In last week's post I wrote about holding presence for yourself. Here's the thing. It's much easier to hold presence for yourself when you're feeling good and things are going well. It's not so easy when life gets difficult. In fact, it can get downright hard.
When I find myself struggling with a mood, dealing with bad news, or unexpected outcomes, I try to remember what a wise Buddhist teacher once wrote: "Life is so very difficult, how can we be anything but kind?" The being kind part, in this case, is pointed toward myself.
Self-directed kindness may take the form of compassionate breathing, stepping away from a situation, setting a healthier boundary, resting, taking a walk to move swirling energy from one's body ... there are so many ways to be kind to oneself. So many! Hopefully, we can pick one that can turn us back toward a little bit of equanimity.
But if we can't, there we are. We're stuck. In the muck. In the yucky feelings. And that is not a pleasant place to be. But it's part of being human, not perfect, and so when we are up against the wall of ourselves, let it be. In time, the feelings will calm down. They'll move on like storm clouds across a Texas plain.
Sometimes we just have to wait out the difficult moments. Kindly waiting, breathing, being. This can be good enough. No need to beat ourselves up that we couldn't get over it faster. No need to criticize, feel shame or guilt. We bit the hook as Pema Chodron teaches and what happened happened.
Let's not be afraid of difficult present moments. Let's meet them as best we can with gentleness, trusting that we can begin again when we feel a little more clear, a little stronger, a little wiser. Tomorrow is another day.
I very much enjoy writing for the Spiritual Directors International blog and wanted to share my latest post here. It's a topic near and dear to my heart—self-compassionate self-care. I hope this speaks to YOUR heart as well! May you continue to be gentle with yourself for, as I state in the article, "Desperate times call for deeper measures."
Read "Compassion Fatigue? Bring Yourself into the Circle of Care" here
Today, an excerpt from my new book,
Love Lesson 23
Forever After Kind of Love
"They’re You’ll Be”, Faith Hill
For me, one of the most poignant love songs of all times is this one, "There You'll Be," sung by Faith Hill. It speaks of everything we ever hope Real Love will be. It also speaks about loss of the person with whom we experienced a very special kind of Love.
The song, of course, focuses on romantic love—and the loss of one's partner or lover. I'd like to invite you to listen to the song a few times to expand its perspective. Listen to it once, focusing on the words as applied to the loss of an intimate partner. The second time, focusing on how the words could apply to anyone with whom you have experienced (or are currently experiencing) deep and abiding love or friendship.
I found this experiment quite interesting. The first time I listened to the song with these intentions I felt a real sense of loss. (I was actually thinking about my husband and what it might be like if he was no longer alive.) My heart constricted with that loss. The second time I listened, I thought about my dear father who passed away ten years ago. I felt loss but also deep gratitude and even hopefulness because as the lyrics profess, "I was blessed to get to have you in my life." My heart felt more open and expansive.
These words helped:
"And I always
Will remember all
The strength you
Gave to me
Your love made me
Make it through
Oh, I owe so much to you
You were right there for me."
When we take these words to heart we can see how there could be many people to whom they might apply—siblings, friends, go-workers. There are several people who've loved us and strengthened us, who were present for us. Held in this way, "There You'll Be," can be a beautiful expression of gratitude and remembering, not just loss.
Remembering ... this is one of the other aspects of Love that rises to be affirmed in this song. When we have been in relationship with someone and we have loved one another well, when that person is gone, they are still with us because what we experienced with them has become a part of us. Their presence lives on in us and, in that, we can find some comfort, despite our loss.
May we ever remember that in any given moment we are making memories—remembrances—with dear ones that will sustain us as relationships change, life shifts and ends. Each encounter with another is a "holy encounter." With each glance, touch, and loving word we sow a seed of future remembrance that we were, indeed, precious to one another, and for that we can be eternally grateful.
It is a blessing to be with one another, no matter how long that might be.
©2017, Janice L. Lundy.
Drop into your spiritual heart and be love now ...
30 days of love through the power of music.
Learn more and read excerpts here.
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There is a special price with bonus gifts for your early purchase.
Someone said to me the other day, "I just don't know how much news to watch anymore." She was speaking about the negative and paralyzing effect the media was having on her. Everything she seemed to read and hear was focused on the current sorrow and suffering found in the world. Indeed, there is a great deal of that. This has been so from the beginning of time. As difficult as it is to admit, this is the nature of our deep humanity.
