DISCUSSION & SUPPORT GROUP
SUMMARY OF NOV 14, 2017
“It is okay; it really is. Even when it doesn’t feel okay, it’s okay.”
When I read that the other day, well.. it was a lightbulb moment. An epiphany. Reading that was like hearing the voice within me that says that very thing. It’s okay Caer. It really is. (whew!)
SELF-ACCEPTANCE IN THE GROUP
Yup, I heard it again this week. Two group members who have been attending for a while shared some of their recent experiences and I heard some inner movement and change happening for them. A shift in their perspective that was giving them just a tiny bit more ease in their lives. That is so gratifying. Some of you when you share, well it’s so rich. You hit the nail right on the head when you describe your experiences – our experiences with these concepts.
I hear that it’s very hard work. It’s hard to stay present with whatever is going on but especially with our pain. However, I also hear that the hard work is not stopping you. That is both gratifying and inspiring to hear. If you can do it, then so can I. We are providing proof for each other that there are things that work, that move us toward a little more ease in our lives, a little less suffering.
I’m also grateful to newcomers. You remind the rest of us of the beginning again. You remind us that sometimes we have to begin all over again because it feels like we have lost ground somehow. We were doing so well it seemed then we got derailed. However, it doesn’t have to be viewed as a problem but rather a reminder to start at the beginning again. The beginning? Now. Noticing. Being aware. Remembering the Self-Compassion model and everything it says. To be kind, to remember that all humans feel inadequate at times, all humans suffer, and to be aware, as often as possible, non-judgmentally of what’s going on.
We have been focused on compassion for the self-critic for the past 4 weeks and I think this is always a good place to begin when we notice we are suffering. Is this my self-critic telling me I don’t feel safe? Is there something I’m worried about right now, something I fear? What can I do to support myself in this midst of this pain, without condemnation?
This journey we are on together is also very much about connection. When we understand that our suffering happens to all of us (common humanity) and it is normal, maybe we can then feel connected to everyone else. This is common ground for all of us and it’s what this group is about – connecting with others in the midst of all of our experiences and especially our pain. I think connection also happens when there is acceptance from others. When we feel like there is nothing wrong with us – nothing. That allows us to truly connect, without fear.
DEPENDING ON OUR ROUTINES
The subject came up about being ‘thrown off’ when we can’t stick to our routines. Routines are so important to many of us. They give us structure and boundaries, a sense of purpose, sometimes even deep meaning (such as meditating every day). Some of us are very dependent on those routines to help us feel okay in the world. So, what do we do when our routines, which we depend on, are interrupted? How do we cope then?
“When something is wrong …. we don’t have to limit the ability with which we can care for ourselves and accept ourselves. Instead, that’s where the greatest shift can be – we can go from frustration and lack of self-acceptance to, ‘Okay, what’s the very best thing I can do to support myself in this very moment?’” [What If There Is Nothing Wrong? By Raphael Cushnir. From the SELF-ACCEPTANCE PROJECT book, edited by Tami Simon]
I feel that sense of disorientation when the power goes out, disrupting my routines and I’m usually triggered into PANIC MODE. What Cushnir suggests is to be in the body with the feelings. What does it feel like? Where is it in my body? When I think about doing this I see a door called PANIC. It’s a black, ugly, hard and cold door. However, … if I can find the courage to open it and see what is behind it, I find emotions that I do not want to feel – such as helplessness, no sense of autonomy, no sense of control over the situation and yes … powerlessness (funny enough). I feel as if someone has taken away my security blanket and it feels just awful. Yet I think the best thing for me to do is feel that helplessness, that loss and know that I can bear the feelings. They will not destroy me or cause me harm. So, if our routine is upset then maybe we can see it as an opportunity to pay attention to what we are feeling without that routine. Explore the experience if we are able and see what we might learn about ourselves in this situation.
READING: COMPASSION FOR THE SELF-CRITIC continued
Excerpts from Compassion for the Self-Critic by Dr. Kristen Neff (in the Self-Acceptance Project edited by Tami Simon of Sounds True)
- Letting go of thinking the self-critic is the problem. Listen to what it’s telling you. Give it air time. Ask it what it’s afraid of, worried about. We need to have compassion for our self-critic. It’s trying to keep us safe from rejection, not being accepted for who we really are.
