Self-kindness + sanity practices = Let’s DO it!

November 29, 2011

I keep having this urge to write posts that leave you feeling hugged and safe and warm. Life has so many rough edges that my instinct is to make this space totally edge-free.

But lately every time I sit to write and quiet myself to hear what needs to be said, I feel edges. Not scrape-you-up edges, but the kind that hold tension. The kind that are the good sort of push to get us (I’m very much included in this “us”) to grow in the ways we desire.

So here’s what I’m hearing tonight:

We’re at the start of the busiest holiday season. And for many of us, that means a season when centeredness and clarity and awakening take back stage to everything urgent (events! what to wear to events! gift buying! home decorating! food prep! travel/hosting planning! worrying about interpersonal dynamics that will happen at imminent gatherings! worrying about not having any imminent gatherings! etc!).

And I think there’s really a time for everything under the sun, including a time for inner things, and a time for intense external focus; a time to be fluffy and celebrative, and a time to contemplate deeply.

But here’s the edge:

I think nearly all of us know one or more practices that help us feel more trusting, stable, and sane, and I think most of us assume there’s an unavoidable pause button on that practice (or those practices) when the tyranny of the urgent hits hard.

When life turns up its flame – and even when our OWN lives aren’t particularly hectic but we’re surrounded by that vibe – we pause things like eating greens, keeping our sugar and alcohol intake sane, meditation and prayer, exercise, sleep…

I’m not saying it’s possible to do all of these things and the hundred other things we have on our plates right now to do.

But I do think we can pick one (and sometimes more than one) of the things we know help us feel good, and do that thing all the way through this season.

In all honesty, as I listen, I feel an urgency to us doing what we can to lean into our best selves. There isn’t fear or judgment behind this urgency so much as a sense that we need the strength and trust of our most awake, alive selves to take us where we need to go – individually and collectively. It’s a sense that now is not the time to sit back and wait until spring or summer or five or ten years from now to do what we know we need to do.

(And I really am talking about the simplest things we know are ours to do. For me, this is prioritizing sleep more than I have been and meditating daily.)

I don’t know “where it is we need to go” – I have no woo woo visions to share with you there. I simply have what I hear as I quiet myself and open myself to whatever needs to be said. And this – all that I’ve said so far – is what I’m hearing.

I want to be clear on something, though: self-kindness and self-compassion feel way at the top of the list of important practices to incorporate into this season (and always). So if your efforts to stay trusting, stable, or sane feel anything like whips or judgmental finger-wagging, please do what you can to close your inner door to them. And to take a different tact entirely.


Choose one practice that you sense is important for you to maintain through this season and treat it like you might treat breathing meditation: maintain it until you notice yourself not maintaining it (just like you might notice yourself not aware of your breath), give yourself a smile and a warm nod once you notice, and then pick the practice back up.

No judgment. No scandal at not maintaining the practice. Just the commitment to try again (and again and again) (…and again :) whenever you notice you’ve strayed from your course.

What could happen if you did that? Or I? How much trust might get grown? How different might our experience of these next few weeks be?

If you’re someone who likes edges and you want some loving butt-kicking in order to do your practice, watch this video for inspiration and then go find yourself some help. Or use Marianne’s R-rated rant to pump you up for whatever it is you know you need to do.

And above and beneath it all, know yourself loved. If that sounds hokey or hollow, I don’t think you strange. My hokey/hollow alarm is triggered lots by such things.

But they are the truth I know to say right now. They’re the words that I hear in my heart and the feeling I feel so strongly.

You are loved.

You’re okay.

And the time is now to keep waking up.

+ + + + + + + +

P.S. I’m putting finishing touches on a little ebook called Unspiking the Holiday Punch: A Trust Tending guide for self-kindness before, during, and after extended family time – all about self-kindness practices to get you through challenging interpersonal holiday time. Watch for its unveiling next Wednesday, December 7th!

If you’re new here, welcome! I post articles once each week that explore trust, and how to nurture more of it. Signing up for my rss feed or free ebook are great ways to get a feel for what happens here. I used to devote each month to a different theme, so if you’re interested in seeing those themes and an annotated page of articles for each one, click here. Again, my warmest welcome!
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Trust for life’s scrappiest games

November 23, 2011

Last weekend we had a house full of guests – people I love dearly and was so glad to have here. I’m an introvert, though, so by the end of the weekend, I was drained.

