It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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2020: Your Year of Mindful Self-Compassion

Just for a moment, forget about all your standard New Year’s resolutions. It goes without saying that most of us want to be healthier, wealthier, and wiser – but what if we’re going about it all wrong? Have we ever really stopped to wonder whether it’s possible to shame and “should” ourselves into going to the gym more or eating better?

Luckily, there’s another solution. Allow me to introduce you to a lovely practice called Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). Mindfulness is the foundation of MSC. Why? Because we need to become aware of and acknowledge our suffering in order to respond to our discomfort with kindness. Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself as you would act towards a dear friend when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.

Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “tough it out” mentality, you can stop to tell yourself, “This is really difficult right now. How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?” Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, you are kind and understanding towards yourself when confronted with personal failings. After all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

You may try to change in ways that allow you to be healthier and happier, but when you are mindfully showing yourself compassion, you change because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means you honor and accept your humanness.

Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, and losses will occur; you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, and fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.

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How to Create Compassionate Holidays

Compassionate Holidays require that you act consciously each moment. Unconscious caretaking and pleasing others (giving gifts because it is the “season”) are NOT compassionate deeds. They ignore the humanity of the recipient because the recipient is being exploited by frightened parts of your personality. This type of interaction multiplied billions of time each “Holiday Season” makes the experience much less than it could be.

Compassion is being moved to and by acts of the heart. I am not speaking of the sentimental “heart,” the “heart” that feels pity and need to fix other’s problems (these are experiences of frightened parts of the personality). I am speaking of the most healthy, inclusive, grounded, and loving part of yourself. If this heart is not involved, no compassion is present. Therefore a compassionate Holiday, like a compassionate family dinner or a compassionate country requires you to replace the experiences of frightened parts of your personality (which also include anger, impatience, frustration, and judging) with the experiences of loving parts (gratitude, appreciation, patience, caring). This creates authentic power.

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How can we stay open to both the suffering and the joy of life?

You and I are in training to be free. We’re in training to be so present, so spacious, so embracing, we’re in training to not look away, deny or close our hearts when we can’t bear something. The statement, “I can’t bear it,” is what burns you out in social action. When you’re in the presence of suffering and contracting, it’s the contraction that starves you to death.


When you close your heart down to protect yourself from suffering, you also close yourself off from being fed by that same life situation.


If you can stay open to both the suffering and the joys and the stuff of life, all of it, then it’s like a living spirit. It just connects to your living spirit and there’s a tremendous feeding going on.

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Middle Earth

In Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien used the term Middle-earth to describe the land where his stories took place. Situated somewhere between angelic and demonic realms, the inhabitants struggled to hold to the light. Sometimes I feel that is where we live now. Opposing forces are mobilized on all sides. All around are compelling reasons to believe that “evil” is on the rise and that “good” people are increasingly victimized by those in power. Yet holding to the light within darkness means we cannot succumb to what the prevailing belief systems would have us accept as truth. We may live in Middle Earth now, but it is just a way-station on the way to the New Earth. The challenge and balancing act is to accept and live in the present moment while also embodying a new vision for the future.

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Have Compassion

Do You Care?

The Practice:
Have compassion.

Why?

Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer – from subtle physical and emotional discomfort to agony and anguish – combined with feelings of sympathetic concern.

You could have compassion for an individual (a friend in the hospital, a co-worker passed over for a promotion), groups of people (victims of crime, those displaced by a hurricane, refugee children), animals (your pet, livestock heading for the slaughterhouse), and yourself.

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Why is karma yoga an important vehicle for conscious awakening?

In the simplest sense, you could say that Karma Yoga is using your karma as a way of coming into ‘yog’, or union with God, by using the “stuff” of your life. Using it as the way in which you do work in the world, and acknowledging whether or not that work in the world is a vehicle for spiritual awakening.

In books like the Bhagavad Gita, Karma Yoga is specified as Krishna saying to Arjuna, “Do what you do, but offer the fruits of it to me” …. That’s what karma yoga is.

