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

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

SC GROUP Summary of Aug 29/17

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It was a good discussion group as usual. The first half was spent talking about Supporting Your Practice and how people responded to our offering this. In case you missed it, A. (my co-facilitator) and I would like to support any of you who want to practice self-compassion, self-acceptance and/or mindfulness on a regular basis. We want to offer you a space to talk about your efforts with it, your struggles and your successes. I WANT TO REPEAT that this is not a requirement of this group. It is perfectly alright to simply drop in and hear what we are talking about. This is meant for people who want to consciously and actively incorporate these ideas into their daily lives and get support doing so.

On putting this out there, a few people responded and in wonderful ways. We heard how much self-compassion has helped one member suffer less in her life. We also heard from 3 different people about how they have learned to accept themselves and be proud of who they are. It is so worthwhile to hear these stories and I hope that they can help those who don’t feel so strong in themselves … yet. Knowing this is possible can help.

We talked a bit about being judged by our family members and how devastating and hurtful this is. It is such a betrayal of our expectations, our utmost desire, as a human being, to be loved and cherished with unconditional positive regard (isn’t that a beautiful term?). I talked about being able to step back from those judgments and harsh words. If we can come to understand that these people are also wounded, and are attacking us in an effort to attack or deny their own pain. They want someone to blame for their own sense of shame but we don’t have to take their pain or their struggle on.

So we need to take space for ourselves, and hold strong in the thought that judging words from someone are not true words. They are not fact and they are not to be believed. (More later about this). We don’t have to believe what these people say. We don’t have to buy into their criticisms. It doesn’t mean we stop caring about these people, if we so desire (and some of us don’t. we have been hurt too much). We can still have room in our hearts for love for them and yet not buy into what they are saying.

 

Informal and formal meditation

After the break A. read a lot about mindful meditation both formal and informal. But first, subsequent to our earlier discussions, he read this …

“Any time a voice is talking to you that is not talking with love and compassion, DON’T BELIEVE IT! If the voice is not loving, don’t listen to it, don’t follow it, don’t believe it. NO EXCEPTIONS!” (Cheri Huber)

Then A. read about meditation from the book we are using as a basis for this group – the mindful path to self-compassion by Christopher Germer.

 Beginning Anew

The path to happiness and well-being never ends. Just when we think we’ve arrived, a new challenge presents itself and we begin again. This book was written to help dissolve the illusion that we can better ourselves to the point where emotional pain is a thing of the past. A more fruitful path is to cultivate uncommon kindness – kindness toward ourselves – as long as we live and breathe. In the words of meditation teacher Pema Chödrön: “… we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is … not to try to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. (pps 243–244)

Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

Self-compassion practice is a special method for whittling away our stubborn tendencies to resist pain and grasp for pleasure. It’s mindfulness from the neck down, emphasizing qualities of heart – motivation and emotion – rather than awareness and wisdom. The common healing element in both mindfulness and self-compassion is a gradual shift toward friendship with emotional pain. Mindfulness says, “Feel the pain” and self-compassion says, “Cherish yourself in the midst of the pain”; two ways of embracing our lives more wholeheartedly. (pps 88-89)

Should I meditate?

There are two categories of mindfulness meditation: formal and informal. “Formal” mindfulness meditation is when we dedicate time – usually half an hour or longer – to being mindful of what we’re sensing, feeling, and thinking. “Informal” meditation is when we take a brief, mindful moment in the midst of our busy lives. Both approaches can be practiced while sitting down, standing, walking, eating – anywhere and any time. The difference between formal and informal meditation is mainly a matter of time and purpose.

‘Each person should decide for him- or herself whether it makes sense to establish a formal meditation practice. Formal practice is more intensive, which generally transforms the mind at a deeper level: it yields deeper insights into the nature of mind and our personal conditioning. If you wish to do formal meditation, it should be enjoyable and it should fit your temperament and lifestyle. Most people don’t want to squeeze yet another activity into their busy schedules. Nor should they. This book is not written for people who want to become meditators, although some readers might develop a taste for it. (pps 51-52)

‘Perhaps the most compelling explanation for why mindfulness works is that, over time, we acquire beneficial insights about life. We discover how everything changes, how we create our own suffering when we fight change, and how we unconsciously cobble together a sense of “self.” The latter insight is beneficial because most of our waking moments are spent vainly boosting or fearfully protecting our fragile egos from assault. … When these insights about life become deep and abiding, they help us receive success and failure with equanimity, tolerate emotional pain knowing “this too will pass,” and have the courage to seize each precious moment of our lives. In other words, intuitive insights derived from intensive meditation can help us establish a less defensive, more flexible, relationship to the world.

‘Informal practice means we choose to pay attention, on purpose, to what’s occurring in the present moment. Any moment-to-moment experience is a suitable object of mindfulness. That could mean listening to birds, tasting your food, feeling the earth beneath your feet as you walk, noticing the grip of your hands on the steering wheel, scanning your body for physical sensations, or noticing your breathing. It could be as simple as wiggling your toes. The present moment liberates us from our preoccupations, never judges us, and is endlessly entertaining.’ (pps 55-56)

 

Self-acceptance Summit

Here is the link to Sounds True’s Self-Acceptance Summit beginning Monday September 11 through to Wednesday September 20. That’s ten days of videos. It’s free to register. You can either watch the recordings live or within 24 hours of the live broadcast. After that you will have to buy the upgrade ($200 USD). So if you enjoy watching and listening to people talk about the things we have been talking about here’s the link to register…

http://www.soundstrue.com/store/self-acceptance-summit/free-access

 

This is for The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion and has the online course run by Dr. Christopher Germer and Dr. Kristin Neff. It’s quite expensive but if you can afford it …

https://centerformsc.org/learn-msc/

 

 

Five Minutes A Day

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A week ago I began trying something new with my meditation practice. My co-facilitator in the SC Group said to the group, ‘even if you only meditate for 5 minutes a day you will benefit’ and that made me think. So I went home and started sitting for 5 minutes. Only I did it 3 or 4 times in a day.

I usually meditate 15 to 20 minutes just before I go to bed. It works most of the time. Though sometimes it’s a bit of a chore as I just want to go to sleep. However, I began to think of my meditation as the ‘cultivation of stillness’. I have a hard time being still, as if I have too much energy and just gotta be doing something. So, as a challenge to myself – I decided to cultivate stillness and doing ‘nothing’.

My intention, as well, is to befriend however I am feeling at any given moment. To practice meeting my emotions head on. I realized recently that I am very afraid of some of my emotions – like anger, like depression (if you can call it an emotion), grief. So I asked myself what do I do with this fear. My answer was to meet it head-on, to feel it, to possibly even embrace all of my feelings. To enter fully into these feelings.

This is pretty scary territory. Yet I recognize that when I resist this scary place, I cause myself ‘unnecessary suffering’. In other words I make it worse than it really is. But if I can simply sit and feel this uncomfortable, unpleasant feeling maybe I can make friends with it. I think I said in an earlier post that I will sometimes try and name the unpleasant feeling. Then even give it colour, form, sound, location in my body. This helps me step back from the feeling and feel a little ease. I can more easily accept and even be curious about the feeling.

Five minutes a day, or several times a day, has proven to be enormously helpful this week. I have chosen to stop 3 or 4 times a day, to just sit with whatever is going on in that moment. I have chosen to ask – so how are you doing right now? I am able to say – hey look at that big tree out your window. Look how it catches the sunlight. How high and mighty and proud it looks. And I have been breathing – great big deep breaths that start in my belly. This tells me I am beginning to relax.

Five minutes a day I wake up. And wow is it amazing!