goat king
heart mind writing

The Goat King

Years ago I moved to a new place just days before the area was hit with ferocious bush fires. Shortly after  shifting everything I owned into my new home, I had to quickly pack all my possessions up again, and stack them by the door ready for evacuation.

This new home was a broken-down, rambling 130 year old house that I shared with two other renters. It sat on 5 acres at the top of a ridge, in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, Australia. There was no fence and the bush started at our back door and rolled all the way down the valley, which was part of over 600,000 acres of National Park.

Watching The Fire

We spent one anxious night sitting on the back verandah watching the glowing fires out to the west. The winds were forecast to be 80 km/hour and headed straight for us. We scanned the orange glow across the horizon, tracking the movement, waiting for the moment we would have to leave.

The moment never came. The forecast winds only hit 4 km an hour instead of the predicted 80. The next day the local bush-fire brigade came out and did some back-burning in the valley behind our house. It seemed we were safe for the moment.

The day after the back-burning I went for a walk to check things out. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a full-blown raging bushfire run through, because the effect of a tightly controlled back-burn was pretty decimating.

The previous day,  the undergrowth had been thick, disorienting, and difficult to navigate. My first few attempts to get down into the valley to join the track leading to the creeks and waterfalls were
futile. I ended up turning back, fearful I would lose track of where my new house was.

But after the back-burning there was just an expanse of charred soil, warm underfoot, smoke slowly rising from it. Dead remnants of trees still stood here and there. A few had fallen and needed climbing over. The walk to where the valley dropped down now took five minutes, about a quarter what it had when battling through the undergrowth.

An Odd Visitor

So I was standing there, looking over the seared landscape, when a white shape shifted behind a clump of blackened trunks. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, and walked quietly closer
to get a look. And there I saw it.

A white goat had come up from the valley and was walking through looking for green vegetation to eat.

I stood quietly and watched it nose around for awhile. The goat was so white. I wondered if it had bolted from a nearby home, frightened by the fire. It was such a strange sight, so clean and seemingly domesticated, calmly foraging through the charred ground.

After watching the goat for a while, I went back to the house and drew a few quick sketches in a notebook. The image was locked into my memory, and still is years later. I thought it might be good to use in a piece of art somewhere down the line. After I made a note of it I didn’t think about it much for a while.

A few months later, the bush had begun the task of regenerating. Even with the undergrowth returning, the bush was still nicely thinned out and it was an easy walk down to the public tracks.

I’d gotten to the point where I could scramble all over the valleys behind the house and had gotten to know the area very well. At least one day of the weekend was reserved for walking in the valleys, I usually followed the creeks that spread out through the surrounding area, climbing up waterfalls as they gradually got smaller and smaller and almost disappeared, or slowed to a trickle at their source.

The area is famous for the golden sandstone cliffs and ridges, and I would often spot caves high up above the creeks and would make a detour to climb up and check them out.

The Goat King

One series of cliffs had these gigantic golden caves that were eroded into the shape of golden waves about to break over the valley. I tried a few times but could never find a path up to the ledges near the top of the cliffs. Whenever I walked by the creek below them I’d look up above the tree-line and check them out.

One day I looked up as I was walking by and saw another white whiff of movement. I stopped and looked more closely. It was the goat, sitting on his belly, paws close to the lip of the ledge, surveying the valley. There was something about the way he sat that struck me, he was so at home, he seemed like a king looking over his kingdom. I’m sure he must have seen me but he must have felt that I was no threat as he didn’t move or acknowledge me in any way, he certainly shoed no sense of skittishness or fear.

That goat, who in some ways seemed so out of place in that wild environment but had clearly made a life for himself out there, continues to walk the the landscape of my imagination. He represents a model for how I want to be in my own life. He represents the qualities of sovereignty  and resilience that I want to bring to my life. The way he sat there on the cliff was so regal, there was such a strong sense of belonging and ease in the way that goat held himself.

And he brought that same calm presence to the blackened landscape as he did to the recovering landscape. He walked among the charred debris with the same confidence he displayed sitting high up on his throne, present and watchful as the land around him bloomed.

He reminds me that all we need to do when things chaotic is to forage calmly, sniffing after any remaining green shoots.

And he reminds me that we, too,  can simply sit here and be fully ourselves.  Settled, calm, secure in the knowledge that we belong.

