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Dear Community,

Happy Fall Equinox! It's the first day of autumn, which means that it's also a day of balance, where the dark and the light get equal time. This last happened back in March, when we marked the Spring Equinox. At these two times of the year, I often think about the value of allowing the darkness and the light in everyday life to have equal weight. This is a self-compassionate perspective ~ not getting lost in the challenges and letting them dominate, but also not over-emphasizing joy and putting sadness in exile. 

This month's tool ~ Sun-Face Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha ~ is an encouragement to look at what feels easeful and what feels difficult, and to hold these experiences together. It's a way to recognize your complexity. This in itself is an expression of self-compassion. I hope you find it supportive.

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets this Sunday, September 25, from 6-7:30pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. We'll have a check-in, group discussion, meditation, and self-compassion practices. It is a very welcoming circle of folks, with a mix of newcomers and regulars each month. If you would like support in deepening your self-compassion practice, please
 join us!

Wishing you well,
~ September 2016 Newsletter ~

 Sun-Face Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha

This practice is inspired by the equinox, and also by a well-known Zen story. In that story, a Chinese Zen master was near the end of his life, and a young student asked him how he was doing. The Zen master replied, "Sun-Face Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha." There are many ways to understand the meaning of this teacher's words. Here, we'll see it as expressing the truth that any answer which excludes the dark or the light is incomplete.

We frequently ask others, and are frequently asked, "How are you?" The tricky thing is, our answers are usually non-committal or habitually "sunny". "I'm good! How are you?" or "Great!" Rarely do we answer honestly ~ and there are plenty of reasons for that. Maybe we're in a situation where we don't feel comfortable talking about how we're really doing. However, we can get into the habit of censoring ourselves to the point that we lose track of how we're really doing.

So, here's an opportunity to check in; to recognize the ways that you feel uplifted, and the ways that you feel in the dark ~ the ways that you feel a sense of confidence and knowing, and the ways that you feel in touch with mystery and what is hidden. In this way, a fuller range of your experience is given attention and respect.

To try this practice, find a time and place where you won't be disturbed. You'll want, at minimum, 30 minutes. You'll also want a notebook/paper and pen. While it may be easier to focus by using paper and pen, you can also use a computer/tablet/phone.

1. Begin by taking a few deep breaths to release any unneeded tension, and to allow yourself to bring your attention more fully into this moment.

2. Start with one sheet of paper and write the words "Sun Face Buddha" or draw a sun, or in some way signify that this page is about the light aspects of your experience. Then reflect for a moment on the things that you appreciate about where you are in this very moment. Write them down. Maybe the sun is actually shining and you feel appreciation for its warmth on your skin. Maybe you are sitting in a comfortable chair. Maybe the room you are in is quiet and warm. Perhaps your belly is full. See if you can tap into the things you appreciate about this place and time, wherever you are. Include seemingly small things, such as the buttons on your shirt, your shoelaces, the paper and pen, the light bulb in your lamp, the open widow that lets in the light and breeze. Fill the entire sheet of paper, either one side or both.

3. Next, shift your attention to a fresh sheet of paper. At the top, write "Moon-Face Buddha" or in some other way signify that this page is for the darker, more challenging aspects of your current experience. Then reflect on the things that are difficult in this moment. Maybe you feel worried about the state of the world, or you have a family member who is ill. Maybe you have health concerns or financial worries. Give them space and write them down. However much you wrote for "Sun-Face Buddha" ~ either one side or both ~ fill the same amount for "Moon-Face Buddha."

4. Look at the two sheets of paper side by side. At first, no need to focus on the words, just take in the way that you have these different dimensions to your current experience ~ some joyful, some difficult. This is all part of you ~ neither one eclipses the other. Today, they exist side by side. Once you have looked at these two pages together, read what you have written, reminding yourself of your own complexity, and the ways that you can feel both sun-faced and moon-faced in the same moment.

Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting:
Sunday, September 25
Speaking of Self-Compassion...
"Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth."
~ Buddha
"I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was show up for my life and not be ashamed." ~ Anne Lamott
"Some things cannot be spoken or discovered until we have been stuck, incapacitated, or blown off course for awhile. Plain sailing is pleasant, but you are not going to explore many unknown realms that way."
~ David Whyte
"This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted, and shaky ~ that’s called liberation.”
~ Pema Chödrön
"Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out." 
~ Vaclav Havel
"Where there is great love there are always miracles.
~ Willa Cather
"Where you stumble, there your treasure lies.
~ Joseph Campbell
"There will always be suffering, but we must not suffer over the suffering.
~ Alan Watts
"In the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
~ Kahlil Gibran
"Quit trying to be a better person. Love and accept yourself just as you are and you will become better without any effort.
~ Alan Cohen
"Take care of yourself. You never know when the world will need you.
~ Rabbi Hillel
"There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.
~ Gustave Flaubert
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.
~ Melody Beattie

My Work is Loving the World
by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird ~ 
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the mouth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

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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