SC Group Summary of Oct 17 2017

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SELF-CARE, SELF-COMPASSION

DISCUSSION & SUPPORT GROUP

SUMMARY OF OCT 17, 2017

This is exactly where I need to be

(new group member 😊)

 

SUPPORTING YOUR PRACTICE

A very full group this week and rich discussions. Some painful stuff arose and it is hard to bear but I think necessary for all of us to heal and grow. We need to face our pain, know it and even understand it if possible. From there it can be released and we can move on with our lives. The metta phrases – May I be safe… can be really helpful when we’re hurting so much.

One member shared that she is feeling really good right now, a lot of things in her life have fallen into place. However, she was afraid to say it out loud, as if it would jinx her good feelings. Does this sound familiar? It does to me. When we have been suffering for a long time, and we finally get a break and feel good, it is scary to just relax into it and fully enjoy the moment because there’s the knowledge that things always change. The painful stuff could come back. Unpleasant and painful things do happen and will probably happen again.

One way I look at this is to try to understand how I grasp and attach myself to the pleasant things in my life and reject the things that I find unpleasant. However, what I really need to come to terms with is not that bad things happen but that everything is temporary. The impermanence of all things, constant change, is something we can always count on. And as human beings, we definitely change, from day to day. If we are living with a mood disorder then we can count on our mood being unstable at times. Darn. It would be so nice if the ‘good’ things just stayed, just lasted.

I don’t think saying aloud that we are feeling pretty good these days will jinx anything. I don’t think there is any jinx but simply life itself that is unpredictable in many ways. When we experience unpleasant things I think it’s because something requires our attention. Something needs adjusting. Some need is not being met. I think we are supposed to feel those unpleasant things so that we pay attention. On the other hand, pleasant feelings may be telling us that we have succeeded at something, we have accomplished something, and now we can take a bit of a break and relish that feeling. That is the sound of a need being met.

A Healing Spiral

This leads me to the concept I learned years ago. We can look at our healing process, which can go on for many years, as if we are walking slowly up a spiral staircase. From any point on the staircase we can look down and see all the landmarks of our own unique journey. As we spiral around we see them again and again, perhaps revisit them and re-experience them, but always from a different perspective. Whatever our issues are, we may visit and experience them many times in our lifetime. But we, ourselves, are never the same twice. We have grown in some way. We have learned something along the way – what not to do or what we can do to change things. I think we never go back down the staircase unless we have some kind of brain trauma and we can’t remember anything from our past.

I’m thinking that we humans are here on earth to learn and raise our consciousness, step by spiral step. I have changed since yesterday. Whatever experiences I had yesterday has influenced how I feel today. And if I’m feeling crappy again today, after a great day yesterday, then maybe it’s because I’m not finished with this issue. I haven’t resolved it yet. I haven’t fully learned my lesson here. The good news is that yesterday I may have acquired more tools for understanding that gives me a new perspective of this issue. This is how I grow.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

One member shared her feelings about conversations she’s had with people that triggered painful emotions for her. If we are in any kind of conflict with someone then we can look to how we communicate with each other as one place to start. It’s important to remember that what a person intended by their words and how we interpreted their words may be very different. It’s also very important to remember that the real reason for our upset is our own thoughts about what was said, not actually what was said. Ultimately, if we can find compassion for ourselves when upset by someone’s words (“Oh I really felt hurt by those words. They must have brought up something very painful for me”) we may be able to calm and soothe ourselves. Later, we may be able to clarify with the other person what they meant and even let them know how we interpreted what they said. It may be that they made a poor choice of words and did not mean to hurt us.

READING: RICK HANSON – the neuroscience of self-acceptance

A conversation with Tami Simon, founder of Sounds True, (an organization that has a lot of audio and video talks as well as courses and books about such topics as self-compassion and self-acceptance) and Rick Hanson, a psychologist who wrote Hardwiring Happiness. It comes highly recommended, including one of our group members, and endorsed by many of the prominent people in the field.

