Monthly Archives: January 2018

Year of self compassion #4 Shadows


There is a terrorist lurking in each of us – fear fueling flames – seduced by the fake news that we are in control. The fact check is in – we’re not. Shit happens to all of us and we can’t control all the elements as much as we would like too. We are fragile, imperfect creatures – so lighten up, laugh and be joyful every chance you get – they are deposits in your resilience bank and you never know when you might need to make a withdrawal.

A healer told me this week to worry less, laugh more, enjoy my prosperity, let my family look after themselves, take my creativity to the next level, look after my health, embrace my inner Empress. I am not unhappy with this litany, now to put it into practice.

The shadow we cast can never leave us and it takes its form in dark and light (don’t forget sunlight is the best disinfectant). Keeping the light in front of you or behind you will cast a different shadow. Dappled light will give a smudge of a shadow. Back lighting creates drama, while being lit from the front will be crisp and clean and possibly a bit boring (and maybe there is a lot to be said for boring). I can live with a little less drama and while facing into the light isn’t always easy, to hide and lurk in the shadows has its own seduction to not face facts.

I was watching a couple of young people hearing some difficult news this week and they turned completely away, each looking in a different direction not able to face into the news they were receiving. I kept thinking of all the times I don’t face into the light, the truth, the crisp, clean lines. It’s hard to swallow the idea that the truth will set you free, it’s often easier to smudge and fudge, hide and slide into the dark corners and not see clearly what is in plain sight.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1Cor13:12)

We can’t unlock the clouds from their celestial rotation, their movements change our shadow even if we do nothing at all. We are not in control, we can choose though how we are controlled – to take an improv version of life – a yes and, not a yes, but. To take an approach to welcome every offering to play and the eternal invitations to include, embrace, grow.

There will always be shadows and our own is biggest challenge, dancing its way with us and never leaving us for another, wedded to us for all the elements to shine through to keep us on our toes.

We are all confronted with horrors and disappointments – we each have our own hells and cowardice to hold us back and keep us in the shadows.  Turning to the light and facing the truth is the only option to progress our journey to wholeness and healing and to leave the terrorist beckoning inside of us to be born. We turn towards the light and face facts. We turn away and are back lit so only our silhouette is visible on the landscape.

When we turn to the light, our shadow comes too, and melts away fused by the amazing power of light itself. Self love and courage are our aids to face the light.

A blessing

With love in your heart, a song in your step, a laugh in your throat

May you be blessed with a light on your face

so you will glow and grow

with the truth

you are already free.

Year of Self Compassion # 3

Hospitality nudges turn welcomes into life lasting trust-building exercises. The Balinese take hospitality to a new level from offerings to gods and their heavenly hosts to all the creatures in the fields and crevices offering back their God-given gifts to their surrounds and to each other. There is a constant conversation between all of heaven and earth mediated by the elements and all of creation. It is good to have arrived in the land of the gods. After a fall 36 hours ago, my back has seen a healer today, received treatment in the form of home made oils and potions, spent time in a salt water pool, a stone heated sauna, had volcanic salts turned into body scrubs as well as many acts of kindness to ease me into various locations including motor bikes and cars. Despite all these interventions I come to bed with panadol and a sneaky suspicion it is a cracked rib causing the pain.

This pain under my left shoulder blade is asserting itself and claiming it has no right to go away. The pain has earnt its place in my body and will not fade or dissipate until it is done with being needed. Calling me to pay attention to it in the same way as any meditation aide might, reminding me to come back to the breath, come back to the practice. The pain becomes visible to others when I want to traverse a space and having a midwife to coax me through many of the transitions. People hold their hands out to guide me on slippery steps (it is rainy season inside and out), open and close car doors for me as the weight of the push or pull are too much, theories of what might work to get me better are widely shared and discussed in a range of languages and charades. Overall my effort to be invisible is completely thwarted and I seem to be at the centre of attention in ways unfamiliar to me. Krishna playfully constructs new ways I can be in receipt of kindness and hospitality.

Emotional roller coasters are crashing and colliding in the lives of people I call family. The highs of love and new beginnings, the lows of loss in ravines of agony, the fear of waiting for results and the paralysis of prevarication are finding fertile ground and throbbing through veins, sinews and tendons. Complexity, vulnerability, anxiety take their turn in many of the bodies. I am a long way from being witness but I can feel the effects via messages mediated across all kinds of devices.

For me though, I return to my beginner practice in this year of self-compassion. Being in receipt of care from friends and strangers is the lesson – to take everything on offer with grace- to enter fully into the experience of being cared for is such a turn around for me. Ever self-reliant and in the service of others, being served definitely has its benefits and while my apprenticeship is just beginning, I am learning to notice and appreciate more deeply all the acts of kindness and generosity I have bestowed to others along the way. If I take a karmic approach to this time, the abundant care from a bottomless cup inevitably is overflowing.

The daily check-ins from afar, the up close and personal clutches, the invisible and visible help across thin places permeating my spirit telling me with crystal clear certainty I am holding on and being held. The pain is the platform for a mantra. Breathing in and out as dictated by the phrasing or the mantra that arrives at the moment it is needed. I find myself returning to the same mantras: I am alive; Keep me safe O God you are my hope; Sat Nam. I am alive is new to me. The second is from a favorite psalm that has accompanied me in times of trouble over a lifetime and the third is from my yoga practice which is well and truly in remission. So I am hearing all of these calling me forward and offering me an interiority of stillness in the raging storms swirling all around and within.

