Category Archives: Well-being

We Were Made for This – a thank you to Clarissa

Adapted from Clarissa Pinkola Estes – ‘We were made for this’

I recently returned from a silent solo retreat, where the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes kept circling around in my head. I had no wifi or any of the usual distractions, so I reached for pen and paper and wrote the words down. Even though I have read her prose several times in the last 20 years, I was surprised at how much I remembered of “We Were Made For This”. I am publishing this on my blog exactly as I penned it as I sat in my little cabin in the Brecon Beacons. I send this out with love and good wishes to all who have seen glaring wrongs that need to be righted and have felt diminished by the seeming immensity of this task. 

‘For some of us, these times seem too dark to ever see light again. The immense challenge of correcting the imbalances and of righting the wrongs seem too great to take on. But, I would like to take your hands for a moment and assure you that you are built well for these times. Despite your pangs of doubt, your frustrations in a-righting all that needs change right now, or even your feelings that you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, and you are not alone.

Look out over the choppy water; there are millions of righteous souls on the waters with you. Take heart; you are not alone.

We have been in training for dark times such as this for a long time.  For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been put down, metaphorically or literally, left for dead in so many ways over and over — brought down by naiveté, by lack of love, by being ambushed and assaulted by those following the wrong star and being convinced following any other is grounds for persecution, and by various personal shocks and heartbreaks over time. All of this, and more, can be overcome.

We all have a heritage and history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially … we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection.

Over and over again haven’t we been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or demeaned – can be restored to life again? This is as true and sturdy a prognosis for the wounded world around us as it was for our own wounded selves.

…Though we are not invulnerable, our resilience and strength  supports us to laugh in the face of cynics who say “fat chance,” and “management before mercy,” and other evidences of complete absence of soul sense. This, and our having been ‘to Hell and back’ on at least one momentous occasion, makes us seasoned vessels for certain. Even if you do not feel that you are, you are.

Even if your puny little ego wants to contest the enormity of your soul being up for the challenge,  the smaller self can never for long subordinate the larger Self. In matters of huge importance and life purpose,  you have surpassed the benchmarks many times. Believe the evidence of any one of your past challenges and trials. Here it is: Are you still standing? The answer is, Yes! Yes, you are…even if you feel a weariness….yes, you are still standing.  If you are still standing, ragged flags or not, you are able. Thus, you have passed the bar. And even raised it. You are seaworthy.

…In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward overwhelm with how much is wrong in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by putting your awareness on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is “spending the wind without raising the sails.” It is a waste of your energy and will not be helpful for you or us.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. You have all the resource you need to ride any wave, to surface from any trough. Our job, our opportunity, is to sail forward now.

One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair – thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.

It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts – adding, continuing – until the accumulation of these acts tips the scales towards goodness. We know that it does not take “everyone on Earth” to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your light. Your goodness, your light, can be what encourages another to show their light. And so it goes.

To display the light of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both — are acts of immense bravery and great necessity. Disheartened souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the bravest things you can do.

…There will always be times in the midst of “success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen” when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. I acknowledge the sadness, this sense of being disheartened. Then I remember Who I am, perhaps connect with my Source as well as other good souls, and continue.’

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: “When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.”

How To Improve Your Yoga Practice

Many Yoga practitioners are so eager to get to the more challenging poses of Yoga that they short-cut the process of building the foundation that is necessary for an effective Yoga practice. I know I was when I first started Yoga. I was often in a rush to get to the “big” poses and didn’t always enjoy spending time with the “little” things, like body awareness, breathwork, and linking movement to breath. I found teachers who would give me the workout I craved, and enjoyed sweating through the challenges.

Since I was young and fit at the time I could jump in and do a lot of challenging poses rather quickly.   Though there is nothing wrong with this approach – in fact, it often suits a younger person to challenge their bodies in this way – but with experience I started to find I was missing out on a huge part of what Yoga has to offer by treating it like any other exercise. Yoga is more than just any other exercise.  First and foremost, Yoga is an inner exploration that builds awareness, mindfulness, a feeling of centeredness, and yes – also strength and flexibility in body and mind. If we don’t ground our practice in the essential building blocks, we miss out on a huge part of what Yoga has to offer. One has to start with the basics, and come back to them again and again to get the full effects of the process.

