SC Group Jan 30 2018 Summary





I wonder what my next thought will be.

–     A mindful moment


This week

A fairly small group again this week and that was just fine. One topic that came up was women with all brothers as siblings and the effect on their feelings about being female. Also, one regular member shared a triumphant moment with a parent. This member always seemed to have harsh conversations with this parent, full of judgment, and focus on things such as worry about her career and her life. However, this member drew on a wonderful inspiration – to take these kinds of discussions off the table and out of their relationship, at least for the time being. Her suggestion, instead, was to talk about other things and lo and behold, she and her parent found common ground and connection. I felt very appreciative of her efforts and her insight, and I am especially happy to see that it provided them the path they needed to connect. Wow! Stuff works!!


The shame of not working

When we need to stop working because of our illness some of us seem to end up in a world of shame. We feel guilty because we are not being a ‘productive member of society’. We feel ashamed that we can’t get out of bed or take a shower or wash the dishes. Why do we have such high expectations of ourselves when we really this as a time for rest and healing. I think maybe we need to look at our time off work as valuable time – for mourning and healing, for evaluating our lives and processing and finally for figuring out what we need to do next.

A suggestion

Perhaps what we need to do first, when having to take sick time, is to mourn our losses. Some of us may feel a real loss in not being able to work. Work might have given us some things which we now don’t have. A sense of routine, a sense of contribution to society, a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, a feeling of being ‘normal’ and acceptable. So, we might take this time to honour what we did get from working, from what we enjoyed, as well to re-evaluate what wasn’t working for us anymore, whether it was symptoms of our illness making it too difficult, or the work environment itself that was just not beneficial to us. And we might allow ourselves to feel the loss, feel the sadness that says we are in the process of letting go.

It seems that it is very easy to have a lot of shoulds when we are not working. If I am not working, then I should still be productive in some way. One member expressed it in terms of getting here sh*t together. However, I think this is the most harmful thing we can do to ourselves, especially when we are not feeling well already. To pile on the expectations – instead of looking at our limitations and how to work within them.

Another suggestion

When we are doing something that we think we shouldn’t be doing (e.g., staying in bed all day, watching a lot of tv, spending hours on the computer … instead of being ‘productive’) it might help if we do two things.

  1. Look at the need(s) I am not meeting by doing the things I am currently doing. Should and shouldn’t seem to indicate that something I’m doing is bothering me. So, what is that need that I am not meeting by staying in bed all day, watching tv, etc.?
  2. THEN … look at the need(s) I am meeting by staying in bed or whatever. Maybe I have a need to simply rest and be comfortable, or recharge (maybe I’m exhausted). Maybe I need to think about things, about my life and what I really want and need. Or maybe I need to not think about these things, to take a break from my constant worry thinking and ruminating. So, I watch tv to distract myself. (Sometimes it works like a charm 😊)
  3. How can I meet BOTH needs? How can I get that down time and how can I start getting my sh*t together (and be specific about what that means)?

When we can recognize more clearly what we are doing, what we are missing and what we need to do, we can create a kinder relationship with ourselves. Paying attention to our needs is mindful, being in the present, and it is kind and loving. It’s also very empowering and liberating. We need to stop working for a reason. Something in us needs attention. Our sense of purpose now turns towards ourselves and we can ask ourselves “How best can I use this time away from work? How can I create a stronger relationship with myself so that I know how to meet my needs when they arise? What needs were not getting met at work and how can I change that in the future?”

Hopefully, having this perspective can help to remove the guilt and shame about not being able to work. In a sense, it’s such a waste to think this way, an unnecessary suffering caused by our judgments of our illness.

Another point of view – “The High Cost of Low Self-Compassion”

These notes from A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives by Thupten Jinpa.

As our culture moves us towards more independence, self-sufficiency, and less communal experiences we are being forced to make sense of our existence separately. ‘Since each of us now has to create his or her own meaning, we become obsessed with what we accomplish, to the point where we define our personal identity and evaluate our self-worth in terms of our work – hence the questions “What do you do?” Which has come to mean so much more than “What do you do for a living?”’

We need to move our focus away from ‘performance orientation’ which may be ‘unavoidable in any competitive environment’, and from the extremes that we take it to. ‘Performance obsession can lead to insensitivity, impatience, and even arrogance toward other people, especially when we perceive them to be not up to our standard.’

Many people believe that unless they are critical and demanding of themselves, they will be failures, unworthy of recognition and undeserving of love.’ And ‘When something good does happen, we may feel deep down that we don’t deserve it. We worry that we might somehow be forced to pay for it afterward. We’re terrified of letting go even a little, because we think we’ll lose control of our lives – something bad might happen, and we’ll blame ourselves. We’re afraid that if we were to be gentle and kind with ourselves, to relax our grip, we might not accomplish anything at all. So, we keep cracking our internal whip.’


READING: Elizabeth Gilbert, Self-Acceptance Summit, September 2017

Forgiving our past actions

[The most self-accepting response…] I would say to you, person who says, “I’m in a marriage that I know I need to leave, but I’m not leaving,” “I’m in a job that I know I need to leave and I’m not leaving,” “I’m in a situation I know I need to leave and I’m not leaving, what’s the matter with me?” I would say, clearly you do not yet know. You don’t know. And you can’t know until you know. You cannot know until you know, and you will know when you know, because then you’ll leave or you’ll stay. But as long as you’re staying in a situation, it’s because you don’t know yet. You don’t.

And I’ve had people say to me—I think there’s a shame spiral that happens around that, where people say, “I want to beat myself up, I stayed so much too long in X, Y, Z situation, and I knew, I knew seven years ago that marriage was over. I knew five months ago that this job move was the wrong move for me. I knew 20 years ago I didn’t want to live in this town.” And I always say to them, “No, you didn’t. No, you didn’t.” You think you did now, because now you have this extraordinary clarity of being in this moment, looking back with all the information that you’ve gathered over the last 20 years, seven years, five months, whatever it was. You have this incredibly privileged position in your life right now at this moment where you do know. And so it’s incredibly easy to go back and abuse yourself by saying, “I should’ve known, I did know.” You didn’t. You didn’t know until the moment that you did. And when that moment came, you took the action, and it was not too late. It was at exactly the right time.

And the most loving thing that you can do, if you’re beating yourself up about stuff you should’ve done and didn’t do at the right moment, is to really pause and take a look back at her or him, that person who you were seven years ago, at that moment that you’re beating yourself up for now. Take a look back and really go truth searching and look in that person’s face and say, “Could she have done anything different at that moment knowing what she knew at that moment?” And remembering that all she had was the information she had at that moment. She didn’t have the benefit of the entire history of the world that you now have. She only had who she was then, what her history was then, what culture was telling her then, what she was trying to be then. That’s all she had to work with. And weighing all of that out, she’s doing the best she could with what she knew, and she didn’t know anything other than to stay. And until that changes, that’s how it is.

