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…


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 …





Okay. Here goes. I’m going to confess something to you. This is something about me that I don’t tell a lot of people. After all, in some way, some perspective I hold, I see this as childish and immature. So it’s a little embarrassing to admit to. (But only a little. I mostly accept that this is who I am). Therefore, when I have visitors I’m very aware that now they will know this thing about me and I wonder what they will think. So .. like I said … here goes.

I have over 80 stuffed animals and dolls. (Does that make me a hoarder? I wonder where you draw the line). What do you think of me now huh? Well, now that it’s out there let me tell you how wonderful it is to have all these ‘beings’. I call them the Beans. There are three groups of them – The Bed Group, The Bedroom Floor Gang and The Living Room Bunch. And one bear is actually called T.O. which stands for Transitional Object in psychology or psychiatric terms. It is an object that carries comfort and love for the person. My psychiatrist gave him to me so it was very right to call him T.O. Actually the letters should stand for ‘Transferable Object (of love)’ which is what my psychiatrist really gave me. All the care my psychiatrist gave me went into that little bear so I could comfort myself when I wasn’t with her.

Before I fell apart back in 1990, (I think they used to call those ‘nervous breakdowns’. Sheesh!), I think I a had 3 or 4 stuffed animals. But once I did ‘break down’ and start to uncover my past I discovered many different parts of me who had been created in response to childhood abuse. And many of those parts were very wounded and frightened and needed lots of comfort. Fortunately, I also had (and still have) some other very caring and nurturing parts who started buying stuffed animals for the more wounded ones. And continued buying them over and over for many years until the collection I have now. It’s crowded in my apartment because of them but they are so important to me (and to all my parts).

This is what I really wanted to tell you. These animals and dolls are all happy and healthy. They get every need met. In other words, for me, they live a perfect human life. My ideal. Some of them I give voice to – as in out loud. They speak to me. They are like children who are extremely happy and well cared for. And in return, they care for me. They comfort me when I am sad and celebrate with me when I feel good. They always say the thing I need the most to hear.

I have often wondered, if I had to evacuate my home rather quickly, what I would grab first. My dear cat Panda Bear is always first. She is my greatest treasure, my beautiful companion. Then the Beans. They are second – that’s how important they are to me. When I could not have compassion for myself they could express it. One step removed but it worked.

So having these many stuffed animals … does it mean immaturity or does it mean a creative solution to the need for comfort and care? I see these beings as extensions of my inner parts and a celebration of each and every one of them. I love all my inner parts now. We are a community, and we care deeply for one another. It wasn’t always like that, of course, but I want everyone to know that it’s entirely possible to change that. And stuffed animals and dolls have helped me so much.


T.O. Mackie and Baby Annie – some of my best friends

SC Group (Aug 15, 2017)



This is a recap of some of the things we discussed this session.

Curiosity rather than Judgment

We talked about replacing judgment of ourselves, especially when we fail or make a mistake, with curiosity instead – as a first step toward acceptance. Here we can use the FIRST THOUGHT, SECOND THOUGHT that was suggested in one of our earlier meetings. We can’t stop the first thought that comes to mind and many times it’s a judgment about ourselves, some kind of label – I’m bad, I’m stupid, I’m wrong, I’m a failure, I’m a loser. However, what we can do, is have a second thought – one of noticing. Aha – judgment is happening. Criticism is happening. It even helps to say it this way rather than say I’m judging, I’m criticizing. It gives us a little space to step back and really observe and see what our mind is doing. Just observing it.

Some people talked about how they have been hurt by others making them feel sad and/or angry. It is so very difficult for us when our family criticizes us, and browbeats us, puts pressure on us to do certain things, to succeed. How are we to respond to this? How are we to cope? Some people do cope and live up to their family’s expectations. But I think many more of us suffer instead and end up hating ourselves for not meeting expectations.

I talked about need, in terms of this issue. Everyone has needs they want to meet. Often parents need their children to live out a certain life, and that is often because they could not. It’s important to notice that their expectations of us are their needs, belong to them and not to us. Their agendas for us. What is most helpful is to determine what we need to feel happy. If it’s to please our family then so be it. But if it is do something else, then the best thing we can do is listen to ourselves. If we try to go against the grain of who we truly are we tend to suffer greatly.


