means putting away all devices and instead reconnecting with your intention and your still center for some period of time. You might reflect on your day by thinking of the things you are grateful for, as well as the things that challenged you. Or, you might simply remind yourself of what really matters to you. If you have a phrase that you identified regarding your core values, you can repeat that before bed. You can also sit for a period of silent meditation.

See what happens when you experiment with finding a way to mindfully end your day. This doesn't have to be an elaborate practice; it's just a simple way to help you find stillness in the midst of all that may be changing and chaotic around you. It's also a way to say that, no matter what is happening, you will not abandon that centered place inside of you.

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your own contradictions can you keep it
all afloat." ~ Audre Lorde


by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.


Lea Seigen Shinraku, a San Francisco-based Marriage and Family therapist, founded the San Francisco Center for Self-Compassion in 2016. Its mission is to contribute to a more compassionate and inclusive world by fostering personal and interpersonal transformation through self-compassion-based therapy and programs for all people. To learn more, please visit www.sfcenterforselfcompassion.com

"No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time."
~ James A. Baldwin

Copyright © 2017 Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, All rights reserved.

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