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
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.
Being at home, at ease, within ourselves is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. And to be able to cultivate this presence of body, mind and heart wherever we are—at home, at work, even standing in line at the market—is a powerful practice and example of self-compassionate care.
At Home Wherever You Are
Excerpted from Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook by Janice L. Lundy
Begins May 9. Please join me and love yourself more.
One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to trust our life journey.
It's also kind--and wise—to trust the pace of our inner growth. Whether it's rapid or slow, it's all perfect and things are unfolding as they should.
The early days of spring never fail to remind me of this truth.
You will come into fruition in your own season.
Patience and kindness begin with you—for you. Living this way makes the journey so much easier ...
Explore how the soul season of spring is calling you home to your best self with our Spring Sadhana. Bloom where you are planted! Begins Sunday, April 3.
Self-compassion is not just about being nice to yourself. It's so much more than that.
Often we confuse self-compassion with pampering or indulging ourselves—like getting a massage or eating that extra cookie because we "deserve it," or taking a bubble bath.
While those activities are nice and they feel good (they relax the body-mind, decreasing cortisol while amping up oxytocin), they are only the bandaid for the hurt that lies beneath.
When I began my inner journey, I didn't know what self-compassion was. I thought it was "self-nurturing" or "self-care." I did a lot of that in my early years because my body-mind required it for stability. I'd done some real damage to myself because of harboring too much stress. I required gentle activities to heal. I received my first massage, got a facial, went on retreat, took naps and gave myself treats. What I didn't give myself was a break.
Meaning, beneath all of the stress and overwhelm (to which I applied band-aids) were stories I kept telling myself about who I was and how I was supposed to be. Lots of stories! Pampering and self-indulgence worked to relax me but they didn't release the stories that kept me stuck in what I thought I needed to do to be a worthy human being; to be loved; to be successful.
Self-compassion came onto my radar screen years later when I realized that many of my life choices had been based on what people told me when I was a child, role modeling, and old patterns I'd developed to stay "safe." Not until I was ready to take a good, long loving look at these was I able to begin to free myself of things like perfectionism, over-achieving, self-doubt, self-criticism, co-dependency and diminishing my own needs in difficult times, just to name a few. Many of us hold these stories deep within us. In fact, I believe most of us do!
Indulging myself, which provided temporary comfort and healing, did not get to the heart of the matter.
Good self-care could be thought of as "Self-Compassion 101." It addresses the basics and meets our immediate needs. And it's an excellent place to start! On a deeper level, though, there is a story to be uncovered: the story of why we don't care well for ourselves, or don't give ourselves permission to do so in the first place.
Self-compassion requires profound self-awareness and willingness to grow. It also demands absolute honesty and transparency. The path of self-compassion is a bold path. It requires courage and perseverance. It invites us to explore what keeps us in suffering (and sometimes self-neglect), deep into the truth of who we are in our essence. Self-compassion allows us to live more authentically with ourselves in good, loving, kind ways.
So while I do enjoy the occasional indulgence (especially taking long baths and eating chocolate chip cookies), what I really love is feeling at peace within myself, confident that I know how to, thoroughly and honestly, tend well to my whole self (body, mind, heart and soul).
Self-compassion helps me know that I am doing the best I can in any given moment to meet life head-on with courage and grace.
Dive into self-compassion—lovingly and gently!
Put yourself on the path of self-compassion with this directed retreat--a gentle "day in," learning to care for your whole self in nurturing ways. And to unravel a story or two!
"The Kindest Thing" self-paced, at-home retreat is a soulful exploration and experience of "Self-Compassion 101."
Through videos, audios, and self-nourishing activities, Jan will personally guide you through your retreat so you feel the transformational power of your own loving-kindness.
Learn more and download your retreat today!
As someone who has dealt with personal anxiety over the years, I feel compelled to share two strategies for its prevention that have worked very well for me. Rooted in the practices of mindfulness and self-compassion, they can help you make an internal shift, enough to heal and enhance the quality of your life.
Anxiety is one of the most common mind states that we experience today. In fact, it’s been said that parenthood alone breeds anxiety because of the “what if” factor—responsibilities and worries about our children. Statistics tell us that over 20 million women suffer from it.
Since anxiety (precipitated by worry) is so common, it is wise for us to head it off at the pass before it becomes a serious problem in our lives. These two practices can help. Each one prevents build-up, as well as having the power to diffuse anxiety when it begins to rise. By incorporating each into your daily routine, you can create a safe and stable “interior home” for yourself. Schedule one or both of these practices in because if you simply hope to remember to stop to do them, likely you won’t. Like an Energizer Bunny, you’ll just keep going and going—and that’s anxiety producing, too!
1. Use Mindfulness Bells
In temples and monasteries throughout the world, there is often a call to meditation or prayer, sometimes several times throughout the day. These are actually “bells of mindfulness” or chimes that ring at certain times to invite us to stop, breathe, and take stock of how we are being in the world. This is literally a “sacred pause,” a time to stop everything we’re doing and connect with our innate peace.
You can use your watch or the timer on your smart phone to do the same thing. Choose specific times of the day for this: mid-morning or lunchtime, mid-afternoon or early evening. Anytime is a good time to stop and answer the call of a bell of mindfulness. When the bell sounds, simply stop what you’re doing, and take 3 deep breaths. Check-in with yourself throughout the day and notice any tension in your body. Repeat the process.