We talked about the importance of understanding that we have all been ‘programmed’ since childhood, even before birth. The genes we inherit are the beginning of the ‘programming’. Those genes will dictate to some extent what our personality will be like, what our physical body will be like. Then when we are born whoever cares for us will ‘program’ us in different ways. When we go to school the system will ‘program’ us in certain ways, our teachers will also ‘program’ us depending on their personality and teaching style, and our peers, our playmates will have a strong influence as well. And our culture, our society will ‘program’ us in certain ways as well.

By the time we are a full grown adult we have inherited a wealth of information about life, and we have integrated certain values and beliefs into our very being. We have adopted certain perspectives and certain attitudes towards others, towards ourselves and towards life itself. We will have come to many conclusions and some of them can cause us harm.

My co-facilitator, A., shared with us a story about the Dalai Lama. He was asked by someone how to deal with self-loathing. He and his translator talked for quite a while together about this question because they didn’t quite understand it. Tibetan people are not taught to loathe themselves, to put high expectations on themselves and then beat themselves up when they fail. A. made the very clear point that our self-hatred comes from this culture, it is not a basic human characteristic. It is created in our culture. This means it is learned behaviour and also means that it is possible to ‘unlearn’ it. We can choose another way of looking at ourselves.

Anger and rage

To revisit the subject – that some of us have been hurt so much in our life, particularly by our parents or caregivers. Our deep disappointment with this situation fills us with anger and rage. Understandable. I put out that possibly anger and rage are a form of aversion, a denial of sorts that we didn’t get what every child needs – unconditional positive regard. For me, it has been hard to accept that my mother was not able to listen to me very often so I felt I could not confide in her or turn to her for comfort. I was angry for a very long time. Eventually I was able, for the most part, to accept that she was taking care of her needs and to accept that she could not take care of mine. She needed herself too much.

One person pointed out that acceptance does not mean condoning someone’s actions. A very important point. It is not about letting someone else abuse, or continue to abuse us. Acceptance is more about accepting what we feel about the situation, what our own emotions are — our anger, an expression of our pain. It is also accepting, coming to terms with the fact that we cannot always get our needs met by others, particularly our parents. We may need to look elsewhere.

Weekly meetings

A. and I will be confirming with MDABC about a room so we can have our group every week, instead of every two weeks. We are aiming for starting the second week of September. I will let everyone know when we are sure.


This is the Sounds True website. This particular page has a 62-minute podcast with Christopher Germer on self-compassion.

Here is Christopher Germer’s site. One of his books both Alex and I are reading is called “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion”. It’s excellent and very helpful.

Brene Brown —

She is well known for her talks and books on the subjects of vulnerability and shame (as well as other topics). There is a TED talk on her website on shame. When we have a hard time feeling self-compassion for ourselves it’s often because we feel so much shame for being who we are. I hope her site might help with this.


Dr. Kristin Neff’s website:

This is such a useful website on the topic of self-compassion. Dr. Neff is a leader in the field. There is a self-compassion quiz you can take and a more in-depth article on the self-compassion model of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.

The Self-Acceptance Project:

This is an amazing website. It’s all for free. You can watch about 30 short videos on self-compassion and related topics. The first video is Dr. Kristin Neff speaking and she touched my heart profoundly. After listening to her I committed myself to learning how to be self-compassionate 100% of the time. And it worked!!



May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease.




Is self-compassion natural?


I want to add a bit more from Christopher Germer’s book.

“… we need to recognize that we deserve to feel better. When we feel really bad, most of us engage in self-punishment rather than self-compassion. We heap on self-criticism (‘This wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t so stupid’). We act as if suffering always points to a personal flaw rather than being a fact of the human condition. If we remind ourselves that wanting to feel better is a natural instinct, perhaps we’d be less likely to take ourselves to task when things go wrong. Wouldn’t you still clean and bandage a wound when you get injured? Why not do the same for yourself when you’re in emotional pain?

“… [a] group of people who might find self-compassion unnatural or difficult to practice are those who’ve been neglected or abused in childhood – suffered lots of stress in the formative years. The learning process for these folks may simply take a little longer. Many traumatized people feel they don’t deserve to feel good, or they haven’t had much practice feeling good. Furthermore, it may be hard for them to experience emotional pain in safe doses. Painful emotions recruit earlier pains. For example, a relationship breakup can trigger a tidal wave of loneliness and shame stored up from childhood, overwhelming one’s ability to focus and function.