That’s the basis of forgiveness for the past, which for me is always the most painful thing that I struggle with in my life, is learning how to forgive myself for the past. Could you have done anything differently then what you did at that moment? And the answer is always no. And you can ‘should have’ as much as you want, but it’s so cruel. It’s such a cruel thing to do to somebody who frankly didn’t have the wisdom you have now, who is younger than you are now, and didn’t have the benefit of all the years of experience that you’ve got now. You have to let her off the hook.

And I’ve also had people say to me, “Why should I say my best was good enough? Isn’t that just letting me off the hook?” And all I hear in their voice is somebody who has never once let herself off the hook. I’m like, “I am not worried about you letting yourself off the hook too much. Apparently you’ve never done it. I’m worried about the fact that you never let yourself off the hook. That’s the problem.”


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




















































When I nurture myself by nurturing my life-energy (needs), I have found, time after time, that I become curious and inspired to nurture it in others. Alternatively, when I experience disconnection from the life in me, I experience disconnection from the life in others.” [Thom Bond, The Compassion Book: Lessons from The Compassion Course]

Sometimes it’s just so hard  Our main focus this week seemed a continuation of last week somehow. Last week we focused on anxiety. This week on when times are really hard, difficult to bear or to get through, such as prolonged anxiety. What do we do then? How do we cope? One member is in so much agitation and pain a great deal of the time. I stepped into her shoes for a while and asked – do I remember being in so much pain for a long period of time, and how did I get through it? And I think some, if not most of us in the group, were thinking along the same lines. How can we empathize with this woman and how can we help her get through this experience?

From there a number of us shared our own experiences, our own courageous moments, and the moments that were the darkest. And oh, they can get so dark sometimes. That darkness can blind you completely, and it’s really hard to think clearly and reasonably. Yet, I am rather awed by the fact that so many of us human beings go through a dark night of the soul, a place of utter despair that we will ever feel free of this pain, and yet we come out the other side. I have heard so many stories of people who got through their toughest times and the experience has given them some things they would not have received otherwise. … such as compassion, courage, intelligence, and amazing coping skills. It seems as if compassion comes from the knowledge of experience, not from something we learn in a book. Compassion comes from an inside knowing what this pain feels like to us and how very much we want it to go away.

There’s something that Eckhardt Tolle, and probably many others, recognize as causing us ‘unnecessary suffering’, the ‘pain of pain’, is what Tolle calls it, I believe. When we reject the situation we are in, we tense up and cause ourselves even more pain. This is the part that’s unnecessary. We know that there have been many people who have learned to relax into, and accept whatever painful situation they are in. We have heard and read of people who did this and how well rewarded they were for doing this. If we can see our way to opening up to that experience, even if it’s really painful, we may find something wonderful (really, I mean it). [See article below ‘Embracing’ the Unpleasant Stuff]

So many of us are so afraid of pain, of loss. I think that a lot of pain is loss. Loss of someone we love and want in our lives, loss of certain abilities, loss of status, reputation, material objects that we treasure. And of course, loss of our own life eventually. I think that if we can learn to accept loss as a part of life, and that impermanence is here to stay, we may be free of certain kinds of pain. We may find our hearts more open to our own suffering and that of others and we may be able to connect with some deep joy that is always there, just not so easy to find.

Suggestions from the group for ways of dealing with pain:

  • SELF-COMPASSION BREAK – admitting to ourselves that this is suffering, this is difficult, this is really hard, this is uncomfortable, etc. and giving ourselves the kindness we need;
  • CHANGE OUR THOUGHTS. Thoughts can be in the form of judgments (this is so awful, horrible, stupid, I’m so weak), or beliefs (I can’t bear this, I can’t cope. This is too much for me). These may be the first thoughts we have but we can have SECOND THOUGHTS – I notice I’m judging this situation and not believing in myself right now. This situation is very painful indeed but perhaps I can find some ways to get through this period of time. Understanding that our thoughts may be triggering our unpleasant emotions and stepping back from evaluating and judging the experience to simply seeing it as it is. This can help move us towards more acceptance of what’s going on rather than what’s not;
  • LOOK AT OUR NEEDS. The NEEDS LIST link is below. This list is incredibly helpful as it’s a very specific set of words. When we can identify which of those NEEDS we are experiencing right now, we can then come up with an abundance of strategies (thinking cap on and brainstorm). We really only have a handful of needs but a million ways to meet them. We just gotta do the work;
  • LOVING-KINDNESS MEDITATION – May I be safe, happy, healthy, live with ease – or whatever words work. PRAY;
  • ASK THE UNIVERSE FOR HELP – put it out there. Notice every little bit that does help and store up those experiences. Those are moments of getting our needs met. A kind word from someone, a polite motorist, getting home easily (where transit works perfectly). These are all small moments that we can build on and call upon when we are in deep pain. Remembering and basking in moments of HELP, of comfort, ease, and health;
  • REMOVE EXPECTATIONS AND ACKNOWLEDGE LIMITATIONS. We may be causing ourselves more pain by thinking that we should do more, we should be able to cope. If we are able to remove those shoulds and those expectations of behaving as if we are not in pain, we can be free to just be with ourselves in this moment. We can mourn the loss of things we can’t do right now, and we can focus on what we need RIGHT NOW. (Did I mention the NEEDS LIST, link below??)

I hope some of these suggestions help. And if you can think of more I’d be glad to put those out there as well.

More thoughts about deeper connections & vulnerability

Last week I talked about seeing our superficial conversations with others, not as something unfulfilling and meaningless, but as meeting other needs. A few of us in the group have expressed our frustration with those lighter conversations and how they seem to leave us feeling empty. However, I think that if we change our mind, our thoughts and our perspective we might find more meaning in them.

What we’re really talking about is relationship with others. How and what we communicate and that determines the kind of relationship we have with someone. One way to look at relationships and conversations is to look at our need for connection and even to see that many of us need different kinds of connections with different people.

I like having a variety of connections that give me different levels of intimacy. I need light banter with some people, maybe to express the beautiful sunny day. I need to share some things with absolute strangers as it makes me feel they are also a part of my world and I theirs. I also need to feel connected to members of my community and that’s on different layers as well. Sometimes it’s the Megaphone guy on the corner, or one of the homeless people who sleep on my neighbourhood streets. I like letting them know that I care about them and that they are a welcome part of my community. I like the feeling that I might contribute something wonderful, however tiny and trivial, to their life, for even just a moment.

I also like my connections with my neighbours in my housing co-op. I have lived in this house for about 34 years and some of my neighbours have been here a long time as well. We stop and chat in the halls. Some of us visit with each other. And we attend meetings and make decisions about our homes together. We share a really important common ground. I need these relationships as well. They are meaningful in the context of being neighbours and sharing a living space.

