Tag Archives: Joy

Self-Compassion Saturday: Jennifer Louden

Jennifer Louden is one of those women who seems to have always been there for me. I can’t remember exactly the origin of this being, but know that in some way it’s connected to my discovery of Patti Digh’s work, or maybe by way of Susan Piver. What I know for certain is that she is part of a constellation of women who have helped me on my way, comforted and encouraged me, are examples of courage, kindness, and joy.

I know the connection to Jennifer’s work began with my life-rehab almost two years ago. Sameet M. Kumar says in his book Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss that “grieving mindfully enables us to use the tremendous influx of emotional energy that comes from experiencing loss to nurture life,” and that,

…with mindful awareness of your grief, you can move closer to the people in your life who matter most, and change habits or ideas that have been keeping you from living fully. Full awareness, especially in grief, of your patterns of thought, feelings, and behavior can take you from living with misery, fear, and discontent to living with openness and passion.

The loss of Obi and then Kelly started my life-rehab, my quest to live life with an open heart, and since the beginning Jennifer Louden has been one of my guides. First it was through her books, then her web presence (she wrote one of my favorite blog posts of all time, 2012 Predictions for You), and last summer when I went to World Domination Summit, I was able to meet her and tell her to her sweet face how much I adore her. Next month, I get to attend a writing workshop she’s leading with Laurie Wagner, Spit & Polish, (rumor has it there might still be a few spots left).

spitandpolish

Jennifer Louden has written six books on well-being and personal wisdom, has studied yoga and meditation since she was 12, is Mom to a beautiful daughter and two of the cutest dogs on the planet, is about to be married (next week, August 17th — wishing her so much love ♥), has been a long time mentor to teachers and creatives through retreats and workshops and classes and coaching, she is no stranger to grief but she is also a companion to joy, and she is a dedicated student of love.

On Twitter, she describes herself this way, “Best-selling author, coach, champion of creative joy, speaker, teacher of teachers, spreader of satisfaction, curious s-hero, and generally awe struck at it all.” She is my favorite sort of woman, wise and kind and make you laugh until your face hurts funny. I’m so happy to share her perspective on self-compassion with you today.

jenscarf1. What does self-compassion mean, what is it? How would you describe or define it?

For me it means dropping self-judgment every time I notice it – from eating too much chocolate last night to procrastinating writing my novel this morning to being envious of a friend this afternoon. It is the act of dropping my story that I am bad, wrong, less than, not spiritual, not progressing, etc. Yet If I make self-compassion a goal, I immediately lose access to the state.

It’s awareness catching the story and putting it down without any fuss.

Photo by Darrah Parker

Photo by Darrah Parker

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?

Reading Tara Brach, Ramana Maharshi, Brene Brown, Rick Hanson, Rumi, Hafiz, Mary Oliver;
Meditating by relaxing everything and simply observing everything without getting attached to anything, loving kindness meditation, chanting ahem prema and really chanting anything;
Dancing, yoga, massage;
Parenting!

These have all given me glimpses of self-compassion. They are pointing out instructions to what I must then apply again and again.

jenunion3. How do you practice self-compassion, what does that experience look like for you?

See number 1. It’s all practice and since my biggest trap in life is to believe I have nothing creatively valuable to offer the world and my deepest desire is to create, I get a lot of practice dropping the sticky place the self-blame and frustration that keep this story alive. I seem to have been born to learn to be compassionate with myself as the path to being creatively self-expressed. So compassion is my biggest ally and my most frequently forgotten ally.

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?

To untangle myself from what I produce. The thought is something like, “I will practice compassion for myself once I get my work done and I decide it’s useful to others. Then I will deserve compassion.” I know intellectually my creative happiness and spiritual freedom live in me practicing self-compassion first but I forget a thousand times a day. Then I get overwrought and so frustrated!

