compassion

Everyday Enlightenment, Episode 3: Am I an empath?

everyday_enlightenment

In this week's episode, we explore what it means to be an empath. No longer considered as "out there," emapths are finding their voice and power in today's society. We look at the attributes of an empath, the differences between highly sensitive people and empaths, rekindling or cultivating our empathic abilities, and the importance of loving kindness and compassion in specifically an empath's life. 

The Truth About Limitlessness

we_are_limitless_quote

Within the spiritual community, there is a belief for many of us that we need to work extremely hard in order to break through our limits in order to reach the goal of awakening. We need to push beyond our present selves and beliefs, and become someone...different, more, better. If only I was more compassionate, served more, got rid of all my triggers, was a better person, understood love, heard and saw my spirit guides, became enlightened, and saved the whales!!! 

Folks, this is a lot of pressure.

When we pursue spirituality with the drive of a sports coach, it quickly becomes painful and overwhelming.

It also has the potential to set up spirituality as a kind of self-competitive sport, giving serious (and precious) air time to our inner critic. 

It's one thing to become mindful in situations where we may be unnecessarily holding ourselves back due to old habits and fears. It's quite another to push ourselves in a way that can become self-flagellating, literally harming our selves with our loving intention to heal. 

Breathe. 

The truth is, we already are limitless. Each and every one of us. We all have the seed of infinite possibility within us, waiting to be nurtured (even a tiny bit) to let blossom. The key word here is nurture--to provide sustenance in the physical (good, clean food/water, enough rest), the emotional (supportive relationships in our lives, space), mental (space, mindfulness) and spiritual (meditation, a spiritual practice, connection with our inner Self). 

When we drive ourselves to be "better" in a spiritual sense, we actually limit our infinite potential and true divine nature.

When we breathe into our lives--the joys, the pain, the confusion (especially the confusion), we give space to our thoughts and emotions. The weight of the yoke of "being good enough" lessens and eventually falls away completely. 

We come to this conclusion quite naturally, though. We feel we must conquer something within us that seems to "take over" at the least opportune moments. Our fears, anxieties, triggers all can easily overwhelm; so why wouldn't we want to conquer them? Wouldn't that mean finally finding peace? We want peace! So we are going to go and get some PEACE! (whip cracking in the background)

Except the more we attack these aspects of our selves, the more they embed within us. The more they are fed, the more we give them affirmation that yes, they are definitely needed. Until we learn to train our minds (mindfulness) and hear the truth in our hearts, they will continue to do what they believe their job is: protecting us. 

How can we truly become limitless?

When we connect with our limitlessness through kindness, right action, and love. Especially with our selves. When we approach our pain, suffering and arduous striving with openness, allowing for there to be space (to be mindful, to come back to center, to objectively think things through). That space then allows for love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness to enter our hearts.

The more we push the hurt within, the more it will push back. The practice, then, is to not push back so much as observe. Observing then leads to openness which leads to kindness. Kindness leads to healing which leads to compassion and love. We live limitlessly through our choices in thought, action and speech. We are the creators of our limits--with the same power to release them. It's truly up to us. 

Heart-Centered Activism

heart centered activism

Thomas Jefferson famously said, a democracy cannot survive without the "spirit of rebellion." The United States is a country of extreme contradictions: glory and shame equally a part of our journey as a nation.

How do we participate in the current "spirit of rebellion", while holding love as our primary focus? Perhaps even our main goal and outcome? We tap into our passion for the human race--of which we are inextricably linked--and move forward as our hearts call us to. 

There are so many issues bombarding all of us in the U.S. at the moment. There are so many huge changes being proposed and legalized, that many of us have moments of overwhelm, confusion, despair. Our hearts are more than heavy, they're breaking over and over. 

However, it's through this steady breaking open of our hearts that we're rediscovering our inherent power as individuals and a society. As Lenard Cohen reminds us with his timeless lyric, "there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." We're tapping into one of our greatest strengths as a nation, a founding principle--the "spirit of rebellion"--and standing up for what we believe, for what's right for humanity. 

What is heart-centered activism? It is connecting heaven and earth, soul and country, body and spirit through love-driven action. This activism allows our bodies and minds to do what needs to be done (which is why we have them) in order to create effective, compassionate change. It's only through love that fear is banished. Love will take our overwhelm and turn it into practical, applicable action items. Those action items may be part of a collective effort or inspiring an individual to new depths and strength to share with the world. The heart has many surprises. 