As a Yoga practitioner, one probably has to arrive at the sense there is something more to Yoga than mere exercise on their own. The wonderful movement and purely physical part of Yoga is often the portal to the deeper levels of the practice. That’s how it worked for me.  As I continued to practice, I saw that the inner work in Yoga was cultivated by the “simple” poses and that there are no short cuts to this deeper level of awareness. Now, as a teacher and a practitioner, I focus on what many would call “basic” poses and in the process, encourage a deep awareness of sensation, breath, and linking movement with breath throughout the practice. I do this mainly because this is how I found Yoga to be most helpful to me. But through my continued study and research over the years, I know that many master teachers teach this way too and get good results as well. Yes, it is fun to throw in a challenge pose to the mix – but what I find works most effectively in my Yoga practice is returning to simplicity again and again.

Some suggestions to deepen and improve your practice:

  1. Return to simplicity. Feel the fine points of the basic poses, which you will be able to do better in these simple poses than in the more complex ones. When you feel motivated to add a more complex pose, be aware of the finer points of the basic pose contained within the more complex pose. You’ll be able to feel the subtleties much better in the complex and combined movements if you’ve taken this time to experience them in the foundational movements.
  2. Don’t push past your “edge”. You will progress better if you feel the edge, and come off it about 5%. This will enable you to explore sensations much more effectively, and to create greater awareness in general.
  3. Go slowly, and spend time in each pose. Your ego will prompt you to keep going as soon as you come into a pose, but try to slow down and really experience what’s happening.
  4. Give your breath priority. Always find the breath in each pose, in each sequence. If you cannot feel your breath, or your breath feels ragged, you are almost certainly pushing too hard. There is a thorough, expansive quality that occurs when you practice Yoga with deep awareness of the breath. It’s one big thing that makes Yoga different from other exercise.
  5. Have a deep awareness of the part of your body that is touching the floor in every pose. This will literally keep you grounded throughout your practice. Return again and again to this sense of being grounded and breathing throughout.

Rooting myself in the basics, with an emphasis on these five points improved my Yoga practice greatly. Try it and see if it doesn’t do the same for you.

Some Truth About Cancer

 

In loving memory of my sister Ann

In memory of my sister Ann

I’ve lost a few people I love to cancer. Most of us have. For years prior to my sister Ann’s terminal cancer diagnosis (she died more than 6 years ago), I had been perplexed at the lack of progress made in cancer treatments over the many years this has been on my radar. I know that chemo drugs have changed over the years and that the “chemo cocktail” is tweaked here and there, but basically the treatment options have been and still are the same. Your choice, if you have cancer, is chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery. I had heard of other treatments from alternative health care providers that seemed to be promising, but the above mentioned three options are pretty much “it” if you go to a conventional doctor, as most people do.

I’ve heard of the “war on cancer’ too many times to count over the years, but I’ve always been curious about why all the big research money was only being spent on the three above mentioned treatments. I’ve always wanted to hear and read more about some of the alternative therapies that have seemed promising, in particular intravenous Vitamin C therapy (http://orthomolecular.org/library/ivccancerpt.shtml) or Gerson Therapy to name just two. There are others, but they receive no research money even when there was money readily available for cancer research. All the available money has always gone to the three conventional ways of treating cancer. Is it because these ways are the only, or at least the best way of treating cancer?

I’ve never been one to think either business or government has my best interest at heart but the thought that there may be a deliberate repression of information and of treatments that may be more effective (and much less brutal) for cancer patients than the above mentioned three options was too horrible to spend my time thinking about.  After reading lots of research from orthomolecular and alternative sources, and also reading anecdotal  evidence from cancer patients who survived against all medical odds, I have been willing to conclude that there wasn’t a deliberate repression of valuable treatments. To think otherwise really is a very dark thought to hold onto! But I still believed there was a better way of both preventing and treating cancer than what was on offer and that the conventional treatment caused a lot of suffering for patients. I know it did for my sister Ann.