My friend expressed that she felt as if she were drowning in the difficulties, bombarded and energetically sabotaged by all of it—from newspaper, radio and television. Truly, our abundant media has brought the pain of the world into our living rooms, cars and hearts in an unprecedented way. We simply cannot avoid this. Even if we choose not to watch television news or talk radio, we can still be in a place to receive it messages, because, at least in the U.S., TVs are on, broadcasting news anywhere you go: doctor's office waiting rooms, restaurants, coffee shops and bars, train stations, airports, and more.
Who does not feel the effect of this? Even as I stood in line at my credit union the other day, I had to avert my eyes from two large television screens, one behind each teller's head, that was featuring world news. I was deeply saddened that my privacy and choice "not to watch" in that moment was compromised. Like anyone else, I wish to be educated on world events. I do not, however, want to be bombarded by news wherever I go.
Which brings me to the subject of compassion. When I struggle with the "too muchness" of the world, I am called to self-compassion because I am having a difficult time. My heart also goes out to others, to those who are suffering similarly, or caught in much worse circumstances, and I bring us into a circle of compassionate care within my mind's eye and heart. Any of us can do the same.
In any moment of suffering—yours, mine and ours—we can drop into our heart of compassion and hold every person there in tender embrace. It's a genuinely simple practice.. In fact, this practice brings great relief, even hopefulness, that we are at least doing something about an event or situation toward which we might feel powerless. It simply takes remembering to do so.
Here is something else that can help. It's a compassion practice taken from my book My Deepest Me. It's titled "True Compassion." I hope it lifts your heart. Read it here.
May Love live in you today.
The attitudes and behaviors we scorn in others
will be the ones that offer us
the greatest personal and spiritual growth.
When we witness things like rudeness,
selfishness, arrogance, insensitivity, or callousness,
we can remind ourselves to exhibit its opposite.
When you see someone act in this fashion,
consciously choose not to walk that path.
Choose the higher road,
the one characterized by compassion and forgiveness.
You may be surprised how your choice of
"the road less traveled"
may be the one they choose to walk in the future.
Be your own best example.
Gratitude Can Be Your Spiritual Practice
Just in time for holiday gift giving: my new collection of original prayers, blessings, affirmations and reflective essays on how to keep gratitude in your heart, even in difficult times. Gratitude is a potent spiritual practice that can transform your life from the inside out.
Learn more and read excerpts here.
Is this a question you ask yourself? Sometimes I ask it.
I used to think that we were put here on this planet to love. Just plain love.
Today, I hold a different view. I think we're here to embody compassion. Why? Because true compassion, in my view, anyway, is a step "above" love. Some people are easy to love; others more difficult by their very nature. But with training and practice anybody hold any person—even the most difficult or unkind—in tenderness and mercy.
The problem is that we are not really taught how to be compassionate. We are taught to like or dislike, to love or disdain. And the same applies to ourselves. We are not shown (nor encouraged) how to be self-compassionate, which is absolutely vital, before we can even begin to demonstrate genuine compassion for others.
This is why I talk and teach so much about self-compassion. Self-compassion is the pre-requisite for living in and creating a peaceful, kind, and loving world.
I'd like to share an excerpt from my book, My Deepest Me, on self-compassion. The text below serves as Day 14 for our 30-day journey. I believe it offers a solid explanation of my perspective and take on "the meaning of life."
Our faith traditions tell us we are supposed to be patient, kind, and generous, but sometimes that’s just plain hard to do. Life is challenging. People are too. This is why it is important to learn to treat ourselves kindly—to treat ourselves as lovingly and tenderly as we would a dear friend or a precious child. Instead of being disappointed in ourselves for missing the mark, or failing at embodying the spiritual virtues to which we aspire, we can choose another course of action: self-compassion.
In every spiritual tradition, compassion is highly valued. Compassion for ourselves, however, has often been aligned with self-absorption or selfishness. And we are not taught, nor encouraged, how to be self-compassionate.
In truth, self-compassion is one of the most powerful spiritual virtues we can adopt to walk peaceably in the world. First, we must learn to walk peaceably with ourselves. Then we can learn to walk this way with others. We cannot exhibit true compassion for others if we have not cultivated it for ourselves.
1. Self-assess and reflect: How skilled are you at self-compassion? Do you talk nicely to yourself or are you self-critical? Do you make kind choices for yourself or do you tend to push yourself? Do you have high expectations of yourself and find fault with yourself if you don’t meet them?
2. Reflect on this teaching about self-compassion by the Buddha: “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” What stirs in you when you read this?
3. Right now, place your hand over your heart and offer self-compassion to yourself, saying “I am enough.” Breathe in, breathe out. Allow a sense of “enoughness” to wash through you. Feel the transformative power of knowing you are good enough—just as you are.
Self-compassion opens my heart to myself in a kind and loving way. It routs out feelings of selfishness, deservedness, and guilt. When I am tender with myself, I can be more gentle with others.
