You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~Buddha
For just a minute, I am taking a deep breath and sinking into this moment. Eric is in the kitchen making pie crust — I’ve had a thing about pie lately, buying store made versions that claim to be Marionberry but aren’t quite, and he wanted to make me a “real pie.” Emeli Sandé is singing Next to Me, part of a mix I made myself on Rhapsody that I listen to while I write. Both dogs are asleep in their beds behind me. The window is open and I can hear the wind blowing, see the blue sky and bright green of my lilac bushes and the trees above. My hair is still wet from a shower, and I’m wearing clean soft cotton pjs and my favorite sweater.
I feel pretty content right now, in this moment. But I don’t always feel like this. I struggle, I suffer, I smash myself to bits. There are old, habitual ways of thinking and being that no longer serve me, and yet I still act them out, get stuck.
It came to me recently that at the heart of all of my issues, underneath every irritation or sadness was one thing. And when I realized what it was, I felt a deep longing, an intense hunger to understand, to heal, to transform that suffering, and I knew that I was connected to a tribe of wise and compassionate women who could help me, if only I was brave enough to ask.
So I sent a request to them. It started like this,
Dear Beautiful You,
I said a prayer and took a deep breath before beginning this message to you. I am so worried it will come off like a creepy sales pitch or inappropriate request — it isn’t. This email, this request is an utterly authentic wish from the deepest part of my heart, an expression of my ongoing longing to ease suffering, in myself and in the world, and to be of service. It isn’t about my blog stats, building my own worth or value, or any other self-serving, self-fulfilling ego bullshit. This is not about little me, this is about Big Love. In fact, it would be so much easier for me to not do this, to not ask, but I feel compelled to, and as Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.”
I am writing to you with a tender heart full of longing. I am writing to YOU because you are a wise and compassionate teacher, writer, healer, artist. I am writing because I have big questions and I think you can help me answer them.
“How can I help the harm that has been done unravel itself? How can I help others find their own wisdom, kindness, and sense of humor?” (Pema Chödrön actually said that, but they are also my questions). As a writer and a teacher myself, the spark for the enclosed request came to me as these things always do: I was curious and confused, felt a hunger to understand something.
I was struggling and went to a new doctor to seek medical advice, to determine if the cause for my suffering were in my body. The help I was offered, the “answer” I was given didn’t sit right with me. In fact, every cell of my body said “that’s not it.” That very afternoon, I left for a meditation retreat led by my dear friend and teacher Susan Piver. In that safe and supportive space of contemplation the real answer, the true path, revealed itself: self-compassion.
Great! – and yet, what is that, how do I do that?! Having been in a long term abusive relationship with myself, I don’t know how to be in love, to be loving, to fully and completely accept myself. The momentary sadness of not knowing faded when I realized I knew many amazing, wise and compassionate women who have been my guides already in so many other ways – I could ask them.
So I ask you, humbly and with such gratitude and love, these four questions:
1. What does self-compassion mean, what is it? How would you describe or define it?
2. How did you learn self-compassion? Did you have a teacher, a guide, a path, a resource, a book, a moment of clarity or specific experience?
3. How do you practice self-compassion, what does that experience look like for you?
4. What do you still need to learn, to know, to understand? What is missing from your practice of self-compassion, what do you still struggle with?
As a writer and a teacher, part two of anything I learn is the strong desire to share it, the knowledge that if this is helpful to me there are others who also must need it. So my intention, my wish is to not only benefit myself from your answers, but to share them in two ways:
1. “Self-Compassion Saturday,” a once a week post on my blog that includes an introduction to your other good work, explains why I asked you specifically, gives your answers and link(s) to your work.
2. When all the answers I get have been posted, I’d like to collect them into a PDF ebook that can be downloaded by anyone for free – not a “follow my blog/sign up for my newsletter and get a free gift” thing, but a truly free gift to anyone who would benefit, an offering made from love.
This is the plan, kind and gentle reader: one post each Saturday until they stop coming, (29 women have said “yes”), and then I’ll create an ebook including the whole collection that anyone can download for free. These women’s willingness to be a part of this project, their generosity and kindness, has left me gobsmacked, so full of love and gratitude. And each response that I’ve received so far to the four essential questions has been a gift filled with compassion and wisdom that I can’t wait to share with you.
First up, next Saturday, is Artist, Author, Actionista Mary Anne Radmacher, (I’ve written about her before). She had her responses to me less than 24 hours after I asked, and even answered three extra questions! It’s so good.