2. A Breath Prescription
Anxiety can build throughout our days as circumstances arise and things don’t go as planned. Worries build up too. Often doctors prescribe something to take our minds off our troubles. Breath practice can serve us in the same way—naturally!
Designate 2 20-minute periods each day for taking your “breath prescription.” Place your hand upon your lower abdomen so you can see your breath moving into your body. As you inhale, your belly will rise. As you exhale, it will lower, your hand right along with it. Continue this practice for 20 minutes until you feel more calm and centered. (If you can’t dedicate 20 minutes to this practice, start with 5 minutes and build up from there.)
Breathing in this way acts as preventative medicine. It keeps us AWAP (As Well As Possible). And a practice such as this begins to build a strong foundation of inner calm because breathing properly, with intention, stabilizes us. With a strong foundation, the storms of life do not knock us off center so easily. We feel more stable, more able! It can also serve as a trustworthy “prescription” to take when we need a hefty dose of Ahhh ...
Children need to learn how to be self-compassionate, too. As parents, grandparents, caring relatives, teachers or mentors, it really is our responsibility to share what we know with the next generation—who we hope, of course, will be even more aware, kind and compassionate than we are.
With gentle guidance, we can teach children about the importance of applying self-compassion so they can easily apply it when they need it the most.
This is an exercise I developed a few years to help a child remember to be kinder to him or herself; to soothe oneself when s/he is upset. I call it:
I Pledge Allegiance to My Heart
Our heart is the visible reminder that we have a place within us that serves as a placeholder for love, inner peace, kindness and appreciation—for the “virtues of the Spirit.”
When your child is feeling anxious or upset, invite him to sit down and reconnect with his good, calm heart.
Have him place his hand over his heart center, to sit quietly and to feel his chest rising and falling. Then to take a few slow, centering breaths.
It is not necessary to count inhalations or exhalations. Focus, instead, on the feeling of the breath moving into the body at the base of the nostrils and moving down through the body, filling the lungs and belly with air.
You may wish to do this practice alongside your child so he feels as if he is doing it with someone, which can create greater ease. “Let’s do this together, shall we?”
You may wish to invite him to repeat these phrases along with you.
“I pledge allegiance to my heart.
I have a good heart.
I have a kind heart.
I have a calm heart.”
Continue to breathe together and repeat the “pledge” until equanimity returns.
Note: Of course, as adults, we can do this practice too, and I hope you will!
Blessings of ease to you,
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.
This morning I heard the school bus go by for the first time in months. I was in bed, slowly awakening from a less-than-restful night's sleep, and after hearing the bus roar up the hill, I thought to myself, "Time for me to get back to school, too."
Though the school I had in mind for myself was not a traditional one, a building with walls and windows, but the landscape of my heart. A space of potential quiet, characterized by inner exploration and discovery. For me, school is a purple, buckwheat-filled, meditation cushion.
It's been a busy, loosey-goosey summer here. My husband "semi-retired" in early July so he is home with me now much of the time. Home is where I work and practice. It's been wonderful to spend early mornings together, sipping coffee, enjoying the quiet having gentle conversation, but I've missed my "practice"—a more formal time of being alone with myself and All-That-Is.
So, this morning, I dusted off my meditation cushion and sat. It was difficult, to say the least. My thoughts behaved like untamed horses. After a few moments of inner struggle, I chose to listen to a recording of crystal bowl playing to help me crawl back to center.
I enjoyed my process, though I wouldn't say that the practice itself was great. But then, that's what a meditation practice is all about: noticing when you want to label it, judge it (and yourself), especially when it feels less than idyllic.
This is good for me. Meditation is one of the kindest, most compassionate things I can do for myself because it allows me to meet myself where I am with gentleness. My "best" meditation practice is when I am aware enough of whatever I encounter within myself to be quite alright with all of it. Even thoughts that behave like wild horses have their own interesting cadence and insights.
Just before I meditated, I was reading from Ram Dass' book, Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart. Synchronistically, I'd left off with the chapter on spiritual practice. This passage in particular spoke to my heart:
"It's delicate, because you have to practice from the place of really remembering why you're doing it, with some joy and appreciation. If you go into it with, "Oh, I gotta do my practice," the practice will eventually clear that resistance out of you, but I don't necessarily feel that's a good thing. That's what happens to people when they have to go to church every Sunday. I would rather push you away from spiritual practices until you're so hungry for them that you really want to do a practice, rather than give you a sense that you ought to do the practice or that you're a bad person if you don't do it, because you will end up hating the whole business. In the long run, I don't think it will be good for you. Spiritual practice is wonderful if you want to do it. And if you don't, don't."
This morning I woke up hungry. And grateful. Grateful that I knew of a way to sate the spiritual hunger I was feeling. Pull the purple cushion out of the closet, de-lint it and sit down. To me, doing so felt much like it used to when I'd climb aboard the big yellow bus as a kid on the first day of school.
Today, may you welcome yourself home in similar fashion doing whatever works, using whatever practice gets you back to you. We begin again. It's back-to-school time, back-to-self time. May you enjoy the ride.
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!
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we are meant to live.
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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 director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.