I like to think of the present moment as my throne, and yours too. And believe that how we occupy that throne matters. How do you feel as you sit in that throne? Can you make your home there? When you sit
on your golden throne what perspective does it give you?

writing prompts
heart mind writing

Imagine This …

Imagine This …

You are sitting at your desk

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing when a robin bathes vigorously in the birdbath outside your window reminding you how low the water really is

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing when a robin bathes vigorously in the birdbath outside your window reminding you how low the water really is, so you go to the garden to fill the birdbath back up and maybe water the roses, and the rhododendrons by the back fence, before heading back in and then

You are sitting at your desk …

self-kindness holidays gift christmas
self kindness

Give Yourself The Gift Of Self-Kindness For The Holidays

 

The holidays can take a toll on us if we neglect our own needs. It’s easy to get lost in focusing on other people and events, and trying to check all the boxes. The Holidays are a time for connecting with the people we love, and it’s important to take care of ourselves too. Focusing on self-kindness is one way to help get you through the season without feeling too drained.

And it’s not about being selfish, or cynical: self-kindness helps us to be generous and loving to others through the Holidays, while offering the same love and care to ourselves.

So, with that in mind here are seven gifts of self-kindness you can give yourself these Holidays.

The Gift Of Permission

An especially valuable gift is to allow yourself to let go of expectations. Holidays can be a minefield of shoulds and obligations–from self and others. It’s important to give yourself permission to participate in the Holidays in a way that takes into account your own desires, energy levels, and a strong sense of who you are.

This involves consciously setting some boundaries. A nice way to think about boundaries is that you don’t create boundaries to keep other poeple out, you create boundaries for your own energy, to ensure you have what it takes to connect more meaningfully with the people you care for.

The Gift Of Time

The Holidays often descend into a dizzying blur of activity. It may seem impossible at first, but try taking the time to plan a little and slow down. Then slow down some more.

Think about where you might be able to give yourself some time buffers here and there. Can you cut some time from your shopping trip? The wrapping and preparation? Food preparation? Travel? All of these activities can get away from you if you let them. If you can’t cut time out can you spread little breaks for yourself through the time you’ve already committed to?

The Gift Of Space

I remember years back, being in line at a Barnes and Noble bookstore, pretty late on a Christmas Eve. It was jam packed and I can remember the claustrophobic feeling of standing there, people squeezed in on all sides, and a low-grade sense of anxiety rolling through the store. It was such a physical experience.

The holidays are a time where people come together, and hang out in small spaces. It’s worth noting that the people are often gathered together because they are family or friends with a shared history, and this can mean a lot of intense feelings, sometimes positive and sometimes difficult, can come up. That makes it especially important to make sure you can get some space when you need it.

My favorite way to do this is to go outside if possible. I’ll often go stand on the front porch, or in the back yard if there is one. Take a few minutes outside of the packed house, breathe in some fresh air, feel the open space around you and above you. You might be amazed at the difference one or two minutes can make.

If you can’t make it outside, try to find a quiet spot inside where you can just be alone for a few moments–the bathroom, kitchen, maybe a corner of the room where no one else is sitting.

The Gift Of Presence

Christmas is such a sensual time, and filled with beauty, too. Make sure you taste the food, smell the smells, enjoy coming in from the cold into a warm and cozy space.

Connect with yourself whenever you remember to. When you’re seated at the dinner table feel your feet on the floor, appreciate all the faces around you, take in the decorations, be as present as you can for each conversation.

The Gift Of Connection

Make the most of the moment. Who do you most want to catch up with at the family gathering? Who do you want to really touch base with at that party? Is there someone you don’t know who might be interesting to talk to? Keep an eye out for chances to craft your experience so that it resonates for you and others, allow yourself to give what you want to give and receive.

The Gift Of Rest

The Holidays can often take an emotional toll on your body, Whether it’s people you love being around, or not, emotions can get triggered. Underneath everything there’s a whole lot of emotional processing going on.

Be aware of that and allow yourself some downtime to let all this sink in and settle.

The best way to do this is to build in opportunities for rest. Take care to not overcommit to events, or tasks. If you have a long list of things to do, build in mini-rest breaks so you can pace yourself better through the day.