I must go now. I smell pie 🙂
thank you for doing this. this self compassion thing keeps coming up for me. it is so hard.
what you said about coming out of an abusive relationship with yourself is very true. I think i have it figured out and then out of the blue comes such a hateful, hurtful voice inside, seemingly from nowhere. that harshness makes being aware almost impossible while it is happening.
I’m so glad that this will be helpful for you as well. ♥ I feel, for me at least, that part of the medicine is also in accepting that this is a lifelong process, that just like with any other long term relationship, we’ll have good days and bad, but we can accept that too, be gentle and forgiving with ourselves for even that. What I think is going to be so good about this for me is to have a new voice, a unique perspective on the issue each week, for those voices to help me to maintain my intention and mindfulness.
Thank you so much for this Jill. Sometimes I feel like someone caught up in a domestic violence cycle – I’m self-abusive, then with practice and that curious willingness you wrote about, I begin to have a relationship with myself based on compassion – but then, sometimes without warning, there I am back in the abusive relationship again.
Knowing about this love offering to yourself and to all of us feels like a bit of magic in my day.
♥ I love the idea of a world where we are all just trying to be kinder to ourselves. It can make such a difference.
Jill, I would love to participate. Thank you for including me. Gentle thoughts and love, Lisa
John O’Donohue said, “When you are compassionate with yourself, you trust in your soul, which you let guide your life. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny better than you do.”
Gentle thoughts to all, Lisa
What a gracious and generous concept. I look forward to reading the posts and the eBook!
This is such a good, generous idea. I really look forward to the reading and the learning…so much to learn.
I love that you’ll be here for it, Evie ♥ P.S. Someone we both know and love is one of the responders.
Looking forward to reading on Saturdays.
I’m so glad you’ll be here, Rita. 🙂
Wow! You have opened my eyes…I feel there is hope. I am anxious to read the answers that come in. Thank You for sharing!
I’m so glad ♥ And, you’re welcome.
I feel as if I could have written this Jill. I too knew something wasn’t “right” and I’m seeking the answer to what it is I need. Self-compassion seems to be the key and I thank you for opening this door so that you, and I and many other women can come to the peace of being content within ourselves and treating ourselves as we deserve to be treated…without as you said, “smashing” ourselves to bits. I’m off to ponder your questions!
The more, the merrier. 🙂
Oh, Jill…this is so important/needed/necessary. I’m so, so happy that you listened.
B E A U T I F U L.
I’m deeply honored to be a part of this goodness.
Sending so much love your way.
I had to listen, it insisted 🙂 And I’m so glad you said “yes,” beautiful you. ♥
we all need this
you are amazing to take this on
your love for ALL must surely shine from the love you have for your own self
I can feel it
looking forward to following along with you on this important journey!
with thanks and so much LOVE
You’re welcome, Christy. Glad you are coming along 🙂
I’m so thrilled that you’re doing this… answering your burning question.
Love and more love, my friend.
I’m so glad that I’ll get to share your answers. All the love right back at ya! ♥
I have just discovered your blog…Gratitude to Kirsten Noelle. Good stuff here, very good stuff…
I’m so glad you found your way here. 🙂
Pingback: Self-Compassion Saturday: Barbara Markway | A Thousand Shades of Gray
Beautiful post, Jill. The words: “Having been in a long term abusive relationship with myself, I don’t know how to be in love, to be loving, to fully and completely accept myself,” resonate deeply. I am reminded of a time when a man I was dating turned to and said, “You do not know how to nurture or be nurtured.” I was stunned. I knew I was fiercely independent. I knew that I had grown up taking very good care of myself. I had to. But I had always considered myself nurturing. After all, I was a first grade teacher. Years passed but his words haunted me. I realized the very reason I had followed my (first) calling into a first grade classroom was that: I could nurture six year old children but didn’t have a clue how to nurture myself let alone the men in my life. I, too, was in an abusive relationship toward self. For me, self-compassion is a practice and one of the most precious gifts I give myself every single day. I love this project. I look forward to your ebook.
Yes, I have always been very good at caring for, loving others, but not so great at doing the same for myself, somehow having deemed myself exempt. The strangest thing is if anyone else treated me like that, I would never put up with it — but you can’t break up with yourself if the relationship isn’t working, you have to stick around and fix it. It’s a process, a practice for sure.