Tami Simon: Rick, the neuroscience of self-acceptance. That’s what I’d love to talk with you about. I’d love to know, what do we now know about our brains and how our brains work that might shed some light onto why it’s so challenging for so many of us to be consistently kind and compassionate towards ourselves, especially when difficult things happen?

Rick Hanson: Right. Well, my own brain is twirling quickly just to come up to speed with that very profound question. I think like most profound questions, there’s not yet a lot of good science about it, so it’s in that frame that I’ll improv a little here. I’m reminded of the traditional saying from Buddhism that, “The mind takes its shape from whatever it rests upon.” The updated version of that, based on 20 years of good work in neuroscience, is that your brain takes its shape from whatever you rest your mind upon, because in the classic saying, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” In other words, repeated patterns of neural activity—which mysteriously map to mental activity—repeated patterns of neural activity leave lasting traces on neural structure.

That means, that in other words, if you routinely rest your mind upon self-criticism, self-scorn, self-scolding, very high standards, perfectionism, getting caught up in ruminating about what you think are the negative judgments, let’s say, of other people toward you—in other words, all the stuff that’s not self-acceptance—well, your brain, over time, will take a certain shape. That brain will become increasingly sensitized to negative experiences and increasingly reactive to them. It will become depleted of reservoirs of important neurotransmitters like serotonin, which help regulate mood. Your brain will also take the shape over time of building up structures inside of internalized self-criticism, self-scolding, self-shaming.

On the other hand, hopefully through listening to this series and to Tami and other guests, if you routinely rest your mind in a different way upon, let’s say, realistic standards, recognizing your own accomplishments as you progress toward them, the gradual internalization of feeling loved and cared for by other people—which is an important way to build up internal resources of self-nurturance that can stand up to the internal critic—well, over time, your brain will take a different shape. It will take a shape of increased positive emotions, improved mood, greater management of your own stress and greater resilience.

For me to summarize here, the choice is before us. You know, you cannot do anything about the brain you have in this moment and all the things that happened behind us. From this moment going forward, from now on—three wonderfully optimistic words, from now on—you can use your mind to gradually change your brain for the better.

WHERE WE’RE AT

While we have been essentially following Christopher Germer’s book the mindful path to self-compassion we are taking a bit of a break from it in order to dig deeper into self-criticism, self-loathing, and self-hate. It feels like this is the place where some of us really get stuck. I have heard a number of you say that it’s not difficult to feel compassion for others but when it comes to me… forget it. So we rest here for a while on our journey together to explore more deeply why we are so hard on ourselves.

At some point, we would like to return to Germer’s book and the chapter that follows ‘caring for ourselves’ is ‘caring for others’. I think that when we can accept and feel compassion for our own pain, our ability to care for others will grow, expand and deepen. I think we can be wiser in our care for others as well, where we don’t take on other people’s problems and feel compelled to solve them, but we learn how to just be with someone in their moment of suffering. And allow. Let be. No fixing required. But first we need to learn how to do this with ourselves.

LINKS, etc.

CONVERSATION WITH TAMI SIMON (Sounds True), DR. KRISTIN NEFF & DR. CHRISTOPHER GERMER

https://www.soundstrue.com/store/power-of-self-compassion/how-self-compassion-changes-everything

My co-facilitator recommends this.

MARY O’MALLEY

Alex and I have read her book called What’s in the Way is the Way. I really liked it a lot. Very down to earth. I used some of her material for my Self-Care, Self-Compassion workshops. It’s a book very much about mindfulness without ever using the word (I think).

 

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you live with ease

Caer

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SC Group Summary of Oct 10 2017

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SELF-CARE, SELF-COMPASSION DISCUSSION & SUPPORT GROUP

SUMMARY OF OCT 10, 2017

 

SUPPORTING YOUR PRACTICE

I was delighted to hear on Tuesday two of our members say they have noticed a difference in their lives using some of the concepts we talk about such as mindfulness and loving kindness meditation. One person said she now feels more of a sense of herself when she does the metta meditation. This is awesome! If we often get caught up in pleasing others, in taking care of others’ needs, we lose ourselves in the process. We need to find ways to get back to connecting with our innermost feelings and needs, connecting with ourselves. I think it’s progress, a moving towards health when we are truly in touch with ourselves.