Put time for yourself on your to-do list! Give yourself a half hour somewhere to just put your feet up and recharge before you move onto the next taks or social event. Planning these mini-breaks ahead can really help. (Hint: Other people don’t have to know about this!)

The Gift Of Meaning

Some childhood memories I associate with Christmas include: midnight mass, pillowslips used as christmas stockings, and the slow tempo of Christmas Day spent quietly with the family.

What are the most meaningful memories of the holidays for you? It’s important to remember these and make the most of them. If your memories of the Holidays are not appealing, then give yourself permission to create your own rituals and ways of celebrating.

With the focus on family, and the sometimes overwhelming commercialization, the Holidays can be stressful. Many people are excluded and forgotten in the crush, and it can be the most difficult time of year for many.

In my early twenties I was in recovery from alcohol/addiction problems and feeling pretty alienated. An older member of my local A.A. group took me to a treatment center that had organized a gathering for A.A. members. There was ongoing meetings,free food, and no alcohol around, making it a safe and welcoming environment.

I remember feeling so grateful for the poeple who organized the event, how it allowed me to relax and connect with people and experience a sense of belonging on what would otherwise have been a very tough day.

Reaching out to people having a hard time is a great way to connect more deeply, and remember the real meaning of the Holidays.

Happy Holidays From Welcome Presence

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season. And hoping that you remember your own needs and celebrate as fully as you wish.

How To Be Mindful When It Feels Impossible
presence practices

How To Be Mindful When It Feels Impossible

You’ve heard about the benefits of being mindful, and you’re in! You want to be present and available to life. You want more clarity and calmness. You’re done with being dragged around by wasted moments, and now it’s time to feel more present, more grounded, more able to really take in and appreciate life.

Let’s do this! you say. But when you get to the doing, something happens to bounce you out.

Because there’s always something waiting to bounce you out, if you’ll let it.

Once we commit to being more present we are presented with a variety of challenges.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is simply the practice of being intentionally present and aware of what you are experiencing in this moment. That includes an awareness of physical sensations, thoughts, feelings, and what is happening around you. And we try to hold all these perceptions without a sense of judgement, just allowing what is present to be here. And if it’s hard to stay present, we try not to judge that either. Self kindness really helps.

Whether you are new to mindfulness or an old hand, there are always difficulties to navigate. Problems that make it difficult to remain present may also provide opportunities to deepen your mindfulness practice as you solve them.

Here are three common problems and some ways to move beyond them.

All The Thoughts

It’s time to be mindful. You might be sitting down to meditate, or standing at the bus stop with a few minutes to spare, maybe you want a moment to get quiet before a meal.

Then all the thoughts come flooding in.

When the mind becomes a Pandora’s box of swirling thoughts, mindfulness can feel impossible.

This is such a common state to find yourself in, and it’s important to remind yourself that this is the most natural thing in the world.

The function of the mind is to think.

This problem will often sort itself out with a bit of patience. With a little time the activity of your mind will often settle all on its own. Sometimes it won’t, but there are things that you can do to make it easier on yourself.

One way you can help this settling down process is to gently guide your awareness away from the head.

Get curious about your the place where your feet meet the ground. What are you experiencing in the soles of your feet? your toes? Do you sense anything there?

Your feet are a great place to focus on as they are the furthest point from your head, but don’t feel restricted to your feet. Your whole body is your ally.

You can try a full body scan, slowly move awareness all through your body. Track the air as it fills your lungs, your belly. Feel those places where the air meets your skin.

Not only does this take the focus away from an over-active mind, it’s like entering a new world, like trying scuba diving for the first time: here everything is new and has it’s own way of being.

Too Busy

Maybe you’ve worked with mindfulness before. Maybe you’ve felt like you were making progress, but life got too busy. It’s hard to maintain a practice when you have so many demands being placed on you. That is a difficult position, and everyone finds themselves here at some point.

That sense of busy-ness, when you are scheduled to the hilt and running from crisis to crisis can feel like standing in front of an impenetrable brick wall. It seems like there’s no way through.

But like any brick wall when you get up close it’s full of cracks. Once you start looking for them you start seeing them everywhere.

Everything contains space. Even the densest, most compacted objects contain space. Your task when feeling overwhelmed like this is to find the space.

Find the gaps between activities. Then find the gaps inside the activities.