Year of Self-Compassion #2

There must be at least fifty shades of bravery operating in each of us at any one time. We hear from our doctor health results we don’t want to hear, say no to a child knowing it will lead to being ostracised, offer assistance that may put yourself in danger, open up a can of worms that turns into snakes and slugs. David Whyte talks about being a shade braver, and while this is an everyday invitation, each day we find out about another shade of brave.

Embracing vulnerability is the pathway to finding out what each shade might actually look and more importantly, feel like.

What is a shade? A lighter or darker colour to the colour it references. A shade is comparative, it is in relationship to what it is referencing. The colour of brave is already one of mixed hues. I long to live with more of a light touch, a gentle coax here and there, rather than heavy pushing and pulling. The darkness is an opportunity for the candle to shine brightly and I will never tire of the flicker of a flame to light up a whole room. When my husband had to have oxygen every day we couldn’t have a naked flame near him and one of the things I missed the most was candles and he missed campfires, providing a lightscape for conversations, reflections, intimacy. We get closer to our thoughts and truths in the dark when a light shines and there is the potential to discover another shade of bravery.

Last night, in a new country, in a new car, at night, in the dark and in torrential rain, I drove across the town we are staying in and with the practical help of google maps, a calm navigator, patient drivers around me and lots of deep breaths we all got home safe and sound. Before we got in the car I was already anxious about something else, time for another shade of brave to appear! Everyone in the car, and on the road it seemed, had my back. There was 1% charge left on the phone and between other people’s phones and creativity a solution was banded together and all I really had to do was follow the instructions and keep calm.

This is everyday bravery in many shades. Brave of the passengers to get in the car with me, brave of us all to trust each other and our common shared vision to get home safely. I think this is true of all kinds of everyday bravery in all its shades. We find ways to lean on each other that just look ordinary and necessary and forget it is an act of bravery. We find ways to be vulnerable and pilot one another through dark and stormy times. We find ways to escort each other from threshold to threshold regardless of the conditions we all find ourselves in. We follow our plans to get to a destination and rely on others to give us the directions as we go into unchartered territory.

There is something optimistic about these shades of bravery, tiny glimpses of things get better, getting to your destination. And once you get there the satisfaction of success and safety is a big hug you can receive from yourself (maybe after a good night’s sleep, valium or gin and tonic).

Bravery feels like fear. Bravery feels like fearlessness. Bravery feels like fearlessness and fear at the same time. Bravery is embedded with hope, and that hope is the flicker of the candle growing stronger and drawing you towards the light. Hanging onto the optimism, even when you aren’t feeling confident might just be enough to pull you through. Don’t go alone though, have a navigator, some technology and a cheer squad.

Optimism and vulnerability are bound together in little acts of self-compassion for every shade of bravery.

Year of Self Compassion #1


How does a Year of Self Compassion begin?

Making appointments for body and soul is where this pilgrim started, the past need not define the future for the heart to find a new beat and rhythm.

Do you remember that feeling of being on a swing getting higher and higher, more light headed and giddy with of the movement as if you were flying? Pure joy. Self-love swinging yourself into your own bliss. I used to love being on a swing and would sing softly and loudly,  compose melodies and lyrics filling the air with song going back and forth – an embodied metronome. I remember distinctly a couple of very joyful swings – one in the back of what was actually Ian Fleming’s home in the UK (author of James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – it was an education centre and my Dad ocassionally worked there) and the other at a country school location being turned into a camp site where my Mum and Dad were helping to get it ready for the next season.  I think I would have been about 8 in the first one and quite old, perhaps 11 in the second memory. These childhood memories of singing to my heart’s content in complete abandon from the world. I was truly in a self contained exhilarating world, slightly expanding with the energy pushing forward, and contracting to slow down to a steady, more gentler pace before hopping off and back into the world again. I think self-compassion might be a bit like that – playfully making music in space and time in the deep security of knowing you are safe and your sounds wafting into the air around you and all whose ears could hear you getting a glimpse of the uncontaminated bliss of abandonment.

My year is beginning in song, but one I don’t yet know the name of or the tune, and, I am just warming up to the swing. The musical style of swing may well have a few clues, with its emphasis on the off-beat. The off-beat is always the weaker pulse in the music, the weakness is the reason it works.

Self-compassion is an invitation to love the weakness, that off beat, to make the whole sound swing. We’ve all heard swing with a soloist heading over the top of all the sound with an improvised voice of the melody overlaid. Making it up as you go along in the security of the pattern holding it all together.  Just as I made up words and music as a child on those swings, and I am improvising now, having forms and knowing their functions to employ as they are thrown at me. The lesson of ‘yes and’ is a great teacher – there is no compromise – you must accept the offer and do something with it. You don’t have to like the offer, you just have to accept it.

Pages of pain are real.

Explicit. Nothing left to imagination.

All the soil has been shoveled.

The first of the choir arrives

Tall and slender in the hot bitumen

Striding down, missing me, calling me to come back.

Laying hands on me at the bakery.

Forecasting: This is your year.

The second arrives

Offering a centurion service

A kind of protective custody

Armed with weapons of mass distraction

In fast succession

Guardians, escorts, witnesses, wise counsellors (after all it is Epiphany)

The choir is now bursting at the seams

In harmony, each knowing their part

Yes, and … I surrender to the sound

Gabriel’s trumpet heralds a mighty day.

The choir of self-compassion is in session.

A self compassion discernment question is forming: Is this an action loving me into my self?