Another member shared a time when she was most upset, angry about something and she was able to step back from the experience and see it from a more objective point of view. Again I see this as progress towards a healthier life, towards wisdom, when we can step back from our dramas and see them as simply that – as ‘dramas’. It doesn’t mean they are of no value. They are our life stories, how we define and express ourselves in the world and each one of us has a unique life story. It’s when we get so caught up in that story that we lose sight of what’s really going on. In other words, understanding when our thoughts are tricking us into thinking something is real and true (e.g., I’m a born loser) when it’s actually something that’s very tainted by the ‘programming’ we received growing up. When we buy into these stories in this manner we tend to become very upset, distressed and freak out. We catastrophize or believe ourselves incapable of dealing with what is going on. We are totally overwhelmed.

However, we have a choice – always – to step back. It’s not easy to do when emotion takes over control of things. And sometimes we may have to simply let it happen (freaking out I mean) and then evaluate afterward. “Hmm I’m not happy about how I behaved back there. I just let myself get so upset over a little thing. I’d like to change that.” We can revisit the scene afterwards and try to figure out what to do the next time. Even though the next time and the next time and the next time may be the same thing, the same catastrophizing, the same hysterics, at some point we may get tired of it all and say “It’s time to do something different”. And then we do.

I hear from people in the group that although the thought of compassion for themselves has been a really huge and painful hurdle that some members are slowly getting past these hurdles. They are finding that the Loving Kindness meditation is working in some way, not always explainable, but it’s happening. So I’m particularly pleased this week to hear this. (Keep in mind it’s not a competition. We all have to go at a pace that is gentle and kind towards ourselves. It’s not about pushing.)

Trying to figure out what caused a symptom

The group got into a discussion about trying to figure out what makes you dip into depression or mania or anxiety for example. What triggers a mood change and into symptoms of our illness? As was pointed out by one member we are made up of many ‘moving parts’. In other words there may not be only one cause but multiple factors contributing to a spiral into illness (or even out of it and into a feeling of well-being). If we suddenly feel very depressed, manic or anxious it could be several things that have contributed to this episode. Looking for one cause may only frustrate us.

Not all of us question our mood change, or even want to ask why. Some of us simply want to let it happen and not to think too hard about it. But others of us want to understand what triggered the change so that we might adjust some things in our lives in order to prevent future triggers. One of our disadvantages as humans are our thoughts. We can’t always trust them to be accurate, to be the ‘truth’ of a situation. If we find ourselves merely spiralling down in frustration trying to figure out what’s wrong, this may be the worst thing we can do for ourselves. This may be a time to simply be aware, pay kind attention and take care of our needs (e.g., I need soothing and comfort right now. I need to talk to someone. I need to go to sleep, or have a cup of tea, or distract myself with tv).

Which leads me to….

LIVING IN THE MOMENT: R.A.I.N.

Like the three-part Self-Compassion model, this is another model we can use in the moment. Following these steps might help us understand more clearly what causes our triggers. Although there’s no guarantee. We humans can be very complicated and our thought processes very complex and difficult to understand with any clarity. We may have to come to terms with simply allowing our emotions without understanding what has triggered them.

RECOGNIZING

This is when we simply RECOGNIZE that something is going on with us. I’m upset, I’m angry, I feel threatened, etc. We can even come to RECOGNIZE that we are simply having a human experience (the Common Humanity component of the Self-Compassion model).

It also helps to RECOGNIZE our resistance to these feelings. For example, if we feel “I don’t want this to be happening right now. I don’t like this feeling.”

At this stage we can simply be as non-judgmental as possible about what we are experiencing. We are simply feeling this or thinking that.

