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Awakening Now

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At this moment [which is all I have and all I am] this seems to me to be the most beautiful poem I have ever read:

Why wait for your awakening?

The moment your eyes are open, seize the day.

Would you hold back when the Beloved beckons?

Would you deliver your litany of sins like a child’s collection of sea shells, prized and labeled?

“No, I can’t step across the threshold,” you say, eyes downcast.

“I’m not worthy” I’m afraid, and my motives aren’t pure.

I’m not perfect, and surely I haven’t practiced nearly enough.

My meditation isn’t deep, and my prayers are sometimes insincere.

I still chew my fingernails, and the refrigerator isn’t clean.

“Do you value your reasons for staying small more than the light shining through the open door?

Forgive yourself.

Now is the only time you have to be whole.

Now is the sole moment that exists to live in the light of your true Self. Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain.

Please, oh please, don’t continue to believe in your disbelief.

This is the day of your awakening.

Source: Awakening Now by Danna Faulds | The Moksha Devi

If this poem resonates with you as well, here are two Tara Brach meditations on self-compassion that I’d like to share with you. “All I plead with you is this” she says “make love of yourself perfect”…

Listen here:

Segment 1: 2011-03-23-Part-1-Healing-Power-of-Self-Compassion

Segment 2: 2011-03-30-Part-2-Healing-Power-of-Self-Compassion

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Intimacy with our inner life

Jung wrote that our suffering arises from the unseen, unfelt parts of our psyche. This talk explores ways we can establish a healing presence by recognizing and communicating with the parts of our being that we habitually ignore or judge…

Live The Meaning Of Namaste Every Day

Brigitte Meinders writes:

The word “Namaste” has become quite mainstream thanks to the explosive popularity of the yoga industry in recent years.  I’m sure you’ve said it before, and you probably have an idea of the general meaning of it. It’s a way for your soul to recognize and acknowledge the soul of another.

It would be amazing if more people took the time to really understand why we should ALL be saying Namaste to one another, and were able to shift their perspective a little bit to see other people for what they really are.

Think of yourself as a vessel filled with light. Light that changes colors depending on what angle you are looking at it, and those colors represent the many experiences you’ve had in your life. Your soul has become all of the sunsets you’ve watched, the ocean air you’ve breathed, the friends you’ve made, the love you’ve shared, the times that made you laugh and cry. You are all of your experiences.

Each and every person out there is the same way. The person in the car next to you, the cashier at the grocery store, your mailman, your friend, your spouse, even that annoying co-worker… they all carry with them that same ever-changing light, a spectrum of colors that uniquely defines them and their life experiences. They too have experienced love and pain, they have their history, their own things they hold dear, and have seen their own beautiful sights. No two are the same, yet we all have it inside us.

It’s so easy to see only the surface of a person and dismiss them for only what they are presenting to you in a given situation. But we’re all connected in that we carry around our entire life — each experience you have, each interaction, all of it is with you all the time. 

The next time you find yourself passing a person on the street, in a meeting, or talking with your friends, try to be aware of the enormity of what they’re actually carrying around with them. Practicing this makes the ability to forgive and accept much easier.

To me, Namaste means that I see you. I understand we’re both souls trying to make our way in this world, all part of some larger plan. I know that while the color of our lights may shine differently, we all share the same internal fire, and my soul bows to and acknowledges that in your soul.

via Live The Meaning Of Namaste Every Day.

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Open heart, open mind…

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I really enjoyed this talk from Tara Brach‘s meditation series featuring Tsoknyi Rinpoche; perhaps you will as well…

In case you are wondering, I am not a Buddhist — I am a recovering Catholic if you must know! It’s just that lately, the Uni-verse has been using people who are Buddhist to teach me. Keeping an open mind to the wisdom of their message has helped me to open my heart…

Which wolf will you feed?

For most of my life, I have been a bitter, resentful, angry person. The story that I tell myself is that I came by it honestly. I’m a classic case of a person who suffered early childhood trauma around abandonment and rejection issues and much of my life has been spent in trying to get the people in my life now to make up for the things done by the people in my past. When this plan didn’t work [for reasons that are obvious to me now] I reacted with resentment and anger; first toward myself and then toward others… Continue reading

Why Self-Compassion Trumps Self-Esteem

Have you tried to pump up your self-esteem? Kristen Neff explains why it doesn’t work in the long run:

In this incredibly competitive society of ours, how many of us truly feel good about ourselves?

I remember once, as a freshman in college, after spending hours getting ready for a big party, I complained to my boyfriend that my hair, makeup, and outfit were woefully inadequate. He tried to reassure me by saying, “Don’t worry, you look fine.”

“Fine? Oh great, I always wanted to look fine . . .” Continue reading

Peace is This Moment Without Judgment

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Do you think peace requires an end to war?

Or tigers eating only vegetables?

Does peace require an absence from

your boss, your spouse, yourself?

Do you think peace will come some other place than here?

Some other time than Now?

In some other heart than yours?

Peace is this moment without judgment.

That is all. This moment in the Heart-space

where everything that is is welcome.

Peace is this moment without thinking

that it should be some other way,

that you should feel some other thing,

that your life should unfold according to your plans.

Peace is this moment without judgment,

this moment in the heart-space where

everything that is is welcome.

via Dorothy Hunt Poetry.

