Dharma Talk: It's Not Your Job to Pretend

On October 18, 2014, I was at Austin Zen Center to give a morning talk and an afternoon workshop. In this talk, titled "It's Not Your Job to Pretend,"  I speak about how we often seek safety by pretending to be wiser or more compassionate than we are.

Is it scary to say "No"?

It’s just a few weeks until Halloween, a holiday that offers children and adults the opportunity to connect with the more shadowy aspects of human experience. For some, it means acknowledging death, and honoring loved ones who have died. In more mainstream cultural expressions, death is portrayed in a sometimes campy way (with dancing skeletons and cartoon ghosts). Still, Halloween reminds us that impermanence is actually right here, interwoven with our day-to-day lives. It can be scary to let that truth fully register. Most of us are understandably attached to our lives as they are, including our sense of who we are.

Self-Compassion Just Might Save Your Life

I had an experience recently which re-affirmed for me that self-compassion is probably the most powerful tool I have. Some might wonder how that could be true. While more people are becoming aware of the importance of self-compassion in mental health and well-being, it still runs counter to the values of the prevailing mainstream culture that tends to emphasize immediate gratification, competition, and self-esteem based on hierarchical achievement. 

The Importance of Inclusive Intentions

Did you grow up with Casey Kasem‘s weekly Top 40 radio show? It was a Saturday morning staple for me, and I always waited for his catch-phrase at the end of every show: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.” While Casey’s words might sound trite, they’re relevant to setting inclusive intentions ~ a key aspect of cultivating self-compassion. 

Self-Compassion in Five Words

Self-compassion is at the heart of my personal and professional life, and when people ask me how it got there, I usually say that it was through my meditation practice. It’s true that sitting for years on a consistent basis (when I’m tired, anxious, joyful, frustrated and everything else) showed me a lot about the power of choosing to be present with my experience, rather than judging myself for having it. But I first became aware of the revolutionary nature of self-compassion years before I started meditating.

Being the Ocean ~ Being Human

I bet everyone has some experience of the seasickness that Leonard Cohen is talking about. Our minds have very strong opinions about the way things should be: for example, innocent people shouldn’t suffer; we ourselves should look, speak and be a particular way; our loved ones should do what we know is best for them. And when life doesn’t match up with how we think it’s supposed to be (innocent people suffer, we aren’t as articulate or successful as we think we should be, our loved ones do things that don’t make sense to us), we often feel this seasickness.

I am not my ________ .

I recently read a Huffington Post article about photographer Steve Rosenfield’sWhat I Be Project. Since 2010, Rosenfield has invited subjects to write words on their face and/or body that relate to their deepest insecurities. He then photographs them, looking directly at the camera, and titles their portraits with their insecurity included in the phrase, “I am not my __________________________ .” Rosenfield describes his Project as “a social experiment turned into, what is now, a global movement about honesty and empowerment.” And, I would add, self-compassion.