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Hi Community,

Here we are in April ~ the days are getting noticeably longer, and in San Francisco, lots of flowers are blooming. In fact, I have a plot in a community garden, and this week the tulips I planted in November have started to show themselves. Also this week, I found a wonderful list of lifesaving poems compiled by poet, lecturer and researcher Anthony Wilson. I found this list to be such a gift, and I wanted to share it. If you've read my newsletters or attended my groups or workshops, you know that I find poetry to be very supportive in cultivating self-compassion.

Early April also means that we're at the height of tax season ~
an overwhelming time of year for lots of folks! So, this month's practice is all about overwhelm. While it's true that April 15 is right around the corner, overwhelm can happen at any time ~ even when things are going really well. I've chosen to share five ways of meeting overwhelm that I have found helpful. I hope you find them supportive, too, whatever the IRS asks of you.

I also invite you to check out the recent blog post I wrote about "Chicken Little" Buddha. It includes another way to bring self-compassion to anxiety and overwhelm.

The next Self-Compassion Circle will meet on April 28. If you'd like to meditate, cultivate self-compassion, and connect with a community of like-minded others, please join us.

 
Wishing you an easeful and nourishing month,
Lea
~ April 2014 Newsletter ~
Five Remedies for Overwhelm
 
All of us, at some point, find ourselves in a situation that feels overwhelming. Maybe it's a kind of everyday overwhelm: taxes, stress in your relationships or work. Or perhaps it's more of a sudden, major shock: losing a job or a loved one. For some people, deeply generative experiences can trigger overwhelm, too. You get your dream job, meet a wonderful partner, reach some longed-for goal, and then you find it surprisingly difficult to tolerate and integrate the experience. It's almost like our "excitement" thermostat is set at a particular temperature, and anything that deviates too far from the set point can trigger emotional dysregulation. When that happens, it can be helpful to have some supportive self-compassion practices in your toolbox. Here are five of my favorites.

1. When you feel overwhelmed, one of the most potent ways to meet your experience is to name it. You can keep it very straightforward: "I feel overwhelmed. There's a lot going on right now." It might sound simple, but taking that step back to identify what's happening is crucial, and not always easy. What makes this tool so powerful is that, essentially, you're bringing awareness to your experience, and at the same time recognizing that you are not your overwhelm; it is an experience that you are aware of. Naming overwhelm allows you to begin the journey back to a sense of your own loving presence.

2. Take three slow breaths.
When I was a child, my mother taught me this breathing practice to help me calm down when I felt scaredTo try it, take a deep, slow, inhale through your nose, and as you exhale through your mouth, make the tiniest opening possible with your lips. Repeat two more times. This practice slows your breathing, which helps you become more aware of your experience. It also tends to calm the nervous system.

3. Put your hand on your heart. Remind yourself that you are right here, present with your experience, and that it's challenging. You might bring to mind a person or pet to whom you feel securely connected. Research indicates that safe, loving touch signals the release of oxytocin ~ a neurotransmitter that acts as an antidote to cortisol (which is a stress hormone).

4. Remember that you are not alone. When you feel overwhelmed, you might quickly start to believe that you are somehow isolated in your experience. But, remember: w
e're all in this together; overwhelm is a deeply human experience. It's a sign of belonging, not evidence of your unworthiness or lack. It can also really help to reach out to someone you trust and who expresses love for you in a way that you can take in; someone who knows you well and whose perspective you value and respect.

5. Check in with yourself and see: Is there any chance that you might be excited? This won't be the case in all situations where you feel overwhelmed, but it's worth pausing and asking yourself. If you're one of those people who finds it difficult to tolerate and integrate positive experiences, give yourself a bit of space and experiment with a few inhales and exhales. See if your experience of overwhelm shifts. As 
Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy, famously said, "Fear is excitement without the breath."
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: April 28
Recent Articles
magnolia
"Chicken Little" Buddha
This We Have Now
by Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)
 
This we have now
is not imagination.
 
This is not 
grief or joy.
 
Not a judging state,
or an elation,
or sadness.
 
Those come and go. 
This is the presence that doesn't.
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 www.leaseigenshinraku.com. 

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


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