Then there are friends who I see from time to time and we catch up on each other lives. Sometimes I lose sight of the meaning of these particular conversations but then I remember that we are both needing to share a bit of our personal lives with each other. This is where we begin to see intimacy and trust really at work. The fact that we are both comfortable enough to share our more personal experiences with each other shows a certain level of trust, intimacy, connection and caring. We also tend to pick up threads of conversations. The ongoing status of work, our relationships, our kids, pets, home, etc.

Finally, there are a few people who I trust the most and feel the safest and most intimate with. I share not only personal experiences but also deeper feelings and needs. This is where I feel the most vulnerable AND it’s where I feel the deepest meaning in my connections with others. These are the people I would really feel their absence in my life if they were not a part of it anymore.


I think one way of seeing vulnerability is that when I am vulnerable with someone it means I am willing to express my needs to them as well as listen and understand what their needs are. I am willing to be honest about my needs and I am willing to be open to hearing them, even if I don’t like what I’m hearing. That, to me, is vulnerability. It has a sense of risk to it and it means I need a certain level of trust in that relationship.


In conclusion

I suggest when we feel that a conversation is meaningless and boring, we look at how we have disconnected from that person and why. I want to look at the need that is there in me that is not getting met. I also want to look at what needs I do get from this relationship (and conversation) and from that one, and so on. All of this rather than dismissing the exchange as meaningless and a waste of time.



One group member wrote to me a few weeks ago, commenting on Gary’s Wellness Toolbox article. Gary mentioned ‘embracing’ a difficult experience rather than rejecting it. I think many of us are still working on ‘accepting’ difficult experiences and can’t quite imagine ‘embracing’ them yet. And maybe the idea of ‘embracing’ is a little bit ridiculous. After all these are unpleasant experiences and we don’t want to give them the idea that we like them. However, my perspective on this word ‘embrace’ is akin to ‘appreciation’, understanding how this experience can feed me even though it hurts like hell. Pain tells me what I need and now. Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of Non-Violent (or Compassionate) Communication calls our needs our life-energy. Needs are what moves us to act. They are our basic instincts and impulses. Everything we do is to respond to a need. In my Compassion Course I learned that pain is very useful. Like I said, it tells us what we need.

So, in that way, we can ‘embrace’ our pain. Hell, we could even thank it for telling us that we need to pay attention to something. And if we can remember that there are only a handful of needs (yup – see NEEDS LIST link below) but a million strategies to meet them, then we might be able to really appreciate and actually embrace it.


READING THIS WEEK – selections from the book Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by Canadian indigenous author Richard Wagamese.  (pp. 166, 138, 140, 147, 161)

Sorry I don’t have a copy to print here. Readings about walking meditation, and other 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






















SC Group Jan 16 2018 Summary





Well, we were a small group, but I found the discussion to be extremely fruitful and satisfying. Our focus was on anxiety and how we can cope with it. One member wakes up every morning and feels a lot of anxiety for a while. After that his day is fine. It’s just first thing in the morning that anxiety hits hard. Another member is very anxious a lot of the time and its causing her so much pain. She is suffering quite a lot. So how do we cope with anxiety – whether it’s brief and somewhat manageable, or what seems like unending anxiety.

Of course, my first thought these days (because of what I’m learning in my Compassion Course) … is what needs do we have in those moments? What do we really need in that moment of anxiety that we are not getting? In my moments of anxiety my first need is for understanding and clarity, some kind of meaning or purpose to my feelings. Why am I feeling this way right now? I want to know, if possible, what’s causing my anxiety and how I can change it. That’s if it’s possible. Sometimes we just may not know what is going on and may have to just accept that anxiety is happening even if we don’t know the cause.

First, it might be helpful to use the FEELINGS LIST – Feelings Associated with Unmet Needs (link below) and figure exactly how I’m feeling. How is this anxiety making me feel? Example – I feel anxious, fearful, worried, afraid, distraught, numb, withdrawn, mistrustful, etc. I highly recommend going through this list thoroughly and checking off every single feeling you are feeling. If I am feeling withdrawn and mistrustful, and this makes me feel anxious, what I really might be needing is connection with myself and connection with others. That may be what’s causing my anxiety. Or I’m feeling really worried about something in particular. Maybe I feel a sense of foreboding. What might that be about? The point is our anxiety may be about all kinds of different things that relate to different needs.

When I use that list and I can identify exactly what I’m feeling it’s a real ah-hah moment. And those kinds of moments always seem to make me feel good. They give me a sense of satisfaction. I have solved part of the puzzle. Now that I know specifically what’s bothering me I can now strategize to meet those needs. Time to go at the other list – the NEEDS LIST (see link below).

See Conscious Mourning of Unmet Needs below for more on this topic.

I hope this helps – even a little.

One is only called upon to bear this moment.  This is usually possible.

Quote from my co-facilitator’s friend. (I think it’s always possible but not always easy)

See Rick Hansen reading below that is also about safety and fear.


FEELINGS LIST – At the top  This list has Feelings Associated with Met Needs and Feelings Associated with Unmet Needs. If we are feeling depressed or anxious or unwell in some way we can check with the Unmet Needs list. I find this list really helpful because it leads me to the need itself. When I can understand my need, I can either get it met or mourn the loss of this need. (See my article below on Conscious Mourning)

NEEDS LIST – At the top  I use this list almost everyday. I try to stick to only those words as needs. I consider anything else a strategy for meeting one of those needs, not an actual need. For example, I need to go eat some ‘junk’ food right now. That would be a strategy to meet such things as – physical needs (food), self-care (good or not-so-good), even comfort, fun and relaxation maybe. Depends on how you view junk food.


Even if we figure out clearly and specifically what our needs are we may not be able to get them met. For example, the need for deep, intimate connection with someone. Love, intimacy, caring, companionship, partnership. So many of us feel this need and are not getting it met. So how do we deal with this situation then? Thom Bond (Compassion Course) suggests we mourn those unmet needs. We feel the sadness and grief and loss of those needs. I have come to learn that sadness (and mourning and grieving) are processes for letting go of something that is no longer doable. I think they pave the way for complete acceptance of what is and thus, peace of mind. Our expression and our connection with that deep sadness can be so cleansing, like a purge of all the things we feel about that issue. It can be quite intense and painful, uncomfortable too. If so, we might do it in little bits and pieces. We also need to be gentle, kind and patient with ourselves – 100% of the time if possible.

Bottom line, the more we allow ourselves to feel our feelings and respond to the need they are expressing, the more sense of well-being we may feel. Just since learning these concepts I feel a greater sense of empowerment and choice in my life. I feel as if the options have opened up and all kinds of possibilities exist for me to meet my needs and feel happy (i.e. have all my needs met).



I have heard a few times in group, and have experienced the same thoughts until recently, about the desire for more meaningful conversations with people and the ‘rejection’ of more superficial conversations. First, I think this is exciting news because what I’m really hearing is people saying, “I want and need meaningful connections with others”. Yes!! What a great need we have! To connect with others in ways that give meaning to all of our lives and which support each other in our individual journeys. Is it so surprising to hear that from people in this group? I think that’s why some of us keep coming back for more because it does give us that deeper connection and meaning in our lives.