I also spend about a week of every menstrual cycle oscillating between irritable, vulnerable, and ready to cry. It’s almost laughably predictable. And of course last weekend I was smack in the middle of it.

So when my husband and I sat down for a quick check-in Sunday night before watching a movie and ended up launching into a difficult conversation…and then again, on a different topic, once the movie was through, I was a total basket case. One thousand cases of basket.

At one point the shame of crying at an odd conversational moment took me over and I held a kleenex over my face, trying to collect myself. “Good thing I have NO IDEA what’s going on back there,” my husband said. We had a good laugh, which of course sent me back into tears.

And it occurs to me that isn’t this just how life is sometimes? Impervious to “good timing”? We don’t always have a choice about when hard conversations happen. We can’t push pause on injury, disaster, or disease. We can’t predict when the bumps in life’s road are gonna throw us and then adequately prepare in advance for them.

We’re simply reacting a lot of the time. And, often, without the luxury of adequate sleep, an hour spent meditating that morning, the absence of other life stressors, and a green drink just consumed.

In many ways I’ve grown more trust than the average bear, and have collected a nice array of tools for understanding my own psychology and navigating interpersonal things. But damned if I wasn’t about age three on Sunday night, spouting tears and fears like this isn’t my website at all. Like I’ve never heard of such a place. I was humiliated. And ashamed of feeling that, too!

I’m not feeling that way tonight (thank God!), and with the benefit of both distance AND proximity to that kind of shame, I wonder whether it might nourish trust for me and anyone in the midst of or trying to recover from similar feelings to say some things that I know.

So here goes:

  • I know that it’s okay to be triggered into old feelings and childlike personas. Such triggers are part of the human experience. Which means ALL of us have them.
  • I know that our egos really want to paint and project a unified image of who we are (e.g. mature, trusting, having access to higher functions of reason…), and that when we act outside the range of that image, our egos freak out. They scold us or scoff us or wilt in dismay – anything to try to get us back on track with the image.
  • We are not images. And more importantly, we are not unified beings. We have many sides to us. Many feelings. Many parts with not-always-synchronized wishes.

    (There, there, now, ego. I must tell you it’s true.)

  • Week-before-period-starts personas don’t cancel out the rest-of-the-month ones. And vice versa. We’re all (all our personas) in this together. (God bless all our souls.)
  • Scrappy, jungle-ball conversations or entire life seasons are just what have to happen sometimes. They aren’t pretty. They aren’t elegant. They beg no photographic record.

    But there they are.

  • And wow, do you have any idea the potential for love in the midst of them? – love that shines like the radiant outline of sun behind the darkest, crappiest cloud. Love that isn’t pity or about performing to some standard, but about taking a person as they are, being taken as the person that you are, and finding softness in response. Warmth. Kindness.
  • Sometimes the love and shining linings happen way later. In the moment, and sometimes for days or weeks or years at a time, there’s only scrap.
  • And I know, deep in my heart of hearts, that all of that’s okay.
  • And that this letter always applies.

What do you know that might grow trust in the times when life catches you at your worst? Wanna help make this list longer?

If you’re new here, welcome! I post articles once each week that explore trust, and how to nurture more of it. Signing up for my rss feed or free ebook are great ways to get a feel for what happens here. I used to devote each month to a different theme, so if you’re interested in seeing those themes and an annotated page of articles for each one, click here. Again, my warmest welcome!
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A lesson I learned while staring at a stranger

November 15, 2011

Let’s say you’re afraid of something. Maybe big, maybe small. Maybe the very heart of the work you feel is yours to do right now.

Whatever it is, it scares you.

And let’s say there’s a story around this thing that you fear:

  • If I try it, I’ll fail and end up worse off than if I don’t try at all.
  • If I succeed, everyone I care about will resent me and I’ll find myself alone.
  • I’ll never find someone I connect with deeply.
  • I’m unhelpably stuck.
  • I will always feel this way.
  • I can’t find the money.
  • I don’t have enough time.

