904th Week: Self-Acceptance and Wholeness

904th Week: Self-Acceptance and Wholeness

One of the themes I’ve explored and lived with over many years now is my experience of the importance of acknowledging and honoring all aspects of our wholeness. I’ve also been keenly aware of the fact that life on this planet thrives most efficiently within communities, ecologies of diversity. We know from science that natural environments thrive most dynamically when they contain a wide diversity of life forms, working together as a complex community. I think it’s the same with our own, individual selves. Our wholeness contains and expresses the unique diversity of characteristics, talents, challenges, qualities, expressions that each of us embodies. Through our unique wholeness, we contribute to the “ecology of life” within which we live.

Over the years, I have also found myself orienting to an experience of “being lived” by life. My sense has been, and continues to be, that each of us—whether human or some other-than-human, more-than-human earth-kin being—represents an opportunity for life to have a unique experience within and through each of us. Our unique wholeness offers life the opportunity for diverse experiences and expressions, honoring this planet’s seeming preference for diversity.

For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to explore the following guided meditation and see how it feels for you to imagine “being lived” by the life that expresses itself within and through everything on this planet, as well as acknowledging, honoring, and embracing the wholeness within you, leaving nothing out. It’s your wholeness that makes you unique in all the world and it’s your wholeness that allows you to contribute to the diversity that our human family offers to the planet’s ecology.

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903rd Week: Breathing In and Breathing Out

903rd Week: Breathing In and Breathing Out

Listening to the news recently, I found myself returning to a meditation from the Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s a very simple one and yet I find that, each time I do it, it invites me to more easily settle deeply into my grounded, embodied presence. So, for this week’s offering, I thought I would share this with those of you who haven’t learned it before and perhaps remind those of you who are familiar with it that it’s a very useful and helpful practice.

And so, for this week’s practice, I invite you to do the following at least once a day and perhaps to develop a habit of turning to it whenever you need support in returning to your heart space, grounding yourself, and/or simply taking some time to access quiet presence.

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2023 January Meditation

2023 January Meditation

This year’s theme is reciprocal relationships–that we are in relationship with the world around us in every moment. For this month, we focus on the relationship we have with the community of collaborative organisms that comprise our body, offering gratitude and blessings to all of them.

The fidelity on this January meditation isn’t great, but it improves starting in February.

Please remember never to listen to these audio meditations when driving or operating dangerous machinery…

Here’s the YouTube version if you’d prefer to see images of nature as you move through the meditation.

902nd Week: A Practice for Healing Collective Fear

902nd Week: A Practice for Healing Collective Fear

One of the things that comes to mind just about every day, as I listen to the news, is how powerfully fear motivates actions that cause suffering to so many. It might be fear of difference, fear of losing power, fear of the “other”. Whatever the focus of fear, it can become a motivator for lashing out, tearing down, striving to get rid of or destroy that which is feared.

One of the practices I’ve used over many years now is a derivation (my own “translation” of the process) of the Buddhist practice of Tonglen. As a trauma therapist, there have been many times where I’ve sat with someone working on an overwhelming trauma and what has offered me support in staying steady and present over all these years has been this practice of Tonglen. It allows me to keep my heart open in the presence of suffering and pain and has helped me not to be overwhelmed by what clients have shared over these years.

A number of years ago, I realized that Tonglen was a beautiful example of a subtle activism practice—of a practice I could use regularly to help metabolize collective fear and hatred. When I do this practice as subtle activism, I focus on fear because of my belief that this state of being is the source of hatred, violence, and so many other ways in which we harm one another.

And so, for this week’s practice, I invite you to explore the following guided process of using Tonglen (my derivation of it) to contribute to our collective healing. If you haven’t done this kind of practice before, let me say just a few things about it. Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher, has wonderful material on Tonglen. You can find her in her books and on YouTube. One of the things I heard her say early on in my explorations of Tonglen is that the light of the heart is fiery and is capable of neutralizing negative energy. She has also said that the more we do this kind of practice the brighter the fiery love in our heart becomes. I have found this to be true and, at this point in my life, I deeply trust the fire in my heart to be able to neutralize or transmute negative energy.

