Tag Archives: Self compassion

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 4

Today, you’re invited
to make a list of all
the amazing things
your body does for you
and allows you to do.

List at least 20.

Then celebrate
+ say thank you!


Week 4 of the course with be all about conversations with your body. This is really yummy stuff.
 

Light Gathering

I’m obsessed with light.

The first time that light ever made me cry was on our first visit to Florence in 2008. As we walked around the city in the late afternoon, we kept disintegrating into the golden light. Every few minutes, I would turn towards my partner… to see the look on his face and to reassure myself that I had not imagined all that beauty. When we got back to Barcelona, I wrote about it on my blog and my friend Mara Gorman, whom I know only through the magical interwebs, wrote back that, “one could eat the light in Florence with a spoon.” That image has never left me. Eating the light like panna cotta.

I’ve stood under magnificent chandeliers in Venice and Paris and I’ve been dazzled by their beauty. Chandeliers serve as luminescent proof that we don’t have to give up beauty for function. We can have both things in our lives. When I stand under those lights, I have a clearer vision of my best self.

One of my most powerful light-memories is from Japan. Motomachi Street is the lovely granmotherly shopping street near our apartment in Yokohama. Whenever I get the timing right and emerge from the train station onto Motomachi Street around five o’clock in the evening, the light pours down the street towards me like honey. I remember seeing our friend Saka walking towards me in that light and she seemed imbued with magical powers. {Actually, she is. We all are.}

It’s been my experience that life is an intricate dance between darkness and the light.

The darkness. In the last week, the American President sent a series of terrible tweets shaming the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico and more than fifty people died in a massacre in Las Vegas. It has felt very much like the Dementors are winning.

I was raised in a community where people did what they were supposed to do. They followed the rules set out by schools, by church and by their parents, grandparents and those who came before. They voted along party lines. These are very good people, the very first to help someone in need, but they were taught to fear change and to be suspicious of outsiders.

When people continue to live according to old societal rules without examining whether they fit who we are now, when they live in the belly of fear and suspicion, their collective darkness makes terrible things possible including Trump’s administration.

What if we believed that none of us were outsiders? What if we believed that we belong everywhere and that we belong to each other.

Just asking those questions makes the light flicker. Suddenly the light around us appears more golden, more intense.

Imagine what would happen if we all began to act as though we belong everywhere and to each other.

Even in the midst of this very serious darkness, there is a gathering of the light. I see so many friends, clients and acquaintances choosing what feels right and good in their life… rather than what they are “supposed” to do. It feels like many of us are lighting up at the same time.

Since I was a child, I’ve thought deeply about the meaning of everything. I’ve questioned the way things were done which I realize can be quite exasperating for the people who love me. But I can’t NOT ask these questions. It’s the way I’m built and also the way I’ve created my self. During my Gap Year for Grown Ups, in particular, I’ve been having a a lot of yummy, late-night conversation with my life. (You know the kind.)

One of the discoveries I’ve made is that the more compassionate I am to myself, the more good stuff I have to give to others. If I could view a “soul-view” map of humanity, I’d see that whenever I’m kind to myself, the Monna-dot lights up brighter than before. On that same map, I’d see that that all the dots marking the meeting places between myself and others are glowing softly. Like an intricate network of lights. Like a chandelier.

So, in this way, we grow the light.

I’m going to be teaching a course about what I’ve learned about being kind to yourself and listening to your life. Those conversations will help you create a life you in which you feel more of what you want ~ joy, peace, freedom. A life that allows you to do good work and to help others. It’s called Conversations with Your Life and it begins on Monday 30th October.

I’d love for you to join me for this gathering of the light.