Tag Archives: Kindness

Befriend Yourself

When planning my gap year for grown-ups, I made a conscious decision to put myself in the way of as much beauty as possible. Paris. Florence. London. Edinburgh. Museums + galleries. Epic walks along historic rivers. Plays + play. Live music. Talks by writers. The luxury of time to write and think and create.

The thing I could not have predicted is how very much I’m also putting myself in the way of new challenges. And how much I’m growing.

As I shared in our Sunday Reader a month ago, I’m an anxious sort of bear. Regardless of how together I seem from the outside, it takes a lot of effort and courage for me to travel on my own, to learn new neighbourhoods, to navigate the metro and to fly solo.
Please know that I’m not complaining. I signed up for this and it is mostly glorious… but some of it is not. Actually, that seems like a pretty good description of life. Mostly glorious. Sometimes not.

Yesterday was a bit of a day, travel-wise. I flew from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to London Heathrow (neither of which are famously wonderful transportation hubs) and everywhere there was a line, it was long and filled with really angry travellers. At CDG, the wait at Customs was epic but I knew it would be so I had left myself lots of time. The people around me, however, were furious. The woman directly behind me was in a terrible hurry and, every time we took a step forward, she bumped into me with her suitcase. A man at the front of the line yelled at an airport employee who took a traveller in a wheelchair before him. I felt overwhelmed but there was nothing I could do. As I peeled off my sweater, I realized that I was starting to panic even though I knew I had lots of time to make my flight.

The first thing I did was to breathe. {Sometimes we forget.} I inhaled deeply through my nose and held that breath for about three seconds. Then I exhaled slowly through my mouth and relaxed my neck and shoulders. I breathed deeply, in this way, for a few minutes. Then I found a spot on the floor about ten feet away from me and just rested my gaze there. Gently. I continued to breathe and emptied my mind as much as I could. Of course, random thoughts popped up, and the sounds of Charles de Gaulle intruded from time, but I just let the thoughts and noises come and then go and I went on breathing. I meditated in the best way I could in the middle of the line at Customs.

After ten minutes, I felt calm. I was able to think more kindly about this woman behind me who might be feeling panicked about missing a flight and the man who lost his cool at the front of the line. It’s not like I gave them a hug or anything that dramatic, I just changed the way I was thinking. A few minutes later, I noticed that the woman behind me had stopped bumping into me.

I shit you not. It was magic.

By befriending myself first and then extending that circle of calm, I was able to make a situation that felt tough and jagged a bit better. Softer. Adopting an attitude of love and patience created more space in that line. {I love the word “spaciousness.”} It certainly felt like magic to me.

How could you befriend yourself today to create a little magic for yourself and the people in your life?
How would it feel to speak to yourself a little more gently? The next time you feel tempted to criticize yourself (I’m so stupid! | I never learn | How could I have forgotten this? | I’m so disorganized | This is all my fault), try to breathe and say something kind to yourself.

Try something like: “I know you’re feeling really frustrated right now. You are really doing your best though, aren’t you? And you love your family so much and you always want to do your very best for them. What do you need right now? Shall we sit for a minute? Shall we have a cup of tea?”

Have a cup of tea. Breathe. Befriend yourself. You can call it self compassion or kindness or even magic, if you wish. I promise it will help.
 
 
*This post was originally published as a Sunday Reader. To receive my love letters directly in your inbox twice a month, you can subscribe here.
 

Conversations with Your Life | Challenge: Day 5

 
Challenge: Day 5
1. Think of some way you’ve been hard on yourself lately.
2. Write yourself a loving note of encouragement. Write to yourself in the same compassionate way you would write/speak to a friend.
3. Read it out loud to yourself. {Don’t skip this step.}
4. How did that feel?

 
Tomorrow is the final day of the challenge.

If you’ve found these mini-lessons interesting, each of the six modules in the course will feature three essays and accompanying exercises for a mindful walk through your life. You’ll identify what’s not working, clear up some thoughts and take action.

It’s like a loving and mindful house cleaning for your life.

I’d love for you to join us.
 

Conversations with Your Life | Challenge: Day 3

Day 3 is about sending some love out into the universe.

There’s absolutely no better time than now. xo

You can learn more about the course, which begins on August 30th, over here.
 

Kindness and Crocodiles

train

I believe it is my job
to be kind to others.

And although it is my sacred wish
that everyone would live that way,
they don’t.

They just don’t.

So in addition
to being kind,
it’s also my job
to grow thick my skin
green-grey
and crocodile-like.

It’s my job
to say “It’s okay
that you don’t like my
_____________________.”
(Insert word of choice.)

It really is okay.

It’s taken 40 years
to grow this first layer
of crocodile resilience.
At first I could assemble
only the thinnest cells,
pink like bellies.

It’s a kindness to myself
to grow this
protective
shell.

Heart of a Counselor,
skin of a crocodile.
 

Likeness

mirror

Other
people
are
mirrors.

The bothersome bit
is that even people
we don’t like
reflect us back
to ourselves.

I’ll hear a comment
that makes me bonkers
because it is unkind
and
because I know
I have that
in me.

That person’s mirror
is a warning.

But
this
beautiful
blue
reader
mirrors the very best of me,
that curious geeky girl
who still walks
down sidewalks
reading.
 

Living the questions

redshoes

“I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (1903)

The questions I’m living right now…
it’s like kindergarten in here.

one.
What if we cared as much about people as we do
about status?
{This morning a white porsche raced by the station splintering both
our harmony and the sound barrier. On the side of the car: Carrera.
Spanish for road. That driver needs a hug.}

two.
What if kindness were currency? Like money.
Gold coins.
Stocks.

three.
What if we lived our lives with our flapping red hearts on
the outside?
lubdub. lubdub. lubdub.

four.
What if joy were as much your job as your job is?

Oh! What if it is?

Perhaps it is.
 

the story of japan and me

{Photo by Jacquie Pender}

Wednesday afternoon,
after climbing 100 bite-sized
(and unexpected) steps
I arrived
red-faced and breathless
at a neighbouring
Yokohama school.
The signs were all in Japanese
and I needed some help
finding the room
for my meeting
and the Counselor
who was expecting me.

The students,
all girls,
moved swan-like
through the school grounds
in pairs and trios.
Holding hands,
they floated slightly above the ground
like characters in a Chagall painting.
Dressed in light blue
cotton dresses
and straw hats,
they channeled
Anne of Green Gables.
Cuteness personified.
Not one of them
however
spoke English.

The littlest girls
stared
and
giggled.
Perhaps they’d never seen a woman
so pink
or so round.

The older girls shushed them…
and then came closer
forming a wonderful ring
of curiosity
around me.
They smiled
and waited.
I repeated the name
of the Counselor
I was meeting.

A bouquet of girls
ran for their teacher
who appeared,
smiling shyly.
She didn’t speak English
either
but motioned for me
to follow.

At the the main office
four administrators
emerged like toys tumbling
out of a closet.
We all bowed.
And then we bowed again.

I pronounced the name of their school.
It was a statement,
not a question.
They looked at each other
with widening eyes.
Solemnly they shook their heads.
“No.”
I was at the wrong school!

I started to laugh
and then everyone laughed
and we bowed and laughed
again.

Graciously,
an administrator walked me
outside and pointed
oh-so-gently
across the street
to the school
where I was expected.

“I’m very sorry”
I said.

“Please do not be sorry.
It is no problem.”
she replied.

This is the story
of Japan and me.
(Mistakes
and grace
and forgiveness.)