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Hi Community,

May is here, and it's officially Spring. I hope that you're enjoying the longer, warmer days.

Today is Mother's Day ~ a holiday that can bring up complex feelings for lots of people. Like many holidays, it has become heavily advertised and commercialized, which seems to result in a kind of ambient pressure for it be a certain type of "up" day. But m
aybe you don't feel as connected to your mother as you'd like to; or maybe she's no longer living; or maybe you grew up without a mother. Maybe you have a complicatedly loving relationship with your mother, or a straightforward appreciation for her. Whatever your situation: know that your experience belongs and is just as valid as anyone else's. That truth can be hard to remember when we feel out of step with those around us, or with mainstream media.

I often think of self-compassion as a practice of learning how to more skillfully parent ourselves and care for our lives. Even as we grow older, there are parts of us that can feel "younger" and that long to be more fully met with loving presence. My hope is that the practice I'm offering this month ~ Presence not Perfection ~ will support you in more fully meeting those parts of yourself.

Also, please check out my latest blog post on tapping into what you love as a way to reconnect with a sense of community and common humanity. It's inspired by the topic we explored in last month's Self-Compassion Circle. I hope you find it helpful.

The next Self-Compassion Circle will meet the evening of Memorial Day, May 26. I'm grateful to and inspired by the growing community of people who attend. I truly see self-compassion as a subtle, powerful, life-changing practice, and I love to share it. If you'd like to cultivate self-compassion in a community of like-minded others, please join us this month.

Wishing you well,
~ May 2014 Newsletter ~
Presence not Perfection

Mr. Rogers once said, "Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It's an active noun, like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person, exactly the way he or she is, right here and now."

This feels deeply true about what it means to love oneself, too. So many of us, one way or another, got the idea that there's a "right" way to express love for others or for ourselves. At the same time, most of us also believe that we need to be perfect in order to deserve love and approval.

This set-up for self-criticism makes Mr. Rogers' words so relieving. He deconstructs the belief that most people have about what love is. And he doesn't sugar-coat things, either. He recognizes that love isn't a static state that one arrives at, finally. He tells us that love asks us to be actively, humbly engaged in our relationships with others, and with ourselves. The fact that we don't know how to do it "right" is not evidence that we're defective, it's evidence that we're alive. 

Much of what I've come to understand about self-compassion is that while it's an active practice, it's not about "doing." This can be confusing, especially when we're so accustomed to problem-solving in our daily lives. Cultivating a more compassionate relationship with oneself is not a self-improvement project. It's a self-acceptance project. And, really, even to call it a project is to overstate things. It's more a shift in perspective that ripples out subtly and powerfully, enabling us to have a more compassionate relationship with all aspects of our lives.

Once you begin to question the assumption that there's something wrong with you, you begin to orient toward your life in a fundamentally different way. You recognize that your own willingness to be present with yourself is one of your greatest strengths. With that in mind, here is a three-step experiment for cultivating loving presence the next time you notice that you're stuck in perfectionism:

1. Notice your experience and your reactions
2. Stay present; tolerate what you notice
3. Ask, "What if nothing's wrong with me?"

Ram Dass said, "We're all just walking each other home." I believe that we're all just walking ourselves home, too. Or at least we can choose to use the challenging aspects of our experience as opportunities to do so. As we cultivate self-compassion, we open to the possibility of accompanying the aspects of our being that have been excluded, and welcoming them into our lives with loving presence; learning to trust that all parts of us belong.
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What You Really Love
Come into Animal Presence
by Denise Levertov

Come into animal presence.
No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn't
quicken his trotting
across the track into the palm brush.
What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.
Lea Seigen Shinraku

I'm Lea Seigen Shinraku, a San Francisco-based therapist and writer, and my life is devoted to supporting people in loving themselves, no matter what. Through my writing, clinical experience, workshops and groups, I've helped hundreds of people live with greater ease and joy by guiding them to meet self-limiting beliefs with loving presence, 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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