ALLOWING

Now we can work with ALLOWING these feelings and thoughts to be here. I like the word ‘allow’ as it suggests that we have a choice here. And if we can’t get to ALLOWING things, maybe we can simply acknowledge that these uncomfortable/painful thoughts and feelings are happening right now.

Again we can notice our resistance to these things and ALLOW it to be as well. ALLOWING can lead us to acceptance eventually.

INVESTIGATING

This is the point where we can be curious about our thoughts and feelings. What’s going on that’s causing me to feel so upset? Is there something specific I’m thinking right now that could be causing my feelings? Is there something I’m needing right now?

If we notice our resistance to this moment, to how we are feeling, we might ask ourselves what is it I’d rather be doing? We might also look at cause & effect, triggers. What was it that upset me? What was I thinking at the time? What emotions did I, or do I feel, about those thoughts? All of this needs to be done with gentleness and nonjudgmental. As often as possible.

Non-identification

Imagine that your life is like a tornado. You can get swept up in those savage winds and feel out of control and overwhelmed, or you can stand in the eye of the storm and simply see what is happening around you. As I mentioned earlier, the group member who said she could step back and see her anger – that’s what I’m talking about. Stepping away from that whirlwind of events and emotions, and yet still involved, still living our lives fully. It’s not about detaching ourselves from our life, from ourselves but it’s more about being involved, embracing it all without being overwhelmed. I know. I know. Much easier said than done.

The point is – it’s possible.

 

BYRON KATIE

http://thework.com/en

She works with thoughts and ask important questions that help people rethink the stories they tell themselves. Such questions as

  • Is it true?
  • Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  • How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  • Who would you be without the thought?

 

 

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you live with ease

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SC Group Summary of Oct 3 2017

 

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Riddle: When a person has a bee in one hand, what is in his/her eye?

(Answer below)

SUPPORTING YOUR PRACTICE

Talking about TRUE NEEDS

We talked more about needs on Tuesday, understanding our true needs and the best way to get them met without harming anyone. The massacre at Las Vegas brings to the surface a man who probably did not have his emotional needs met. He may have been deeply wounded in his childhood to the point of rage and a desire for revenge. However, the desire, the ‘need’ for revenge is not a true need. By true needs I mean the kind of needs which are at the core of every human being – for example, the need for autonomy and choice, the need for connection with others, the need for meaning and a sense of purpose in our lives, the need for peace and rest from struggle and hard work, the need for physical well-being and the need for play. These can be broken down even further. See the NEEDS LIST handout below for many more of these kinds of needs – I call them the true needs

This man in Las Vegas probably interpreted his desire for revenge (if that’s what it was) as a need that had to be met. However, from my point of view his true needs were probably more like the needs for affection, recognition, validation, encouragement, support and love as a child. If he was wounded along the way his true needs would have been the need to grieve what he lost or did not get, the need to feel sad and let go of the hurts from the past, the need to connect with others and get support in his pain. If this is the likely scenario of that man, and if he had met his need to heal in a loving way, Las Vegas would not have happened. However, many of us are caught up in confusion with what is really a desire or want vs what is a true need. If it’s likely to harm yourself or someone else then you are most likely not trying to satisfy your true need.

Finally, when we pay attention to our true needs and try our best to meet them with compassion and kindness we are so greatly rewarded for our efforts. When we get our needs met (or accept the ones we cannot meet right now), we live in a place of contentment, peace as well as a kind of expansion. We become much more available to the world. We feel more generous of heart and reach out to others more easily.

Relationship losses

We also talked about losing someone we feel close and connected to. I’m not talking necessarily about losing them because they die. We may feel a loss because they are moving away to another city, or they don’t seem interested in spending as much time with us as we want. They may not seem as interested in us as we are in them. These kinds of situations can hurt and create the desire to withdraw from all relationships in order to protect ourselves. There is another choice however – to acknowledge and feel the pain, accept it as part of relationships, as part of conflicting needs, as part of letting go and as part of life. If we choose to withdraw because of being hurt we are cutting ourselves off from things we humans truly need – close connection, affection, love, warmth. If we can’t get them from one person we can reach out to someone else.

