December 30, 2018
Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. It’s a time when we are to get excited about resolutions for the new year – it’s a time to nurture hope, fuel dreams, and resonate with all the possibilities that are to come. This typically positive dreaming time of year is important medicine for the soul. Holding hope that things can be better than they are, dreaming of a future where you feel more empowered, more alive, healthier, where the world feels safer, where equality is evident, where peace is possible… this kind of hoping, this kind of dreaming… well, it’s almost like it’s a prerequisite for optimal living.
To top it off, the Christmas season can prime the sensation of hope with its focus on love and generosity. And whether you have a lot to give or a little, whether your heart has been broken or is overflowing, or whether you just received a life-threatening diagnosis, the Christmas season seems to absorb it all … it’s like a sponge for all the pain and suffering. It’s as if the lights and the music and the smiles lighten the pain and you find yourself in a place that still allows you to prepare for something different to come in the new year.
Unless of course, Christmas season is a season that worsens the pain (like during the time following the divorce of my former husband and right smack within the heightened onset of my transverse myelitis). When stuff like that happens, you can’t wait for it – Christmas season that is – to be over.
But what if your heart breaks afterChristmas? What if you lost something or someone you love afterChristmas? What if you get your life-threatening diagnosis afterChristmas? What if Christmas magic (or even the wishing for “it to be over”) didn’t work for you after all? Is there enough magic left over from Christmas day to sustain you into holding hope for a more positive future on New Year’s Eve? Is there enough holiday love and generosity left to bring a positive new year’s resolution into your awareness?
I dunno. Maybe that’s why there are half-price holiday candy sales and so many people giving away leftover candy, cookies and other excess items. Maybe those people are unconsciously trying to create some space for the people whose pain and suffering wasn’t absorbed by Christmas magic; at least not long enough for them to feel a flicker of hope to fuel at least one new year’s resolution or intention for a brighter tomorrow.
So, if you already have your new year’s resolutions or your intentions to live life in a particular way in 2019 – good on you(that is if those resolutions and intentions are in alignment with your higher levels of awareness and if they cause you and no one else harm).
If you are in the camp that is struggling with setting your 2019 intentions, just as I am, then join me in a mindful self-compassion practice created by Drs Kristin Neff and Chris Gerber (2018).
First, simply acknowledge the pain and suffering you are experiencing. Yes, name it. For example, right now, I am calling mine WtF? And if WtF?is a lot of stuff…. Pull it apart, like, look at all these kids dying… can’t we stop this for heaven’s sake…WtF? I can’t believe she wasn’t promoted to full professor; her work is so powerful and important… WtF? What do you mean this disease isn’t treatable…WtF? How on earth do I get these board members to realize that just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it won’t create social injustice for those to follow…WtF?
SO, after you acknowledge the pain and suffering and name it, then stop for a moment and just breathe deeply (whatever that means to you). Then, remind yourself that you are not alone in this pain and suffering… for example, others are feeling the grief that they can’t stop a particular group of kids from dying; others are angry that this particular amazing scholar wasn’t promoted to professor, others are in shock that this life-threatening diagnosis has no treatment, and others (obviously not these particular board members) would be frustrated that they can’t see the policy they are creating is allegedly promoting social injustice.
Then offer yourself some soothing words of kindness that also validates the pain. Validating the pain doesn’t mean that you agree with the underlying cause that created it. It’s more like what you would say to a best friend who is experiencing what you are experiencing. For me, I am choosing something like this, Yes, this sucks; I feel for you. Who wouldn’t be feeling that way if they experienced that or witnessed that? I so wish I could fix this for you right now but I can’t. And I’m feeling so upset that I can’t fix this. So, how about I sit here and be here with you in this; would that be alright? I’ll also be here with you through this, as long as you need me – I’m here for you, OK?
Yeah – it may sound silly… I used to think it was goofy… that was until I tried it on. And now, I practice it a LOT!
And then one of my favorite things to do next is this… count my blessings…
Hey, I saw those eyes roll. Seriously, try it on just for a second… yes, you can count big blessings (aka what you feel grateful for) like friends and family, the amazing partner who loves you just as you are, fresh drinking water, electricity, and the ability to breathe, hear, and see (in all the ways that breathing, seeing, and hearing can occur).
HOWEVER, what I am really talking about here is this:
Let’s count the little blessings we take for granted every day such as a loving touch, the sensation of sun on the skin, a paper clip, a facial tissue, the waft of a welcomed fragrance that took just a fraction of a moment to recognize, a fraction of a moment invested in noticing what there is to notice, a genuine smile, a welcome song that randomly comes to mind and the amusement it brings as you realize you can hear inside of you what no one else is hearing.
The list can go on and on, yes? I invite you to allow this list to go on and on until your attention drifts to something else… and perhaps that something else is a new year’s resolution. Or perhaps your attention is now on an intention to invest in a new way of being and doing such as practicing self-compassion. Perhaps that something else is a small flicker of hope that there is some beauty in the midst of intense pain and suffering, even if it is a fraction of a moment when you are slightly amused by the pattern in the sidewalk cracks or the dirt path before you or the letters, WtF.
Regardless, know you are not alone in either the joy of planning your new year’s resolutions or the post-Christmas season heavy heart that simply wants to be acknowledged with loving kindness. And so here is something else we can now add to our list of blessings… Dr. Kristin Neff and more of her self-compassion exercises; check them out at https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#exercises
And if your heart is still super heavy and you need affirmation that you are not alone in this pain and suffering, we invite you to call this number (or perhaps a number you already have) so they can offer you support you deserve (1-800-273-8255).
In closing this entry, it isn’t easy to carry the burdens of your very real pain and suffering all by yourself… it isn’t. And one of those little blessings is that we don’t have too… you don’t have to…remembering that can be another little blessing noticed in just this little fraction of a moment.
In loving kindness,
Marilee Bresciani Ludvik, Ph.D.