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There are all sorts of ways to relate to the beginning of the year. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, "And now let us welcome the new year... full of things that have never been." 

Haiku master Issa offered a different perspective: 

New Year's Day--
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average. 

However you're feeling, I hope that 2014 has gotten off to an easeful start for you. I emphasize ease because this is the season for resolutions and self-improvement plans ~ endeavors that can feel daunting and that also sometimes come from a belief that something is wrong with us, and that we have to fix it if we want to be happy or worthy.

This month's practice, Listening is Home, is inspired by a quote from Naomi Rachel Remen, MD, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom: "Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person. That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and others. That which is hidden.” While Dr. Remen is referring to the impact that listening can have in our relationships with others, we can also offer ourselves refuge through listening to how we feel and acknowledging the truth of those feelings within our own hearts. I hope that you find this month's practice supportive and nourishing.

The next Self-Compassion Circle will meet on January 27. This month our focus will be on listening to ourselves and finding a sense of home right where we are. If you want to cultivate greater self-compassion in a community of like-minded others, please join us! Note: we'll meet in a different room at Cultural Integration Fellowship this month: It's on the ground level and accessible through the side entrance on Third Avenue. Signs will be posted. 

Wishing you well!

~ January 2014 Newsletter ~
Listening is Home
In this practice, writing is a form of listening. Try it when you feel uncomfortable, anxious, frustrated, sad, tired, overwhelmed, or when everything you do feels like it's not quite right. You'll need paper and a pen. 

To start, take three breaths, close your eyes, and bring your attention inward. See what you notice: feelings, sensations, thoughts, images, memories.

At the top of a sheet of paper, write a short description of what you notice. It might look something like this:

"Scared, gooey fluttering in my chest, thinking I'll never get it right."

Or, you might have the sense that a particular "part" is present: inner critic, inner child, the perfectionist, the procrastinator, etc. If so, write the name of that part at the top of the page.

Now that you've identified what you notice internally, you can experiment with giving this part or this experience attentive, loving presence ~ really listening to it. 

To help focus your listening, you can invite this aspect of yourself to come forward. Below your description of it, write something like: "Hello. I want to hear what you have to say." See if there's a way that it responds to your greeting ~ in words, or maybe a shift in sensation. Write down whatever you notice.

See if you have a specific question for this part of you, such as: â€œWhat do you need?” or “What are you trying to give me or teach me?” or “What would satisfy you?” Experiment with writing down your query, and seeing if the part responds. If it does, continue to write the dialog as it unfolds.

You might intuitively feel drawn to other questions or ways of communicating with this part. Perhaps you want to draw, rather than write. Notice what feels right to you and follow that impulse.

When you come to a natural ending point, and you feel like you've gotten to know this part of yourself better, take three slow breaths. It can also be illuminating to go back and read over the words and dialog that you've written. Notice any shifts in how you feel, compared to when you began the practice. You may be surprised to see that some of the beliefs you had about this part of you have changed. See if you feel more of a sense of home within yourself.
Upcoming Events
Self-Compassion Circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: Jan. 27

The Guest House

by Rumi


This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Lea Seigen Shinraku
I'm Lea Seigen Shinraku, a San Francisco-based therapist and writer, and I'm passionate about self-compassion because I witness its power first-hand, on a daily basis. I have helped scores of people live with greater ease and joy by guiding them to transform self-limiting beliefs and wake up from the trance of self-judgment. I draw on my professional training, client work, more than a decade of daily meditation practice, and my own experience of awakening and cultivating self-compassion. Learn more about me at

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: MFC51836
Copyright © 2014 Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, All rights reserved.

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