Also, it’s important to understand that this person’s desires are not because something is wrong with us, but rather because of their needs. As well, if we feel hurt or angry about the ‘rejection’ we do not need to judge ourselves selfish or wrong for those feelings. They are quite appropriate. We do tend to feel hurt or angry when someone walks away from us, someone who is important to us. It’s a sense of caring for ourselves and our own needs. It’s a form of sympathy and compassion. “Yah, it hurts that my friend is too busy for me, or is moving away from me.”

READING: Finding Good Qualities

If we are having difficulty with self-compassion one of the things we can do, according to Germer, is to find some of our ‘good’ qualities, things we like about ourselves, things we are proud of.

“We’re naturally attracted to good qualities. For example, historical figures to whom we’re most drawn are the moral geniuses, not necessarily the military of political figures. Likewise, if we think of something good about ourselves, we enjoy keeping ourselves company. If we think ill of ourselves, our attention will flail around looking for distraction from these inner threats to our self-image. At the beginning of your meditation, remind yourself of one or two of your good qualities: loyalty to family, conscientiousness, kindness toward animals, perhaps a sense of humour? You’ll feel more worthy of your own attention.”

READING: What Metta is Not

“Now that you have a preliminary understanding of loving-kindness practice, let’s review what it’s not in order to keep the practice from becoming unnecessarily complicated. It’s not:

  • Selfish. The first step toward loving others is to love ourselves. The fault we find with ourselves will also be found in others. Metta teaches us to be kind to ourselves no matter what happens, even as we shape our behavior for the better.
  • Complacent. Metta is a force of will – good will – that can override the instinctive tendencies of fear and anger. Metta frees us from old habits. It allows us to learn from pain and respond skillfully.
  • Positive affirmation. Affirmations are an effort to encourage ourselves by saying things we may not believe, like ‘I’m getting stronger every day!’ Metta isn’t fooling ourselves that our situation is better than it is. The phrases must be intellectually credible to work smoothly.
  • Just a mantra. Although the metta phrases are repeated like a mantra, there’s more to it than that. In addition to using the power of attention, metta works with connection, intention, and emotion.. We’re doing whatever it takes to cultivate a loving attitude.
  • Sugarcoating. We’re not trying to make the reality of our lives less harsh by learning to think or speak in a sweet way. Rather, we want to open to the depth of human experience, including the tragedy of it, more fully. This is possible only if we have a compassionate response to pain.
  • A pity party. Opening to pain is not self-indulgent. We’re not wallowing in discomfort, complaining, or whining excessively. On the contrary, opening to pain through compassion allows us to unhook from the familiar story lines of our lives.
  • Good feelings. Metta is primarily cultivation of good will rather than good feelings. Feelings come and go, but the ground of our being is the universal wish to be happy and free from suffering. That’s where we put our trust.
  • Exhausting. Exhaustion is the result of attachment – wanting things to be one way and not the other. Loving-kindness and compassion stay away from the business of controlling reality so it’s more of a relief than a struggle.
  • Demanding. Metta is always on the wishing side of the equation rather than the outcome side. Positive outcomes will certainly come with time, but we’re primarily learning to cultivate a kind attitude no matter what happens to us or to others. sticking with the wish and remaining unattached to the outcome is unconditional love.

NEEDS LIST

../TOPICS/NEEDS LIST.docx

../TOPICS/NEEDS LIST.pdf

HARDWIRING HAPPINESS – by Rick Hanson.

“Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures that stick to happiness, love, confidence, and peace. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build a brain strong enough to withstand its ancient negativity bias, allowing contentment and a powerful sense of well-being to become the new normal.”