After my sister died I was tired of thinking that she had suffered and died needlessly and also a bit heartbroken, so I put this aside and just tried to be healthy and to help other interested people do the same. This cancer business keeps circling back to me though, so I want to share a small piece of what I have learned over the years. The truth is getting closer. Perhaps there has been repression of information from those we are meant to trust after all. We can only make a decision on this if we look at all the information, not that which is spoon fed to us.

Instead of a lot of words, I want to encourage any who read this post to take the time to watch a documentary called “The Truth About Cancer: A Global Quest”. It cannot be viewed on any mainstream TV channels, but you can watch it online. You will have to register to view it but it is completely free to do this. It is packed full of facts that are both shocking but also empowering. Many doctors, researchers, and pharmaceutical people come forward with verifiable stories that cannot be ignored and this documentary held my interest to the end. Here is the link for it:

https://go2.thetruthaboutcancer.com/agq/episode-1/

Just copy and paste into your browser, and as I said, you may have to register but it is well worth your time when you consider the statistics that 1 in 2 men will get cancer in their lifetime, and 1 in 3 women will. These are unbelievably huge numbers, and they show no sign of diminishing.

This film does not indict doctors, medical personnel, or even pharmaceutical personnel. But it does show a clear and verifiable history of creating the medical model we have today, and the people/businesses responsible for the lack of choice in cancer treatment and how and why we have all been duped so successfully. I encourage gently and lovingly all who take the time to read this to also take the time to watch The Truth About Cancer. Information is empowering.

*

Loneliness – The “Illusion” That Feels So Real

Scan 5Many of us are lonely today. It crops up in my own life from time to time even though I am married, do work I enjoy, and have a few people I care deeply about and who also care about me.  You don’t have to be alone be lonely.

It is my nature to question things and look deeper (both a curse and a blessing!), so I’ve delved into this feeling of loneliness almost as an afterthought from writing about happiness. I believe that loneliness is a common and misunderstood obstacle to happiness.  Loneliness is a serious issue and impacts the quality of our lives.  There are many different kinds of loneliness. It is sort of a catch-all term that says very little about what is really going on. Are you lonely because you miss a best friend?  Do you miss being part of a group, something larger than just you?  Does it make you feel unseen because you do not have a place that seems familiar, where you are known? Are you missing a romantic partner in your life?  Are you feeling overwhelmed because you don’t have someone around whom you can lean on and depend upon when things get difficult?  Loneliness has so many faces and so is harder to pinpoint.

A sense of connection is often the missing link in our lives and is a common thread with loneliness. The Welsh have a word for a special kind of loneliness, called Hiraeth. It doesn’t have a precise English translation, but in general means “a homesickness for a home you cannot return to, or that never was“.  It is similar to the Portuguese “saudade” which is the theme of Fado music. Hiraeth is a mix of longing, yearning, tinged with grief or a sense of loss and a desire to connect with or touch that which has been lost. It is the feeling of separateness or disconnection that is at the root of any type of loneliness. There is help for this deep existential form of hiraeth  as well as the temporary fleeting feelings of loneliness we all experience from time to time.

Nurturing a sense of connection is the best (and maybe the only) way to shift a feeling of loneliness. I believe that we are all interconnected and interdependent with each other, but the illusion of separateness persists due to our egoic minds, modern life, and our culture of fear and lack. But since I also believe our view of reality is almost entirely perceptual, the “illusion” of loneliness is a very real part of a lonely person’s life.

I do not intend to trivialise the problem of loneliness, but sometimes actionable steps are simply the best way out of a bad cycle.  Just taking a step in the right direction immediately improves our perception and thus our situation.  Try some version of my suggestions, tweak them as much as you need to so they are meaningful to you. and take a step out of any bleak feelings you are having. (The only reason I “know” about this is because I have felt it myself, and edged my way out of bleakness by trying something different.)