So, to the other side of the equation. The conversations that are not so satisfying or possibly even annoying, irritating, dull, boring, etc. Well after reading my book on listening (The Lost Art of Listening by Michael P. Nichols) I began to try new things in conversations. I began to pay more attention to every conversation I had and see if I felt connection. And surprise! Surprise! I did! My favourite example is the Megaphone guy who stands on the corner of Commercial and 1st Avenue 6 days a week, it seems. He is always there. And I have a desire to connect with him in some way. To let him know that I notice him, and I notice what he is doing. He stands out there in any weather for hours just waiting for people to come along and buy the magazine. I feel a sense of compassion for any discomfort he might be feeling out there.

I connect with him on one common ground – the weather. He stands in it every day and it can’t always be easy. So, I always stop and talk to him about the weather. The thing is, I started this relationship with him. I felt the desire to let him know that I appreciate and respect what he’s doing. I wanted him to know that I care about him. (I also give him money from time to time.) Now, I know that he doesn’t know a thing about me except the woman who comes by often and talks about the weather. Otherwise nothing. Yet I don’t feel at all frustrated. I don’t feel a need to share anything deeper with him. I feel more of a need to simply enjoy the connection I have with this person in the moment. A moment of care. And that is so rewarding.

My point is that I don’t want to dismiss the more ‘trivial’ conversations with people as non-fulfilling. They also meet a need. A need for community. To recognize all the different people who are part of my locale, my neighbourhood. Whether they live on the street, sell Megaphone or scarves, or they live in my co-op or next door. They are all rewarding conversations. As long as I still get my need met for deep and meaningful discussions with some people, I’m fine with the lighter conversations as well. They are like little dances between people.

I would like to write more about this and about relationships because I think that’s what we’re talking about here. And what I’m talking about is making meaning out of all relationships. Seeing connection with anyone and everyone – whether only for a moment or for the long term. They are all worth paying attention to.



I’ve always liked lizards.

Growing up in the outskirts of Los Angeles, I played in the foothills near our home. Sometimes I’d catch a lizard and stroke its belly, so it would relax in my hands, seeming to feel at ease.

In my early 20’s, I found a lizard one chilly morning in the mountains. It was torpid and still in the cold and let me pick it up. Concerned that it might be freezing to death, I placed it on the shoulder of my turtleneck, where it clung and occasionally moved about for the rest of the day. There was a kind of wordless communication between us, in which the lizard seemed to feel I wouldn’t hurt it, and I felt it wouldn’t scratch or bite me. After a few hours, I hardly knew it was there, and sometime in the afternoon it left without me realizing it.

Now, years later, as I’ve learned more about how the brain evolved, my odd affinity for lizards has started making sense to me. To simplify a complex journey beginning about 600 million years ago, your brain has developed in three basic stages:

  • Reptile – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm
  • Mammal – Limbic system, focused on approaching rewards
  • Primate – Cortex, focused on attaching to “us”

Of course, the brain is highly integrated, so these three key functions – avoiding, approaching, and attaching – are accomplished by all parts of the brain working together. Nonetheless, each function is particularly served by the region of the brain that first evolved to handle it. This fact has significant implications.

For example, in terms of avoiding harm, the brainstem and the structures just on top of it are fast and relatively rigid. Neuroplasticity – the capacity of the brain to learn from experience by changing its structure – increases as you move up both the evolutionary ladder and the layered structures of the brain.

Consequently, if you want to help yourself feel less concerned, uneasy, nervous, anxious, or traumatized – feelings and reactions that are highly affected by “reptilian,” brainstem-related processes – then you need many, many repetitions of feeling safe, protected, and at ease to leave lasting traces in the brainstem and limbic system structures that produce the first emotion, the most primal one of all: fear.

Or to put it a little differently, your inner iguana needs a LOT of petting!


To begin with, I’ve found it helps me to appreciate how scared that little lizard inside each one of us is. Lizards – and early mammals, emerging about 200 million years ago – that were not continually uneasy and vigilant would fail the first test of life in the wild: eat lunch – don’t be lunch – today.

So be aware of the ongoing background trickle of anxiety in your mind, the subtle guarding and bracing with people and events as you move through your day. Then, again and again, try to relax some, remind yourself that you are actually alright right now, and send soothing and calming down into the most ancient layers of your mind.

Also soothe your own body. Most of the signals coming into the brain originate inside the body, not from out there in the world. Therefore, as your body settles down, that sends feedback up into your brain that all is well – or at least not too bad. Take a deep breath and feel each part of it, noticing that you are basically OK, and letting go of tension and anxiety as you exhale; repeat as you like. Shift your posture – even right now as you read this – to a more comfortable position. As you do activities such as eating, walking, using the bathroom, or going to bed, keep bringing awareness to the fact that you are safe, that necessary things are getting done just fine, that you are alive and well.

Throughout, keep taking in the good of these many moments of petting your inner lizard. Register the experience in your body of a softening, calming, and opening; savor it; stay with it for 10-20-30 seconds in a row so that it can transfer to implicit memory. (For more on how to take in the good and defeat the innate negativity bias of the brain – whose unfortunate default setting is to be Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones – go to this link.)

Some have likened the mind/brain to a kind of committee. Frankly, I think it’s more like a jungle! We can’t get rid of the critters in there – they’re hardwired into the brain – but we can tame and guide them. Then, as the bumper sticker says, they wag more and bark less.

Or relax, like a lizard at ease in the sun.



May you be safe – free from thoughts that cause you pain

May you be happy – have all your emotional needs met

May you be healthy – have all your physical and psychological needs met

May you live with ease – be able to accept this moment just as it is

(My version)




















SC Group Jan 9 2018 Summary





It was so great to see everyone again and to see some who have not been able to come for weeks and months and have returned. Yippee! Welcome back – to everyone. And welcome new members as well.

It was a wonderful start to the new year for this group. A full house (and logistics to figure out). The Wellness Centre is now crowded with a lot more staff and this impacts our room. Right now there is a huge (I mean big) L-shaped desk in the room and that cramps our style. We were able to move into the other group room (it still had a desk in it but it took up less room) and proceeded to have an excellent session. [I will be talking with MDA about our room. My co-facilitator and I are thinking the room without windows would be the way to go since there’s a bit more space. I will keep y’all informed as to our room.)

We had some great discussions and topics of interest this week. A new member shared his coming to understand how influential, powerful and destructive his thoughts could be; and how he has turned to meditation for some peace and understanding in his life. He said he used to dread waking up and now can’t wait to get up. That’s the place I want to be and some mornings it does feel like that. It’s a wonderful feeling.

We had one member bring in their spouse for our support as well and they shared their grief and pain around a family crisis. Thank you for trusting the group to support you in this.