Heart-centered activism could take on so many forms: peaceful protest, calling/emailing/snail-mailing your representatives, making food for the homeless or families who need our help, organizing donations for folks who need help, donating your expertise (medical, legal, spiritual, therapeutic, childcare, tutoring, mentoring...), raising money to help others, speaking up, washing the feet of Muslim immigrants, or simply teaching/modeling to your kids about compassion and kindness to all. 

We are waking up to what needs to be done. This generation, like each generation before, is facing it's most critical moment in our democratic history. We're understanding on a profound level what it means to be responsible for our freedoms. The moment overwhelm or fear take their icy grip around your heart, try sitting with it. There it is. Now breathe into it for five deep breaths. As you're breathing, ask: how can I help? how can I serve? The answer may not appear right away, but keep it at the back of your mind for a day or two. Love will guide you. You'll know it's love when you feel at peace with your decision for next steps forward. 

Marianne Williams writes our founding father's were not "geniuses who just happened to care about the human race; they were people who cared passionately about the human race, and out of that passion their genius emerged. Love is its own brand of genus. Our only true enemy is neither people or institutions, but fear-laden thoughts that cling to our insides and sap us of our strength...Our greatest political power now is to fear nothing and love everything; then all things will heal." 

 

Love is a Choice

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Love is a knowing, an unwavering solidarity deep down inside ourselves amidst the unpredictability of everyday life. 

For most of us, getting to this place of solidarity is a process, and a practice, we must continually choose as our lives unfold. For some, awakening happens overnight and their inherent sense of connectedness is fully realized. They are few and far between, however.  In our information-at-our-fingertips age, our practice of coming back to love, choosing love over and over again, can seem daunting and unnatural. It can feel like so much work in the beginning! Especially if we have known love at some point, yet it comes and goes seemingly at it's own will. But is love uncontrollable, vague and impossibly out of reach, especially in the hum-drum of our everyday lives? 

Love is a choice. 

Love is a choice. It's a moment-by-moment choice in how we are choosing to act. It's a practice and it's a path. For those of us who have experienced trauma--where our ego's did an excellent job of protecting and guiding us through those painful times and experiences--this "choice" can feel threatening. Our ego's only concern is protection of itself. After all, it did a pretty great job keeping us safe. It believes we are separate, isolated, and alone--and it wants to keep it that way. This is precisely how the ego protects itself, inside a hard shell where we're unreachable and untouchable. 

Hey, I deal with my stuff and you deal with yours. Your feelings are not my concern. Go get help.

Have you ever felt or heard this or something like it from someone? Perhaps you've even said something like this. There's no judgment here if you have. I lived by this ideology for my young-adult life. It feels terrible. Empty. Hollow. Closing our selves off--to our feelings and the power they have to help us grow--and to each other, is painful. How can we begin to ease the pain? Communicate: to friends for support, to a therapist for tools, to loved ones for the container of love they hold to be completely, utterly you within. 

Communication is an act of union. 

Communication is an act of union. It literally and figuratively brings us together. Separation (isolation, keeping others at a distance because their feelings make us uncomfortable) is an act of violence. It's painful. Interestingly, we can learn to live with this pain for a long, long time. It becomes the norm in our lives until we're woken up to experiencing a new way of feeling and living. 

Once we've begun to open up more, we can begin to communicate with our own hearts. For some reason, that is the scariest place to go when mired in the story of our ego. Going inside feels like certain death, because (according to ego's story) everything we need to be aware of, ahead of, on top of is outside of us, coming at us as potential dangers. Why would I go in when it's already so dark and painful in there? 

When our ego feels angry, it is masking fear. Fear masks hurt and hurt is a very scary thing for an ego to confront because it means being vulnerable. Vulnerability, unless modeled to us in our first families or as children, generally conjures up beliefs of personal weakness. None of us have been completely immune to those experiences, especially as children--a vulnerable time for us all--when we first felt what deep betrayal was from a friend or loved one. 

So how do we get to this place of living in this unwavering solidarity and knowing--or living through love--in our Selves and with life? 

Choosing, again and again, love. Understanding that other's reactions are not a reflection of you, but of themselves. Once we begin to choose love, oftentimes the scariest part is that those around us begin to rebel. They're uncomfortable because what you're doing is upsetting the status quo. This is interesting and something to be aware of, just so you can understand what's happening.

