Category Archives: Amazing Women

Self-Compassion Saturday: The Beginning

i'm still standing

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.

*sigh*

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.

pathgate

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.

mettaprayer
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 🙂

Not Knowing Where to Start

This is one of those posts, kind and gentle reader, that is at this moment as much of a mystery to me as it is to you. All day I have been thinking about what I wanted to tell you, what I had to say, to share, without being sure exactly what I would write. There is a big shift happening in my life right now but it’s not entirely clear to me how this is going to work out so I haven’t formed a neat and tidy way of communicating it. All I know for sure is that I want to tell you the truth.

I finally had an appointment with my new doctor. I have been struggling with fatigue for the past few years, have hypothyroidism and a family history of diabetes, (all kinds, on both sides), am most likely perimenopausal, and don’t get enough rest. I am a highly functioning food addict who has struggled with disordered eating for 30+ years, having gained, lost, and regained the same 20 pounds at least that many times. I want to be free of it, this struggle and dis-ease. I want to be strong, healthy, and whole, with the energy and stamina necessary to do the work I long to do, to live a full life.

Things have to to change. A series of unfortunate incidents with my previous doctors made me realize that I wasn’t being cared for as well as I should be, that I needed to seek out a new perspective, someone who would view me as a whole person (not just a body) and consider all the potential healing modalities available. I chose someone who practices Integrative Medicine, which according to her, “evaluates the patient as a whole. It does not view the patient as a chronic disease, an illness, a list of medications, or a recent hospitalization–but rather as a complex being made up of physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual parts all interdependent and woven together. All of these elements are respectfully addressed in developing strategies to treat illness and more aggressively prevent disease.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

It was good. But, we have some work to do. I have something to teach her about dealing with people who have a history of dis-ordered eating and self-loathing. For starters: don’t call them obese, no matter what the BMI chart says. And for heaven’s sake, don’t call them obese repeatedly. Call them curvy, solid, voluptuous, thick, full, well-rounded, sturdy, slightly heavier than optimal, weighted down–but don’t call them obese.

Brave Belly

I get it. I need to lose some weight. It’s the same weight I’ve been losing and gaining for years. I already knew that. I get it. It’s there, in part, because I am an incredibly sensitive and porous person, without natural thick skin or any other kind of protective barrier between myself and the energy of my environment, the suffering of every person I encounter, the meanness and brutality of life. I am easily hurt, and I eat my feelings. This in turn makes me bigger, more stable and substantial, heavier, harder to knock down, safer, calmer (at least in theory).

What she said hurt me. I’m pretty sure she thought I was confused about my situation, didn’t realize it was serious, and that this “truth” would motivate me to change. In reality, it sent me into a shame spiral. Thank goodness that same afternoon I was leaving for a retreat with Susan Piver, had a safe, supportive space to go in which to process what she’d said. I truly believe that without my practices, the support and wisdom I have access to, she would have only made things worse with that one word. I’m hoping the next time we meet, I can effectively and kindly communicate this to her so that she is better able to help the next person like me, a person who might not have the support, the tools I do to process and cope.

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For now, I get back to the work of educating myself. Along with Susan Piver, her support and wisdom and our shared practice, I am so grateful for the work and friendship of Rachel Cole. Both of these amazing women, (along with such writers and healers as Geneen Roth and Tara Brach), remind me to always approach myself, my struggles, with gentleness, to give myself space and compassion. In this way I can face this transition, which is going to be so difficult, with wisdom and lovingkindness–because this is so much more about loving myself than about what I do or don’t eat.

I can also count on the people in my life who love me to support me, encourage and help me, to make me smile, to laugh. Like my trainer, who after hearing what my doctor had said was extra encouraging to me when we worked out, telling me much more often than normal what a great job I was doing, (seriously, it was adorable). And my husband, who told me “we’ll figure this out, you’ll know what to do, and I’ll help you,” who loves me, is more concerned with the size of my heart and how much I love him back than a set of numbers anyway, who won’t judge me when I eat a cinnamon roll the size of my head. And my courage circle and other friends who reminded me of how much I am loved, of my real value, my truth worth. And my friends who gave me recommendations when I asked them for a kind and gentle therapist who works with dis-ordered eaters.

I can find and accept help, but more importantly I can trust myself.