We talked about family and expectations. Returning to visit family over the holidays and returning to the habitual thoughts we had when living with them. A return to old ways that can bring up a lot of pain. I could really relate to one group member describing the holidays visiting family far away. The member said they returned to old habits and lost touch to some degree with the concepts we are all trying to practice. Whenever I have gone back to see my mom in Ottawa I can feel so much old pain descend upon me and it feels powerful, strong, intense and overwhelming. I feel as if I go into a trance and fall into the old ‘me’. Yech!  (A little like putting on a cold, wet bathing suit to go in for another swim. Wait … it’s much worse than that.)

Also, about family. When family criticizes us, and judges us (out loud – because it’s okay to do it in your head. I’ll talk about this later) … when we feel there’s just no pleasing them, well we can fight, take flight or freeze. I often froze. Then I took flight. That’s one of the reasons I live way out here, 3,000 miles from Ottawa. One group member shared that she essentially fought (said ‘no’) then took flight (came back here where she feels safer). Well, where there’s a ‘no’, there’s also a ‘yes’. For her, the ‘yes’ was to her need for good self-care and self-acceptance, her need for good, safe boundaries. A strong clear ‘yes’ that we all need to practice. Thank you for that.

I want to share with you some things I’m learning about judgments. They can be seen as our personal guides to the needs we are not getting met. (Again, I’m going to talk more about this later and our reading is about this.) In other words, our judgments are very useful – if we know how to translate or unpack them (according to Thom Bond, developer of the compassion course I’m taking). It’s really hard to hear how we disappoint our family. We just are not shaping up to be the person they seem to want us to be. But maybe there’s something much deeper that our family are needing and they don’t know how to express it without criticism and condemnation. Often families think, mistakenly, that criticizing someone is a way to motivate them. Family members don’t always have the knowledge that what they are doing is one thing – negative and harmful, non-supportive – and what they are trying to do is another – i.e., trying to make sure my child doesn’t suffer the way I did. Trying to make my child safe.

So maybe we can find empathy and compassion for our family members who use judgment as a way to try to ensure our safety, happiness, health and life of ease. And maybe we can explore our own judgments about them and come to understand what we really need from our family. We might have to slowly and gently teach them some new things, things we now understand and which really do help us. I believe that what we (all of us in the group) know and understand about living well is at the forefront of human evolution. This is such important work we are all doing. I can’t think of anything more important (well maybe making sure I have enough food, shelter and water. But other than that.)



Like I mentioned earlier, I am taking a year-long compassion course, developed by a man named Thom Bond. I receive an email every week with a different concept, a story, and some practices. I also bought the book because I got way behind. Now I read a chapter or two every morning.

Wow! I feel so inspired by these concepts and my beginning to understand them and put them into practice is already changing me from within. I feel more grounded and centered, two of my most important needs.

What I am learning. That our self-critic can play a really important role – that of judgments. The reading below talks about working with our judgments and coming to see what needs of ours are not being met. That’s why we have judgments. They are messengers and guides if we know how to read them.

So when our self-critic pipes up with “How can you be such an idiot?” we can ask it “What is it you are needing from me?” The self-critic might say I need you to be more careful when crossing the street. I’m needing to feel physical safety. And you nearly got hit by a car just now because you weren’t paying attention. There’s an ah-hah moment there – I NEED PHYSICAL SAFETY (when crossing the street). Or I need to make it home safely so I can enjoy the rest of my day. Our judgments can lead us to understanding what is truly important to us.

Feelings – yesterday was hard for me in some way. Getting to group I mean. I felt like I didn’t want to go and felt like I had to push myself out the door. So I did some work on that this morning. When I feel unpleasant in any way (unsettled, depressed, anxious, discombobulated, or resistance to a situation) I know I’m not getting some need met. So walking to group I focused on these uncomfortable feelings and searched for the needs that weren’t being met. I discovered things like the need for spontaneity (vs structure) and the need for autonomy and choice, a sense of control over my life. I plan to look more fully at these needs now. I know they stem from my childhood and feelings of imprisonment, forced to do things I didn’t want to do, and a lack of good connection with my parents.

This morning I decided to look at the needs I do get met by going to this group every week. Well, I was really surprised to discover that the group meets 28 of my needs!!!!

Let me share all the ways this group feeds me:

stimulation, support, challenge, purpose, contribution, growth, celebration,

competence, consciousness, creativity, discovery, learning,

participation, perspective, presence, progress, self-expression,

understanding, acceptance, beauty, communion, harmony, hope,

adventure, excitement, fun, humour and joy.

Incredible! Now I feel I have a more balanced perspective of my work in this group. I see how very important it is to me, how much it fulfills me. And I understand that I don’t have to feel 100% like doing it all the time. I can certainly be spontaneous (one of my most important needs) each week and examine what my current judgments, feelings and needs are. This is my personal challenge.

Oh .. I just feel so inspired.



From: The Compassion Book: Lessons from the Compassion Course by Thom Bond (2017)

Note: [My words are in square brackets and italicized – Caer Weber]

Of the practices and concepts in this book, self-empathy has been the most pivotal and transformational in my life. Without this ability to see my own experience through the lens of feelings and needs, I am missing the valuable information I need to make my life more wonderful. And that can block me from caring about others.

The practice of self-empathy creates a basis and ability to see ourselves and others in the light of compassion and, perhaps as importantly, know what we want to do – as opposed to what we think we should do.

This dance we call self-empathy offers three ways to connect to ourselves… When we use all three, we are empowered to understand ourselves (and ultimately others) in a deeper more life-serving way.


… there is wisdom inside our judgments – it’s just not in a particularly usable form. When we can be aware of our judgments, we can translate them, by connecting them to our unmet needs. It is this process of translating that makes it useful to welcome our judgments. [If we suppress our judgments we will lose valuable information.]

Practice – welcoming our judgments

Think of a situation that is on your mind. In your mind, let out all the judgments and write them down on a piece of paper. Keep going until you can’t think of any more. Then think again. Get them on that paper!

[These judgments are not for you to share with the other person. They are for you to understand what need of yours is not being met. They are also not “the truth”.] They are simply an outcry from a part of me that is in pain and cannot express that pain clearly or without blame.



… our feelings have the potential to be our “guides” or “messengers” telling us about our lives. I have noticed that the more I feel my feelings, the more insight I get about what I really want in this life of mine. My feelings come from within me and are a direct result of how well my needs are doing – how my life is doing.

At first, we can work to get to a place where we acknowledge them and feel them. After that, we can learn to stay with them, to go deeply into them – not wallowing in them, but learning from them, being moved by them.

Practice – Feeling our feelings fully

… bring this same situation to mind. Notice how you feel as you think about it. Pick the feeling that is most present.

Then feel that feeling. Stay with it. Take your time. Notice.

Are you afraid of the feeling?

Are you judging the feeling?

Are you thinking you shouldn’t feel that way?

Notice anything that may be stopping you from feeling that feeling … and then go back to feeling the feeling. Continue this process for one or two minutes.



