Category Archives: Simply Celebrate

Self-Compassion Saturday: Sherry Richert Belul

I first met Sherry Richert Belul in an online writing class, Telling True Stories with Laurie Wagner. In her profile picture, she was wearing a bright orange hat and feather boa, and the pieces that she wrote for class were sharp and sweet, beautiful and heartbreaking and true. After class was over, I kept bumping into her around the web, always loving our interactions. She is the brightest light, this one.

orangesherryAt some point, we became real friends. Sherry is the very best sort of friend, kind and generous, openhearted and full of joy. One of my favorite things she does for me is send me ninja poems where she records a short message using her phone, reads me a poem and says sweet things, and then she emails me the sound file. There is almost nothing better than a voice mail ninja poem love bomb from Sherry.

She even made it onto my vision board for 2013, in the most magical happy accident. I was selecting pictures, and cut out one from Taproot that I didn’t realize was her, was just a woman at a bright blue typewriter wearing a snazzy hat, an image illustrating an article about one of my favorite poets Maya Stein, a picture about which I said, “that hat looks suspiciously like one owned and worn by my good friend Sherry Richert Belul. If it’s not you, Sherry, please don’t tell me. The thought that it might be her/you, that she/you might represent the friendship and support of a collective of kindreds, of like-minded artists and warriors, of all those in my tribe, including all my kind and gentle readers, gives me so much joy.” She later commented and said “but it is me!” and I knew that I would somehow get to meet her in person this year, which I did — twice!

Sherry Richert Belul is an ordinary gal seeking poetry, color, spontaneity, and connection in everyday life. She and her company, Simply Celebrate, offer unique experiences through products, services, stories, adventures, and a community that helps people wake up to all the joy, spontaneity, color, and connection that is available in every moment. Her mission is to “Turn ordinary days into an extraordinary life!” and through her work, she “offers products and practices that help people celebrate ourselves, the people we love, and the shape of our lives — even when none of it looks the way we had imagined.” Her practice is celebrating the ordinary, unwanted, and unexpected. (And everything else that comes along). “Joy is a practice. What can you celebrate in this small moment of your extraordinary life?” I am so happy to share her perspective on self-compassion with you today.

1. What does self-compassion mean, what is it? How would you describe or define it?

Self-compassion is that way we whisper, “Oh honey” to ourselves while we wrap Grandma’s frayed purple quilt a little tighter around our scared body. It’s the way we quickly take it back when we mistakenly say “you idiot” to ourselves. It’s what inspires us to ask for a re-do and murmur, “That’s okay; anyone could have made the same mistake.” Self-compassion is having the spinach-pineapple-mango smoothie instead of the cinnamon roll ‘cuz we know what really nourishes. It’s saying no even when our best friend pleads, because we are over-booked and over-committed and over the idea of thinking we need to sacrifice ourselves for someone else. It’s saying yes to the lime green nail polish, to that crazy notion, to his kiss, to the giddy risk. Self-compassion is the way we look in the mirror and wish the wrinkles weren’t there, but change our focus to how damned sparkly our eyes are. Self-compassion is having the patience to listen, listen, listen to that all-knowing Self deep inside of us — because there are no rules, pat answers, should-be’s, or this-is-how-it-is’s; there is just this moment, this is what’s calling to me. There is this collection of me’s inside of me, and the desire to help all of them feel safe and warm and vital. Self-compassion is that feeling of “I’m here with you, no matter what.” It’s letting ourselves love the rose and gold fingerless gloves, the smell of cotton yoga blankets, the sound of our son’s silly songs, and our own plump toes. Self-compassion is drawing the circle around us bigger and bigger and bigger, to accept it all: all the glitter, all the dance, all the mud, and all the mess.

santa-cruz-bike2. 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?

I learned self-compassion from my cat Tiger, who used to try to jump to the high shelf and sometimes missed. She’d look at me, give a little sniff, wash her face, and walk away, tail held high. Next day, she’d try that jump again. Best I can tell, she didn’t beat up on herself for the fall. And she just kept attempting to go where her instinct told her to go.

I leaned self-compassion from my Grandmother, who had none. She’d shop for size 18 brown or gray shapeless dresses, all the while berating herself and her body. I always wished she’d buy herself something flowered, silky, or sexy.

I learned self-compassion from guy sitting outside his little house at college. While everyone else was boozing it up at frat parties, he had dragged a comfy armchair outside in the warm spring air and was reading “The Tao of Pooh.” He was all alone, but seemed to be about the happiest person I’d ever met.

I learned self-compassion from every honest soul I’ve ever met. From the seventy-year-old woman who wouldn’t let herself have even the smallest slice of cake for fear she’d get fat. From the sixth-grade girl who slumped her shoulders in sorrow. From the middle-aged professor in Indiana who set off in a brand new direction, despite his age and great fear. All the people who abandon themselves and don’t abandon themselves are my great teachers.