So you have this story, and you feel like it’s the only possible story to tell. There’s even a part of you that likes this story – how familiar it’s become. How predictable. How it covers you somehow, makes you feel less exposed.

And let’s say part of the comfort of this story is watching for corroborating evidence and finding it. Hah! See? The story’s true!

You find the evidence so you tell the story more, adding weight and weight and more weight to it from all that evidence until the neuro-pathway in your brain between that story and that fear is a Grand Canyon-shaped crevasse.

The neurons don’t even have to think when it comes to what to do with this fear. The story. Always tell the story.

But what if.

What if that story you tell is only one of a thousand possible tales?

What if your fear itself is just a point of view?

What if you walked around to the other side of it and imagined what someone with more hope than you currently have might see? Or someone who isn’t religious or spiritual. Or who totally is. Someone who’s been through the fire and lived to tell the tale. Someone who’s been around the block of your particular fear and found a way to another route?

What would they say? What stories could they tell about you?

(No, really. Coming up with an actual answer to this can knock your socks right off.)

Or what story would your own wise self – the one you hope to be in 15 or 30 years – tell you in the face of this fear?

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

If you’ve read here these last months, you’re aware that I’m in a season of inner expansion, of stepping more fully into my power…and that I’ve been doing so tremblingly.

Because as much as I feel called to this work and like my life has been a grooming for it, I have internalized a story around success that goes something like: Stepping into my power will cause me to lose the friendship and support of all the people that I love.

Wonderful, right?

And totally triggered whenever I taste success.

Last month I attended Tara Sophia Mohr’s retreat and one of the exercises we did was to pair up with a partner and look her square in the eyes. Without speaking, each of us was to look for the “light” in our partner – the light that isn’t synonymous with the physical body. The light that some call spirit or soul.

We did this for a few minutes.

We were then instructed to look, again without speaking, for our OWN light in that person’s eyes. To see our own spark in them.

And then, finally, after more minutes had passed, to wordlessly wish our partner well. To send her whatever blessing we felt moved to send.

WOOOEEE, that experience left me undone. Tears streamed down my face the whole time. I felt as if my fears of abandonment and disconnection melted into a warm pool in that stare, and I saw – no, felt – what it is to be safe. To feel as if “Don’t leave me!” and “What if I find myself alone?” make no sense at all. Are words that float like dust in the space beyond the Whole that is you and me and everyone else together. If, indeed, there’s any space beyond Us at all.

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

My point is not to preach about oneness, though.

My point is to name an experience where a story I’ve been telling myself for a lifetime suddenly got unveiled as just that: a story. And one I no longer wish to tell.

I’m not cured of my story. Neuro pathways run deep. But I’m now recognizing that story for what it is and doing the conscious work of telling a different one whenever I find my mind slipping into it.

As I step into my power, I will be more supported and less alone has become my new mantra.

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

Last week I wrote about sensing the time is ripe for us to address the intimacy issues we all carry around. And I’m wondering whether it might be revolutionary, in that very task, to recognize the stories we tell about ourselves and our real or imagined significant others – and even about the possible paths that our lives and relationships might take – and to listen with a new kind of interest for which of them are ones we want to lay down.

Which of those stories have become less security blankets and more scratchy, too-tight clothes.

Which have become less inevitabilities and more mere points of view?

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

What are you most afraid of? What story about that are you wanting, with growing awareness, to tell?

If you’re new here, welcome! I post articles once each week that explore trust, and how to nurture more of it. Signing up for my rss feed or free ebook are great ways to get a feel for what happens here. I used to devote each month to a different theme, so if you’re interested in seeing those themes and an annotated page of articles for each one, click here. Again, my warmest welcome!
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It’s time.

November 10, 2011

[Note: I wrote this post as though it applies to everyone, knowing full well there are always exceptions. I hope you'll listen to your own wise heart to know whether these words are for you.]

Just outside and below our kitchen window is a ledge. I’m guessing it’s meant for flower boxes, but the only thing we’ve ever used it for is jack o’ lanterns.

And since that ledge isn’t right next to our front door, it’s easy to, say, forget that there are pumpkins on it until the pumpkins have turned into gray-and-orange-and-black mush that’s slowly oozing down the side of the ledge toward the ground.