… needs can be seen as the impulses of life and, in a way, as life itself. Yet much like the wind, we don’t ever see these energies – we only experience them and see their effects. … So how can we connect to these energies in our lives? We can notice and remember our experience of them. We can think about the importance they hold for us and the role they have played and continue to play in our lives.

What makes for a wonderful friend? For me, it is someone who provides the space and acceptance for me to vent my judgments, without being judged for it – a person who can see, understand, and allow my feelings, and who understands my needs deeply and without reservation. That can be me – I can be my own best friend.

Practice – fully connecting to our needs

Identify the need this feeling is related to. Then, remember a time in your life when this need was met. Create a vision in your mind. What was happening? Where were you? What did it feel like? Stay with this image, like a video in your mind, playing over and over. Bask in it.

Then, after a few minutes, envision a time when someone you know had this need met. Create a vision in your mind. What was happening? Where were you? What did it feel like to see this? Stay with this image, like a video in your mind, playing over and over. Bask in this too.

Stay with the feeling a bit longer. Notice any ideas that occur to you. See if you can think of a request that you might make of yourself or someone else that would move you in the direction of having that need met.



Several years back, I was driving into the city to attend my weekly practice group. I stopped to get myself a quick bite to eat and a nice cold drink. I pulled off of the road to a “drive-thru” and ordered my favorite burrito and a large iced tea. When I got to the window, I paid for my meal, the server handed me my little bag of food and I drove off, back onto the highway. As I got up to speed, I realized that I didn’t get the iced tea that I had ordered and paid for.

My first reaction was surprise. “How could I just forget?” Then came anger at myself for being so “absent-minded”. Next I got angry at the person at the drive-thru window. “How could he just forget? It’s his job to do this!” At that point I was really angry, also disturbed about the two dollars I spent on nothing. Once again, I went back to the judgment thoughts. “My evening is being ruined and it’s all my fault. I will have to eat this burrito and suffer through the inevitable thirst that comes after eating spicy food without anything to drink! Or, I will have to skip the burrito altogether, and be hungry all night long.” I was in a spin.

After a time in this state, I became aware that I was in an old cycle of pain and judgment – one that I had experienced most of my life in situations like this, one that rarely turned out well. With this awareness, I decided to try something else besides going down this path I was on. I checked in with my feelings and needs. What was going on here? I noticed I was frustrated and realized I would have liked to have been more present and competent. I value these things in myself and I appreciate it when I see them in others.

Thinking about these values of mine, I could feel myself calming down. It occurred to me that perhaps the drive-thru guy may have left the window to get my drink. It also occurred to me that although I wasn’t competent or present in that endeavor, I do act in a competent and present fashion most of the time. I began to feel some compassion and acceptance for myself. Then I realized that if I had a nice cold iced tea in that moment, I probably wouldn’t be going through any of this. This whole thing was mainly because I was hungry and thirsty. In that moment, the two dollars instantly became less important. My slight case of absent-mindedness seemed more acceptable. What I really wanted now was simply something to drink.

Just as this was occurring to me I noticed the next exit on the highway approaching. Two quick turns, two minutes, one “quick-mart” and two dollars later, I had a new iced tea. My judgments had almost ruled the day. Had I not noticed them, gotten them out, and translated them into feelings and needs, I could have ruined my evening in a battle with myself. Instead I got my iced tea and all was well in my world.

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






















Here is another article from Gary (Gary’s Wellness Toolbox). Gary walks us through a process he is experimenting with in order to deal with morning anxiety. I love what he does and how it changes things for him, making life a little bit easier for him. I also suggested to him that another way to approach the anxiety is to look at what need is not being met. Our uncomfortable, unpleasant or painful feelings, as well as our judgments, tell us we are not getting something. I’m talking about the overall needs we all have to some degree or another. Such as ..

  • Autonomy, control over our lives, ability to choose, make our own decisions;
  • Connection with others which feels safe, contains trust and acceptance and listening and empathy;
  • Meaning, sense of purpose/direction, understanding, effectiveness, competence;
  • Peace, balance, rest, peace-of-mind, equanimity, space;
  • Physical well-being;
  • Play, rest, fun, laughter, relaxation, participation, stimulation, celebration.

When we understand that we all have these needs AND there are usually many strategies available to meet those needs then we can have more of that sense of peace. When we are in conflict with someone else it’s because neither person is getting their own need met. Working together to figure out what the needs are and the possibilities of meeting them can generate a deeper sense of connection and more peace-of-mind. However, it is not easy. If you really want to practice this type of communication (focusing on needs, rather than on each other’s behavior) you can check out Non-Violent Communication. I think that this model is so ‘right on’ and makes so much sense. It helps take out the sting of solving problems that turn into conflict.


Take it away Gary ….




Lately, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to my experiences throughout the day… starting in the morning. When I first start to wake up, I am instantly aware that my thoughts are already flooding into my consciousness, brain, awareness….or whatever it is they flood into. I don’t know if this happens to everyone, or just me, but I refer to it as “morning anxiety”, and I do not like it. It’s a very uncomfortable, invasive, negative experience for me, so naturally I don’t want it to continue.

For as long as I’ve been waking up this way, I’ve thought there’s (a) something wrong with me, and (b) something I should be able to do about it so I can be in control of it, rather than my racing thoughts being in control of me. I “feel” the experience in my heart first…it beats way faster than a person at rest should beat. Then, sometimes I begin to feel sweat on the back of my neck, back and legs.

Then, I “go to work on myself” trying to think through, figure out, understand what’s going on…what’s causing this discomfort. It seems so logical that I first have to know what’s going on in order to fix it. I’m aware that words matter, and semantics are important, but “fixing” something implies that it’s broken. I have, at times in life, felt broken. When my depression was at its worst, I felt broken beyond repair, and was becoming convinced that there was no point in trying to fix myself if I’m beyond, or not worth repairing. So I developed a “why bother” outlook which led to an “I’m not worth it” attitude about myself

Since being in the Self-Compassion Group, I’ve learned and am continuing to practice a few techniques that are becoming helpful to me throughout the day more times than not. But no tool or technique has helped me wake up feeling any different, and I still wake up every day having the same experience over and over.

I usually start thinking through what’s going on in my day ahead that might be triggering me? Or what’s going on in my life that I should be feeling so anxious about? Often, a critical voice in my head says “grow up and get over it already”. All my adult life I’ve bought into the thinking that I should be able to do exactly that, that I “should” be able to control or ignore these thoughts like a “normal” person would…again the implication is that I’m not a normal person.

Today I had an experience that may help me change the way my day starts so I can begin my day feeling more “balanced” before I get all sweaty. The experience was one of actually putting some “suggestions” I’ve heard…into actual practice. Today was the first time I’d been able to do this.