For the past 20 years I’ve been soaking up self-compassion tools and tricks from my spiritual teacher, Cheri Huber. Cheri starts with “There’s Nothing Wrong with You” and takes us on a journey to discovering absolutely everything that is right with us, which happens to be everything we are.

sherrysunflower3. How do you practice self-compassion, what does that experience look like for you?

Like many of you, some of the go-to practices I use include yoga, meditation, dance, hot baths, hot sex, and hot tea. But here are a few favorite practices that aren’t so obvious:

Recording and listening: This is a practice I learned from Cheri Huber. Basically, you know how Squawky Polly is always yammering in your head about what you could’ve done better or how you should be or “what’s da matter with you?” Well, recording/listening (R/L) is the antidote to that. R/L is turning on a recorder and saying all the things we wish our best friend/lover/mother would have said to us. It’s our own voice using the words we know we love offering us the compassion and wisdom that exists always, always, always within us when we quiet enough to hear it. Because it is such an awesome tool, I’m hoping Jill might let me share a link to Cheri’s book, which outlines this practice.

Sending notes to strangers: It sounds counter-intuitive, but one of the biggest and fastest ways to offer myself compassion is to write a note to a stranger. I’ve launched several small projects in which I’ve asked folks to tell me if there are people in their lives who are going through a hard time and need a little kindness. I swear to you, as soon as I pick up the pen to write to these folks, I’m writing to myself. Yep, it is that crazy cosmic thing that happens when I just feel utterly connected energetically. So I am writing to someone’s mom who is depressed and hopeless because she broke her hip again. And while I am writing to her, I am absorbing all that love and compassion into my own bones. I feel it. Can’t explain it, but I know it.

Wearing clothes that make me feel like the me who wants out. Some folks might thing that clothing is kinda silly and shallow. But for me, it is a straight shot to self-compassion. There’s a part of me who wants to be alive and expressive in a certain way. Offering her the chance to wear artful clothes is like opening a portal to possibility and joy. It’s like one of my all-time favorite poems by Kaylin Haught, full of “yes, yes, yes.” For you it may not be clothing, but maybe it is the art on your walls or the music you listen to or your flower garden. It’s that invitation.

Allowing poetry to sooth and thrill. Speaking of poems (“yes, yes, yes”), learning poems by heart and living with poetry in my life are like insta-compassion. Poetry links my crazy bouncing ball of a spirit to all the other humans out there who are experiencing bliss or grief or confusion or depression. One poem I’ve learned by heart to say to myself whenever I am lost and sad is this Hafiz poem.

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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?

For me, the answer to this question is buried within the question itself! In my own life, a lack of self-compassion often comes in the form of looking for what’s missing or what’s wrong.  It slips in like this, “You need to earn more money. You need to lose a few pounds. You need to be more generous.” So at the risk of being confoundedly meta — I’d have to say that what I most need to learn and practice, moment by moment by moment is turning my attention away from any question of “what’s missing” and replace it with a focus on “what is.”  The recording and listening practice I mentioned above is one of the best ways to do this: simply underscoring all the things I’m grateful for about myself and all the things I love about my life can usher in profound feelings of compassion.

This journey of self-compassion is most definitely a lifelong adventure. I feel INCREDIBLY lucky to be able to explore this with you, Jill, and with all these other amazing women writers, teachers, and artists.

P.S. Here’s a little story about self-compassion and this piece of writing. Ole Squawky Polly mind wants to tell me that this isn’t good enough. That I missed the mark. It wants me to feel bad about something. But what I know is that I tried my best to be present and to write what wanted to be written. I showed up, let life live through me, and now it is done. Self-compassion is turning away from that squawk-squawk and simply seeing what the next moment holds, which is … lunch. No reviews, no regrets, no what-ifs. Ahhhh.

srbhwyI am so grateful to Sherry, for so so many things. Her simply being in the world, truly unedited Sherry, gives me such comfort, so much joy. To find out more about Sherry, to connect with her:

Next on Self-Compassion Saturday: Me. Yup, you heard that right — it’s my turn.

P.S. If you didn’t see the first post in this series, you might want to read Self-Compassion Saturday: The Beginning. Or make your way through all the posts tagged Self-Compassion Saturday.

Something Good

1. Fall session of ZenPen, “Body-Based Writing for Healing, Transformation, and Personal Growth” from my dear friend Courtney Putnam starts September 30th.

2. Finding Freedom and Writing Memoirs with Meg Worden, an interview on BlogCast FM.

3. Funny stuff from Elephant Journal, Sorry about all the poop: The 10 Commandments of Your Dog and Conan O’Brien and Louis CK “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” And not so much funny as true, The Truth About Hitting Bottom.

4. An excerpt from The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel.

5. A Bunch Of Young Geniuses Just Made A Corrupt Corporation Freak Out Big Time. Time For Round Two. on Upworthy. Boulder certainly is one of my favorite things about Colorado, for reasons just like this.

