It's not a sign of weakness to need reminding. We all get off the path.
Life presents us with unexpected challenges day in and day out.
Just when we thought things were going well, bump ...
Just when we thought we had everything figured out, bump ...
Just when we looked forward to a period of smooth sailing, bump ...
This is life in all its messiness. As the Buddha taught, pain and gain, joy and sorrow, each comes and goes. And each visits us again when we least it expect it.
This is the bump in the road where self-compassion becomes invaluable. With good self-awareness we acknowledge the bump. We admit we don't like it. We confess we might even feel angry about its appearance: "Really? This again?" "This is just so inconvenient!" "I didn't see this one coming."
It's alright. It's good and wise to recognize our struggle with what life offers. We are human. And because we are, we will experience the "full catastrophe, as Jon Kabat-Zinn teaches. But because we are conscious beings as well, with great wisdom in the storehouse of our hearts, we know we can squarely face what is here, and deal with it one more time.
All the better if we do so with self-compassion. What we are experiencing is difficult.
• Say it: "This is difficult." And mean it. Receive your own acknowledgement of suffering.
• Be aware of and name your feelings: Frustration. Disappointment. Sadness.
• Take a breath. Take 3. And allow yourself to be held by those kind breaths.
Let these three steps bring you momentary relief so you have space, even for a few moments, to lay down your burden and remember that you've done this before and you can do it again.
When life presents bumps—better yet, potholes?—we can hold ourselves tenderly and be generous to ourselves. We can be our own gentle friend who offers a comforting hug to say, "I know, this is hard."
Just sit, receive, remember.
Julia Cameron writes:
"I am patient. I am able to live with ambiguity. I am able to allow situations to evolve and alter. I am able to await outcomes. I tolerate quiet periods of non-knowing while solutions emerge and present themselves. I do not force solutions. I expect the successful working out-of life difficulties and differences. My heart is wise. It knows when to acts and when non-action is the action to take. I trust my patient heart. I trust the power of containment."*
Thank you, Julia, for this reminder. I needed it today. Perhaps, dear reader, you did too.
May we all be compassionate toward ourselves in moments of difficulty. May we be kind.
* From "My Soul Has Patience and Containment" from Heart Steps: Prayers and Declarations for a Creative Life by Julia Cameron (Tarcher/Putnman, 1997)
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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.