Here’s what happened….I started to wake up, felt the rapid heart beat, said to myself “here we go again” – and then – I remembered the words I’d been hearing both in group, and that my therapist has been saying all along… just notice the experience, without judgement, and to allow myself to just be aware of it, in order to accept and embrace it”!   To be honest, I’ve struggled with, and been vocal about, not knowing how to “accept” and particularly “embrace” a negative, invasive, and uncomfortable feeling that I don’t like and don’t want to be having. It makes no (logical) sense to me, but I realize that sometimes even logic doesn’t make sense or explain an experience either.

I can easily “notice” this morning anxiety…no problem! And when I do, I can “notice” that I don’t want to be feeling and dealing with this. In other words, today I noticed myself doing way more than just “noticing”….I noticed myself in the act of judging, criticizing, not wanting, fighting, and pushing back against the whole experience. I noticed myself and my “process” making things worse than they had to be….and all of a sudden I became willing to try to accept, even embrace, the racing thoughts, the rapid heart beat, as if to say to myself that “I hear you, I feel you, and it is unpleasant to experience what I’m going through”. It was very simple, and I said this a few times to myself until I sensed myself calming down a bit. When I reviewed and asked myself what I did different today, I saw that what I did in my effort to “accept” and “embrace” what was “real” in that moment, was to offer myself a few words of compassion, in the same way I would try to console anyone else experiencing something difficult.

As I think (and write) about what was different today, I’m realizing that I was making too big a deal about the semantics of accept and embrace. It doesn’t have to mean that I like or welcome difficult feelings….just that, to the extent I can accept (just notice and be aware they’re there) and embrace (give ‘em a consoling hug), this may have allowed them be on their merry way much more quickly than if I had engaged them in analysis, self-judgement, and self-criticism! I have to adopt a new morning mantra…..”Accept and embrace – Accept and embrace – Accept and embrace!”





EXTRA DEC 18 2017



EXTRA DEC 18, 2017

First, here’s Gary next post for the Wellness Toolbox. This one is about patience. Thank you, Gary.

~ Patience ~

Are you like me in that you put pressure on yourself to know and understand every new thing right away? If you don’t understand a new concept, do you criticize yourself? Can you be okay with learning at a slower pace?

I’ve been coming to the group faithfully for 2 months. I listen, I share, I practice at home. I read every email Caer sends out as a reminder of concepts and practices we had in the recent group…it helps me not forget what I learned, or may have just heard for the first time. I generally don’t learn new things easily and I have to hear, see, and read things over and over before they start to seep in to my brain.

I have an inner critic and judge that often pushes back against me having new information about myself, or forming new habits. Something in me wants to believe that I already know what’s best for me (since I’ve gotten this far in life with my old ways of thinking)…so buying into new ways of thinking just doesn’t come easy to me. Accepting this as a fact, is a good first step toward developing the patience I’m gonna need, to continue allowing new information, new concepts into my brain.

The 3 (new to me) concepts of Self-Care, Self-Acceptance, and Self-Compassion, that we speak of in our group as the foundations of our learning, have been completely unfamiliar to me, and absent from my life. They are entirely new and foreign concepts to me. When I hear or read about them…my mind can easily wander due to a lack connection to them or understanding of how to apply them in my life yet. At first glance, they seem to be just “theories” and “concepts” that some spiritual person created, rather than actual practices I can use.

When I notice myself starting to question the validity or value of new concepts, new insights, or new information, this is where I need to learn and practice being more patient with myself. It’s where I need to constantly remind myself that what we talk, read, and learn about in the group… is all so new and foreign to me, and that it’s okay if it takes time for me to embrace or even understand these new concepts, new ways of thinking, new ways of living, new ways of just…. Being! I have to remember that I’m trying to retrain my brain to not see myself as a human “doing”….but as a human “being”….with all the flaws that we come with!

So, when I look back over the past couple of months of making an effort to understand and “embrace” the 3 concepts of Self-Care, Self-Acceptance, and Self-Compassion, I’m starting to see that I AM, in fact, slowly incorporating many parts of them into my life. Even when, or especially when, I don’t particularly feel like doing one of the new practices I’ve been doing, I do it anyway….that’s Self-Care!  When I remind myself that learning anything new takes time and practice…. that’s Self-Acceptance! And when I don’t do something perfectly, but remind myself I’m just human and humans don’t do things perfectly…that’s Self-Compassion! So whether I know it or not, I’m already starting to practice these new concepts…. woohoo!

Regarding my moods…I had a bunch of good weeks in a row, but for whatever reason(s), I had an “off” week this past week. My old patterns of thinking started to creep in, that all this “stuff” I’m practicing, and learning isn’t really helping after all. If it was, I wouldn’t be feeling this way again. Then today, I got Caer’s email about last Tuesday’s group. I made myself read it through without letting my mind, my eyes, and my fingers on the keyboard, jump all over the place and distract me. In doing so, I realized that things happen, including learning, when they’re supposed to, and when we’re ready, willing, and able to receive them.

In the email I was reminded to try taking a “Self-Compassion Break”, and in doing so, I became willing and able to write again for Caer’s blog, after starting, but not being able to complete any new writing for the last 2 weeks! Patience is a new skill for me that will take time, practice, and that I may never do perfectly. In fact, I can see that even learning patience… takes patience!


THE BURIED SELF-CRITIC (or “Projected Self-Judgment”)

I have come up with a new term. At least I think it is. All this time, well… for the past 2 years or so, I thought I had self-compassion nailed. I have not been consciously aware of criticizing myself which made me think I don’t judge myself negatively anymore. Hah! So, you thought Caer! But in the last few months I have been more painfully aware of my interactions with other people. And the most difficult times are with the people I hold closest. Well I had to dig around and find out what the hell was going on. Why did I, do I, feel this way? What’s wrong? What need is not getting met?

I began asking myself about the feelings I have when talking with people, and again, especially with those whom I feel closest. I realized I feel fear and a sense of shame – and often. Then an OMG (lightbulb) moment! I’m thinking that this person is thinking terrible things about me! They are thinking that I … talk too much, over-analyze things, am too speedy, have too big an ego, am mentally ill, screwed up … shall I go on? And sometimes they say something that just sets me off because, for sure, they are criticizing, judging and condemning me. What I believe they are saying is that I am wrong and should be ashamed of my wrongness.

There’s my Self-Critic! All this time I thought she had retreated but she was just hidden carefully behind the scenes. She fooled me and well! Okay, now what do I do this knowledge? How do I change my opinion of myself that I project onto others? It isn’t other people I’m afraid of. It’s my own thoughts when I interact with others. The belief that I am not good enough, not lovable enough and don’t deserve to be treated with the utmost love and care.

Thank goodness, though, for the other parts of me that know these are my own thoughts and do not belong to other people. In fact, in some ways, it doesn’t matter what someone else is thinking about me – because they probably aren’t. They’re probably thinking about themselves in some fashion, what they need and want in the moment. What they want to say. How they want to be heard and validated.

Yah, like that book published decades ago. I’m okay, you’re okay. If only we all knew that was really the truth. What a different world it would be.