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901st Week: The Importance of Self-Compassion and Self-Kindness

901st Week: The Importance of Self-Compassion and Self-Kindness

For many of us, the idea that we can’t truly love others until we love ourselves is a long-standing piece of advice. Lately, I’ve been hearing more about self-compassion and the research being done on it and its companion, self-kindness. When I heard someone talk about self-kindness, I began to think about how readily we will, at times, treat ourselves in ways we would never imagine treating someone else and that got me to thinking even more deeply about the importance of self-kindness. I also got to thinking about how, when we are accustomed to treating ourselves with compassion and kindness, we are more likely to automatically express these qualities to others. 

Without question, most of us walk around with a certain degree of negative self-talk going on, even when we don’t pay much attention to it. Developing a habit of orienting to self-compassion and self-kindness asks us to pay attention to our self-talk and intervene when we discover that we are treating ourselves in unkind ways, replacing critical or negative thoughts with those that reflect active expressions of self-compassion and self-kindness.

One of the things that helps support being kinder to ourselves is something I’ve written about before—the inevitability of our wholeness and the foreground/background dynamic that unfolds in our process from moment to moment. When we can accept that we have a wholeness that contains everything a human is capable of expressing or doing, we can recognize that our ongoing practice can be one of noticing how we move through the world and then learning ways to bring into the foreground of our experience those qualities and states of being that reflect and express compassion and kindness.

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900th Week: Wishing People Well (and Yourself, too!)

As our human world continues to experience polarization and suffering and, in the United States at least, a lessening of civility and empathy, I’ve been thinking about the importance of cultivating a practice of wishing people well. I find that when I move through the day wishing people well, I automatically tap into an attitude of heart-oriented awareness. When I pay attention to my heart brain and take time to listen and feel into how my heart interprets the world, I automatically feel more generous toward my fellow humans.

Media and entertainment programs so often focus on competition, problems, aggressive behaviors—on what is dramatic, and much of the time negative. Because of this, we risk developing a habit of orienting to what’s not working, what’s traumatic and upsetting, what’s nasty and contentious and we may not be aware that we are becoming accustomed to seeing life through a lens colored by these qualities.

It’s helpful to remember that we perceive what we believe, that we interpret our world based on the filter through which we experience it. When we move through the world wishing people well, we generate a filter that is more likely to orient to noticing what’s going right, noticing where we see people cooperating, helping each other, interacting in positive ways. I’ve written many times about what’s called solution-focused therapy, where people are invited to notice only what’s going right, to actively seek out what’s going right in their environment and in their lives. This generates a filter that sees even more of what’s going right, just as the more negative filter easily focuses on what’s going wrong.

This doesn’t mean to ignore things that need to be changed or fixed. It doesn’t mean that everything is fine so there’s nothing to worry about. But it does mean not to live there full-time or permanently. Taking action is an important option when we see things that we feel are unjust or just plain wrong. But to live with a perceptual filter that orients to what’s out of place, what’s dangerous, or what’s wrong tends to prevent us from noticing interactions and circumstances that are more positive in nature.

And so, for this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to explore what you experience when you move through your daily activities wishing people well—people you may pass in the street, people with whom you work, people you may encounter in the course of your daily errands or chores. Track the quality of your internal experience as you do this and notice what you feel in your body. Also notice your emotional experience and the tone and quality of your thoughts, including your self-talk.

And, be sure to include yourself in your well-wishes. This could be a whole practice by itself—orienting ourselves to self-acceptance and embracing our wholeness. Notice how you feel when you include yourself in your well-wishes. Notice what you experience when you offer yourself the quality of support that well-wishes naturally convey. Pay attention to what you experience in your body, in the tone of your self-talk, in the quality of your emotional experience when you remember to wish yourself well each day.

A more formalized way of doing this kind of practice is found in the Buddhist practice of lovingkindness, or metta. If you feel moved to do so, here are three links to a lovingkindness practice: 

(I ran into a glitch here, so please google “lovingkindness practice” and you’ll find a number of lovely scripts and practices. So sorry that I can’t figure out how to offer just the links, but I can’t seem to include other URLs as part of flow of the written practice here.)

As with all these practices, be sure to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything about them. And, as always, be sure to make room for mixed feelings, as they are a natural aspect of our wholeness. As you do with judgments, there’s nothing you have to do about these. The gift is to notice them gently as you continue to wish yourself well.

Here’s a recorded version of this week’s practice, if you would prefer to listen…