I’m writing you tonight from the recently reopened community room at Wilbur Hot Springs. I hear some guests cooking their meals in the nearby kitchen and others chatting over their dinner by the fireplace. In the library, folks are reading and napping on overstuffed sofas. The atmosphere is warm and nurturing and familiar, which is quite poignant for me. [Read more…]
Do you spur on your inner critic, hoping that if you can just be harder on yourself, you can liberate yourself from your pain and inhabit your life more fully?
Or do you try to stifle, ignore, or exile your inner critic, believing that the key to happiness is to just think positively and overpower or deny your doubts and judgments?
If you regularly use one or both of these strategies, how are they working for you? Are you genuinely fulfilled? Has your critic really gone away? Or are you feeling frustrated and discouraged, wondering why you’re trying so hard and still not getting the results you’re wanting? [Read more…]
Six weeks ago, my home burned down. In ten minutes. While I was out of town.
Complicatedly, the building that burned wasn’t my private residence, though it was the heart of the place where I was living and have frequently visited and lived over the past 17 years. Since August, I’d been living at Wilbur Hot Springs—an off-the-grid historic lodge, hot springs, and nature preserve. Wilbur is where I go for creative renewal and deep contemplation. There is nowhere I feel more deeply nourished, more heart-flung-open to the world, more at home. So when the beloved Victorian-era lodge was largely destroyed in a ten-minute blaze on March 29, I experienced one of my life’s greatest shocks and loses.
Up until the fire, I’d been teaching a weekly self-empathy workshop for Wilbur guests. In that offering, I always shared my favorite Buddhist principle: that every life has 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. I take this to mean that pushing through sorrows and striving toward joys won’t leave us with any more joys, but it will deprive us of the growth, depth of experience, and meaning we gain from offering presence to each joy and sorrow as they inevitably arise.
Every year, an estimated 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but one study suggests that only 12 percent actually accomplish their goals. Why do so many of us start each new year with resolutions, only to drop them once the hope of a fresh start diminishes?
The cultural message about our unsuccessful attempts to stick to our resolutions is that we’re lazy, distracted, or incompetent. But the standard resolutions model we’re given actually set us up to “fail” and thus break trust with ourselves, so that we’re left in doubt of our own ability to act from a place of empowered intentionality. When we fail to achieve our goals with that model, we’re told we lack willpower, and to try again. And again, and again, until we get tired and give up. We may get so discouraged and angry that we resolve never to make another “stupid resolution” again. But without setting and acting on our own intentions—whatever the time of year—how can we ever hope to be empowered, fulfilled, and truly free? [Read more…]
December is one of the busiest months, jam-packed with celebrations and lights and opportunities for connection. December is also the darkest month, with the shortest days and the longest nights—nature’s invitation to tend to our pains and losses. In no month is the human struggle between light and dark, life and death, hope and despair more alive. And for many of us, this stark contrast between celebration and mourning can feel uncomfortable, unacknowledged, and incredibly draining. What we need most to weather this month’s beautiful but challenging complexities is empathy. [Read more…]