Insert small moments of mindfulness in the gaps. Choose one simple cue that reminds you to come back to being present: a mindful sip of water between meetings, taking a moment to feel your feet on the floor between phone calls, move your attention to just below the belly and feel it rise and fall with your breath.

Keep it simple and repeat your cue whenever you remember, you’ll be surprised at how quickly becoming present for small moments at a time becomes a habit for you.

Be Here Now (And In The Future)

Richard Strozzier Heckler says “You are what you practice.”

If mindfulness is your practice, eventually your natural response to even impossible situations will be mindfulness. and even if those impossible situations knock you off course, with practice your natural instinct is to return, again and again.

Practice when things are not not feeling impossible. Enjoy that feeling. Know that you’re creating fresh neural grooves that will enhance your ability to be mindful later on.

Practice when it does feel impossible. Just making the effort is a win. And that’s not just a pretend win either, I’ve sat through so many awful meditation periods where my body felt tied up in knots and my head felt on fire, only to feel a delicious sense of clarity and calmness an hour or two later.

Trust that something is happening for you. Have faith and play the long game.

Practice in short bursts. Find your own style, own it, have fun: make a game of it. Rack up flying hours and soon enough, being more present and mindful will become second nature to you.

Every moment of awareness is a victory. Every moment of awareness helps to create a habit of being more and more aware in the future.

And hey, if you need some help–I offer bite-size, half hour coaching sessions that help you get into a mindful, grounded state as preparation for working on a challenge you face right now. They’re very effective and great fun as well!

 

Forest Bathing: Shinrin-yoku translates as "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing".
in the world

Forest Bathing – Shinrin-Yoku

“If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke

The term Shinrin-yoku sounds ancient and mystical, as if it was handed down from a mountain monastery by a wizened Zen monk before he turned and disappeared back into the mists, never to be seen again.

In fact, Shinrin-yoku translates as “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” and describes a program developed in Japan in the early 80’s by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

It seems funny that such a sensitive and healing practice could spring out of a beaurocratic body with a name like ‘The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’, but forest bathing is inspired by Shinto and Buddhist practices and comes at a time when the need to be reimagining our relationship with forests, with all of nature, is hitting a crisis point.

Mindfulness and Nature

Humans have lived in close communion with forests for all of our existence. We’re wired to be affected by, and respond to, our natural environment. For so many of us living in urban environments, it’s common to feel that pull towards wilderness in whatever form resonates for us, whether that’s hiking in the forest, climbing mountains, or the gazing out at the ocean. We all know that spending time outside in nature can have a rejuvenating effect on us.

What makes forest bathing more than just ‘being outdoors’, however, is that participants are encouraged to engage with and explore this natural environment consciously, using their senses. So there’s the experience of being outdoors combined with the element of mindful engagement.

There are certified Shinrin-yoku guides who are trained in leading groups in the forest bathing experience. Their job is to guide the group safely and assist them in opening themselves up to the forest through a loose sequence of activities.

Some of the activities include mindful breathing, smelling, listening, and other exercises that encourage interaction with the environment through the sensing body.

Here is a description of a beautiful invitation called ‘shared breath’

With the help of the guides participants get to experience themselves in relationship with the surrounding forest, to feel immersed in the experience, to allow the boundaries of the self to soften a little and let the forest in.

In this way there is a sharing of energy, as the forest is allowed to influence you and nourish the forest bathers.

The guides sometimes lead the group in an activity called ‘The Way of Council’– small meetings where the group is given a forum to support each other in reflecting on their shared experience.

Benefits Of Forest Bathing

Some of the benefits of forest bathing include: lower blood pressure, a reduction in stress, more energy and improved sleep. People who have tried the experience often report feeling a closer, and deeper, connection to nature and themselves. And a lot of people have tried it, with over 2.5 million people in Japan walking forest therapy trails in Japan every year. Yes, they have have spent millions setting up dedicated trails throughout Japan.

It makes sense that Japan would be leading the way with forest bathing, and the extensive research they are doing into the effects of the experience. Japan is highly urbanized and city life is chaotic and draining on the people who live there. One area of the research focuses on the effects of “aromatic volatile substances’, the oils exuded by trees that are breathed in as people walk through the forest. These substances are proving to have profound effects on people’s brains and bodies.