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The Chemicals of Care: How Self-Compassion Manifests in Our Bodies

Neff, Kristin_400Kristin Neff writes:

In my work I have defined self-compassion as having three main interacting components: self-kindness, a sense of common humanity and mindfulness. Self-kindness refers to the tendency to be caring and understanding with oneself rather than being harshly critical or judgmental. Instead of taking a cold “stiff-upper-lip” approach in times of suffering, self-kindness offers soothing and comfort to the self. Common humanity involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect, fail and make mistakes. It connects one’s own flawed condition to the shared human condition so that one can take greater perspective towards one’s personal shortcomings and difficulties. Mindfulness involves being aware of one’s painful feelings in a clear and balanced manner so that one neither ignores nor obsesses about disliked aspects of oneself or one’s life.

For the past decade or so I’ve been conducting research on self-compassion and have found that people who are compassionate to themselves are much less likely to be depressed, anxious and stressed and are much more likely to be happy, resilient and optimistic about their future. In short, they have better mental health.

The power of self-compassion is not just an idea; it’s very real and actually manifests in our bodies. When we soothe our own pain, we are tapping into the mammalian care-giving system. And one important way the care-giving system works is by triggering the release of oxytocin. Research indicates that increased levels of oxytocin strongly increase feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity and connectedness and facilitates the ability to feel warmth and compassion for ourselves. Oxytocin is released in a variety of social situations, including when a mother breastfeeds her child, when parents interact with their young children or when someone gives or receives a soft, tender caress. Because thoughts and emotions have the same effect on our bodies whether they’re directed to ourselves or to others, this research suggests that self-compassion may be a powerful trigger for the release of oxytocin.

Self-criticism appears to have a very different effect on our body. The amygdala is the oldest part of the brain and is designed to quickly detect threats in the environment. When we experience a threatening situation, the fight-or-flight response is triggered: the amygdala sends signals that increase blood pressure, adrenaline and the hormone cortisol, mobilizing the strength and energy needed to confront or avoid a threat. Although this system was designed by evolution to deal with physical attacks, it is activated just as readily by emotional attacks — by ourselves or others. Recent research indicates that generating feelings of self-compassion actually decreases our cortisol levels. In one study conducted by Helen Rockliff and her colleagues, researchers asked participants to imagine receiving compassion and feeling it in their bodies. Every minute they were told things like, “Allow yourself to feel that you are the recipient of great compassion; allow yourself to feel the loving-kindness that is there for you.” It was found that the participants given these instructions had lower cortisol levels after the imagery than those in the control group. Participants also demonstrated increased heart rate variability afterwards. The safer people feel, the more open and flexible they can be in response to their environment, and this is reflected in how much their heart rate varies in response to stimuli. So you could say that by giving themselves compassion, participants’ hearts actually opened and became less defensive.

When we soothe our painful feelings with the healing balm of self-compassion, not only are we changing our mental and emotional experience, we’re also changing our body chemistry. An effective aspect of self-compassion practice, therefore, is to tap into our body’s self-healing system through physical sensations.

This means that an easy way to calm and comfort yourself when you’re feeling bad is through soothing touch. It seems a bit silly at first, but your body doesn’t know that. It just responds to the physical gesture of warmth and care, just as a baby responds to being held in its mother’s arms. Remember, physical touch releases oxytocin, reduces cortisol and calms cardiovascular stress. So why not try it? If you notice that you’re feeling tense, upset or self-critical, try giving yourself a warm hug, or tenderly stroking your arm or face, or gently rocking your body. What’s important is that you make a clear gesture that conveys feelings of love, care and tenderness. If other people are around, you can often fold your arms in a non-obvious way, gently squeezing yourself in a comforting manner. Notice how your body feels after receiving the hug or caress. Does it feel warmer, softer, calmer? It’s amazing how easy it is to tap into mammalian care-giving system and change your biochemical experience.

via Kristin Neff: The Chemicals of Care: How Self-Compassion Manifests in Our Bodies.

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Why We Need to Have Compassion for Our Inner Critic

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Kristin Neff writes:

We know how much it hurts. “I’m an idiot!” “I’m disgusting.” “No one will ever love me.” “What a lame-ass.”

So why do we do it? As soon as we ask ourselves this question, we often just pile on more self-criticism. “I’m such a bitch, even to myself.” “That’s why I’m such a loser, I’m always putting myself down.”

Don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that somehow it will help you stop beating yourself up. Instead, take a step back, and give your inner critic some slack. In its ineffective, counterproductive way, your inner critic is actually trying to keep you safe.

As humans we have two main evolved safety systems. The oldest and most quickly triggered is the threat defense system, which involves the amygdala. When we sense danger, our response is typically fight, flight, freeze, or submit: We turn and fight the threat, run like hell away from the threat, play dead in hopes the threat will pass, or show our bellies and hope the threat will be placated. These strategies are very successful for animals living in the wild, helping them to survive and pass on their genes. For humans, however, these responses often just make things worse. That’s because the threat we’re usually facing is a threat to our self-concept. We confuse our thoughts and representations of ourselves for our actual selves, meaning that when our self-image is under siege, we react as if our very existence is threatened. Continue reading