It does not escape my attention that a large part of my work in the world has been to foster self-compassion in others through self-care. It makes me ruefully chuckle.

jenwisestpeopleWhat I am learning is to inhabit the open space where all these stories fall away and being alive, breathing, being here to witness and experience life, is enough.

It’s good to write this and remember that self-compassion is my path. Thank you for asking such rich questions.

Photo by Darrah Parker

Photo by Darrah Parker

I am offering the deepest bow to Jennifer, sending her much love, am so grateful to her for taking the time to offer a glimpse into her practice and understanding of self-compassion. I especially connected with the idea that, “my biggest trap in life is to believe I have nothing creatively valuable to offer the world and my deepest desire is to create.” *sigh* Me too, Jen. Me too.

To find out more about Jennifer, to connect with her:

Next on Self-Compassion Saturday: Susannah Conway.

P.S. If you didn’t see the first post in this series, you might want to read Self-Compassion Saturday: The Beginning.

Something Good


1. This description of a good writer, from Isaac Asimov, “You are my idea of a good writer because you have an unmannered style, and when I read what you write, I hear you talking.”

2. Something you may need to hear today from Kat McNally.

3. To Succeed, Forget Self-Esteem, a post about self-compassion on, of all places, Harvard Business Review (?!)

4. On being copied from Andrea Schroeder, in which she says “people aren’t buying your product or service on its own – they’re buying your product or service animated by your creative essence.”

5. 36 Things You Will Naturally Understand If You’re From Colorado on BuzzFeed. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with all of these, and don’t get the childhood references since I didn’t grow up here, but it’s pretty funny.

6. Brave Love, “A love-based case for the what’s right in the world, curated by Brit Hanson.”

7. 30 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Die.

8. Sacred Love: 12 Things at the Bottom of Everything** from Rachel Maddox. P.S. There’s still time to donate to her Traveling Soul Circus project.

9. The Five Buddha Families and 10 Reasons why Buddhism is Better than your Religion on Elephant Journal.

10. Erica Staab shares a beautiful poem, Clearing by Martha Postlewaite.

11. From Brave Girls Club,

Beautiful, true, important things almost always take a long time to come to fruition. There are often very long stretches that are tedious, thankless, difficult and hard to measure. We get tired and that makes us weak and vulnerable to things that hurt our feelings or make us want to stop trying. There are often points in the journey when we feel absolutely alone, misunderstood and even cast out. There are sometimes points in our journey when we just want to be alone…and that is hard to explain to people we love. Making progress is not easy, is it?

With all of that in mind, however…think even more seriously about how miserable it is to stay stagnant. Think of how awful it feels to know in our hearts that we are meant for something, but to continue to ignore it, run away from it….or stay stuck just looking at it in fear.

12. The Well-Fed Woman: Tara Sophia Mohr on Rachel Cole’s blog, in which Tara describes something I know all too well, in a way I hadn’t quite figured out how to say it yet:

I grew up making art of all kinds – but when I went to college I couldn’t find a way to create comfortably in the highly competitive, hierarchical environment there. My center drifted over to my more intellectual, left-brain side, and that became my comfort zone. The more I was centered there, the harder it was to create. I became very, very afraid making art – so frozen in my creativity, afraid of failure, afraid of “not being good.”

13. Also on Rachel Cole’s blog, a brilliant reframing of perfection, The New (Im)perfection.

14. rodrigo y gabriela, and a lesson in passion on Chookooloonks.

15. your daily rock : love what you do

16. ZenPen: Body-Based Writing for Healing, Transformation, and Personal Growth, a great new offering from Courtney Putnam, a six week writing ecourse. I swore I wasn’t taking any more ecourses, needed to put my energy into creating my own, but this one makes that vow so hard to keep.

This microcourse, How to Create a Microbusiness that Matters, from Courtney Carver at Be More With Less, is also making this promise a tough one to keep.

17. “Often I busy myself trying to find the key – and fail to notice the door has no lock.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

18. The August Break with Susannah Conway is back! I’m in.

19. how joy is a toughie for me from Jessica Swift.

