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May 2016

stay present in tough times
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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 |
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.


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.


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.



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?