Answer to Riddle: Beauty is in the eye of the bee holder. 😊 (Thanks to M for this)

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Words

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This is an addition to the Group Summary September 26. We read a bit from Christopher Germer’s book on the Loving-Kindness (Metta) meditation and the use of words and phrases to send compassion towards ourselves. Here is what Germer says…

“Words can be more powerful than actions. A broken bone can heal in a few months, but a harsh word can create a wound that doesn’t heal in an entire lifetime. Most of the words we hear are actually going on inside us. Even if you’re not generally a talkative person, your mind is constantly chattering away. If you say unkind things to yourself (‘You’re a worthless piece of s—t’), you’ll suffer. If you say nice things (‘That was good!’), you’ll be happy. Words shape our experience. That’s the rationale behind using words as the focus of attention in loving-kindness meditation.

May I be safe

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I live with ease

“Taken together, the four loving-kindness phrases comprise a kindly attitude toward a broad range of life experience. For example, if you’re in danger, you’ll wish for safety; if you’re emotionally upset, you’ll want contentment; if you’re physically sick, you’ll wish for health; and if you’re struggling to meet everyday needs, you’ll hope for fewer problems and greater ease. The metta phrases cover all this territory.”

Germer also says

“The phrases are neither exhaustive nor etched in stone. … As you understand more about the practice, you’ll want to create your own phrases. Here are some examples:

“May I love myself just as I am.

May I find peace in this uncertain world.

May I live in peace, without too much attachment and too much aversion.

May I be free from sorrow.

May I love and be loved.

“The idea is to find words that evoke tender, warm feelings inside you. They can be sublime, like poetry, or mundane. It’s best to keep the phrases simple and easy to repeat.

“You can tailor the phrases for everyday challenges in your own life. For example, if you’re caught up in shame, you can repeat, ‘May I accept myself just as I am.’ If you feel angry, try ‘May I be safe and free from anger.’ Avoid being too specific about your wishes, such as ‘May I get into the college of my choice!’ lest your wish become a demand for a particular outcome. Loving-kindness is an inclination of heart, not an attempt to manipulate the environment with our thoughts.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SC Group Summary Sept 26 2017

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SELF-CARE, SELF-COMPASSION

DISCUSSION & SUPPORT GROUP

SUMMARY OF SEP 26, 2017

 

EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS

Yesterday, once again, we spent well over an hour talking about our practice with self-compassion, self-acceptance and mindfulness along with the struggles we each face in our lives. One thing came up which especially caught my interest – expectations – of ourselves and of others. In a sense, these are two separate issues, but in another sense it’s about one thing – expectations and the ensuing disappointments that sometimes, or even often, happen.

Having expectations of others can mean that we may be disappointed and even hurt by someone not doing what we expected them to do. So what can we do about that? We have no control over other people. How can we keep ourselves from feeling hurt and disappointed over and over? One of the things that I have done over the years is lower my expectations of others and in their place I put my needs. What do I need from this person rather than what do I expect? And when my need is not being met I can then address that and take responsibility for it. Maybe I have to look elsewhere to get what I really need or maybe I simply had to communicate it more clearly.

For example, let’s say that my friend doesn’t return my phone call or text within a certain time (hours, days). I then come to the conclusion that she doesn’t care about me because I expected her to call within a certain timeframe. But this may not be the case at all. Perhaps, in her mind, expressing care for me is not about phone calls or texts. Maybe she has a different idea. What is essential here is not focusing on the expectation but rather the need. I need to know she cares about me. So then she tells me “This is how I express my affection (hugs, spending time together, etc.). I get very busy with things and put off making phone calls or texts. I don’t enjoy using them that much. I’d rather show my affection for you in other ways.”

Lowering expectations of others gives everyone room to breathe and be who they are.

EXPECTATIONS OF OURSELVES

I think that some expectations we have of ourselves are harmful and some are just right. The kind of expectations I have for myself are things such as:

  • To live as much as possible according to my values and principles; so that I can live with integrity;
  • To be my own best friend; to be on my side always; to never condemn or criticize;
  • To accept as much as possible who I am and what I need right now;
  • To not have unreasonable and unrealistic goals for myself that I probably can’t accomplish;
  • To accept my mistakes and failures; to forgive myself for not living up to expectations;
  • To listen to my needs and meet them as often as possible, with consideration of other people’s needs when appropriate.
  • To forgive myself for not meeting these expectations 😊

When we push ourselves to do things that may be unrealistic we are using force. However, there is something wiser in us, I think, that tips the balance the other way. That part of us will make us crash and burn if we are not doing what we really need to be doing – which is taking care of ourselves, paying attention to what we are able to do right now. A part of us is telling us that we are going beyond our limit.