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What is the ultimate act of compassion?

A conversation on compassion with Ram Dass & Raghu Markus

Raghu Markus: Can you talk about how we go about cultivating compassion so that we start to become more kind to ourselves and to others?

Ram Dass: We’ve lived our lives with negative images of ourselves, from childhood on, and we’ve built upon those images, and built upon them, and they became very heavy weights. These thoughts about us are a part of our ego, and they’re manifested through our roles of child or husband, wife, breadwinner, all of those roles. They’re built upon the thoughts of, “I’m not truthful” or “I’m not likable”, “I’m not good” – all of those negative images. Once you identify with your soul you start to taste the love in your true self, in your spiritual heart and it’s different than all of the loves you’ve ever had. It’s just different; it’s unconditional love.

Now you have the clarity and the vantage point of being able to see your incarnation through the perspective of the soul – it gives you a panoramic view of your incarnation. Only then can you develop compassion, first for yourself and then for others.

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How can we begin to heal the world?

If we are to help heal the world, we need to remember that it is a sacred place.

Our actions need to be positive statements, reminders that even in the worst times there is a world worth struggling for. We need to find ways to keep the vision alive, to acknowledge but not get caught in the dark side. To remember that even the worst aspects of suffering are only part of the whole picture. We need to enter lightly.

Entering lightly means not ignoring suffering but treating it gently.

We don’t want to ignore another’s pain, but our becoming depressed or angry about it doesn’t relieve it and may increase it. The delicate balance is in allowing ourselves to feel the pain fully, to be sad or angry or hurt by it, but not be so weighted down by it that we are unable to act to relieve it. It is a matter of ends and means again: to create a caring, loving, peaceful world, we need to act with care and love and peace.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Range of Our Compassion

Dogs can hear well beyond the range of human hearing. In California, it’s been reported that dogs have heard the beginnings of earthquakes before seismographs could register their initial tremor. In just this way, there are those of us whose ability to feel, see, and hear others is beyond our normal range of compassion. We call them empaths or psychics. And we often discredit them because what they know because is beyond what we can sense.

A central physic of the heart is that the range of our compassion is widened each time we experience suffering or love. Like a mud-filled pipe that is hollowed out by the rain to carry water underground, the force of each experience clears us out. Listening, expressing, and writing are conscious ways to clear ourselves out and to expose and extend the range of what we feel. And so, the artist or poet in us is that deep part of who we are that keeps extending the range of our compassion.

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Compassion Towards All: Moving toward a Plant Based Diet

For most of human history it’s been “normal” to eat non-human animals. This is now changing. We are awakening to the massive suffering of the billions of animals killed each day for food, the horrors of the animal-food industry, and the impact it has on climate change (second only to fossil fuels.) In this short talk Tara shares her personal story of transitioning to a vegan diet, and invites listeners to investigate, without judgment, their own choices in this domain.

NOTE: this short talk was given at a special class on “Loving Life with a Plant-Based Diet.” Tara was joined by guest speakers, Mark Tercek (The Nature Conservatory) and Brenda Sanders (Afro-Vegan Society), and hosted by Jonathan Foust. Full video available at Tara’s Facebook page and soon at IMCW.org. Evening concluded with a wonderful vegan food-tasting donated by Yes! Organic Market.

When the animals come to us,
asking for our help,
will we know what they are saying?
When the plants speak to us
in their delicate, beautiful language,
will we be able to answer them?
When the planet herself
sings to us in our dreams,
will we be able to wake ourselves,
and act?

Gary Lawless

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Let’s Be Ambassadors of Reconciliation

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  — Rumi

The other day, the priest at my church said something that caught my attention. He spoke about becoming what he called an “Ambassador of Reconciliation.”

“Are there individuals you have chosen to walk away from?” he asked. “Are there individuals you have chosen not to walk toward?”

If so, he said, then perhaps you should see yourself as an Ambassador of Reconciliation: a person who can bring reconciliation to a person or a situation that needs healing.