6. 36 Surreal Instagram Images From Burning Man. I’m not hip enough to attend, and besides it would be too hot and there would be too many people for me, but I’m so glad that something like it exists.

7. Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? on Tiny Buddha, (and, the answer is “uh, yes!”). Also from Tiny Buddha, 10 Journaling Tips to Help You Heal, Grow and Thrive.

8. Honor the Signs Your Future Self is Sending You and Finding Your Creative Flow: 17 Writer’s Tricks to Get Un-stuck and Start Creating on Scoutie Girl.

9. A few thoughts & actions that will help you open up more and Money: A Love Story. Kate Northrup & I talk debt, cash, freedom. from Danielle LaPorte.

10. This post from 3x3x365, in which Patti Digh describes the very best reason to marry someone.

11. Brene’ Brown interview, Vulnerability and Shame, on How She Really Does It with Koren Motekaitis.

12. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön, in her book Comfortable with Uncertainty,

Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allowing ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion; to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance. We cultivate bravery through making aspirations. We make the wish that all beings, including ourselves and those we dislike, be free of suffering and the root of suffering.

13. Wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh, “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

14. Wisdom from Atticus Finch,

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyways and you see through it no matter what.

15. Truth from Gloria Steinem, “Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

16. Wisdom from Tara Brach,

When we identify with a small self, we are perceiving ourselves as a cluster of ocean waves, not recognizing that we are made of ocean. When we realize our true self is ocean, the familiar pattern of waves—our fears and defensiveness, our wants and busyness—remains a part of us, but it does not define us.

17. Wisdom from Tama J. Kieves,

When you’re in transition, you walk in two worlds. You walk in the world in front of you, which may seem stark or burdened. Yet you also walk in the world you carry in your heart. You know you are blossoming & the fruit trees hang heavy, the sun shines, & the clients call, & money is not an issue. The life you are feeding is the life that becomes true.

18. 10 Paradoxical Traits Of Creative People from Fast Company.

19. 10Q, a really fun thing that Rachel Cole shared last week,

Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q. When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping. One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

20. The Magic of Impermanence from Lisa Congdon.

21. Stop Chasing Success. Seek Significance. from Becoming Minimalist.

22. Interview with Jen Smith of LivingLegendary.org from Lisa Bonchek Adams.

23. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook, and even more wisdom from Elizabeth.

24. 10 tips for a mindful home from Karen Maezen Miller.

25. Staying Awake from Jeff Oaks.

26. I Found A Blind Baby Sparrow Below My Balcony After A Storm from Bored Panda.

27. {this moment}, a beautiful end of summer image on SouleMama.

28. 8 Good Morning Questions that Create Happiness on Marc and Angel Hack Life.

29. What this internet addict learnt from three weeks offline from Satya on Writing Our Way Home.

30. Truthbomb from Danielle LaPorte, “It takes as long as it takes.”

31. My friend Sherry sent me this last week, a poem from Hafiz,

How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being, otherwise, we will remain too frightened.

32. Wisdom from Geneen Roth’s latest newsletter,

…binge eating is not defined by the amount of food you eat but by the way you eat it. Two cookies can be a binge if you eat them with urgency, desperation, and the pressing need for an altered state. Food is a drug of choice, and when you binge, you are using your preferred substance to deny, swallow, or escape your feelings.

33. Whatever Happens Next, a beautiful and heartbreaking story of saying good-bye on Huffington Post from Judy Clement Wall.

34. I want to talk about Body Positivity, OK? from Mary Lambert.

35. Here Come the Good Movies: A dozen films opening before Thanksgiving are more than worth your time and money on Purple Clover.

36. Stop beating yourself up…It’s a WASTE of time! from Kute Blackson. I already shared this yesterday, but I really want to make sure you don’t miss it.

37. The Value of Suffering, an opinion piece by Pico Iyer on The New York Times, also something I already shared, but want to make sure you see it.

38. Shared in this week’s Positively Present Picks list: Custom Pet Stamp on Ebay and Do You Suffer from the “Easy to Buy, Hard to Use” Phenomenon? on Happiness Project.

39. From Susannah Conway’s Something for the Weekend list: It’s OK Not To Want It All from Amy Palko, Amelia the Airstream, a Vacation Home on Wheels on Design Sponge, and A poem a day from Austin Kleon. Bonus: Susannah shared two of my links!

40. Speaking of Susannah, How I Do It: An Interview with Susannah Conway (+ a Giveaway!) on In Spaces Between.

41. Wisdom from Kute Blackson, “Every feeling is a signal, which if you pay attention to will point you in the direction of something that you actually need to deal with, a part of you that needs loving compassion or needs to be released.”

42. 55 Quick Tips to Start Your Self-Care Practice from Anne-Sophie.