And while the chemical properties of forests might be rejuvenating and contribute great health benefits, my instinct is that the opening up of yourself to the forest, that process of allowing the outside world to come in and affect you, is where the deep healing comes in, as people reconnect to the old ways of being in right relationship to the world that holds us.

 

forest bathing shrine-yoku mindfulness

longing and belonging welcome presence
in the world

Longing

Sentience is not an attribute of a body in isolation: it emerges from the ongoing encounter between our flesh and the forest of rhythms in which it finds itself, born of the interplay and tension between the world’s wild hunger and our own.

David Abram

What do you long for? What does your body long for? Are these two different things?

There’s something striking about the shape-shifting nature of desire, and how what we think we desire sometimes turns out to be not so.

A friend described this once as “cravings masquerading as desire”.

The word ‘crave’ has a more grasping quality to it, and seems to hint more at what we think we might want, whereas actual desire seems to come from a deeper place. Another way of saying that might be: craving is what our mind says we want, while desire is what our body says we want

The word ‘crave’ also seems to imply a movement inwards, a curling up in defense against the world. I get the image of a prisoner huddled over their gruel, with one hand spooning the food in and the other curled around the bowl to make sure nobody gets at it.

Desires Stretching Us Out

I’ve also been thinking about another term we use for desire: ‘longing’, and how it has an alternate physical sense to it, that of lengthening, and how our physical response to desire is to reach out to what we long for, almost like a stretch, lengthening our selves in order to get what we want.

The idea of our desires stretching us out–changing our shape–highlights a different gift our desires give us. That of drawing us out of the mental world we construct for ourselves and into a more real world, one that calls us to engage with it and connect.

And as our desires urge us to reach and lengthen, we become more spacious and less closed in, more awake and responsive to the world around us. We touch the world and allow the world to touch us. Maybe the longing that draws us out is also a key element of our aliveness, and necessary for us to feel the fact of our belonging to the world.

Sitting here in my office chair (I’m noticing how I’m all bent at the middle) tapping away on my keyboard, it’s easy to focus on my own smaller wants and forget that I am a being made for interacting in a world with it’s own wild hungers.

Your desires are what call you back to the wild and hungry world that wants your body to interact with it. Asking you to take part in the push and pull of self and world, as we all trade longings in order to stretch and shape each other.

stay present in tough times
in the world

You Can Stay Present When Things Get Tough

Steam rising from your morning cup of tea, birdsong in the garden, the soft warmth of a blanket thrown over your legs, a small child offering you a smile. Being present often means opening up to the beautiful things in life.

Other times, life presents tougher vistas to take in: sickness, emotional or physical pain, financial woes, getting caught in a storm, a tough crowd bearing down on you.

It’s important to take beauty and goodness in when that’s available. It nourishes and gives us strength. When life throws difficulties our way, it can seem like that’s not such a great time to be practicing presence. It can seem like a good time to be practicing not-presence.

And often, not-presence is what we go for: a click of the remote, a swipe of the phone, a rummage through the fridge, and we find something cool and delicious to distract us. But when we take this route we miss out on something.

Aligning With Truth

Being present means aligning ourselves with our truth, at least as best as we can. That doesn’t always feel so good in the moment. It’s certainly harder to see the beauty in moments when things go awry. But the beauty is there, just as much there as when everything is soft and inspiring.

Think about a time when you’ve suffered. Whether your suffering arrived through personal choices, through the actions of others, or from uncontrollable external forces, it doesn’t really matter. Think about this past version of you moving through that time, bringing all your resources to bear on a situation that may have seemed out of control. You may not have had the resources you have today, but you managed to find a way through.

When we look back on these times in our lives, we can often see the strength and beauty and courage that we were able to come up with in response to difficult circumstances. Even though we might not have seen it at the time, the beauty was always there.

Milk Crates And Scarves

I used to be a member of a Playback Theatre company. In Playback there are four actors, a musician, and a conductor. The actors each sit on a milk crate on stage as the conductor creates conversations with the audience and gets individual members up to tell stories from their lives. The audience member then assigns roles from their story to each of the four actors who then stand up and improvise a performance of that story, using only their milk crates and a few colored scarves as props.

Being a part of this group was such a life changing experience. Time after time we would see people get up and tell their stories. They were often tales of loss and adversity, of moving through great difficulties on the way to personal growth. As people told their story they often felt vulnerable, a little shy, and the conductor would help ease them through the telling of their story and sit with them as the actors played out these scenes.

