Compassion Practice: Give Yourself Permission to Feel How You Feel

In times like these, it takes A LOT of strength to give oneself permission to feel safe and okay, especially when almost all of the information that you are taking in about the world around you can strongly contradict that very real need.

It takes A LOT of resilience to watch yourself and your loved ones, your community, have its routines and norms stripped away, without being given a lot of guidance to know what exactly to do to respond, or in which direction to turn that will support your health and well-being.

Sometimes having the resources to meet with the current moment might seem like an impossible task, especially when so many have lost so much in such a short period of time. Let me just say that I am RIGHT THERE WITH YOU.

I wrote this short letter because I know from my mindfulness practice how much the judgmental mind can arise, especially when it seems like nothing is going “right”. Stop for a moment. Are you experiencing judgmental thoughts about how you are handling this COVID experience, right now?

For mindful tips on how to give yourself permission to skillfully navigate whatever feelings might be arising in your body right now – which might open up the possibility of moving towards feeling safe and okay, even if just for a moment – please keep reading on!

Sometimes, it is helpful to have permission to do whatever it is that helps you feel like you are expressing yourself authentically and making your needs known. You might feel strong one minute and weak the next. You might be full of ideas and then be at a loss for words two seconds later. However your process is manifesting right now, there is no wrong or right to this – only doing your very best to accept and acknowledge whatever your process looks like with as much compassion as humanly possible.

Here are a few mindful tips on practicing compassionate acceptance:

1.) Try to notice when you are judging your own process and comparing it to the ways in which other people are handling this experience. Noticing how judgmental thoughts arise in relation to other peoples processes can be called “comparing mind” in the mindfulness tradition. Comparing mind looks like those thoughts that might arise around how much more or less another person has, in terms of resources or capacity to get through this current challenge. When comparing mind arises, you can simply take a deep breath and say to yourself “comparing…comparing…” so gradually you build awareness of when this is arising for you. That is a first very simple step towards acceptance.

Remember, it is okay that your mind is judging and comparing – that is a part of what is has been built to do to keep you safe! Just noticing when it is happening is a positive start.

2.) So you have begun to gently notice your own comparing mind in action. Now what? One great antidote to comparing mind is a self-compassion practice. Where ever you are, try closing the eyes or lowering the eyelids so you are taking in your surroundings with what is called a “soft gaze”. Try to take 3 deep, slow breaths, and bring your attention to your breath in whatever way feels comfortable.

For some people that will mean focusing on the nostrils. For others, the chest or belly rising and falling. Now bring into your imagination a person, place, animal, or object that you associate with love and calm. Imagine they are right next to you. This is a your safe space!! Notice how the way you are carrying your body might become different when you are in your safe place.

If it feels compassionate, you can try saying to yourself “This is my safe space…This is my safe place…” as many times as you need until you move from saying it – to feeling it! You will know you are feeling it because you will notice slight changes in how relaxed you can hold your body in the moment.

3.) Now that you are either in, or somewhere near your safe space internally…bring person, place, animal, or object you associate with love and calm even closer to you. Try to notice whether the “comparing mind” is still active. Taking three more deep, slow breaths, and try to notice in your imagination a little more about the colors, sounds, textures, or even smells that you associate with your safe space. Now try bringing in the compassion phrases we just learned, and bring a little more attention to your body if that feels okay. If it feel overwhelming to bring more attention to the body, then just rest in the mental part of the practices.

Where ever you are sitting or standing, do you notice any differences in your the way you are carrying your body – in your bones or muscles – while you are exploring the ‘contours’ of your safe space? Perhaps you might notice that your shoulders start to shift, or the muscles of your face soften. Any amount of relaxation or felt spaciousness you can bring to the body right now is good for your health and well-being.

Once you have finished with this compassion practice, it might be helpful to turn to your journal (or to start one if you haven’t already!) and write down what you noticed. See if you can make the time to practice this for even 1-2 minuets a day, whenever you start to feel overwhelmed by judgmental thoughts.

By writing about your experience with how your thoughts shift when you do this practice, you might be able to start to tell the story of your journey back towards feelings of safety and peace…which will be helpful for you to be able to return to as something of a roadmap of your experience during these challenging times that you can use to remind yourself of how important it is to remain connected to your internal safe place/place, no matter what is happening around you.

Mindful Tips For Coping With Impatience During COVID-19

In my personal mindfulness practice, I often find the sensation of impatience arising in my mind and body. This was certainly truly before COVID-19, and it is perhaps more true now than ever. What with so much of our “to-do’s” being forcibly taken away – having to work from home if we are fortunate (and with kids that we have to figure out how to home school now, no less) – and the general pace of life slowing down as we all do our very best to practice social distancing (PLEASE!!!), I am certain that for many of us, feelings of “when will this all be over?!” might be coming on really strong right now!

