A Beautiful Life Now

July 12, 2019 by  
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If someone is really rude and totally offends you but then later offers a very sincere apology, most of us would probably forgive that person and move on with our lives. However, when most of us human beings make a mistake or screw something up, in many cases we will not forgive ourselves and so we carry that guilt around for days or years and that can hurt us in so many ways.

Quoting from Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully, a great book that I’ve quoted before, “Over time, as thinking minds begin to settle, we’ll start to see our patterns and habits far more clearly. This can be an experience. I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be. By cultivating nonjudgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher and a support and no longer as an enemy.”

Pema talks a lot about acceptance of ourselves and the world as it is and how we should appreciate it as it is now. She talks about what she calls the “third commitment”, which is key to this kind of acceptance and appreciation. (You need to read her book to find out what the first and second commitment are and how they can greatly improve a person’s life.) To quote her again, “The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.” She goes on to add that, “The attitude of the third commitment is that we live in a world that is intrinsically good, intrinsically awake, and our path is to realize this. Simply put, the practice at this stage is to turn toward your experience, all of it, and never turn away.

Pema talks a lot about being kind to others especially to ourselves. She talks about the process of growing-up and working toward feeling totally relaxed and free. She says, “that process, that transition, is one of becoming comfortable with exactly what we’re feeling as we feel it. The key practice to support us in this is mindfulness–being fully present right here, right now. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few.”

Pema Chodron further explains that we need to pay attention to all the details of our life. “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons”.

I think the bottom line is, if we pay more attention to the details of our lives it will give us more ways to free ourselves and that can help us free ourselves from suffering. So, we need to accept ourselves, appreciate our life as it is now, and pay attention. And we need to do all that, right now.

Beating Yourself Up vs. Forgiving Yourself

August 23, 2013 by  
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My daughter Cammy teaches yoga and has persuaded me to go a number of times–and yes my creaky body certainly benefits from all that posing and stretching–but her comments to the class at the end of each session finally got through to my brain. I’ve been over the top surprised about what a powerful and life enhancing message she was delivering all this time and it had totally passed me by.

Her simple statements didn’t sink in until I was re-reading Kelly McGonigal’s wonderful book The Willpower Instinct. My daughter would end all of her yoga classes saying “Thank yourself for putting forth the effort to come today and please cultivate more and more compassion for yourself–don’t be hard on yourself.” I’ve always thought her words were pretty good advice but WOW have I made a great discovery that puts those words in a category much, much greater than just “good advice”. Let me explain.

Anyone that reads my blogs knows I am a huge advocate of setting lots of goals, and tough ones, for yourself. I preach that all the time to anyone who will listen. My big time discovery is that I realized that when I fell short of my goals I’d been doing exactly the wrong thing to myself, the very thing that hurts me and makes it even more difficult to reach new goals in the future. What I’ve been doing (and you probably have been doing the same thing) is this: When I fail or fall short of a goal I beat myself up mentally and I certainly don’t have any compassion for myself. I, like most people, think that if I forgive myself for falling short of my goal, I’ll just do it again. However, that is simply not true.

As it turns out, research done by two psychologists from Louisiana State University and Duke University show that it’s forgiveness of self, not guilt and beating yourself up that increases your accountability. I was shocked. I read this in McGonigal’s book where she goes on to say “These findings fly in the face of our instincts. How can this be, when so many of us have a strong intuition that self-criticism is the cornerstone of self-control, and self-compassion is a slippery slope to self-indulgence?” But in this case our instinct is dead wrong!

This very smart and well-spoken author also mentions that “One reason forgiveness helps people recover from mistakes is that it takes away the shame and pain of thinking about what happened. The what-the-hell effect is an attempt to escape the bad feelings that follow a setback. Without the guilt and self-criticism, there’s nothing to escape. This means it’s easier to reflect on how the failure happened, and less tempting to repeat it.”

Isn’t that fascinating? We’ll talk more on this subject next week but in the meantime try forgiving yourself daily for any failure or falling short of what you have set out for yourself. Take time to give yourself great dosages of compassion and, yes, it’s okay to love yourself and a lot. Talk to yourself and give praise and love like you would to a kid that you love.