This got me thinking. Where can I bring healing to my life? Where can I be an Ambassador of Reconciliation? Who have I walked away from? Who have I not walked toward?

I am a big believer that we all need healing. I believe we are all walking around wounded, and that those wounds play out in all of our relationships.

Whether we care to admit it or not, sometimes we don’t even know why we are so angry, why we are so hurt, or why we have such a strong reaction to a certain person or situation in our lives.

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How can we cultivate a compassionate heart to find freedom?

We all know our humanity too well.

That is why we put the focus on recognizing the part of us that isn’t stuck in the human-ness. Not to deny our humanity, but rather to bring it into balance through a compassionate heart.

That’s what you offer another person. When I look at some of you, I know you have problems with addiction and sexual obsessions, problems with loneliness and problems with anger, diseases and frigidity. I see the whole sea of stuff and you tell me about it, and I see curriculum after curriculum.

I see a group of beautiful souls on earth, each having its own karmic work to do.

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The Power of "We"

Human beings came to this planet to learn how to live together in peace. To realize and express the love in their hearts through compassion and kindness. It’s a simple as that. We didn’t come here to accumulate wealth and material possessions while others have nothing. We didn’t come here to distrust and hate everyone who is not an exact carbon copy of our beliefs and physical appearance. We didn’t come here to build walls and wage wars against difference. While those may be the polarities the human species experiences along the way, our final destination is beyond all those divisions and separations. Ultimately, we came here to recognize that “I” alone is incomplete; only in “we” do we find strength and commonality in being alive. Only in loving ourselves and others are we made whole. As the song says: “We are the world…”

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How to Celebrate with Peace

My son and I touched down in Anchorage at 3:30 in the morning. I was relieved to see the streets clear of snow; it was an easy drive home. I was looking forward to the feeling of being settled. At home, I lit some candles, exhaled and experienced peace.  

The last few days I had noticed some feelings of stress. The holiday season had arrived. Thanksgiving was just a few days away. I could also feel the pressure of every day matters. I had emails, appointments and family obligations that had piled up over the last week. 

This historically has been a personal struggle of mine. Is it possible to stay connected to peace during the holiday season? This is the time of year that is often depicted as magical. It can be amazingly wonderful; but it can also difficult to stay connected to the most important aspect; love and peace.

The next morning before I started my meditation I recognized how much I enjoy our home. It is filled with good feelings. The energy from our prayers and meditations fill my favorite rooms. The mountains are visible thru the windows. The trees behind me share the energy of protection. I easily slipped into a deep meditation.

My awareness shifted. I was greeted by love, a version of each of us.  The veil evaporated. Everything fell away except the feelings of love, peace and protection. I was home again. There are no limitations of time, size, or quantity.  It is simply recognizing heart and soul. This is where our true self is. 

I say simply... because it is with the gentle shift of awareness that we all fall into peace.

My morning meditation reminded me of my personal need to bring the holiday season back to my heart, my center. It is here that I am able to bring love into my actions that create each day. 


To experience the holidays with joy; I keep my energy focused on my heart. I keep it simple. When I begin to feel scattered or spread too thin, I bring my awareness back to my heart. This is where I need to be, to pull the magic into my holiday experience.  

Write a New Holiday Story..and Still Honor Your Memories

Dearest you,

Hope you’ve been having a week of balanced self-care after the dunk and immersion in the holiday frenzy. (for my friends in the USA I’m referring to your Thanksgiving Holiday – for the rest of us – we feel ya!)


For many people, it all begins now and it’s like being on a racing freight train fueled with escapism and angst and sugar, yep there is that. For those of you who suffer empathy overload and end up either fatigued and foggy or also confused because extra weight shows up on you overnight from all the stress, try and find ways to detach, go get grounded by walking in nature, and take lots of Himalayan salt baths, and breathe.

Here’s my go-to advice for the whole season.