- Most of us have a default state of mind – that of threat. It’s part of our ‘old’ brain, the reptilian brain. We used to need to be constantly aware in order to survive but we don’t have the same threats anymore (unless we live in a war zone). We can use our mammalian caregiving system (the Soothing/Affiliation System) to help us feel safe as well without having to criticize and condemn ourselves.
- People are often afraid of letting go of their self-critic because they believe they will no longer be motivated to do anything, or they will not care about anyone else. They won’t be a ‘good’ person or the person everyone expects them to be.
- We can use mindfulness to help us notice when we are being self-critical. “It can help us develop a refined ear for the self-critical voice.” With recognition and awareness, we can begin to create a new response – self-compassion. Awareness and practice are the way to change habits.
- “When we criticize ourselves, we reinforce the illusion of control – that we should have been able to do it perfectly” It’s scary to admit that we are not in control.
READING – – The importance of recognizing our common humanity
“One important way to soften our inner criticism and have compassion for our imperfection is by recognizing our common humanity – everyone feels inadequate, flawed, and imperfect. It is part of the human experience to fail, to blow it sometimes; you are not alone in this. When we make mistakes, however, we tend to feel that something has gone wrong – that the baseline should be ‘everything is going swimmingly.’ When it’s not, we feel that we’re somehow abnormal, that it’s only me that is going through this right now. That feeling of loss of connection is incredibly frightening, because evolutionarily, if we were rejected from the group, we were at the mercy of the lions. So an important way you can soften your self-criticism and create a kinder approach to yourself is by remembering common humanity. When we do this, every moment of feeling inadequate actually becomes an opportunity for connection.”
READING – On-the-spot interventions
“If you practice self-compassion in your life, you’ll see it’s really just a series of on-the-spot interventions. We can start with the tiny little moments throughout the day. ‘Oh, I spilled the milk!’ Catch yourself before you judge yourself and say, ‘What a klutz.’ Just remember, ‘Wait a minute; I spilled the milk. It’s okay.’ ‘Everyone spills milk sometimes.’ ‘It’s just spilled milk.’ ‘Don’t cry over …’ It has to be in-the-moment practice in order to be effective, and integrated into actual life so that it’s a habit in place ready to help handle the big stuff. If you are just self-compassionate on the meditation cushion and not in your daily life, it’s not going to be that effective.”
READING From interview with Oprah and Pema Chodron
About Pema Chodron:
“Beloved Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother, Pema Chodron has inspired millions of people from around the world who have been touched by her example and message of practicing peace in these turbulent times. The Pema Chodron Foundation is dedicated to preserving and sharing Pema’s inspiration and teachings in order that they might help us all awaken wisdom and compassion in ourselves and the world around us.”
OPRAH: Is that what you advise we do when things fall apart—stay with it?
PEMA: Yes. The problem is that we have so little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. I’m not even talking about unpleasant outer circumstances, but that feeling in your stomach of “I don’t want this to be happening.” You try to escape it in some way, but if somehow you could stay present and touch the rawness of the experience, you can really learn something.
OPRAH: When you tell people to touch the rawness and feel it, what should they do? They’re already feeling pain.
PEMA: Go to your body and connect with the physical sensation. It always feels really bad; it’s usually a tightening in the throat or the heart or the solar plexus. Stay with that and say to yourself, “Millions of people all over the world have this kind of discomfort, fear—I don’t even have to call it anything—this feeling of not wanting things to be this way. This is my link with humanity.” Connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.
OPRAH: What happens if you choose not to sit with the feeling?
PEMA: It cuts you off from your compassion and empathy for others. That gives birth to a chain reaction that causes people to self-destruct or strike out and hurt other people. It’s the source of a lot of the pain and destruction that we see in the world today.
OPRAH: So what do you do to stay with it?
PEMA: I think the most straightforward way is to breathe in very deeply and connect with the feeling, and breathe it out on the exhalation. I call it compassionate abiding. It means staying with yourself when, probably for your whole lifetime, you’ve always run away at that point.
OPRAH: For me, that’s getting a bag of chips.
PEMA: Yeah, for a lot of people, it’s eating. But you could go down the list, everything from eating chips to doing some much more destructive things.
May you (and all beings) be safe
May you (and all beings) be happy
May you (and all beings) be healthy
May you (and all beings) live with ease