The more you choose love, the easier it becomes. The more you choose to look strangers in the eye and smile, to accept the compliment, to receive a hug, to confront that judgment as it repeatedly arises, the easier it is to do. At first, it can feel excruciatingly hard--that's the ego trying to defend itself. But isn't it harder to harbor anger, resentment and judgment for a lifetime?  

Disempowering The Inner Critic

your_own_worst_enimy_cannot_harm_you_as_muchas_ungarded_thoughts The inner critic is an interesting---and at times can be a debilitating---phenomenon. There are so many wiley, twisty, turny ways it shows up in our lives that sometimes it’s hard to recognize it for what it is---criticism instead of realistic thinking.

For clarity---because I’m still getting clear about all this myself---I’m going to forgo a lengthy story and simply ask some questions.

What is the inner critic?

Our IC is that nagging, harsh, oftentimes mean voice in our heads that literally and figuratively “puts us in our place.”

For me, it shows up saying this like: you can’t do that because of X; you aren’t good at business/managing money/etc.; get real; people don’t even really like you, and on and on. It’s vicious!

My IC can also be: very black and white (it can only happen this way, or no way), the voice of reason (let’s hold off on this until you get more training/certification/understanding. You don’t want others to think you’re strange or anything) a tape recording (something that just plays automatically in the background consisting of negative, harsh thoughts which seem to just turn on instead of me consciously authoring them) a broken record (the same old, same old lines...over and over and over…) irrational but persistent (yep, I KNOW these thoughts are irrational but they can still paralyze me in my tracks) takes inspiration from people in my life (my inner critic sounds a lot like my mother, but it can also take the form of my husband and an old ballet teacher I had as a girl)

But, isn’t that voice just realistic thinking?

No. Let me explain. When we want to do something bold, brave and quickly----something definitely out of our comfort zone----does someone who’s telling you how terrible you are, motivate you to take those positive actions with enjoyment and greater ease? Would that same critical voice be a motivation to pursue your callings? Nope.

Here’s a quote from the lovely Tara Mohr, whose class I’m in right now called Playing Big. This quote is from her same titled book:

“The realistic thinker in us is forward-moving. She seeks solutions. The critic will spin and spin, ruminating on the risks and worst-case scenarios. The critic often speaks in an anxious, emotionally charged tone. The realistic thinker is grounded, clear-eyed, calm. Many of us hold the belief that “realistic thinking” is skeptical if not pessimistic, but in fact realistic thinking is inquisitive, exploratory, and highly creative.”

What is the point of the inner critic?

Believe it or not, the inner critic’s main goal is to keep us safe. Sure, it’s twisted, but it is an old evolutionary tool that saved us from all of us being eaten by tigers at once. Rawr.

The fact that it’s still around, and we believe that it’s a part of WHO WE ARE, just goes to show the intense power of some of these early safety mechanisms our human brains evolved and used to survive.

The thing is, our IC is not who we are. It’s just an aspect. An aspect that doesn’t need to drive our lives. This is amazing news!

Our inner critic will show up especially when we are stretching in new ways. It tends to get even more vicious when we’re on the brink of a breakthrough---about to chart new territory or fulfill a dream.

If your inner critic were a character, who would they be?

Since my inner critic vacillates between various voices, but most often comes up as my mother, it was extremely helpful to create a character to personify my IC.

Let me just emphasize the PROFOUNDness of realizing that my IC was not, in fact, a defective part of myself, my mother or anyone else I loved. It was just the critical voice in my head trying to save my behind from....who knows what at the time. Danger! Trying new things is not allowed! Etc, etc, etc.

By creating a character, it has helped me realize that this is simply a voice within, not the whole of me. Or the real me. That was powerful to learn.

My Inner Critic's Story

My inner critic’s name is Ms. Marge. She’s an older woman who has much life experience under her belt. She looks like she might be someone who would give good advice---the grandmotherly sort. She’s not overdone, doesn’t dress particularly well---mainly in bad, earth toned neutrals---and is soft around the middle. She has smile lines but also deep creases in her forehead from worry and strain. She’s had a difficult life and doesn’t believe that anyone can actually do what they want, have what they want or be what they want. She believes that everything just happens to us and we are ultimately not in control. Instead of learning from her life experience, she has become a victim. On and on she will tell you what NOT to do, where NOT to go and there’s always an ever present “I told you so” waiting to roll of her lips.

