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Dear Community,

It's officially Spring: Daylight Saving Time has arrived; tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are beginning to blossom; and you may (or may not!) be feeling the impulse to do some spring cleaning. In many cultures, this is the season for sweeping out the dust and letting in fresh air and sunshine. And while we typically associate spring cleaning with the spaces we live in, the practice can also apply to the spaces that live within us.

So, how might you do an internal spring cleaning? It could be attending an afternoon, daylong, or week-long retreat. Or it might be spending time in nature, where you have the space to reflect and allow your mind to settle. It might also mean sorting through actual items in your home and identifying which ones can be
repurposed, passed on to others, or let go of. Sometimes concrete, physical activities can translate into a clearing-out of the mind, too.

Spring cleaning gives you the opportunity to take stock of what you have, and to decide what to care for, and what to let go of. You can see spring-cleaning practices as ways of cultivating self-compassion.
 I often write about "cultivating" self-compassion, but perhaps it's more accurate to say that compassion is already here. It isn't something you cultivate. Your life and mind can get congested with thoughts and things that seem to block the flow of compassion. Once you recognize the congestion, you have the opportunity to choose how to relate to it and to allow the flow of compassion to resume.

This month's practice is meant to support you in doing some internal spring cleaning so that you can relate to yourself (including your blocks and congestion) with greater curiosity and acceptance. It's called 
What's Does it Feel Like to Be You?, and it was inspired by actor/comedian Bill Murray. The On Being public radio show's website recently featured an audio of Bill answering the question "How does it feel to be you?" His response is a funny, inspiring, mini dharma talk. You can listen to it (and read a transcript) here. I hope you find his words, and the tool they inspired, to be supportive in landing more fully in who you deeply are, and tapping in to the flow of compassion.

The next Self-Compassion Circle meets on March 30, 7:30-9pm at Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco. Each month, we come together to check in, discuss and reflect on self-compassion, and spend some time in meditation. If you would like to connect with a community of like-minded folks in a safe, inclusive space, please join us. Also, please pass this newsletter along to others who are interested in awakening greater self-compassion.

All my best,
~ March 2015 Newsletter ~
What's Does it Feel Like to be You?

As I mentioned above, this practice is inspired by a mini dharma talk given by Bill Murray at the Toronto Film Festival last year. It's a way to find a sense of groundedness and home when you feel lost. It's also a way to drop in to who you truly are, below the congestion of thoughts. It's a way to do some internal spring cleaning, right now.

Often, the "dust" that collects in your mind is related to stories you develop about who you are and who you're supposed to be. For that reason, a practice that helps you reconnect with your present-moment experience can help you tap into a more grounded understanding of yourself.

Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. Or, see if you can go inward wherever you are right now, just for a few minutes. You might be at home, or riding a train or a bus, or in a cafe. See if there's a space inside that you can tap into.

Start by holding this question in your mind: 
What does it feel like to be me?

In Bill's talk, he suggests that you tune in to your sense of your physical body and its weight. See if this is helpful for you, just to notice what it is to have this human body, pulled by gravity, anchored to this spot on the earth. Pause for a moment and breathe as you notice your physical self.

You can also notice, on an emotional level, what it feels like to be you. Bill noted that, when you ask yourself how it feels to be you, that "It feels good to be you." This might be your experience. Or, it might not feel particularly "good" to be you in this moment. You might be feeling overwhelmed, or sad, or anxious, or angry ~ none of which are inherently good or bad. And, more likely, you might feel some combination of feelings that don't seem like they belong together.

Your mind might try to pick and choose and tell you that you can't feel both relieved and anxious, or both angry and sad. But whatever feelings you have in a given moment, they all belong. They show you what it feels like to be you. No need to curate your feelings and settle on the ones that you think belong. Just let yourself recognize what it feels like to be you, in this moment right now.

Try naming the feelings to yourself. You can also write them down or type them into your phone or tablet. It can be a kind of inventory-taking; a way of letting yourself know, more deeply, who you are in this moment.

When you allow whatever feelings you have to register, you also allow yourself to feel more at home right where you are. And you allow yourself to be curious about and surprised by the truth of who you are. There isn't some other place to be, some other person to strive to be. You can just be here, as you are. Right here is good enough. Home is right here. However you feel, whoever you are. Home can't be anywhere else but right here. Because you find home by being you; the fullest expression of you.

It may seem like a contradiction to say that you can do some internal spring cleaning by allowing even more of your feelings to register. But I find it to be true. With this practice, you are relating to yourself with curiosity and warmth. And in doing that, you are returning to an essential aspect of what it is to be human: to experience the flow of compassion.

It's not your feelings that leave you feeling alienated from yourself and emotionally congested. It's usually the stories and beliefs you have about what you're supposed to be feeling or experiencing. The feelings themselves come and go if you give them space and pay attention to the full range of your emotional experience, rather than becoming preoccupied by certain feelings and ignoring others.

So, what does it feel like to be you?
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: March 30
love yourself, no matter what
Love Yourself,
No Matter What
workshop ~ May 9
San Antonio, TX
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Speaking of
"You know, the only way we'll ever know what it's like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can, and keep reminding yourself: That's where home is. That's where home is." 
~ Bill Murray
"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely
to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." 
~ Rumi
"We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are, when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed, and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.
~ Mark Nepo
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
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, more than a decade of daily 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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