20. My Dog Got Kicked Out Of Daycare Today.

21. Rachel Cole linked to a song in her Midsummer’s Joy post, and I was so happy, not realizing that Mary Lambert, the gorgeous female voice on Macklemore’s “Same Love,” had her own full song, She Keeps Me Warm. I bought her EP Letters Don’t Talk and have been listening to it on repeat (it’s only five songs).

22. Note from the Universe,

Dreams come true, Jill, that’s what they do. The only variable is when. For the slow approach: Resist. Attach. Insist. Deny. Stop. Second guess. Whine. Argue. Defend. Protest. Cry. Struggle. And ask others, when you know the answer yourself. For the quick approach: Visualize. Pretend. Prepare. Dodge. Roll. Serpentine. Do not waiver over intentions, but over methods. Show up, even when nothing happens. And give thanks in advance. You knew that.

24. This wisdom from Henri Nouwen and his book Turning My Mourning into Dancing, (shared by Satya in Writing Our Way Home’s newsletter),

I am gradually learning that the call to gratitude asks us to say, “Everything is grace.” As long as we remain resentful about things we wish had not happened, about relationships that we wish had turned out differently, mistakes we wish we had not made, part of our heart remains isolated, unable to bear fruit in the new life ahead of us. It is a way we hold part of ourselves apart from God.


25. Your Permanent Record from Seth Godin, in which he says, “Perfect can’t possibly be the goal, we’re left with generous, important and human instead.” Also from Seth, People like us do stuff like this.

26. A birds-eye view of this right now {Just One Paragraph 4/30} from Christina Rosalie, in which she says, “Time is a trickster. A torrent one minute, then a slow as honey crawl the next.”

27. Amazing Plant Sculptures at the Montreal Mosaiculture Exhibition 2013 on Bored Panda.

Wishcasting Wednesday

Nurture-the-Creative-Within

On this Wishcasting Wednesday, Jamie asks, “How do you wish to nurture the creative within?”

I wish to provide her space, the time and room to slow down and stretch out, look closely and contemplate, expand and play, twirl around or sit still in a deep, quiet, safe place all her own.

I wish to give her love, an unconditional sense of herself, brilliant and beautiful, wise and compassionate and powerful, seen and valued, precious and protected.

I wish to balance her effort with ease.

I wish to offer her gentleness, to quiet the critical, mean voices, to stop the pushing and smashing, to silence any “should” or “have to” or “can’t” or “not enough.”

I wish to provide her mindfulness, to allow her attention to be fully in the present moment, hands and heart on the same task.

I wish to practice with her, to show up regularly, to maintain a routine, a way of letting her fully touch the work, to repeat and retrace and revise and remember.

I wish to pause with her, because sometimes doing nothing is the exact thing to do, sometimes staying still to stare at your toes or the sky, to feel a soft furry body against the palm of your hand, to notice your breath going in and out is everything.

I wish to soften to allowing, letting go of resistance or rejection or grasping or pushing or hiding, and simply surrender to what is.

I wish to give her courage, the willingness to be vulnerable and weird, accepting the possibility of being wounded, practicing being brave, showing up and being seen.

I wish her to know and attend to her hunger, to not fear or deny her desire and longing, even when it has teeth, even when it rages, even when it wants what is impossible, even when it wants to love the whole world.

I wish to open her to joy, pure feeling, heart wide open, full of light and love.

I wish to surround her with all the tools and resources she needs to do her heart’s work.

I wish for her connection and community, a tribe of understanding and love and support, a collection of artists and healers and teachers, those with big hearts and amazing ideas and the ability to make her laugh until it hurts.

Something Good (Part Two)

Uh-oh! I got so excited that I pushed publish before I was done making my list, so here’s part two.

21. Your Daily Rock from Patti Digh: your daily rock : break old patterns, your daily rock : own your messiness, and your daily rock : love your life.