Ms. Marge likes to pretend that she knows what she’s talking about, too. She’ll make things up right on the spot---it’s hilarious if you actually listen to her! She prides herself on “knowing” a lot of things and being able to talk about a lot of things, but never in real depth. It’s more just a way to get her voice heard over the crowd, to feel important. She thinks feeling important is the only way you can fit in or really be a part of anything---being important to her means acceptance. It seems like that would be a lot of work!

Ms. Marge is only trying to help me not experience the pain and frustration she has felt throughout her life. It’s noble of her, but misplaced.

Ms. Marge will be a part of my life for the rest of my life, so I am working on finding compassion for her story and situation----and taking her advice with a grain of salt.

“It’s okay, Ms. Marge. Everything’s going to be okay. I’ve got this.”

My inner critic, or Ms. Marge, gets especially loud when I’m about to have a major breakthrough. It’s confusing and frustrating, but also quite liberating.

Just doing this work---exploring her and personifying her---has made me completely freak out. It’s been hard, but as far as I can see, worth it. I’m starting to see the illusions that have been created by her and how I’ve believed them most of my adult life.

It’s only now I’m beginning to muster the courage to live beyond her stifling rules and misconceptions. It’s hard because not only have I believed them for so long---thinking that this was just how I was, but it’s also comfortable because it’s all I’ve known.

Next steps are pushing through the discomfort and getting to the heart of things. Then, finding compassion for myself in this struggle as well as for Ms. Marge. We’re both reluctant to change, but only one of us is capable and willing.

Onward!

Facing Your Fears And Discovering Joy. And Why It's Just As Scary.

fear_of_the_dark_that_casts_our_joy_to_the_shadows I’ve been thinking a lot about joy recently. I’ve also been feeling it. Knowing it. Experiencing it regularly.

These little bursts of joy aren’t necessarily from big, momentous occasions or occurrences. They are generally just here and there throughout the day.

Joy-bursts for me are: moments with my son, with Andrew, with a friend. A noteworthy passage in a book. A cuddle from my dog. Writing. A bite of dark chocolate. Holding a pose in yoga. Simple and very regular things.

Interestingly, it’s at night, before I go to bed, that I feel the most difference now that joy is showing back up regularly. It’s a subtle glow, as if those little joy-bursts throughout the day are helping keep my inner light stoked and alight all day long.

And into the next day.

It’s…wonderful.

But what I’ve come to realize is this: real joy is just as intense and vulnerable as fear.

Expressing our joys and successes is a vulnerable and courageous act.

Because, sharing our joy with others is an act of opening up. It’s again, showing up and being real. Criticism, apathy, or just blank stares could result just as easily as shared joy, happiness, celebration, and understanding.

Recently, I’ve been trying this out. When asked, I’ll share about how good things have been going. That I’m in a really good place. And all the toughness that I’ve worked through has ultimately become a springboard.

And it’s been such a relief to feel genuinely, overall good! This doesn’t mean that I don’t have frustrating moments or bad days---because I do. But I feel more elastic---resilient---with an easier bounce back than before. Hope!

This is a direct result of practicing a few things regularly:

kindness with myself (which then more easily extends to others from a heartfelt instead of dutiful place)

mindfulness (which I can only do if I’m in a headspace of kindness otherwise I get really really annoyed at just being aware that I’m feeling like shit in that moment) and

interconnectedness (girl, you are not alone in feeling this way)

Self compassion.

And it’s been a ridiculously wonderful perk to have these joy-bursts throughout the day!

Yet, there are times when I do share how I’ve been feeling, what I’ve been doing that’s working or the genuinely good aspects of my life---and in return I’ve received defensiveness, shutting down, snark, or passive aggressive criticism.

And it’s these precise instances that scare the hell out of me.

Because it’s in these instances where I can so easily crawl right back into old habits. Worrying about if I said something that hurt someone or was too uncomfortable for someone.

Or, just going down the rabbit hole of trash talking myself until the initial joy I felt has been squelched.

Good bye, joy.

The internal trash talking is precisely what keeps us from having real, honest connection.

For me, it’s been my first-line-of-defense mechanism for making sure outside criticism doesn’t happen, since I can remember.

And yet, whether or not I trash talk myself, the external criticism can and does occur. Me putting myself down or hiding myself does not stop external criticism one hundred percent. How could it? We don’t control what’s outside of us. So it’s a double whammy when the criticism does pour forth.

This is why being kind to ourselves gets us so much further. You are your first ally and friend. How empowering!