SC Group Summary Dec 12 2017





A group member shared that her head is filled with “have-to’s”, which I relabel as “should”. Oh what a mean word that is indeed. As bad as the Grinch. It makes you feel pressured and overwhelmed and sometimes depressed and anxious. The bottom line? There is nothing we have to do. Of course, there are consequences if we don’t do certain things – like eat, brush our teeth, get enough sleep. But when we see them as commandments (and written in stone) … well we suffer.

So, what if we reframe those have-to’s and shoulds. Let’s talk about needs instead, and look at them in this mindful moment. What do I need right now? What do I need today? I need to eat, brush my teeth, and get enough sleep in order to feel good. In order to care for myself. When I come at these have-to’s with the intention of caring for myself, I can feel more at ease about things. I often will let myself off the hook if there’s something I really don’t want to do right now, and if it can be put off without any dire consequences. I mean ‘important’ consequences too.

What strikes me, as well, about telling ourselves we “should” and we “have to”, is that it seems to be about controlling ourselves. As if there is a fear that we won’t do what needs to be done if we don’t pressure ourselves … and constantly. Maybe we can take a look at those “shoulds” and see whose expectations they really are. Are these my expectations of myself or someone else’s? Am I trying to please someone else (so they will love me and accept me) or am I focusing on what I need?



Three members talked about their past and the grief they feel about it. The really neat and interesting thing was that each person had a different perspective of their past and different reasons for their grief. One person is grieving all the ways he was wounded as a child, by not being heard, not being validated and accepted for who he was. I can so relate to this loss as I feel some of those same things. It’s like there lies the question – if the past had been different, if I had been treated with full acceptance and love for who I was, who would I be now? How might I be different? When we have had trauma and wounding in childhood, and we know what is possible in the absence of these two things, then we grieve for what we weren’t allowed to have, when others could. That hurts so deeply.

Another person grieves a time in his life when he wasn’t that ‘productive’. He saw that time as a waste. Many of us know about that sense of wasting time – whether it’s doing something that seems to go nowhere, or doing something that we think we shouldn’t be doing (e.g., playing instead of working), or simply sitting and watching tv for hours. “What a waste of time that was!” Well, I’d like to reframe that thinking as well. I’d like to propose a theory (I’m big on those) — that nothing – I mean absolutely nothing – is a waste of time. All of it has value in our lives. We just have to go looking for that value sometimes.

We are such a “productive”-oriented society. The idea of sitting and doing nothing (which is impossible – you’ve got to be dead) is seen as unproductive. Why is it so important for all of us to be doing things all the time? Why do we have such a focus on being busy and active? Multitasking is highly praised. Why? What is it we are trying to achieve here?

It may be that in those wastelands of our lives are hidden treasures. Our wasted times may be exactly what we need to do in that moment, or even many moments. Maybe we are processing things, or simply resting, taking a break. I think it’s time we learn to trust ourselves and feel confidence in whatever we choose to do. Even if it’s being “unproductive”. Productivity is highly overrated.

The third person was grieving the loss of a past when she was a lot more functional and active. I see this as a normal (and healthy) response to becoming ill and losing functionality. It makes sense to grieve (i.e., let go of) that past when we were so able to do so many things and now we are so limited. Illness does that. It puts up new boundaries around our daily life and we need to come to terms with them.

Whatever form grief takes I think it is such a wonderful thing. Sadness and tears are the ways we slowly let go of something that doesn’t work or doesn’t meet our needs anymore. Letting go is painful as it brings to light the thing we are losing and what it means, or meant, to us. We can even let go of all the things we never had in our life, things that others have had.

I am grateful for my losses, even though they were intensely painful. For I have learned and gained so much for myself through understanding them and truly grieving them. I have learned who I really am, and I see myself as constantly changing. What happens to me today influences who I am tomorrow … and so on and so on.


READING – Joseph Goldstein on CBC Radio show Tapestry

It’s been called a dumpster fire of a year, 2017.

The intensification of white supremacy. The endless parade of famous men accused of sexual misconduct. Dire warnings about environmental collapse.

It’s enough to make you blow your top. Or crawl under a rock.

But it is possible to stay centred – and relatively sane – in the Age of Outrage. Renowned meditation teacher and writer Joseph Goldstein tells you how:

  1. Send out lovingkindness to everyone, including people you really, really don’t like

Goldstein teaches lovingkindness meditation, a practice of sending positive, friendly wishes to yourself and to the rest of the world. “May you be well in body and mind. May you be at ease and happy.”

It’s not always an easy thing to do.

During a meditation retreat shortly after the attacks of 9/11, some residents of New York City said they weren’t able or willing to send kindhearted thoughts to the people who crashed the planes into the Twin Towers.

Goldstein understood, but the Buddha said lovingkindness should be extended to all beings; there are no exceptions. The solution: reframe the intention.

“It would have been very difficult for people to express the wish, ‘May you be happy’. That was not on the table. But to express the wish, ‘May you be free of hatred’, that’s a real possibility. So it’s finding the right expression for the particular situation.”

Goldstein says extending lovingkindness to people you fundamentally disagree with can transform your perspective and help engender a sense of hope.

“Often at night, I’ll be laying in bed, thinking about the political situation and feeling upset by it all, and very often I will actually start doing the lovingkindness meditation toward Donald Trump. And it’s really sending it in the same way – ‘May you be at peace’. Just that wish. Because clearly a lot of these responses that we hear from him to different situations in the world are coming about because there doesn’t seem to be much peace in his mind or heart. When I do that, it’s genuine. I would wish for that in him. And in some way it steps out of the polarization and allows for a more considered reflection on what we might do in this situation.”

  1.  Be responsive, not reactive

Social media is a space that seems to promote impulsive behaviour and hair trigger reactions. Inflammatory remarks, name-calling, and hurtful comments are par for the course… and so are the anger and remorse that tend to follow. Goldstein says that we will feel infinitely better once we train ourselves to stop and think before doing anything. This gives us the ability to respond thoughtfully, instead of reacting impulsively.

“Because our buttons will get pressed – unless one happens to be a saint! – we are going to have these reactions. The question is: can we become aware of them as they are arising in the mind and consider an alternative? Or are we simply caught up in the reactivity and lost in that whole chain of action that follows from it? So mindfulness of what’s happening in ourselves is the key.”

Goldstein says emotions such as anger or self-righteousness are signals that you may be in reaction mode. Slow down so you can respond mindfully.


Joseph Goldstein has studied various kinds of Buddhist meditation with masters from Thailand, India and Tibet. He is co-founder of The Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and has led insight and lovingkindness meditation retreats around the world since the 1970s. In Canada, the True North Insight is a similar organization that was founded in 2004.

Joseph Goldstein is the author or co-author of many books on Buddhist practice and mindfulness, including One Dharma and Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening.

To listen to the entire interview with Joseph Goldstein on Tapestry go to:

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