“People with early childhood trauma, however, often demonstrate remarkable compassion and kindness toward other people or specifically toward pets or young children. Most everybody seems to have someone or something toward whom they experience natural compassion. … if it’s hard at first to feel compassion for yourself, you can use compassion for others as a vehicle to bring it to yourself.”






Thank you to all of you who attended Tuesday August 1 and participated in some really good discussions. In case you missed all or part of it, we revisited having self-compassion for ourselves. A. (my co-facilitator) read from Christopher Germer’s book the mindful path to self-compassion. Below are some highlights of what he read. I will put more of it on my blog.


“Although our personal experience may tell us otherwise, self-compassion is the most natural thing in the world. Deep within all beings is the wish to be happy and free from suffering. … Everything we do, even the good feelings we derive from helping others, seems to derive from the wish to make ourselves feel better. Self-compassion practice is therefore not adding anything special to our behavioral repertoire – it’s just fanning the flames of our innate desire to be safe, happy and healthy and to live with ease, but in a more helpful way than our tendencies to grasp for short-term pleasure and to avoid pain at all cost.

“… when bad things happen to us, we tend to have three unfortunate reactions: self-criticism, self-isolation, and self-absorption. [Dr. Kristen] Neff’s three components of self-compassion direct us exactly in the opposite direction: self-kindness, recognizing the common humanity in our experience, and a balanced approach to negative emotions.

“Why do we react like this? I look at it this way: the instinctive response to danger – the stress response – consists of fight, flight, or freeze. These three strategies help us survive physically, but when they’re applied to our mental and emotional function, we get into trouble. When there’s no enemy to defend against, we turn on ourselves. ‘Fight’ becomes self-criticism, ‘flight’ becomes self-isolation, and ‘freeze’ becomes self-absorption, getting locked into our own thoughts.”

I want to comment on this idea of linking the fight, flight or freeze responses with the three components of the Self-Compassion model. I think this is a wonderful way to be in the moment especially when we feel uncomfortable or we are in pain. We can stop and ask ourselves:

  • am I fighting with myself by being judgmental, critical and condemning? Am I fighting against what I am feeling? Am I trying to push away these emotions?
  • Am I taking flight by withdrawing from the world, into my own cocoon? Am I feeling ashamed and embarrassed because I feel bad about myself? Do I feel like this is only happening to me and no one else has any idea what this is like? Do I feel completely alone with this?
  • Am I ‘freezing’ and drowning in my own drama and story? Am I so caught up with my own issues and problems that I can’t think about anything else? Do I feel totally absorbed and stuck here, paralyzed like a deer in the headlights?

A wonderful image was shared by one of our members of the three components of the Self-Compassion model being like a net beneath us. Holding us. Maybe one net for each component – self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness. Thank you for that.



We had a lengthy discussion on using the Talking Stick as one member expressed minor frustration with it. As facilitators, we want to make sure everyone is as comfortable as possible. It’s helpful to know if anyone is uncomfortable with something we are doing in group time. The group didn’t make any decision to use it or not but we simply continued to use it. A. and I are very much in favour of continuing to use it. However, if there is more discomfort with using it we can talk about it again.

Here are some of the reasons the Talking Stick is helpful:

  • Helps us be more mindful about what we say and when we say it;
  • Slows the discussion down and gives us all time to digest what people share;
  • Helps keep us on topic (though tangents do happen – which is fine once in a while);
  • Creates a sense of boundaries and safety;
  • Gives a sense of a ‘sacred’ space – one that is held with respect and attention;
  • Gives us some silence between sharing.


We talked about the possibility of running this group every week, starting in the fall. We put it out to the group to see if that would be something that people want. Everyone who responded seemed to be in favour of more frequent meetings. A. and I will discuss booking the room. We will let everyone know when the change happens. In case you miss a week, I will try to send out a brief summary of what we talked about. My blog will often have more on the topics if you want further information.


We have decided to end our meetings with these few words.

May I be safe.

     May I be happy.

                                                                      May I be healthy.

May I live with ease

Though I would love to change the last line to “May I be free of unnecessary suffering”. We have talked in the group about Resistance vs Acceptance and that Resistance to what is tends to lead us to ‘unnecessary suffering’ and Acceptance can lead us to experiencing deep joy.