22. Sit Every Day by Diana Winston on Shambhala Sun, a really great post on meditation practice, and Happiness Defined: Your Interpretations Of What It Means To Experience Joy on Huffington Post, both originally shared by Patti Digh on her Thinking Thursday list.

23. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club,

Dear Smart Girl,

Sometimes we all forget things that are very important, and very simple – so simple that we really shouldn’t be forgetting these things, but we do. One of these things that we forget, many times when it is MOST important, is that we mustn’t turn to destructive things when bad things happen. We mustn’t treat hard times with things that will make us feel even worse.

We do it though, don’t we? We over-eat when we are feeling stressed or lonely or lost. We drink too much, or we spend money we don’t have or we indulge in other kinds of addictive self-medicating. We say mean things to ourselves. We treat people we love with unkindness. We do things that we will regret almost as soon as we are done doing them.

Lovely, sweet friend, please take a few deep breaths when you are feeling a little off, and before you turn to something that will really make you feel even worse, really THINK about how you want to feel tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And then turn to something that will bring you comfort, guidance, truth and peace. The rush might not be as fast as the destructive things, but the results will be lasting, productive and positive. You will end up in a peaceful place instead of a miserable place.

Call a friend, read something positive, go for a walk, write in your journal, pray, meditate, hold and animal or a baby, visit someone who is sick, look at the sky in the fresh air. Let the feelings pass. They will pass.

You are so loved. You are worth making good choices, you are worth taking care of. Please take good care of yourself.

xoxo

24. How To Stick To Your NO When People Keep Pushing from Alexandra Franzen on Mind Body Green.

25. The part we get to choose from Judy Clement Wall.

26. Michael Buble duets with 15 year old boy, a moment which starts off with a heckler, but turns out to be something else entirely.

27. This quote: You have unconditional authority to deconstruct your own reality. ~Roy H. Williams

28. Three books I want, and it’s all Brain Pickings fault: Make Good Art: Neil Gaiman’s Advice on the Creative Life, Adapted by Design Legend Chip Kidd, Fail Safe: Debbie Millman’s Advice on Courage and the Creative Life, and No Kidding: Women Writers and Comedians on the Choice Not to Have Children.

29. More wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert,

LET’S TALK SERIOUSLY ABOUT UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Everyone, will you help me (and a fellow seeker) out with this?

A visitor to this page has just asked me whether “unconditional love” means staying in an abusive relationship and learning how to love the person despite how he harms you.

This question makes me want to cry.

Dear one, dear friend, dear heart — the answer to that question is very simple: NO.

No, no, no, no, no, no.

Also: Never, never, never, never, never.

The wisest teaching I’ve ever heard about this came from a dear monk friend in India who told me, “We must love everyone. That is what God asks of us. But some people can only be loved from a safe distance.”

And in regards to some people, that “safe distance” may mean: Never See Them Again. Never Take Their Calls. Never Let Them Near You. Never Let Them Know Where You Live.

Pema Chodron, the great buddhist teacher, has also taught beautifully on this subject. She explains that we should not close our hearts to anyone, but that we must also set healthy and safe boundaries. She urges us not to mistake compassion for compliance. As she said once in a lecture, “Put people in jail, if they are unsafe to others, but do not close your hearts to them.”

Being a compassionate person does not mean allowing anyone in the world to treat you (or anyone else) abusively. There is nothing to be “learned” in an abusive relationship (except how to finally leave.) There is no emotional growth waiting for you in an abusive relationship. There are no day-to-day lessons that will make you a more enlightened being if you learn how to bear it, how to endure it. You will not be a better person in any way for staying. On the contrary, it will corrode your soul. Staying with somebody who harms you (in any way) does not mean you are compassionate; it only means you are co-dependent and very likely in psychological, spiritual and/or physical danger.

This one absolutely breaks my heart, guys.

Please, if somebody is harming you in any way: GO. Today.