This is especially difficult for so many of us when we have a mental illness and we cannot function and live a ‘normal’ life. We tend to feel very guilty and frustrated that we can’t hold jobs, or that our relationships are often a mess, and that we often just feel such a sense of failure. However, pushing ourselves to live a ‘normal’ life doesn’t really work either. We need to come to terms with our limitations. Becoming ill usually means we have more limitations on us than ‘normal’. I think that part of the work of healing is to accept that we are ill, and that we can’t do the same things ‘normal’ people do. We may not have the energy to work or socialize. We may barely have the energy to do laundry or dishes. I think the more deeply we can accept our life conditions, the more we will be able to do. Acceptance tends to help us relax and let be. It’s as if we have opened a dam and simply let the flood waters flow. This is where change happens and where we can begin to direct ourselves, steer ourselves towards what we need and want – rather than force ourselves to be what we are not.

Accepting our illness is not about defeat in any way. It is far from giving up. Rather, it is about befriending the illness and its symptoms, using it as an ally. Listening to what it’s telling us we need right now and responding.

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you live with ease

 

 

 

 

 

SC Group Summary Sep 19, 2017

 

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SUPPORTING YOUR PRACTICE

Last week A. (my co-facilitator) and I let you know that we will have a check-in each week with those of you who want to share your ongoing practice with any of our topics – self-compassion, meditation, mindfulness, and self-acceptance. We are putting this element right at the beginning of our sessions. Yesterday we spent the first hour on people checking in and talking about their efforts and struggles with these things. What seemed fitting for us to discuss in the second half was feelings of shame and a sense of unworthiness….

THE TRANCE OF UNWORTHINESS

One thing that seemed to be quite common to many of us yesterday was the difficulty of feeling compassion for ourselves. Many find it not too difficult to hold compassion for someone else but when it comes to ourselves there is no love there, only loathing and/or disappointment. Even if we lived up to expectations there was no satisfaction from it in the end so what’s the point? Yes! What is the point of meeting other people’s expectations if we are not satisfying ourselves in some real way? Isn’t that a betrayal of who we are and what is important to us?

I read some excerpts from Tara Brach’s Awakening The Trance of Unworthiness. Here is the link to her site where you can read the excerpts and more.

https://www.tarabrach.com/articles-interviews/inquiring-trance/

Carl Jung said (on Tara Brach’s site) that “We’re not trying to transcend or vanquish the difficult energies we consider wrong – the fear, shame, jealousy, anger – since this only creates a shadow that fuels our sense of deficiency. Rather, we’re learning to turn around and embrace life in all its realness – broken, messy, vivid, alive. This is the way out of trance: mindfully recognizing and bringing compassion to the parts of our being we have habitually ignored, pushed away, condemned.”

Brach says “While extremely painful, the trance of unworthiness and its energies of raw shame and fear is a portal to profound transformation. The first step is the realization that we are imprisoned in this trance.”

NEEDS

Someone mentioned yesterday that they didn’t always feel ‘up’ and that is what he’s striving for and wishing for. I realized afterwards that what he was really talking about was getting his needs met. When our most important needs are met to the degree that we feel comfortable, then we feel ‘up’. Others in the group talked about feeling depression and anxiety and again these are often signs that we are not getting something that we need.