Yesterday I spent some time with a shovel, transporting pumpkin glop to the compost and then washing our ledge of decay.

And it occurred to me: this is not the way I want to deal with pumpkins next year.

+ + + + + + + +

I’ve been thinking about relationships this week, and how possible it is to get so used to dysfunction in them that we pour truck loads of energy (anger, fear, resentment, bitterness, regret) into that dysfunction without hardly batting an eye.

Because those truck-loads usually happen in a drip…drip form, so that we’re rarely ever doused like a coach with water post-game, waking up stunned to our dysfunction, but rather flicked daily in the face or heart or gut with mere drops of the Big Picture: a little resentment here. A little anger or child-like clinging there. A little conversational pattern that always leaves someone punchy or wilted or wanting to run away.

These drips feel terrible, but they come to feel normal and inevitable and the thought of actually making a move to stop them becomes way more uncomfortable than than just learning to live with the drips.

And I’m wondering: what if it’s time for all of us, myself included, to work to stop these drops?

+ + + + + + + +

I had an amazing conversation with a friend this weekend about relationships. She’s in a season of deep inner work around patterns she’s repeated in intimate relationships through her life. The work she’s doing is excruciating. And radiates more hope than I could dream up.

She’s walking straight through her fears. She’s letting anger and regret surface. She’s having hard, hard conversations.

She’s a phoenix in full flame.

And as I quieted myself today, listening for what to write here, I felt a surge of this:

We – all of us – are living and co-creating an amazing age of human history. We are facing jaw-dropping challenges and being offered (by the connectivity of the internet, by technological developments beyond the web, by all that’s come before us and all that pulses to get born) incredible opportunities to participate in the healing and awakening of our world.

And as far as I can see, there’s a massive shift afoot from emphasis on the mind to emphasis on the heart. An opening to the necessity (for wholeness and healing and health) of things like emotion and intuition and all that’s typically deemed feminine.

And as we face these current challenges and receive these wondrous opportunities and welcome (or chafe at) this shift from head to heart, the health of our intimate relationships feels like the heart of the heart of everything, the root of our most powerful future.

Because learning to love and be loved well is our way forward.

My body shakes with conviction as I write it:

Learning to love and be loved well is our way forward as a species. Is what it means to step beyond fear and into a landscape of trust.

And our most intimate relationships – the ones that we have, and the ones we only long for – are where we learn about love.

They’re where, in our moments of honesty, we come face to face with our darkest shadows – the self-protective patterns we’ve developed that no longer service our (or our world’s) thriving.

They’re where we learn compassion and humility and grace.

They’re where we learn to open ourselves to trust, again and again, and where we learn what trust even means – that sometimes it means staying with the loneliness of not having an intimate other or the challenge of togetherness with the one we do have long enough to see it all the way through, to learn the lessons our deepest selves know are ours to learn in that place.

And sometimes it means stepping off into the unknown of life-after-this-relationship or life-after-loneliness and toward something or someone our hearts have been calling us toward for some time.

I have this sense that finally naming the drip…drip of energy we’re individually and collectively pouring into intimacy dysfunction (and again, I’m talking about the dysfunction that’s had whether we’re partnered with someone or not – we carry our dysfunction within ourselves and the dynamics between two people are merely a place where it gets outwardly displayed) and doing something to stop that drip: I have a sense that the time has come for this work.

That the time is now.

That the universe is standing on a threshold, smiling, knowing we have lots of work to do (though when have we not?) and that all of it, all of the work that we’re beckoned to do, will be, is already, totally worth it.

+ + + + + + + + +

It scares me to face my intimacy issues. I’d much rather ignore them like the pumpkins on my ledge. I’d much rather will them to disappear on their own, to shrink them through lack of attention.

I don’t want to deal with my body image.
I don’t want to acknowledge how often I feel triggered into childlike feelings.
I don’t want to admit my part in patterns that leave me resentful and frustrated.

But good heavens, it fills me with every kind of hope to realize I can do so, and that on the other side of whatever hard work must (continue to) be done is more and more of what I want. More trust. More connection. More power. More health. More knowing how deep and vast and wide is the love that I catch glimmers of now, and trust we’re all swimming inside of.

And what is my alternative to this work?

What’s yours?

