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).
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.
1. 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.
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;
These have all given me glimpses of self-compassion. They are pointing out instructions to what I must then apply again and again.
3. 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.
What 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.
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:
- Visit her website
- Read her blog
- Do a retreat or workshop with her
- Be coached by her
- Get one of her books, (check out her page on Goodeads if you need help deciding)
- Follow her on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest
- Watch her videos on YouTube
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.