Something magical was born from act of telling their story in front of a group of strangers and then watching the episode from their life played out in front of them.

Almost everyone I saw who watched their own story played out for them felt uplifted and inspired by their own journey, they all saw something in themselves that they had not seen so clearly or easily before. They saw their own strength and hope and inner resourcefulness played out in front of them, in a way that would have been difficult to access as they were caught up in the actual living out of their stories.

There’s beauty to be found in even the most difficult of times. It can just be very difficult to see that while events are unfolding. And maybe that’s not even the time to be looking for that beauty, sometimes it’s all we can do to apply ourselves to getting through our times of struggle.

The Eye Of The Storm

I’ve been writing this post for a few weeks now. A little here, a little there. Knowing there was something I wanted to say but not quite able to get there.

Then I came across this, from Matt Licata:

“In this moment, which is the only moment that is ever here, you can give yourself the gift of primordial rest. For this is the greatest act of self-love. Lay your hand on your heart. Replace the urgency of becoming with a moment of pure being. Create an inner temple in which your emotions, your sensations, and the longings of your heart can be held in sanctuary and provided safe passage.”

Those few short sentences, cover so much of what I wanted to say in this post. That even in the most difficult of times we can give ourselves the gift of presence. If we can stay present for just a moment in tough times we can access self love, sanctuary, and our desire for safe passage. And what makes this do-able is that it only requires a moment from us, “the only moment that is ever here” as Matt says.

It’s always possible to claim the smallest moments, here and there, for ourselves. We can touch base, be present for ourselves, acknowledge where we are as a way of re-orienting ourselves. The qualities that we usually discover only in hindsight are there, playing out in our story in this very moment, and accessible to us. All we need to do is to give ourselves that single moment to touch base, to rest in the eye of the storm, to become the eye of the storm.

Be Kind To Yoursef. Self kindness is self care with a heart. It springs from self compassion. Being kind to yourself is self care imbued with tenderness. Self care tips | www.welcomepresence.com
self kindness

Be Kind To Yourself

Every once in a while I make a decision to treat myself with kindness and watch what happens. Here’s what happens: things get better.

When I’m kind to myself there’s a softening, a releasing of actual contractions in my body that are there through the habit of continually pushing through my day.

That softening happens even before I do any actual act of self care, whether that might be taking some time to meditate, to rest, to go for a walk, to stop working and feed myself some nourishing food.

All those actions are helpful as well. But it’s important to know that even making the decision to be kind to yourself has an effect.

Something in you responds to self kindness. Something shifts. You will feel it inside, and it will change how you react to other people and to your circumstances.

When you’re kind to yourself, other people notice. Because you become softer, kinder in your contact with them. The kindness ripples out. You develop fresh habits that reinforce self kindness. That kindness will start coming back to you as people respond (in kind!) until it becomes a self reinforcing loop of kindness.

So, being kind to yourself becomes a way of calling in kindness from other sources as well.

What Is Self Kindness?

Self kindness is self care with a heart. It springs from a sense of self compassion.

The idea of self care can easily become a chore if the heart is not involved, a list of things you do out of obligation to yourself, like a daily maintenance program. Self kindness is self care imbued with a sense of tenderness towards yourself.

That used to sound hard to me

“Be kind to yourself” — if someone had said those words to me when I was 24 I would have let loose on them. At that time I was struggling, a lot. I had just entered a twelve step program and was in the process of getting sober and drug free. I did not feel kind towards myself at all.

Self criticism was running strong and, as my life was falling apart, there was also a sense of urgency to put my own needs aside and get things right. I was doing my best to get on track again but, looking back, it seemed like I was making things as hard for myself as I possibly could.

The idea of self kindness would have been hard to take on at that point, even if I had tried. So I know very well that the journey towards self kindness can be difficult in the beginning.

Some ways it can be hard:

  • You might be working against a barrage of unhelpful internal / external messages: ”I don’t deserve that’ or “You don’t have time for self kindness, you have work to do!”
  • Distractions, obligations, expectations: sometimes you can have so much on your plate already that it seems impossible to carve out more time to practice self kindness, even if you see it as important.
  • indulgence = bad:  We’re told that a lot, and I’ve definitely heard that little message coming up in my own mind, it can be a hard one to ignore. But really,  I don’t think it’s true.