Most of us often tell ourselves things we should or shouldn’t do and I think this gets us into trouble. Should is such a word of force, of pushing ourselves to do something or be something rather than accept who we are and where we are at in life. I think the part of me that tells me I should do something is a part that was created when I was a child. This part has all the things that people said to me and that I believed to be true. “You should be a good girl. You should clean up your room, not talk back, not speak up, not protest, etc.” Now I recognize that this should part is only one part of me and it’s only a small part now. I recognize that I have a much bigger part that is true to myself and my needs, not someone else’s.

I think should always begins with an external source and we internalize it. These shoulds become our bible for living. They are hard and solid facts about us and what we should do. And they are to be believed. But I have learned over the years that these voices from the past, these shoulds are not about truth but about meeting someone else’s needs – usually our parents and close family, our teachers, and other community ‘authorities’.

I have changed my shoulds to coulds. When I catch myself saying I should do this, I correct myself and say I could do this. It depends on my needs in the moment. If I want to please others, to meet their expectations (and sometimes it’s totally appropriate) then I am choosing to do this. If I place more value on something else that I’m needing then I can decline meeting someone else’s expectations.

Possibly a good question to ask ourselves when we say ‘I really should do …’ is ‘Why exactly should I? What am I getting out of this? Are my needs being met here or am I meeting someone else’s?’

Also if we want to channel our energies towards something, rather than forcing ourselves using shoulds, we can direct ourselves, as if steering a canoe. You’ve got to go with the current to some extent but you’ve also got to steer the boat to where you want to go. Gently.


Here is Christopher Germer’s site. One of his books both Alex and I are reading is called “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion”. It’s excellent and very helpful.


Brene Brown —

She is well known for her talks and books on the subjects of vulnerability and shame (as well as other topics). There is a TED talk on her website on shame. When we have a hard time feeling self-compassion for ourselves it’s often because we feel so much shame for being who we are. I hope her site might help with this.



Dr. Kristin Neff’s website:

This is such a useful website on the topic of self-compassion. Dr. Neff is a leader in the field. There is a self-compassion quiz you can take and a more in-depth article on the self-compassion model of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.


The Self-Acceptance Project:

This is an amazing website. It’s all for free. You can watch about 30 short videos on self-compassion and related topics. The first video is Dr. Kristin Neff speaking and she touched my heart profoundly. After listening to her I committed myself to learning how to be self-compassionate 100% of the time. And it worked!!



                           May you be safe.

                                                                                May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease.

(May you be free of unnecessary suffering)


Five Minutes A Day


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!




For the last two nights I have had dreams about participating in a contest. For the past month I have been doing rather deep work with my dreams, trying to understand what is going on in my unconscious mind. I have been using Robert A. Johnson’s book Inner Work: Using Dreams & Active Imagination for Personal Growth (1986). It has helped me immensely.

Anyway …. looking at these two dreams I came to understand that there is a part of me, only a part, that compares myself with others – in other words, ‘holds a competition’. I imagine many of you hold competitions in your minds, comparing yourself to everyone else. Am I a winner or am I a loser?

I think in high school I felt a bit of a ‘loser’, more a failure. Eventually I simply gave up and quit. There were reasons why I was not doing well academically and they weren’t my fault. Still, I blamed myself for all of my failings. In my ‘competition’ I was definitely last.

I think that if our society, our culture had never thought about competition in any way, that many of us wouldn’t even be thinking about it. What I’m saying is that I think comparing ourselves, competing in the game of life, is a cultural thing. Competition is often the name of the game in this society. Unfortunately, when we apply it to ourselves, on a deep personal basis, we tend to come up very short. Just not good enough.

At the MDABC support group I attended for 5 years it was often said “Don’t play the comparison game. You always lose.” Comparing ourselves to others may be useful sometimes, if we want to simply understand ourselves. But when we want to rate ourselves in some kind of standing, then we tend to be in trouble – unless we’re playing a sport or game.

I think that people who don’t play the comparison game are already ‘winning’. They don’t feel the need to compare themselves, as if they are confident they are exactly where they need to be. No rating is necessary. In my dreams, I wanted to play the game in the best way possible, and in a way that I thoroughly understood what the game was all about. This is the way I want to live my life – that’s what I think my dreams are telling me. I want to understand life, not ‘get ahead’, not ‘succeed’, just play it thoroughly and well. And understand what the heck it’s all about.