Excerpted from My Deepest Me by Janice Lynne Lundy.
©2015. All Rights Reserved
Reading My Deepest Me is like taking a soul-nourishing, one-month retreat with the added bonus of having a loving and supportive spiritual mentor by your side.
Learn more and order your copy here.
A few years ago, when I was serving as a magazine editor and feature writer, I had the privilege of interviewing Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD. I'd admired her work for years.
At the time we were talking about her new venture, The Dangerous Old Woman, and the conversation often returned to the subject of wisdom.
I finally asked her, "How do you define wisdom?"
Her answer, "Wisdom is what works."
I've thought long and hard about her answer and, truthfully, have pretty much taken the definition on as my own.
I used to think of wisdom as something lofty. Something only a gift few people had. Or something to be acquired as you aged and had clocked plenty of life experience.
Abiding by this definition, I believe that each of one of has a deep reservoir of wisdom. It may not feel like it on most days, but it's there. Sometimes the difficulty of daily life keeps us distanced from it, frantically paddling in a swirling pool of yuck and muck where we lack the mental clarity and emotional strength to climb onto steadier ground.
Wisdom is what helps us stand tall—calm, clear, confident. Cognizant that we have what it takes to roll with the ups and downs of life. To love rather than hate. To heal rather than hurt. To grow rather than hide. As Dr. CPE reminds us, yes, wisdom is what works.
A few years ago I was guided to engage a morning process of accessing my own inner wisdom. I wanted to remember what worked in terms of living a wholehearted life. I'd light a candle, set the intention to tap into my own good stuff (and that which the Divine revealed to me), then write it down. Those jottings became the "Beads of Wisdom" I sent out to my e-mail list beginning in 2012.
Today, I launched a new version of these Beads. I call them "Beads of Wisdom 3.0" because they're new and different, because I'm new and different.
Passionate about growth, I vow to always be faithful to what is unfolding within me and to where it's taking me. I'm always happy to share what I'm discovering along the way.
So with great pleasure I invite you to join me for a new and deeper understanding of wisdom and receive a daily dose of mindfulness, lovingkindness, and compassion. A dollop of what works for any of us to live in the highest way possible—calm, clear and wise, no matter what.
You can read more about Beads of Wisdom 3.0 here and read some samples too.
They're free, from my heart to yours. Enjoy!
I grew up in the era of "The Sound of Music." After watching the film many times, I can still hear Julie Andrews (who played the main character, Maria VonTrapp) citing all of her "favorite things" in a song of the same title.
Calling upon "favorite things", I believe, may be an act of profound self-compassion. When we are feeling afraid, worried, or anxious it is good and wise to turn the mind toward something more steady; something that is comforting, familiar, even nourishing.
I found myself doing this often in the last week. My youngest daughter underwent emergency surgery at University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, and, of course, I flew to her side. There were a number of days sitting by her bedside in the hospital, waiting for the prescribed follow-up treatment to kick in.
I never really found myself anxious or worried (though her situation was a high-risk one) and I'm certain this was due to my many years of mindfulness training and practice. AND because when uneasy feelings did arise, I set the intention to examine them, and to offer myself a good sized dollop of self-compassion because what we were going through WAS difficult.
(I also knew that modeling this to my daughter would help her cope with all the unwanted, potentially frightening things that were happening to her. )
When you are in the midst of an ongoing difficulty (like illness or hospitalization), consider tuning into your favorite things. What are they? When the going gets tough, what kind choices can you make for yourself to bring you back to equanimity? To tend to yourself well and kindly?
Here are a few of the "favorite things" we accessed while in the hospital:
Short walks to places of interest: the coffee shop, the gift shop, and our ultimate favorite, an arboretum in the Heart Center. This was an extraordinary place of "inner beauty" that felt so very healing just by being there. Bamboo trees filled the space. I've heard bamboo has a very high "vibration" energetically. I believe it.
Treats: coffee, dessert, comfort food (mac and cheese!), anything that brought a sense of delight again
Naps: stretching out under heated blankets for a bit of rest
Tablet time: watching reruns of the original "Star Trek" TV series; watching episodes of "The Living Planet" narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough (his voice always put us to sleep)
Mindful meditation: simply being with what was, listening, paying attention to and resting in the breath
Fun & Laughter: recounting memories, noticing funny things people said or did, Facebooking cute doctors (my daughter is single and 25, need I say more)
What we turn our attention toward expands our experience, either enriching it or making it more difficult. The choice is always ours. What could have been one of the most challenging experiences my daughter and I have ever been through together was transformed into a time of bonding, discovery, and present-centered appreciation because of our intention to be mindful and self-compassionate—and compassionate toward one another.