All Love,
Liz

30. 8 Secrets from 8 Curvy Women Who Love Their Bodies, and The Battle of “Not Thin Enough,” both shared by Stephanie in her Weekend Treats post.

31. Be More, Do Less on Think Simple Now, and Self Improvement VS. Self Acceptance on Owning Pink, both shared on Positively Present Picks.

32. And because Eric asked me to share this on my blog, just Snoop Dog with some dolphins.

snoop

33. This quote: The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy or too impatient. Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

34. Because it’s just too cute. You’re welcome.

mamaandbaby

35. Fitch, Please. Ellen sticking up for people like she does, one of the reasons I adore her.

36. 21 Reasons Ira Glass Is The Most Perfect Man Alive on BuzzFeed. Only 21? I say they didn’t work hard enough on this list, because there are more than 21 reasons.

37. Summer Journals A-F, places taking submissions.

38. On accidental sabbaticals from Susannah Conway.

39. magical architecture from Sas Petherick. (One of 25, baby).

40. 6 Questions You Need To Stop Asking Yourself from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

41. Mutual pillow, double love.

doublepillow

Gratitude Friday

1. Dexter’s continued good health, and the help we’ve had with that. After his physical therapy appointment yesterday, he was so happy, had so much energy, felt so good. He’s even been cleared to run a little again. We were in the backyard after his appointment soaking up the sun when Eric came home from work. In celebration, Dexter started tearing around the yard like a much younger version of himself–ears back, butt tucked, smile on his face. Such joy.

2. Clarity and space. A clear mind and a somewhat clear environment.

3. Spring. The sun, the birds singing, the green, the bud and the bloom. When I was in the backyard yesterday with the dogs, I thought to myself, “I am so happy right now.”

4. Open Heart Retreat. Later today, I am headed to Shambhala Mountain Center for a retreat led by the brilliant Susan Piver. I am so grateful for her, our shared practice, that I can afford to go, that Eric will be here to take care of our boys, and that Dexter is doing well enough that I won’t worry about him too much, (although, I’ve already warned Eric I’ll be calling three or four times a day to check on him).

5. Health care options. I am going to meet with my new doctor in about an hour. I am so lucky to be able to make choices, to get support in my efforts to be as healthy as possible.

Bonus Joy: You may have already guessed, but we had another week with sweet Mr. D. I took this picture this morning after we got done playing with his Little D.

bigdlittled04

Day of Rest

brenesupersoulsunday

I just got done watching this, Brene’ Brown with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday. First of all, I am incredibly grateful that there is a live simulcast, and that later today the video will be available on demand. I had to miss Brene’ when she was on Katie, and was so bummed. We don’t have cable tv, and even if we did, we probably wouldn’t have OWN as part of our package, but I was able to turn on my tv and the computer hooked up to it, go to the website and watch with everyone else. It was so good, (I took five pages of notes!), I plan to show up again at noon. (P.S. It’s now available to watch online, on demand).

When the opening credits started, and Oprah was introducing Brene’, I cried. I know how much it meant to Brene’ to get to do this, and it made me so happy for her. I spent the next hour crying off and on for myself, because I was so grateful to get to see it. By the end, my heart felt sore it was so tender. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, kind and gentle reader, you know how much I adore Brene’ Brown, how much her work has changed my life.

I first encountered her work two years ago. A friend and I formed a “book couple” (with only two of us, we couldn’t really call it a club) and read Gifts of Imperfection. It made me see I had been in a long term abusive relationship–with myself–and helped me to understand the way out of it. I’ve had the opportunity to hear her talk multiple times about her work and research, her life and experience, most notably this past summer at The World Domination Summit, and also at The Power of Vulnerability, a two day workshop she held in Boulder this past May. I am currently working on finding funding to have her invited to speak at Colorado State University (CSU, where I do my paid work), with the hopes of creating a CSU Reads program leading up to her visit in which I can reread her books and talk about her work with my local community.

image by A Studio

image by A Studio

By showing up, opening her heart, sharing the truth (part research, part personal experience) about shame and vulnerability, daring greatly, and living a wholehearted life, Brene’ Brown is helping so many to discover the value of being brave, in being exactly who we are, in living a wholehearted life.

