About this course
I made a little 5-minute video from my heart to tell you about this Lab topic:
Can I tell you a story? For many many years, one of the central principles in my teaching of movement, meditation, embodied listening, anything I do, really, has been compassion. I love the Sanskrit word "Maitri" which translates both as "loving-kindness" and also, by Trungpa, as "unconditional brave friendliness." In this practice, the way I've always offered it is that we always start with oneself because I know all too well that if it's not happening right here in your own body-mind, you're extremely limited in your capacity to bring compassion to the others in your world.
A few years ago one of my beloved mentors, a fierce and loving elder in her 80s, Deena Metzger, who has been teaching about the need for healing our relationship with Earth for a long time, said something that stopped me in my tracks. After someone mentioned "self-compassion," she said, "I don't want to hear about self-compassion. I don't want to hear anything that starts with the word "self" unless it's "self-scrutiny."
Now in a world where humans are wreaking SO much damage on the world, I absolutely get where that sentiment is coming from. And so I sat with this perspective for more than a year. Could she be right? We could definitely use more self-scrutiny (honestly I like the word "self-reflection" better), to correct our harmful ways.
But should we skip over self-compassion?
I asked her about this last summer when I spent a week with her. She said, "I'm not against self-compassion, but why do you start with that?"
So, I sat with that question.
And eventually, I found an answer.
During that week with Deena, I was in a small-group process where I sat with 3 other women and I had a powerful experience. One woman who clearly hadn't developed much self-compassion ended up derailing our whole group process because she had taken something another woman in the group had said personally, and she couldn't let it go. She interrupted and took over the process we were doing to keep expressing her deep upset over a comment, which all 3 of us kept assuring her was not personal and wasn't even about her. She was scrutinizing herself big time without self-compassion and... it got us all stuck.
From my perspective, if she had had some practice befriending herself - her discomfort, her judgment, her fear - she might have self-soothed or had a sense of humor about it and the sticky moment might have liberated itself, or been way less a big deal.
Still, I sat with this inquiry. Was I wrong to put self-compassion as a foundational practice?
Certainly, compassion needs to not stop with the self, but does it make sense to start there?
I was glad I let myself really stew in this question and let myself be disturbed by it. And you know what? I landed back where I started, even if I happen to disagree with Deena.
I believe self-compassion is foundationally important. For me. For the people I work with one on one or in classes. It's of utmost importance to not stop with the self. But if we don't start there, it seems to me that we're essentially handicapped.
I saw a post that Elizabeth Gilbert made on Instagram and she says it so clearly and simply, I really couldn't have said it better myself.
That's it, friends.
I stand by this perspective. 100%.
And I'll continue to bring it to embodiment work, to listening class, to Feldenkrais, to my particular way into teaching deep ecology and The Work That Reconnects, to grief tending, to pain of all kinds, to my own deepening learning about the many harmful systems humans have created. To all of it.
Well simply said, because it works. I've seen it time and again.
And at a certain point, nothing else really makes sense.
The very same action can have vastly different impacts depending on if it's running through an inner or outer critic or a"fixer," or if it's run through love. Same action. Vastly different impact.
I'm all for bravely loving all the layers so we can really love the world.
We can't heal anything without love.
Yesterday I read this beautiful interview between bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh and I'm so glad to see that they agree.
And so it came to me - that's the sacred thing I'm intending to put at the center of the new Roaring Twenties.
And more love.
As Mary Oliver says, "First love yourself. Then forget it. Then love the world."
Let's do that, shall we?
Could it be possible that awareness of subtle sensations in your own body can teach you self-compassion?
Could it be true that following the path of least effort and most pleasure in your movement is a profound way to increasing your somatic intelligence and movement skill?
Could it be that embodying self-compassion is very possible and that once we begin on this path, everything becomes more workable - from physical pains to challenging life-situations?
Could it be that this is one of the most important cultivations you could invest in to improve the quality of your life?
How can I make this (whatever I'm doing) less effortful and more pleasurable?
Asking this question again and again and following our bodily guidance grows our presence and mindfulness, our embodiment of self-compassion, and our sustainability and skill as moving human beings.
In a sense, this is not about self-improvement.
It's about nurturing a liberating quality of attention. It's about nurturing our capacity to bring courageous friendliness toward what is. It's about welcoming all the layers of our experience from our most magnanimous, compassionate self. Our bodies can be our best teachers on how to grow this quality and this experience.
We work with this at such a profound, deep level when we include movement, embodiment, somatic habits and our physical way of being our self and doing our life, and not just our thoughts and concepts. It's deep. It's potent. And it's SO worth doing.
Your inner teacher is here to befriend you and there is no part of you that is undeserving of that friendship and compassion.
St. Francis and the Sow
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
~ Galway Kinnell ~
As Parker Palmer says:
“Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.”
Let's explore embodying self-compassion.
We hope you'll consider joining us in the Embodiment Lab!
Wishing you an unshakable connection with your own kind heart,
Carl & Erin