Life is good, even when it's difficult, when our favorite things are within reach. May it be so for you.
This morning I awoke to the awareness that five of my dear ones are in the midst of great suffering. Five!
I also realized that I'd been carrying their suffering the last few days in a burdensome way. It was weighing me down, tiring me on many levels.
Four of the dear ones (two couples) are in the midst of their relationships ending, or, at the very least, transforming via separation. Such a difficult reality when you have been with someone for a long time!
Another of my dear ones is experiencing degenerative health issues and intense bodily pain. Nothing is bringing her relief.
When our dear ones are troubled, of course, we want to be as present as possible to them, but how can we do this in a helpful way? Instead of taking on their pain ourselves and becoming physically exhausted, mentally overwrought, or emotionally paralyzed, what can we do?
As I sipped my morning coffee, listening to the birds sing greetings to the early morning light, a song rose up in my heart for the well-being of my dear ones. Metta phrases, blessings of goodwill, filled my heart. This morning, the phrases were a bit different. Not the traditional phrases taught to me by my own good teachers. But those that felt more appropriate for the relief of great suffering.
They come from Mary Brantley and Tesilya Hanauer and their lovely book, The Gift of Loving-kindness: 100 Mindful Practices for Compassion, Generosity, and Forgiveness. This book is a favorite of mine.
I've been using these three phrases from their chapter, "Befriending the Monsters," for a while now (and have been sharing them with those whom I offer spiritual companionship).
May you be held in compassion.
May you be free from pain and sorrow.
May you be at peace.
To make the offering of loving-kindness feel more genuine, I often bring each person to my mind's eye, as if they were standing right in front of me as I offer the phrases. Sometimes I will imagine that I move closer to them and cradle their faces with my two hands. Tenderness infuses me when I do this. I am hopeful that somehow they will feel my tenderness too—and take comfort from it.
This morning, after practice, I felt more open-hearted and supportive to my dear ones. But I noticed the sense of "refreshment" I usually feel when doing this practice wasn't complete. I realized I hadn't offer Metta to myself because I, too, was suffering, feeling the pain of their travail.
I proceeded to offer the phrases of goodwill toward myself.
May I be held in compassion.
May I be free from pain and sorrow.
May I be at peace.
Indeed, relief flooded in. A few tears fell, opening and cleansing the tight places within me.
When life feels difficult for loved ones, it is good and wise to include ourselves in the compassion equation. In the spirit of inter-being, we never suffer alone. Your suffering is my suffering. Addressing one we tend to the other.
I am so very glad this is how life works.
p.s. Using the phrases above, sometimes I substitute the word "suffering" for the word "sorrow." "Sorrow" often implies loss or sadness to me, rather than physical or emotional pain. Feel your way through this and choose the word that best describes what you are feeling in the moment. Or what you sense another might be feeling.
I received a lovely gift from a spiritual companion a few weeks ago. I was struck by her thoughtfulness in offering me something so special. She knows my heart is rooted in the promotion of compassion, and especially the practice of self-compassion.
It's a Tibetan wall hanging featuring a powerful quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which reads:
Usually, our concept of compassion or love refers
to the feeling of closeness we have with our friends and loved ones.
Sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong.
Any love or compassion which entails looking down on the other
is not genuine, compassion.
Genuine compassion must be based on respect for the other,
and on the realization that others have the right to be happy
and overcome suffering, just as much as you.
On this basis, since you can see that others are suffering,
you can develop a sense of concern for them.
~H.H. The XIVth Dalai Lama
What strikes you when you read these lines? Is there something new or different for you about this understanding of compassion?
I was struck by this line: "Sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong." As I read it, I felt a little stab in my heart and heard a soft voice whisper, 'Pay attention.' What I realize is that it is easy to confuse pity with compassion and sometimes I have.
What this line offers me today is a new touchpoint of practice, an attunement, to be more vigilant about my own response to people. If there is pity involved, I am not in compassion because I have separated myself out from someone, doing what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls, "otherizing." We do this often, don't we?
I invite you to spend some time today with this beautiful reminder from His Holiness about what it really means to be understanding of and empathetic toward others. And, of course, we must figure ourselves into the equation, for self-compassion is most certainly the bridge toward embracing others with tenderness and mercy. We begin where we are, extending the loving-kindness we need toward ourselves, because everyone suffers—even us. We are all on the path of healing and awakening to our true nature ...
My new book, My Deepest Me: A 30-Day Guided Journey, offers one month of short but sweet lessons in good self-awareness rooted in the practice self-compassion.
Have you taken a look at it yet?
Click here to learn more and read excerpts.
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.