The wisdom I have been drawn to over the past six years (always?) is about opening your heart, keeping it open. In this episode of Super Soul Sunday, Oprah said her definition of spirituality is living with and having an open heart. Brene’ at one point said that “vulnerability is the birthplace of everything we are hungry for,” and that if we want greater courage and greater clarity, vulnerability is the path. Brene’ shared that the word courage originated with the Latin “cour,” meaning heart, “sharing your whole story with your whole heart.”

Living with an open heart. Being wholehearted. Showing up and being seen, being vulnerable, open to what is as you are. Oprah said she viewed vulnerability as the “cornerstone of confidence.” It gives you the confidence to be yourself, confidence as Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

Brene’ suggests in her interview with Oprah and in her books that vulnerability is the key to having meaningful human experience, that it is “terrifying and liberating,” and that “you can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”

brenequote

This message is reinforced for me through my work with The Open Heart Project and Susan Piver. Susan says that “having an open heart can feel kind of dangerous, unsettling,” but she also suggests that Vulnerability Can Save the World and reminds us,

To feel, we have to open—our eyes, minds, hearts, senses—while putting aside what we expect/hope/fear we will find, otherwise the only communication we have will be with ourselves. To open, vulnerability is required… When we become vulnerable, we can feel. When we can feel, we can connect. When we can connect, our hearts open. When our hearts open, we cannot hate.

And if all that feels just too overwhelming for you today, watch this episode of Soul Pancake and rest in the knowledge that you are loved.

Breathe In the Longing, Breathe Out the Wish

lastretreat

Breathe in the wish, the longing to take away the suffering; breathe out the wish to send comfort and happiness. ~Pema Chödrön

I am allowing myself space on this retreat. As I mentioned yesterday, I dropped the plan, and am instead seeing how things might naturally arise. There is wisdom, clarity that will emerge if you allow it room and time. I am trusting in this.

Today I was very aware of suffering, in the world and in myself. I was touched by the suffering of others, those dealing with illness, death, loss, grief, self-hatred, fear, abuse. I was softened by my own suffering as well, so similar, so much the same. I gently contemplated my regrets, my failures, the ways I’ve lived in the shadows, stayed hidden away and closed off this past year.

Rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world.

Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.

Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings. ~Pema Chödrön

I practiced Tonglen for all of us. In a video I watched, Pema Chödrön talked about how in Tonglen, we “relax into the outbreath,” and how the practice is about sending space, relief and comfort and ease, so that those who are suffering will know that their hearts and minds are indeed big enough to accommodate their discomfort, their fear, their despair, their anger, their physical or emotional anguish.

And today there was also so much joy and gratitude. I experienced compassion and comfort through the connections I’ve made in the past year, long conversations about important things, short exchanges that make me smile so big my face hurts from it, sharing our experiences, cheering each other on. So many brilliant and beautiful women who offer their support, wisdom, kindness, strength, and good humor, who fill my life with so much grace and laughter.

And later into the snow on a walk with my little family, I feel the cold air as I draw it into my lungs, warm it and release it. I feel the strength of my lungs and legs, the willingness of my whole body, my whole self to move. I revel in the company of my three boys, the beauty of the world around us, and wonder at my luck.

I live in a place where every year someone decorates a few of the trees along the trail. I live in a world where people open their hearts to each other, sharing our stories and our pain, a world where people offer each other support and help. A world where every day our hearts are broken, and yet once they are, we see that there is room for all of it, the suffering and the joy, that there is so much to love, to live for.

I’m so glad you are here with me, kind and gentle reader. Life is tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal–may we keep our hearts open to all of it, may we know that they are big enough to hold all of it.