You can always count on kindness from yourself. And when you feel that support from yourself, moving forward in a positive direction is much, much easier.

In the past, if I felt like someone was shutting down because of my happiness, I would have played down how happy I was, skirted the edges of it or simply not shared those parts of myself. All for the sake of making sure everyone around me was comfortable.

In the present, however, I’m feeling the fear and sharing anyway. This doesn’t mean I don’t get hurt or bruised. Because I do. Often.

But the immediate self defeating talk, the worrying about what other’s will think (as an initial motivator) has stopped.

On the flip side, truly sharing in another’s joy takes courage, too. When we feel the twinge of jealousy or irritation at someone else’s joy or success, that is our inner selves asking us to take notice and do some work around those very things in our own hearts.

This has also become a practice for me---allowing someone else’s success to open my heart to possibility. As opposed to shutting it down out of jealousy or fear---because I want those same things.

Surprisingly, this has been easier than I thought. Past lessons and old learned family habits taught me that scarcity was king and there wasn’t enough. So when someone else got something great, it meant that that thing was no longer available to anyone else.

Except, I now know this is backwards.

When we share in each other’s joy, more joy is created. More love is shared. More kindness is activated. Community is strengthened. Abundance.

It’s just up to us to notice. And participate.

Sure, it’s scary to not know what kind of reaction you’ll get when you put yourself out there.

If an unsavory reaction does happen, all it does is help us redirect our energy towards people who do share these concepts. Hello, community! People who share in the value of living life from the heart and believe in the power of kindness and community. Love.

So, who are we to hold back our joy?

Your joy is needed. For you. For us.

You are needed.

Self Esteem and Self Compassion: The Difference Between A Fickle Friend And Everlasting Love

brave_vulnerability_compassionate_truth_pure_loveSelf esteem is self compassion’s fickle (very fickle) friend. It’s kind of like those get-rich-quick scams that seem super shiny. But, we all know what’s at the end of that road. Nothing.

Self esteem for the sake of boosting ourselves up does the same thing. It gives us a false foundation, crashing the minute someone says something we don’t like. Or is even just slightly critical.

Contingent self-worth--- when self esteem depends on success or failure, approval or disapproval---runs rampant in our culture.

We as a society are more and more depending on everyone else to tell us we are okay, good enough, smart enough, doing-it-right enough.

And that’s dangerous. Really dangerous.

As a recovering “pleaser,” I know about this all too well. It’s a tough act to play.

The more we place an overall sense of self worth on success in specific areas in life, the more miserable we feel when we fail in those areas.

The flip side though, is the better we do, the more addicted we become to the self-esteem “high” we feel when we are praised or approved.

This is dangerous too. We want more praise and more compliments.

Yet, as with drugs or alcohol, we literally build up a tolerance so it takes more...and more... of the positive thing we’re after, before we feel that “high” again.

This contingent self-worth can make us do funny things.

Like pursue a career or relationship because we get lots of outside praise and compliments. Initially, it gives a great self-esteem high---then something happens. The “happiness” vanishes, leaving a bottomed out feeling instead.

Huh?

This is why we might give up on something---because we weren’t pursuing it from an honest, inner place---but rather from an externally approved place.

That’s a lot of power to give away, ya know?

We, as humans, show good qualities and sometimes we show bad qualities. Sometimes we are helpful. Other times we are harmful.

But we are not DEFINED by these behaviors.

We change---all of us. It’s part of the human experience. Our emotions are fleeting (in case you haven’t already noticed). Time, circumstance, mood, setting: it all affects us, making us feel very different at different times.

But we so easily forget. The emotion can become all consuming, making us feel as if this. is it.

Self-esteem for the sake of self-esteem---our very fickle friend---is actually no friend at all. So why do we keep pursuing it?

Because we want to be happy.

A very noble and worthy cause! Yet, there’s a better way.

Rather than defining our self worth using judgment and endless criticism---what if we were to define our self worth from our hearts?

I mean, the judgment and criticism just aren’t working. The foundation built on those fickle and harsh ideals cut us instead of contain us.

Isn’t that the definition of insanity---to keep doing the same thing over and over even if it’s not working?

We humans are funny creatures.

Self compassion isn’t a thought, label or judgment. It is a way of RELATING to the entire breadth of who we are---savory, unsavory, all of it. Yep, even that thing you never want anyone to ever know about because it’s so so shameful. Even that.