These feelings might be intensely unpleasant. You might feel tightness or tension developing in different places in your body just thinking of how long this whole situation might last for. Indeed – I think that part of what brings up anxiety combined with incredible impatience is the total unknown regarding the global impact of what we are all now facing.

You might also be under a great deal of stress right now as you navigate all of the immense changes that have been asked of us as a society – and the loss of so much of what made life convenient, comfortable, or just plain workable to some degree.

I feel you 100 percent!! There is absolutely nothing easy about what we are going through. This is going to require a lot of strength, ingenuity, resilience, and compassion to make it through to the other side.

Whereas this may or may not be reassuring to you – feelings of impatience can be a phenomenal opportunity to practice mindfulness in a way that truly supports resilience and adaptability.

Let me start out with a few quick tips for coping with impatience in this here and now…

1.) When impatient thoughts arise in the mind, ask yourself, “what are the accompanying feelings/sensations in my body?” Trying stopping where you are and taking a few deep breaths. Using the mind to scan the body (as in, imagine that you are literally traveling though every part of your body one section at a time), try to compassionately notice places of tension and tightness.

See if you can, while breathing slowly, allow these places to relax a little bit. As you relax the body, does the intensity of your thoughts or feelings of impatience shift or change?

2.) What is the underlying tone of your thoughts when you are feeling impatient? Is worry, anger, confusion, sadness, or pain also in the background? Whatever you are experiencing, please know that this is a perfectly intelligent response to the times we are living in. You are NOT weak, you are beautifully human.

Whatever your answer, ask yourself, “what is in my control in this moment?” Do you every best in the moment to identify what is totally out of your control…and then once you have identified what IS in your control, acknowledge whatever emotions are coming up. Then ask yourself, “In what way can I respond to my situation, or can I ask for support in responding to what is causing me to feel impatient, that would feel empowering or compassionate right now?”

3.) Remember – impatience itself is not a problem. It is not a weakness. It is not a sign that you are losing it. It is a perfectly normal, intelligent response to the way as humans, we sometimes feel out of control, disoriented, or even just plain bored.

Try watching the feeling of being impatient with an attitude of curiosity, almost like you are watching your thoughts intently like a TV show…and do your best to watch what happens. Remember, you are NOT your thoughts – your thoughts and even your emotions are just like clouds – weather passing by in the sky. If you can practice being the observer of your impatience thoughts, and whatever emotions might accompany them, you may be surprised at the kind of creativity that can arise in these moments!!!

Before my mindfulness practice, the feeling of impatience would arise and it would feel unbearable. It was like something deep inside of me was calling for me to just DO SOMETHING already with the moment at hand. I felt like I had to take action immediately to relieve the haunting feeling of boredom or just plain painful antsiness that was welling up inside of my chest, causing my legs to shake and my temples to throb.

These feelings can really become exacerbated during times when what is happening around us makes us go into a “scarcity mindset.” The scarcity mindset tells us that there is not going to be enough resources around to help sustain us in living our lives. And that is most certainly endemic to the narrative that is being produced in the media right now…we hear all day every day about what goods and services are running out – who is hoarding what – and who is needlessly suffering because of a lack of what is needed like food and protective gear, and all of that information can make us start to feel helpless…and particularly impatient for this to just be over with!

I am here to tell you right now that being impatient is perfectly understandable. I think we all want this to be over far sooner than later. However, we also have to be able to build the capacity to cope with exactly “what is” right now without running away from it in denial.

This is no easy feat, especially when so much of what we care about seems to be at stake. Building the resilience needed to cope with “what is” can give us the clarity and insight we need to move forward responsibly and with the diligence needed to assess where the greatest needs are, and what resources we might not have previously considered that we have that can help us heal and move forward bit by bit.

For instance, if you are a person who has not been affected by COVID-19 financially, perhaps you have a little more bandwith than others right now to see where you might be able to allocate resources in time, money, or talent to help ease some suffering. If you are a person who has a hobby or a skill that can help out in some way – like sewing clothing, cooking, building things, or maybe you work in the wellness industry and you know a lot about different healing modalities – we can get clever about considering how to teach others our skills online, in ways that might help to alleviate suffering and keep each other feeling connected and/or useful during this time.

Getting creative about how to offer your talents to the world virtually is an amazing way to promote community connections and to counter feelings of impatience when they arise. In other words, its all about making yourself as useful as possible to society right now!!

