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Hi Community,

It's officially summer in the northern hemisphere. Longer, warmer days mean more opportunities to spend time outdoors. This past weekend, I celebrated the solstice at Point Reyes. I hadn't been there in nearly a year, and I felt very grateful to be spending the first day of summer in such a beautiful place. Wherever you are, I hope you are getting plenty of what nourishes you this month.

While the days generally are warmer and brighter right now, they may also feel dark and heavy ~ perhaps you are navigating some challenge in your personal life, or maybe you were impacted by what happened in Charleston last week, or by other troubling world events. It can be difficult to stay connected to a sense of light and possibility when confronted by dark or horrifying experiences.

If you notice that you are struggling in this way, know that it is possible to find a sense of wholeness by recognizing the range of what it means to be human at any given moment. What I mean by that is that we need to let in some light while we navigate dark times. And during "lighter" times, I find that there are ways that we need our darkness ~ what you might call "the gravitas of each moment" ~ to ground us. Losing touch with that gravitas can mean losing touch with aspects of our humanity and with our own internal compass.

This sense of balance between light and dark is difficult to strike. Some of us may habitually tilt more toward the light ~ maybe tending toward a desire to bypass the darker truths of being alive today in favor of transcendent experiences. Others may lean more toward the dark ~ perhaps more frequently seeing the pain in life, and more easily discounting its joy, spontaneity and radiance.

With this challenge in mind, this month's tool is called Roses and Thorns. It's an opportunity to check in with yourself and recognize both what is difficult and challenging in your life right now, as well as what you appreciate. Like a gratitude practice with ballast, this tool gives you the opportunity to acknowledge a fuller range of your experience, which can give you a greater sense of integration for all parts of you: the ones that feel energized and open, as well as the ones that feel tired and discouraged. I hope you find it supportive in cultivating self-compassion.

I was recently interviewed for an article in PsychCentral about self-compassion and depression. In it, I share some suggestions for meeting dark, challenging feelings with a spirit of acceptance and curiosity. Please click here if you would like to read the full article.

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets a week from today, on Monday, June 29, from 7:30-9pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. We'll experiment with some self-compassion practices, meditate, and have a short talk and discussion about self-compassion. 
If you are in the area and you haven't been before, or if it's been a while since you joined us, I warmly welcome you to come to this month's group. Also, please pass this newsletter along to others who are interested in relating to themselves more kindly.

All my best,
~ June 2015 Newsletter ~
Roses and Thorns

There are many ways to talk about what self-compassion is. I think of it as a willingness to be present with and responsive to your experience as it is. As I noted above, you might find it easier to be present with and responsive to your joyful experiences, or you may find it easier to meet and respond to challenges. Each of us is unique and we all have habits in how we relate to ourselves.

Whether you tend toward bypassing challenges or getting stuck in them (or some combination of the two), the Roses and Thorns practice gives you a chance to see that you have room for a fuller range of your experience, and that a positive experience does not cancel out a challenging one. Nor does a challenge need to take away your joy.

This practice also gives you a chance to cultivate curiosity. I often talk about curiosity as a potent form of kindness, and it can also be an accessible form of compassion when you feel more aware of your challenges, and less in touch with the resources available to you in a given moment.

For this practice, you will want a notebook or tablet, or you can type a memo in your phone. You just need a place to record your observations and truths. I suggest that you experiment for a week by ending each day by recognizing and naming your roses and thorns.

As you're winding down for the evening, take a few moments to sit quietly. You might want to close your eyes and take three slow breaths.

Reflect on what you are grateful for (roses), and on what feels challenging (thorns). Write down what your roses and thorns are on each day. If it feels easier to name what you appreciate, start there. Or, if you feel clearer about what is difficult right now, let that be where you begin. It's important not to force yourself to produce a rose or a thorn that doesn't feel authentic. Just be as honest as you can with yourself.

You can choose a specific number of roses and thorns to name (maybe three or five), or you can let yourself list as many as come to mind. Also, you can experiment another day by starting with what is less familiar to you ~ if you typically start with roses, try starting with thorns. 

After you have written or typed out your roses and thorns, try closing your eyes and taking three breaths. Notice how you feel having let your experience register this way ~ both the joys and the challenges; recognizing that there is room for all that is true for you.
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: June 29
Recent Articles
From PsychCentral:
9 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion When You Have Depression
Speaking of
"Meaning makes a great many things endurable ~ perhaps everything." 
~ Carl Jung
"What I want is
so simple I almost
can't say it: 
elementary kindness. " 
~ Barbara Kingsolver
"Wisdom tells me I am nothing.
Love tells me I am everything.
Between the two,
my life flows. " 
~ Sri Nisargadatta
"We have to look
deeply at things in order to see." 
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
"We can love life
just as it is. " 
~ Tara Brach
"To express yourself
as you are is the most important thing." 
~ Shunryu Suzuki
The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Barry

When despair of the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
or grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Lea Seigen Shinraku

I’m Lea Seigen Shinraku, a San Francisco-based therapist, writer and group facilitator, and I believe in the power of self-compassion to change the world, one person at a time. Through my writing, private practice, groups and workshops, I help people live with greater clarity, joy and meaning 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, 15 years of meditation practice, and my own experience of awakening and cultivating self-compassion. 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: MFC51836
Copyright © 2015 Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, All rights reserved.

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