Memory. During three different summers, I’ve found each of these figures at the Waldport Flea Market. Two dogs to represent the ones here and the ones gone, one ears up and one ears down, one big and one little. The Bodhisattva in the middle to remind me who I am. They are of that place, “where the forest meets the sea,” where half my heart lives.
For this August Moon prompt, Kat says, “Today I invite you to consider how you might contemplate the path ahead from a place of greater self-compassion.” The invitation is so perfectly timed. I just finished the first week back full-time at my CSU work. Week one is always the busiest, with everything needing to be done yesterday. We are adjusting back to a schedule where both Eric and I are working and busy, and we need to share dog care, and hardly see each other. I’m working through two blog challenges, so writing and posting a lot. I’m just finishing up yoga teacher training, which means lots of practice teaching and a belly full of joyfear. Ringo and I are starting a new training class. I’m looking to start/finish work on my self-compassion ebook and the offering book that goes with it. There is laundry to do and groceries to buy, and I baked glazed lemon zucchini bread to take to our department potluck, which I then attended. At one point during the week, I posted a status update on Facebook that said, “Having one of those days where I’ve been working so hard, I need to stop and just cry.”
And then on Friday, I learned that my yoga buddy Ann died. She’d been in hospice since last Friday. She fought cancer so hard and for so long, but it finally got to be too much. She’s one of the strongest, toughest, and yet softest people I’ve ever met. She’s the reason I kept practicing yoga for so long, showed up to class at 6:30 am three times a week for years. Even if I was too busy or tired or the weather was bad or I didn’t feel like it, I went because I knew I’d get to see Ann. She made me laugh, made me try harder. And now she’s gone. I’m going to teach my first yoga class soon, and she won’t be there.
I want to slow down. I want to take it easy. I want to spend my weekends taking naps, reading, spending time with Eric and the dogs, going on long walks. I always set the intention, but find myself rushing ahead, pushing myself on to the next thing — and there is always a next thing. Right now I’m so clear about where I’m headed, my list of “next things” could easily fill the next 10 years.
What propels me, and it’s right to mention it here because as I wrote that last sentence I felt the panic rising, is the reality of impermanence. I am going to die, and as I’ve learned from Heather and Kelly and now Ann, death isn’t going to wait until I feel finished, until I’m done. This is what makes me rush, not want to wait, what makes taking a break get confused with wasting precious time.
Kat ends today’s prompt asking “What sort of trust would this require?” To move forward, allow things to gently unfold, to practice with self-compassion, I’d have to trust:
- That what I produce is purer, more honest, easier, and more beneficial to everyone if I do it from a place of self-compassion rather than through smashing myself to bits.
- That I can’t ease suffering if I make myself suffer to do so.
- That my experience of life is just as important as what I make, what I do, what I offer.
- That I wouldn’t have been born with this fire inside of me, this intense longing, if I weren’t meant to manifest it.
- That I will be able to do what I came here to do.
- That I can take a day off, that my need for rest is valid, that self-care is absolutely necessary.
Yesterday, Kat’s prompt asked, “What are the stories that limit you?” and “Who would you be without that story?” This is a theme that keeps coming up for me, the ways in which I am writing my own experience, constructing my own reality, and how sometimes what I’m telling myself just isn’t true.
For example, I used to tell myself I wasn’t a “real” writer. Working in the academy fueled that story, a place where only certain genres are “allowed,” where the first question you are asked when you say you are a writer is “where have you published?” and believe me, there’s a list of the “right” places. I used to think a community like this had to grant me membership before I could live the life of a writer, that I’d experience it according to their rulebook. I’ve since learned that’s not the case. For me, writing is a practice, a full-time gig whether I get paid for it or not, whether or not I get published or read. It is who I am. Writing is like oxygen for me, and as far as I know, no one has ever needed to get permission to breathe.
Another place I used to wait for permission is around yoga, specifically teaching. I thought that yoga teachers needed to be Prana models, no body fat and able to do poses like Scorpion with little effort. I saw them as masters of their bodies, and as a dis-ordered eater who spends way too much time inside her own head, I barely had a connection with mine. I bully it, push it past its limits, don’t give it the rest or movement or care it needs, don’t listen. And yet, instead of starting when I was perfect, waiting to earn the right to be “like them,” I went into yoga teacher training as if I were a total beginner, humble and ready to learn, in worse physical shape than I had been in years, and now, at the end, I’m healthier, saner, and more embodied. I am able to teach exactly because I have struggled, suffered.
I’m encountering the same now with Ringo. The story is that I don’t do enough, don’t know what I’m doing, have “ruined” my dogs, that any bad behavior is a direct result of my action or inaction. I compare myself not to others with full, busy lives who are doing their best, but instead I measure myself against expert, experienced dog trainers.
The common thread throughout these stories is I’m not good enough, need to try harder, do more. How I qualify “good” is to measure myself against longtime, skilled practitioners. Writer? I must be like Margaret Atwood. Yoga teacher? I must be Amy Ippoliti. Dog person? I must be Susan Garrett. To measure myself this way means that no matter how hard I work, no matter what my success, I have still failed, fallen short. The story I tell myself is that I need to earn love, earn the right to be here, earn the right to exist and be happy.
Who would I be without this story? I’d be more rested, healthier, more at ease, calm, more content. I’d be able to celebrate my good work, honor my hunger. My experience would be so much better, even as my productivity dropped.
That’s why compassion, along with courage, are vital: they give us the resources to be genuine about where we are, but at the same time to know that we are always in transition, that the only time is now, and that the future is completely unpredictable and open. ~Pema Chödrön
May we all go more gently, be kinder to ourselves, stop making our lives one project after another. May we truly balance our effort with our ease.
1. Completing my last yoga teacher training homework assignment. We have one final weekend where we’ll teach our practicum, have a graduation ceremony, and end with a potluck. Right now, I am taking time to honor what I’ve accomplished, to celebrate. I am wiser and more compassionate as a direct result of the last nine months, blessed by the heart effort of my teachers and my fellow students, forever grateful.
2. A new training class for me and Ringo, this time one that shares my philosophy, wants to help me build a wise and compassionate relationship with my dog.
3. Getting back to work at CSU. I’m in my new office, which is way too hot in the afternoons and will never be as pretty as my “real” office, and because it was most recently a dorm it feels kind of like working in an empty hotel, but it’s good to be getting things done, to see everyone again.
5. Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread, my new favorite thing. I grated a bunch of zucchini from our garden and froze it so I can keep having this. My mouth is watering just telling you about it.
Bonus Joy: My boys, all three of them. Eric took this picture and texted it to me the other day with the title, “We need a bigger couch.” This is Ringo and Sam piled on top of Eric while he was trying to nap.
Today Kat’s prompt is “How do you surprise and delight other people?” Clean sheets on the bed, baking something sweet, a love letter, remembering something you said you wanted or liked and seeking it out to give you as a gift, a text or email to tell you I was thinking of you, telling you how wonderful and strong you are, embodying gratitude, sending help when you seem to need it, giving encouragement and inspiration, helping you with your work, doing something I know needs done without waiting to be asked, making a calm and beautiful space and inviting you in, making things easier for you, working on my own stuff, taking responsibility for the ways I struggle, kindness, being compassionate, generosity, making you laugh, feeding you, easing suffering where I find it.