  • Make a habit of nurturing others. For happiness in general, studies show that it is just as important to give support as to get support. Make eye contact and smile at someone. Even if they don’t smile back, it cost you nothing to do this and is likely to bring about a lovely smile in return. Offer to get groceries for an elderly neighbor, foster a dog or cat, take care of a friend’s children, teach a class, volunteer in your neighborhood or community. Giving support to others creates a feeling of connection.
  • Make real attempts at connecting with other people. Sign up for an exercise, language, art, sewing, craft class, join a book group, show up at the weekly office coffee hour, take a minute to chat with a co-worker, neighbor, or acquaintance, attend a community talk or lecture, start or join a local walking group. (Yes, I know. All the advice we’ve all heard before. But it really works!)
  • Get better sleep. Sleep deprivation under any circumstances brings down people’s moods and exacerbates negative feelings. You will not feel like building connections if you are suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. It is important to tackle this issue. Give it your attention by trying different things for a couple of weeks at a time. (There is a mountain of information out there to cure insomnia, but my next blog will be about this very thing.) Chronic sleep problems are usually the result of bad habits that need to be changed. 
  • Make a habit of staying open. This can be as simple as being aware of the next breath you take or the food you are tasting. It involves staying open to life and experiences as much as staying open to people. I know that loneliness itself can make people feel more negative, critical, and judgemental. Sadly, people who are lonely are far less accepting of potential new friends than people who are not lonely so the hurdle comes down to feeling what you are feeling and gently pressing on anyway.
  • Ask yourself, “What is it that I really want?” We often avoid this question in anything but a trivial way because it can be painful and can bring up what is “missing” in our life. But it is easier to know how to address an issue if you are clear what you really want. Chances are, you do not really want the third chocolate brownie or the 5th piece of pizza. Overeating is a common quick fix for feelings of lack or of not “being” enough. There are other things we do to mask discovering what it is we really want of course, but by far overeating is the most common. Without getting into a deep rut with this, touch into the question “What is it that I really want?” for a few minutes each day. Beginning to feel comfortable with this question – and the resulting answer – will go a long way in resolving feelings of loneliness and unhappiness.

Sometimes the wanting or longing you feel can be a marker for you to follow along your path. I wish you well as you listen to the whisperings that come along when you ask the important questions.

If you try, or have tried, any of these ideas to step out of feelings of loneliness and darkness, please let me know how they worked for you.

Keep Fighting For Your Limitations, and – They’re Yours!

wordpress meditation imagesRecently, I was talking with a friend about all the reasons her life didn’t seem to be working for her. One of the things I kept noticing is the way she insisted she could not do things any differently because of these very unique circumstances she was embroiled in. I said to her, “but if you continue to do things the exact same way, don’t you think you’ll continue to get the exact same results….ie, more of what you don’t want?” She heard me loud and clear but was on the verge of getting upset because she thought I wasn’t hearing and understanding her. What I heard was a woman fighting for her limitations. I had a Eureka moment when I realised what was happening is something that I also do from time to time. We all do.

We will think about what it is we really want – but then spend lots of time and energy going over and over why we cannot have it or what is in our way. While knowing our roadblocks is part of getting clear about solutions, this insistence to and attachment to our roadblocks is what is keeping us stuck. I want to keep this simple and honest, so I will claim that statement: My insistence and attachment to my limitations is what is keeping me stuck.

Now you may be thinking, “I am certainly not attached to my limitations, I want them gone!” I believe that you want them gone but in order to remove them you must stop fighting for them. You fight for your limitations when you insist that you could never retrain in a new field because you are too old. You fight for your limitations when you state, with certainty, that you cannot travel because you would not be able to keep your job if you did that. You fight for your limitations when you say you could never get your book published because you don’t have an agent and don’t know how to self-publish. One thing is certain; if you fight for your limitations, they are yours. I am going to stop doing this even though some of the reasons I have for not getting what I want seem very big and unresolvable. I think it is easier to take small steps in the direction of my goals than to give up on them all together.

We all create a story about ourselves and the way life works based on past experiences. We’ve all had negative experiences that have hurt, shamed, or frightened us and so usually parts of this story are pretty negative. Because hurt, shame, and fear are so powerful – and we all have a strong tendency to put more emphasis on the negative than the positive – we have all built negative stories around not achieving enough, not being enough.