Self compassion allows us to feel reverence for the fact that all humans have strengths AND weaknesses. All of us. Even you and I.

It also gives us the ability to be mindful that our thoughts, like our emotions are fleeting. Even after the thought is over, the feeling gone, we are still who we are. Amazing!

Our mind will always try to convince us that IT is the only source of truth.

Fickle, fleeting thoughts.

But our truth lies in our hearts. Try it. Feel deep down inside, it’s there. You might not have an “exact” answer but you’ll probably feel a stirring.

Get inside your hut.

Inside your hut is where you can truly perceive interconnectedness. That we’re all just humans experiencing and breathing. You and me. All of us.

“Unlike self esteem, the good feelings of self compassion do not depend on being special and above average, or on meeting ideal goals. Instead, they come from caring about ourselves---fragile and imperfect yet magnificent as we are. Rather than pitting ourselves against other people in an endless comparison game, we embrace what we share with others and feel more connected and whole in the process.” ---Kristen Neff, Self Compassion

Healthy self esteem is often a result of practicing self compassion.

But working on self esteem alone will only continue the big ups and downs. The scrambling. The searching. The feelings of low self worth. Ultimately, it leaves us foundationless.

So why not try the alternative. Kindness. Caring about ourselves as fragile and imperfect, yet truly wonderful.

Let’s stop the harsh comparison, pitting ourselves against one another.

Let’s instead embrace what we share, feeling connected. And whole.

Let’s be kind.

To ourselves.

To each other.

We’re all on this very human journey together.

Revel In Kindness, Change Everything

we_must_learn_to_treat_ourselves_as_well_as_we_treat_others Your best friend comes to you in grief after she went through a tough break up.

You see a scared child in the mall who is lost and help them find their parent.

You help the older gentleman at the grocery store pick up the bag of dried beans he accidentally dropped and scattered across the floor.

You do these things without thinking, without question. You not only listen, but you are present with them, as it is: feeling the pain, the fear, and finding the humor in the beans.

So, why is this so hard to do for ourselves?

(And if it’s not hard---bravo! But please let me know what your daily practice looks like! Seriously.)

When it comes to compassion, it seems much easier to do for others than ourselves. But what we’re missing here is that we, too, deserve our own kindness and compassion.

I think the term “self” in self compassion can be off putting for some. It can feel like it’s selfish or narcissistic to be focusing that much kindness inward.

After all, there’s a rut in our cultural thinking that goes something like this: taking care of ourselves means that we’re not doing what’s really important---taking care of others.

The idea of sending myself kindness and compassion in it’s truest sense, used to really turn me off. I used to think of it as just “positive thinking.” And straight positive thinking used to piss me off to hell. Already feeling unheard and unseen by myself and everyone around me (hello, law of attraction), I would start down the “positive” road only to feel even more unheard because I wasn’t saying what really needed to be said. Instead, I was sugar coating it. Yuck.

And not saying what really needed to be said---especially to myself---was a recipe for closing off and closing down.

For most of my adult life, I was pretending that everything was sorted out, fine, on track. Little did I know that this became a defense, like armor, that bruised and harmed others. It also kept me from actually pursuing what I love and enjoy. Because, you know, everything was so perfect.

This armor not only hid my true, vulnerable self the world but it didn’t allow me to see the vulnerability in others. It made me squirm at the fragility of my fellow humans---pull up those boot straps, for gods sakes, and get on with it!

I think that’s why accepting our own fragility---our most vulnerable selves---truly opens the heart. Until we can see ourselves, how can we really see another?

Once I started practicing vulnerability (and opening my heart), I was terrified, first and foremost. But then, something amazing started to happen. Because I understood what it honestly meant to wish myself well, send myself real kindness, and to truly accept my faults---it wasn’t hard to extend these same feeling to others. Even people who I’ve had a difficult time with in the past.

After all, even they want happiness at the end of the day, too, just like me. Compassion.

And happiness takes many different forms---not just the smiling-all-day-long kind of happy. Happiness includes joy, most certainly, but also a sense of purpose, meaning, fulfillment and peace. We could even go so far as to accept with peace our being unhappy---therefore still being happy in the face of our own unhappiness.

This hasn’t happened for me yet. I’ll let you know if and when it does.

We all want peace and happiness. We all want kindness and belonging. We all want safety and love.

Even the people we don’t like. Even they want those things.