The great thing is that these obstacles to self kindness start to melt away when you apply a little self kindness. Another great thing is that most of us aren’t starting at the beginning, most of us have some experience with being kind to ourselves, some small area in life where we’re able to do that. Finding that place is a great start.

All It Takes Is One Drop

Here’s what I’d say to 24 year old me: “All it takes is one drop.”

One drop of kindness towards yourself, it doesn’t even have to be fully sincere.

5% would probably do. So let’s say, 5% of one drop of self kindness will do to start with.

If you can’t find that 5%, pretending helps. Imagine there is, inside of you, a small drop of something–let’s say mostly water, with 5% of that drop being open to self kindness.

Then get started by acting on behalf of that imaginary droplet.

“Indulge me.” I would say, “Because I’m the same as you, I just learned how to be kind to myself and it made things easier.”

Because all you need to get the ball rolling is the slightest impulse to start. Once you’re doing things in the name of self kindness it starts to feed itself.

How Can You Make It Easier?

 

Cultivate an attitude of gentle persistence.

Working in the spirit of gentle persistence means you don’t ask too much of yourself. You give permission to make slow progress, and you simply keep going, no matter what. No self criticism, no blame. Just moving gently forward, trusting we are going at the right pace.

Awareness

Catch those moments when you are being kind to yourself. Sometimes it just occurs naturally, so it’s good to note when that happens. Note down how it felt, what difference it made to you as well. These are useful things to come back to and over time it can be encouraging to be able to look back and see how much progress you’re making.

Intention

Set a direction for where you want to go. If you sit down and think of a few ways you’d like to be more kind to yourself then you can plan for that. You can make a time, create a ritual, maybe find a nice setting to do that in, imagine what it will be like beforehand. Setting an intention can be a powerful way to start moving forward.

Know your tendencies

I’m more likely to remember self kindness a little later in the day. Mornings are a blur of activity and I focus on getting the boys fed and off to school, it’s only then that my mind clears a little and I can sense more clearly where I’m at.

That means late morning is when I’m most likely to remember to do a Yoga Nidra meditation, or to write in the garden for a while, so I usually wait till then to build self kindness into my day knowing that fits with my daily rhythm. Again, writing down your observations can be helpful here in finding out the best opportunities to do something for yourself.

tree-green-square-120

 

Be Kind To Yourself: E-course coming in September

I’m currently in the process of rewriting my course on self care and bringing more emphasis on self kindness, with some new guided meditations and exercises. It will be  happening in September (Sign up to my newsletter in the yellow box below if you’re interested to know more)

And how about you? How do you build self kindness into your life? What helps? What gets in the way?

in the world

What Does It Mean To Be Present?

How present are you in your own life?

Are you present to the world around you? How about the people around you? How present are you to your acquaintances, to your loved ones, to yourself?

We’re all capable of being present, at least some of the time.

Even before I started working at this stuff in a serious way, I was often able to be present when I needed to. But sometimes, even these days, I find myself drifting off or forgetting that I’m here.

Presence oscillates. Sometimes it’s here, sometimes it fades a little. I don’t even think we’re built to be present 100% of the time.

But to be present just a little more? We all have room for that. Actually, once you get into the habit of trying to be more present you’ll find your capacity is pretty great. To notice you’ve been absent and gently welcome yourself back is a nice start.

For me, being present means feeling grounded in your body. It means being receptive to the person, or people, in front of you. A big part of being present means being aware of what’s going on in your heart: do you feel tender right now? a little closed off? what are you noticing in there?

We all want to feel more whole, more sane. We all want to feel that we belong. In moments of presence and quiet I start to believe we are all more whole, more sane than we think we are. I certainly believe we all belong.

A Matter Of Kindness

I used to think being present was a matter of trying hard, and wrestling with countless, urgent thoughts. And if you’re thinking that too, I want you to know–it’s not about that.

I used to think no matter how much I meditated, or tried to be mindful, that I was never doing enough. That I wasn’t devoted enough, or smart enough to ever get it. These days I’m so much kinder towards myself because I know that’s all untrue. It’s not true about me, and it’s not true about you either.

Sometimes it’s simply enough to hear birdsong outside your window and remember, “Oh, it’s Spring.”

What does being present mean to you?