When we notice we are feeling ‘down’, depressed, anxious, worried, sad it’s often a sign that we have an unmet need. Sometimes we can’t meet the need exactly, such as feeling the need for intimacy. If we do not have that kind of relationship with anyone yet we long for it how do we deal with that? Always self-compassion can step in and soothe us to some extent. Another thing we can do is look at the attached Needs List below from the Center for Non-Violent Communication (NVC). We may find that our loneliness translates to a need for connection, affection, support, belonging, care, communication and so on. From here we can see that there are more possibilities for us to feel less lonely. We can ask ourselves “Where can I get that connection, that support, a feeling of belonging, of being cared about?” and discover that possibly there is someone or somewhere that will give us some of what we need. We may not get intimacy but care, support and connection can go a long way to making us feel better.

The point is – it pays to be curious and investigate our feelings. When I meet my needs I am happier, more content, more at peace, more sociable (unless my need is to spend some time alone). When we figure out what we truly need (such as those on the Needs List) then we can figure out how we might meet that need. Have a look.

NEEDS LIST

 

LOVING-KINDNESS (METTA) MEDITATION

This week we continue to focus on metta meditation and working with sending compassion towards ourselves. For some, they find it’s working a little. For others nothing. I reminded people that we are not striving to feel good when we practice metta meditation. We are focusing more on our intention and attitude. We are sending care towards ourselves. But if it is too difficult to start with ourselves we can choose someone else, or even a family pet, to send it too. That way we can get in touch with our ability to be compassionate, and waken it up. I believe that eventually everybody can get to self-compassion. It’s just not always an easy journey.

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you live with ease

 

 

SC Group Summary of Sept 12 2017

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Yesterday we began to talk about Loving-Kindness, or metta, meditation which is different than the Basic Meditation we talked about last time. Basic meditation is about attention to our breath, sounds outside, or body sensations, for example. Metta meditation is about connecting with the person who is suffering (which may be ourselves). We read from the handout on metta meditation (see Handouts below) then talked more about the practice.

The phrases we can use are our little ‘prayer’ at the end of our meetings though you can use any words that work for you and are easy to repeat.

Metta meditation may be very difficult for some of us as it can trigger all kinds of feelings of unworthiness and shame. Many of us can get stuck on feeling anger towards ourselves, a sense of disappointment with who we are or a sense of inadequacy. Some of us shared a bit yesterday about our anger and how we have released it in ‘safe’ ways. One person shared that she chose not to live with anger toward herself anymore, recognizing that she had previously taken on the responsibility of other people’s actions and blamed herself for them.

It may be that what we have to face, in order to get through (not get rid of) the difficult emotions, is coming to terms with who we are and accepting that we have fallen far short of some mark. We might need to really see that mark and question why it is there. Where did it come from? When did we start thinking that we had to meet these expectations? We need to accept that we are not perfect, that we can’t meet other people’s, or our own, expectations all the time – often because something else needs our attention more. Maybe we are too tired and worn out to do anything more, or maybe we have too many things on the go and we are overwhelmed.

It may be that we have to take a leap of faith at first and trust that the metta phrases (and our intention behind them) will work in some way, that they will have some sort of effect, even if not that noticeable. No matter if we have that first rejection of the idea of kind words for ourselves. No matter if we begin with “This will never work.  I don’t deserve loving kindness” – acknowledge that feeling then put it aside. Try saying the first phrase “May I be safe” and see how that feels. If anger or disappointment comes up we simply acknowledge them, put them aside and come back to “May I be safe”. For some, it has to be a step-by-step process. One that is gentle, not one with pressure or expectation.

A (my co-facilitator) and I would like to stay with this topic for a few weeks and go in-depth with it. We will talk about what metta meditation is not (positive affirmations or a mantra, for example), finding good qualities in ourselves, opening to pain, connecting with others and backdraft (“’May I be happy’ is a minefield!”) I hope that this will help those of you who find Loving-Kindness meditation so difficult.

Here is a link to a practice you can do with feelings of shame.

https://www.mindful.org/tame-feelings-shame-10-minute-practice/

“You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear…”

From South Pacific about racism but it applies to us as well. We have been taught to hate and fear ourselves. The good news is we can unlearn these things – step-by-step.