Here are some common deflating and self-defeating limiting beliefs we hold onto:

  • I do not belong.
  • I am not enough.
  • Life is hard.
  • Money is hard to come by.
  • People are not to be trusted.
  • Bad things always happen to me.
  • Everyone else is better than me.
  • No one loves me.
  • Something is wrong with me.
  • I should be doing more.
  • Even though I don’t want to, I have to ______________ because of ___________________.
  • Love is painful.

Do any of these sound familiar? Once we have formed these limiting beliefs,  we go out and collect evidence that supports our story and tend to disregard things that don’t go with the stories we’ve made up about ourselves. For instance, if you believe that bad stuff happens to you or life is hard, you will use everything from not finding a parking space to losing a job as evidence to reinforce this limiting (and untrue!) story but will think it is a one-off fluke when something positive happens. Once you have the belief that “Life is Hard” your mind will filter out most of what happens that contradicts this. It’s how beliefs work.

Why do we keep repeating a story we don’t want to tell anymore? It has become habitual for us to do that. We can choose a fresh alternative, even if we had some very bad stuff happen to us in life. We don’t have to keep re-living the bad stuff. My past is not my identity. I am not my story. I find that I do sometimes believe “the story” (yes….I think sometimes I am too old to get a qualification in Nutrition, or that I don’t have the IT skills necessary to self-publish a book I wrote more than a year ago…) but it helps when I soften the edge of my “knowing” and just get curious about that which lights me up. One step at a time, I go a little further in the direction of what attracts me without putting any requirements on myself. I  allow myself to get pleasure from the process and not get consumed by the goal. 

I don’t always accomplish and achieve huge goals quickly this way. But I definitely enjoy my every day life more when I incorporate the juiciness of participating in what attracts me without shutting myself down with…”You’ll never get that book published”….or, “who do you think you are?” kinds of feelings.

Please stop coming up with all the reasons you cannot afford something. Or do not have a great relationship. Or are stuck in a job you don’t like. Or whatever else you are convincing yourself is unchangeable. Maybe you cannot do it all right now, but you may be able to take small steps in the direction of That Which Makes You Smile. (I recently bought a Mac Pro that I “couldn’t afford” by saving my spare change for a couple of years! I am using it right now.)

I understand that sometimes there are circumstances that are difficult. I know that sometimes it seems like you do not have choices about certain things. Sometimes it means the dream has to be modified, or it means not now (not no), or it means you must do something entirely different.  Even if you cannot change an external circumstance (right now), you ALWAYS have a choice about how you perceive and respond to it. I know this is old advice, but it is Truth. I am not a victim of my circumstances. I do have a choice in what I do next, even if the choice is how I respond.

 Stop fighting for your limitations, or they will surely be your truth!

Exercise: Just Do It!

exercising womenBy now we’ve all heard  about the overwhelming amount of evidence confirming that exercise is is crucial in disease reduction, optimal mental, emotional and physical health, and longevity. Not just beneficial, but crucial. The part of my research that I found really encouraging is that you can receive outstanding results no matter what your age when you start exercising. One reason this is such good news for me is I have a mother in her 80’s who has stopped almost all exercise and I know it is still within her grasp to become more physically, mentally, and emotionally fit just by taking up exercise again. (Not that she does it….but, if she did do it, the remarkable benefits would be there for her.) I hope this knowledge is encouraging to all of you who sometimes feel you’ve left it too long. You can start right now, right where you are, and still get remarkable benefits.

The next four short paragraphs are taken from a wonderful site, called Wake Up World, which states succinctly that not only is exercise crucial for health, but that the benefits are substantial no matter what your age when you begin.

“After reviewing 40 papers published between 2006 and 2010, researchers found that exercise reduces the risk of about two dozen health conditions, ranging from cancer and heart disease to type 2 diabetes, stroke, dementia and depression. Exercise also slows down the rate of aging itself, providing perhaps the closest example of a real life fountain of youth as we will ever find.

Ideally, you will have made exercise a regular part of your life long before you reach your “golden” years … but if you haven’t, there’s no better time to start than the present. Research has shown that regular exercise, even initiated late in life, offers profound health benefits. For instance:

Even a small amount of exercise may protect the elderly from long-term memory loss and even help reverse some of the effects of aging.