If you are a person who doesn’t have a lot of time on your hands to consider how you might be able to teach certain skills to others because you are in survival mode, then you are in a different boat altogether. In this case, during your moments of impatience, consider again the tip I wrote about above – taking the time to consider what emotions are arising in your body in the background of your impatience, and what needs those emotions are pointing to. It may even be helpful to write a list or journal about it, so you can get your thoughts in order.

Once you have what is making you feel the most impatient down on paper, I invite you to actively consider ways that you can reach out to community and make those needs known. For those of us with the gift of time and talent or other resources on our hands, we might be uniquely positioned to lend a helping hand right now. Sometimes, being proactive is truly the best counter to feelings of impatience, because you know you are taking an empowered step towards creating solutions that will help you thrive in the long run.

No matter what you decide to do, before you “do” anything, remember to check in with your body and your breath when you are feeling impatient. Remember to ask yourself compassionately – where are the places where I am holding my tension? Is your belly feeling extra tight? Are your shoulders hunched over, or tightened towards your neck? Are the muscles of your face squeezing or holding stress patterns?

However your impatience might present itself to you, your body is ultimately telling you a powerful story about what you need to feel whole. Please gently remind yourself to do your best to slow down in the moment…take a few deep breaths, and invite those places of the body to relax as much as they are able. It is truly in the spaciousness of our connection to own breath that we have the power to create inside of ourselves the healing that our entire society is waiting for!

And then, once you know what you need, or have to offer, reach out to the world and tell us what you’ve got to share – as a potent act of love and empowerment that is a gift to the world!!

Thank You For Being Here!! Thoughts on Gratitude During COVID-19

“THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE!!!”

These are the words that I keep hearing spoken around me, again and again, when ever I leave my house to grab some groceries or other necessary items. I keep on catching people looking at grocers, Lyft drivers, delivery people, Fedex and USPS drivers, pharmacists, you name it – in the eye – and saying with so much genuine gratitude: “Thank you for being here!!”

Can you imagine what kind of society we would live in if we treated the many hundreds, or even thousands of people who help our lives to function smoothly with this amount of kindness and compassion?

Now…I have some thoughts on why I am seeing this phenomenon at work. I think that there is this growing recognition in our society that every single person you see who has shown up to work to help us get the essentials we all need to survive – did so at their own peril. They showed up to work as a powerful act of love – love for the families and communities they support, all the while risking their health and well-being.

So when I hear random folks expressing extra gratitude, it causes my heart to swell immensely with joy at this powerful recognition of our interconnectedness. Interconnectedness is another word for interdependence – a word that is often brought up in mindfulness circles because it defines the manner in which every single sentient being is so deeply and inextricably connected to each other on this precious planet of ours.

We can see now more than ever how what happens seemingly across the planet, thousands of miles away, has an immediate impact on our community life, and our ability to experience well-being. This moment in time is such a powerful teachable moment, if we can lean into our capacity to learn from everything that is arising in the chaos.

I will admit, it took me a few weeks to even begin to wrap my mind around the massive collective chaos we have been experiencing as a global community. I went through so many different emotions all at once…fear, rage, sorrow, anger, depression, confusion, numbness, and intense grief!!!

I truly did not know what to post there for a minute. So yesterday, I took a shot at showing up on IG – rather imperfectly – and posted a video I took of the beautiful trees blossoming here in Portland, and a silly conversation had between me and my daughter…because these are the little things that are keeping my head held high right now.

I am noticing more than ever the power of the beauty of nature to capture my imagination. I am feeling deeply into the ways in which we can support one another and our capacity to live long and healthy lives, by practicing each and every day behaviors that support the collective community – especially those of us who are the most vulnerable because of the inequalities that have been baked so deeply into our society for hundreds of years.

Really and truly, I wonder what my life would be like, and how I would treat my fellow Earth-beings if every time I saw someone, or an animal, or plant, I thought to myself “Thank you for being here!!” and meant it with my whole heart. This is my North Star right now. Because I am utterly thankful to exist right now. I am overwhelmed with how amazing it is to have a body that functions, that can take to the places I need to get to with limbs that can walk and run and dance freely. With each breath I take, I am asking myself what I might have been taking for granted before this COVID-19 experience took hold of the planet. There is a lot!

I have taken for granted, on many different levels, the many many individuals upon whom I am totally dependent for my survival, for one thing. And that really is the underlying message of the “Science of Social Justice” that I hope to continue to explore as it keeps taking shape alongside of the intense changes this world is going through…that social justice and well-being are one and the same thing!! They are truly two sides of the same coin. We cannot have well-being for some, and not for others. That the health of our bodies and communities and nations are one and the same thing. I get the feeling that perhaps now more than ever, this message is truly pertinent to the times we are living in.

Phenomenal art my “Mystic Mama” (my favorite astrolger ever!!!): www.mysticmama.com