Is that more appealing?

+ + + + + + + + +

There are many ways to clean up pumpkins, to turn them into the rich and fertile soil from which new growth and flowering springs. Why not choose the path of least goo? Why ignore that necessary work any longer?

If you’re new here, welcome! I post articles once each week that explore trust, and how to nurture more of it. Signing up for my rss feed or free ebook are great ways to get a feel for what happens here. I used to devote each month to a different theme, so if you’re interested in seeing those themes and an annotated page of articles for each one, click here. Again, my warmest welcome!
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On impact

November 1, 2011

One of life’s arenas that has a history of scratching at my trust is one I’ll call Impact: how much, or how little, I’m changing the world. I tend to feel like life is good when I’m contributing tangibly and obviously to people beyond my own home, and to feel restless and moorless when my energy is spent exclusively on private things – things only I or my family will see.

This was particularly true during my kids’ infancies and toddlerhoods, but just as poignantly through the seasons before and after those, when I was (before) writing a novel and (before that) doing deep inner work around the loss of my childhood faith and the meltdown that caused in every crevice of my being. After my kids’ infancies and toddlerhoods I was feeling a strong call to turn outward, but not yet clear about what that “outward” would be. And finally working for what felt like EONS to vision and actually launch this site.

And all of that – every one of those seasons – was fraught with a nagging feeling of not-enoughness for me, of needing to hurry up to do something different or more, to finally translate all the (hard, hard) work behind the scenes into things other people could see.

I wanted to matter, for sure. So there was the need for validation in my mix. But I also felt intensely like I had good things to offer the world, and like something important was getting hidden or wasted by all my private years. Such a pity, my bones would groan.

The longer I live, however, the more drastically different my view of all such things has come to be.

You couldn’t have convinced me of this then – “then” being every season when my work was mainly private – but from where I sit today, every ounce of what I’ve done in private has been woven into my public life now. All that hard inner work, the years of therapy, the reading, the journalling, the years when I had nothing left to journal and hardly anything to say, the blood, sweat, and tears that got poured into that novel (which, by the way, sits muse-like in my closet, informing my life and work constantly, yet noncommittal, still, as to whether it wants to get readied for publication), the diapers I changed, the gazillion fights I’ve refereed, the looooong afternoons with one and then two little beings in my care:

All of it matters. All of it has changed and continues to change the course of our whole world.

And I’m wondering whether you might need to hear this, too. Hear that nothing is getting wasted. Hear that if you’re in a private season, a season of grief, or a season of some other inner transformation; hear that if your work is mainly with your kid(s); hear that if you’re in a season of working on some project that who-knows-when will see the light of day; hear that even if you’re hiding, or just barely getting glimmers of, or slinking around the background of whatever it is you feel is yours to do right now:

All of it, every last thought and choice and movement, is getting woven into the fabric of our world. All of it is helping you and other people wake up. All of it matters, immensely.

And lest you take this as caffeine for your inner perfectionista who’s just looking for reasons to feel uptight about the small stuff too (Ack! My sucky parenting is getting woven into the universe!! My lack of discipline is affecting us all!! I can’t lift a finger without fucking something up!!), don’t.

Really. Don’t.

Give that part of you a hug and wish her well and go back to your business of being awed by the ways the little things aren’t little at all, and the quiet seasons of dormancy, and the frenetic seasons of young parenthood, and tumultuous seasons of private upheaval, and those stretches where you just don’t care and want to numb out to it all: all of them are of impact, and are necessary for the shedding of old things and the cultivation and growth of what’s new.

Don’t let the seasons of others – seasons that might look more glamorous and wonderful from the outside – dissuade you from this truth.

Everything belongs. I couldn’t say that with more than a whisper for most of my life, but here I stand today, feeling that to my core. And with love for you, and hope for the very place you find yourself right now, pouring from my heart.

I wish you peace. I wish you ease in your growing pains. I wish you hope for your bright future.


If you’re new here, welcome! I post articles once each week that explore trust, and how to nurture more of it. Signing up for my rss feed or free ebook are great ways to get a feel for what happens here. I used to devote each month to a different theme, so if you’re interested in seeing those themes and an annotated page of articles for each one, click here. Again, my warmest welcome!
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