And this is where self compassion comes into play. When you turn your kindness inwards and send yourself the same attentive kindness you would show your best friend, a scared child, an elderly person in need, you can feel and then take very tangible steps to alleviate your own pain.

When your own pain is attended to, you are caring for your most fragile self. Being vulnerable with yourself.

Then, you can offer that same kindness and attention (aka: compassion) to everyone---even those people who are difficult.

Want to be a great parent? Send yourself kindness. Often.

Want to be a great partner or friend? Feel each other’s feelings. Be each other’s container. Judgment only happens when hearts are closed. Open your hearts. Be vulnerable.

Want to be great at your job? Listen more. Respond thoughtfully. Practice good boundaries.

These suggestions are all interchangeable.

And they’re all components of self compassion.

Revel in kindness.

First for yourself, then others.

What does kindness look like for you today?

How To Get There: Start Where You Are And Take One Step At A Time

what_you_do_is_who_you_become Living in a city like Washington DC, it can be challenging to not get sucked into it’s overall cultural structure. Like a giant fishing net of anxiety blanketed over the entire beltway, people live here mainly to work. The majority are here because of career---as a stepping stone in politics, lifers in the Federal Government, or working with one of the many many private companies or nonprofits, all of which directly profit from the government in some way.

The energy here is heavy. Fast, but heavy. Like a very wet blanket that won’t shake off easily.

So naturally, it can be challenging to see (and feel) beyond what life feels like without a wet blanket weighing things down.

Imagine! What freedom!

Yet, it’s possible. There are enclaves and pockets of wonderful people doing wonderful things sprinkled throughout the city.

They just don’t make headline news. That’s saved for the politicos.

As a mother who is taking care of her son full time, that constant high strung energy can be stressful. It’s a practice in and of itself to keep focusing my attention back to the present moment, what’s important right now. Otherwise, it would be easy to get swept up in the frenzy.

Recently, I’ve had more conversations about career and work than usual. Which is a lot because it comes up fairly frequently. These conversations have been with friends from every area of my life, completely separate from each other. And it’s usually broached with the same question, in varying degrees:

“What are you going to do about work?”

I have the same thoughts. Constantly. Who am I? What am I supposed to be doing?

We tend to express our inner anxieties as external questions to those around us. When we ask: what are YOU going to do about X, it really implies that we are thinking about the same X in our own life’s context.

With that in mind, and my own questions about this topic, my girlfriends inquiries have given me pause.

It’s a really vulnerable place to be---unsure, exploring, understanding. Doing incredible amounts of inner work. With nothing tangible (physical) to show for on the outside.

Except, for me at least, through this work I am discovering more happiness. Greater ease. Fulfillment. Joy, even. (!!)

Striving for more on the outside isn't always the answer.

What if we were to let go a bit?

Yeah, that idea scares me, too.

What if we were to let our explorations take us where they may? Our interests open new doors of insight or delight? Our questions lead to more questions...and then to more questions?

Maybe we’d find what we’d love---and that we love ourselves in the whole messy process. Self compassion. Digging deep. Going in.

Letting go doesn’t imply giving up. It doesn’t mean we stop exploring.

It means taking one step at a time.

Letting go of the whole, huge outcome while still moving forward.

The other night I started researching self-compassion courses and trainings. How can I GET this even more? Really understand it? You know, how can I use this as my tool of service to help others?

The more I searched, the more my hut started feeling like a big cold lump in my gut. Hey, it said, slow down. One step at a time. Relax. You have a job right now (Little Mister) and it’s not going to last forever. Enjoy! And, trust. You’ll get where you’re meant to be going. One step at a time.

So, what can we do about that new career (relationship, life issue, insert-major-life-category-here)?

Start where you are.

Then, trust.

Trust yourself.

Striving for more on the outside is not the answer.

Go within.

Trust what you find there.

And take one. step. at. a. time.

Onward.

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My dear 12 friends who read this: this is my last post on The Pinecone Baker! But don’t worry, I’m migrating everything over to triciamartinowen.com and the next post will be coming from there. It’s still in infancy stages---very simple, no about page or logo (gasp!) yet---but, I figured I need to walk my talk about the perfectionism thing. It’s not perfect and I’ll be working on it little by little. Speaking of walking the talk, I also felt like I needed to do this concerning vulnerability, too---which is why I’m switching to writing under my name, instead of using a really cute domain. Changes! Eeek!

So much love to you and gratitude for you. Each of you. Many, many, many thanks for being witness to my journey back to center.