You can also say NO and say it a lot to manage it all, but there’s a new normal, (or abnormal is the new normal) and we need all the help we can get to remain positive and certain within while the uncertainty on the outside prevails.

While we can tune out temporarily, we can’t ignore what’s happening in the world. I believe humanity is experiencing this for a reason. It’s all a precursor to a more cohesive peaceful world. And the sky is always darkest before dawn.

Call me a hippie-dippie granola grinder Pollyanna but I believe in the soul of humanity and I believe Love is the only answer. And we have a long way to go.

And, It’s also true the world is getting increasingly difficult for sensitives. Who knew watching the news could make you swollen and exhausted? Now the holidays? Oy Vey!

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The Jewel in the Lotus: Cultivating Compassion

The compassion that arises from mindful awareness can heal our inner wounds, interpersonal conflict and the suffering in our world. These two talks focus on cultivating self-compassion and compassion for others. They look at the blocks to compassion and accessible powerful practices that awaken the full wisdom and tenderness of our hearts.


Your Compassionate Heart

You have one. We all do. It just gets covered over with a protective shell of fear about your own survival. Or it is buried and forgotten in a busy and sometimes frantic daily life. We get lost in our own worries and concerns and forget about the others we share the world with. We lose sight of the fact that everyone else around us is living lives very similar to our own at the most basic level, beginning with birth and ending with death. Yet isn’t life about more than that really? Aren’t we greater than the events of our lives? Isn’t there a thread that ties us together, in spite of our differences?

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What Is It Like Being You?

Compassion is hard wired in our organism, and can be cultivated. This talk helps us identify the blocks to compassion—our outmoded survival equipment—and using RAIN, offers practical guidance in mindfully attuning to others’ emotional experience and awakening our natural tenderness and care. This talk includes a short introduction to the meditation: The RAIN of Compassion.

Empathy is the ability to feel what other people feel… compassion includes empathy, and it also has the quality of caring and concern that wants to help. Compassion means “to suffer together,” but it is really defined by a quivering of the heart that wants to help…

Compassion is our evolutionary potential. We have a capacity for affiliative care, to tune in to each other and to care about each other. And, really, this capacity is the hope of our world…

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Sure, Honey, but...

“Sure, honey,” my mother used to say. “I appreciate how you feel…” My mother was very empathic – in her way.

 

“Empathy begins with understanding life from another person's perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It's all through our own individual prisms.” ---Sterling K. Brown

 

Then: “But…”

 

“Sure honey, I appreciate how you feel but,” she would say, “-but, remember, there’s always somebody in the world who’s worse off than you.”

 

Well, it’s true. It’s true for every one of the 7 billion of us (except one person, pray for him). As a kid it was frustrating. It didn’t deal with the problem or my feelings. So, when I (still) hear those words in my mind, I relegate them to the “Cold Comfort” file. When my mother’s mother came to visit and I was crying, she would crouch down to be eye to eye with me and say, “Ohh, you’re crying – we have to get the Crying Towel…where is it? Can you find it? Let’s get the Crying Towel…” Cold Comfort. Another would be, “So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days – the odds are in your favour.” True, but similar to yelling “Calm down!” at someone suffering from a panic attack.

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The Art of Compassion

Have you ever found yourself standing in line for a ticket, when someone pushes in front of you saying they’re going to miss their train if they don’t get their ticket quickly? You have two choices, either to be really annoyed and irritated or to show compassion and extend forgiveness. Of course, you don’t know whether they would miss their train or not, as you don’t know their situation … but to extend your forgiveness by trying to put yourself in their shoes, to appreciate their situation is much harder to do. For all you know, they might have young children in daycare or school, and if they miss their train, they won’t be back in time to pick them up.

I’m fascinated on a spiritual level that many of us don’t always see that compassion is all about that deep level of connectiveness between ourselves and others. Being able to demonstrate compassion proves that we can push the boundaries of our tolerance and understanding beyond what we believe. It’s worth the time and effort to explore how to push that boundary of understanding further, and with practice it’s possible to become even more compassionate.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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