Moderate exercise among those aged 55-75 may cut the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which increases heart disease and diabetes risk.

Among those who started exercising at age 50 and continued for 10 years, the rate of premature death declined dramatically, similar to giving up smoking and mirroring the level as seen among people who had been working out their entire lives.”

Remember, It’s NEVER Too Late to Improve Your Health.

It should be obvious by now that optimal health is dependent on not only an active lifestyle, but also on eating fresh whole foods and avoiding as many processed foods as possible, good sleep, and addressing the stress in your life. I have written about these four cornerstones of health before (Diet, Exercise, Sleep, and Mental Outlook).  Ignoring any of these basic tenets of health will eventually lead to a decline in health. But knowing that exercise itself is – crucial! – to good health and disease reduction makes me wonder….why aren’t we all doing it? This time of year, it is easy to stay indoors and forego outdoor exercise for a time, but that is very different from just not doing any exercise at all, ever. 

If you haven’t yet made physical exercise part of your daily routine, let’s challenge ourselves to incorporate it into our lives for the next 30 days. Make a plan that is within your means, even if it is simply a 20 minute walk every day. I combine fast walking and yoga, for example. Then at the end of 30 days see for yourself the difference this simple practice can make in your life. No matter what your age, if you can walk you can exercise, and immense rewards are there for you, no matter what your age.

I’d love to hear from you if you try this exercise challenge. Let me know how you fell at the end of the 30 days.

Why Having Compassion For Yourself Is Important

downloadHave you ever heard someone say, “I am so hard on myself.” or, “It’s not easy for me to be kind to myself”. Truth be told, I’ve said this myself in the past. But I’ve come to realize that being hard on myself makes it impossible to have compassion for someone else. I’m sure the same is true for you too.

What is compassion exactly? My dictionary defines compassion as follows: “Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.” A few years ago, I lived several years of my life single mindedly being of service to my then-new extended family. I don’t say this to make myself sound like a saint – far from it, because I sometimes secretly resented all I did for them with little or no recognition for my efforts. In this era of my life, I became increasingly unhappy and unfulfilled as I ignored my own wants and needs and let myself become preoccupied with the needs and wants of everyone else. My obsession with what “everyone else” needed was not making anyone’s life better, least of all mine.  For me, things had to come to a head and become intolerable before I was able to take a step back and shift my thoughts and behavior to a healthier way of living that reflected a little better who I really was. I learned a lot from this period of my life.

What I now know is that it is a lovely and positive thing to want to help others….if the motivation and intent is right minded. Many people become helpers of others for all the right reasons. But it my case, and in countless others I have since come in contact with, there are those who will nearly exhaust themselves helping others because then they do not have to look at themselves or their own lives. In their minds, they are constantly focused on someone else’s troubles and so have little or no time to really get to know themselves. There can be quite an arrogance in helping others to the exclusion of giving yourself what you need. How easy it is to fix others, compared to the hard work in fixing yourself!

Yes, it can be painful to see ourselves as we really are at times; our pettiness, our jealousy, our judgements. But what a wonderful freedom can be had by doing this. At first, it is so painful to see these traits in ourselves that we quickly look the other way at first glimpse. “Whoa! I don’t want to think about that!” But then, using techniques described in my last blog, you observe, breathe deeply, and feel the emotion. You see that you can survive that first awful blow of recognizing yourself as a flawed human being. Learning compassion, really learning it, is to look right at the awful, embarrassing things you know about yourself; to look them square in the mirror and get closer to that messy, yucky part of yourself that you really don’t want to see. That is the true start of learning compassion. To see these unattractive parts of yourself and not have to turn away, not have to deny. To experience the feelings these parts of yourself bring up in you. Acknowledging them and casting the light of day on these things helps them to melt away, to lose their teeth and claws. Then you will begin to know what it is like to have compassion for others.

The inability to look at oneself in this way, even if one goes to great lengths to be helpful to others, is arrogance.  True compassion is not possible for one who refuses to look at their own shortcomings in this soft and thoughtful way. This is the unvarnished truth about learning to be compassionate.

Start with yourself.