Five Kick-ass Authors Who Write About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Are Not Brené Brown)

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I love me my Brené Brown.

From that first TED talk, I was smitten. My admiration grew deeper as I read each of her groundbreaking books. And of course my commitment was sealed when I flew to San Antonio two years ago to become a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator.

Can you blame me? The woman has become a leading voice in the growing global conversation about the power of shame and the practice of vulnerability to create a “wholehearted” life.

However, there are definitely other voices out there contributing to the shame-resilience conversation: Remarkable writers who bring their own unique lens, language and practices to the themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living.

Looking for a fresh perspective on the topic? Look no further! Over the next five weeks, I’m going to introduce you to five kick-ass authors whose books need to be on your bookshelf. Get ready to build your summer reading list!

I begin with…

Tara Brach, Ph.D.,  Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

This book is for you if: You’re into meditation, mindfulness, and the teachings and practices of Buddhism 

To me, Tara Brach is the Buddhist-Buddy of Brené Brown. I absolutely adore the writing of Tara Brach, and feel that her books bring a sacredness and spirituality to shame-resilience work that Brené’s books don’t quite capture.

In Radical Acceptance, Brach calls shame the “trance of unworthiness” and explains that, “trapped in this trance, we are unable to perceive the truth of who we really are.” The book touches on perfectionism, numbing, self-criticism, scarcity and fear… and then beautifully describes the path to freedom from these sufferings.

 

“Brach writes with such warmth and clarity that

you’ll feel like she’s your own personal Buddhist teacher

guiding you to self-love and acceptance.”

 

What I especially love about Radical Acceptance are the meditation exercises Brach has sprinkled throughout the book, offering these as practices to build shame-resilience. They are beautifully written and easy to follow, even if you don’t practice meditation.

Tara Brach writes with such warmth and clarity that you’ll feel like she’s your own personal Buddhist teacher guiding you to self-love and acceptance. And, if you fall in love with her writing, you can also follow Tara Brach’s work through weekly podcasts that feature her speaking to large groups and leading meditations.

Interesting tid-bit: Radical Acceptance was published in 2003, a full four years before Dr. Brown published her first book on shame (I Thought It Was Just Me)!

 

Have you read Radical Acceptance? Love it or not-so-much? Tell me what you think of it in the comments section below or on my Facebook Page. Or, if you plan to read it, remember to come back to my Facebook Page when you’re done to tell me what you thought of it. Happy reading!

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #43: Month-end Mindfulness – Being With The Scary

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #43 – Month-end Mindfulness: Being With The Scary

‘Tis the season for all things spooky, dark and scary. So let’s ride the spirit of Halloween and dedicate this Month-end Mindfulness exercise to getting really present to our own spooky, dark and scary stuff.

A popular expression these days is “lean in”. What does that mean? It means choosing to be with — really be with — something, even when it’s uncomfortable, when there’s no obvious solution, and when there is no guarantee of relief. This is not something most people choose. Why would we? It’s a painful place to be, after all.

Instead, when things become uncomfortable and seem unsolvable, we quickly do things that numb us from that pain and discomfort. We reach for a glass of wine. We eat carbs in front of the tv. We go online for hours. We shop. We gamble. We also let our minds go into panic mode: we fret and regret the past, replaying things over and over in our heads. Or we get carried away in anxiety over the future. What if this or that happens? We imagine the absolute worst of what might be; we catastrophize. Or we go to quick-fix, popular affirmations that just keep us operating at a very superficial level. I know for me, I go straight to watching an episode of Downton Abbey or some Jane Austen film, just so I can be carried away to what seems like a light and fancy time period.

So, this week’s experiment might not be your favourite, but it is just an experiment after all (meaning: just try it to see what happens). This week, when you meet a spooky, dark and scary subject for yourself – maybe it’s your tendency toward anger; your habit of gossiping about others; your default of blaming others for your problems; your painful memories of a past trauma; your deeply held belief that you’re somehow unworthy of love and belonging – instead of  doing anything in your power to ignore, deflect or otherwise deny these tough feelings, make a choice instead to lean into them.

How do you do this? Well, once you’re “hit” with the dark, spooky place, breathe. And breathe again. Then move your attention out of your head and away from your thoughts, and move your awareness to your body. Remember that you’re not trying to solve this problem (which is what your head wants to do); you are simply being with it, leaning into it (which is finding out where it lives in your body). Get mindful to your physical experience of this discomfort. Where does it sit? In your chest or gut? Behind your eyes, or just on your shoulders? Breathe and let your awareness find the discomfort in your body. When your awareness finds it, get really clear on what that sensation feels like. Is it a tightness? Is it a burning? Can you give colour or shape to it?

Once you’ve found it and are really clear on the sensation, then just keep your attention there while you take five deep, conscious breaths. Send that healing and life-giving breath to that spot of discomfort.

That’s it.

Being mindful of your dark stuff means not trying to deal with it or solve it. And while it’s not exactly like making friends with the dark stuff, it is definitely about sending some compassion to it. This may sound simplistic (the best things in life are, by the way), but it’s powerful. And, at the very least, it opens a space between action and reaction, which is a huge benefit of becoming more mindful in your life.

I would love to hear about your experience with this experiment, so leave a message below, on my Facebook Page, or even email me directly at sabrina@sabrinaguerin.com. How did it feel to lean in? What happened on the other side of this mindfulness exercise? Could it become a regular practice for you? Let me know!

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #40: Armour Down

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #40 – Armour Down

Thanksgiving is almost here and for some of us that means lots of family drama. Sometimes the drama begins once the door opens to the first guest; for others, it’s a slow build to a climatic outburst that happens anytime between the turkey course and pumpkin pie. And still for others, the drama simmers low and slow, never quite bubbling over but providing an equal amount discomfort, pain and exhaustion.

This is a holiday where a lot of people “armour up” to stave off any feelings of vulnerability among family and friends. Let’s see… there’s the armour of perfection: running around like a mad person to make everything “just so” in an impossible attempt to avoid any utterance of criticism. Then there’s the armour of numbing: eat, drink, eat, eat, drink, drink, watch tv, watch tv, drink, drink, eat, eat… anything to take the edge off the tense feelings. And then there is the armour of “the best defence is a good offence”: I’m going to zing you first with criticism, judgement, sarcasm and passive aggression before you can do it to me! And last, but not least, is the armour of catastrophizing so much that you actually squander whatever joyful moments might actually be happening in the moment. That armour goes something like, “Ya, everyone is getting along now, but just wait. The other shoe is about to drop and I’ll be ready.”

Yikes, I have an ache in my stomach just writing about it. You might think all of this armour keeps you safe, but in the world of Daring Greatly, it’s really just keeping you small, unseen, disconnected and inauthentic.

The experiment for the Work/Life Lab this week and upcoming weekend is to… you guessed it… armour down. This is going to look different for each of you but the basic premise is this: figure out your biggest “go to” armour when you’re feeling vulnerable with your family or friends and make a choice to take that piece of armour off. It’s not forever. And it’s not all your armour. Just pick something and try taking it off for an hour. Or for the evening. If you’re feeling especially courageous, maybe for the entire weekend. You might experiment with taking different pieces of armour off at different times.

So in real terms this might mean letting a part of Thanksgiving weekend be imperfect and just letting go of your need for approval. Just one thing. Or maybe just for one hour.

It could look like less numbing – one or two fewer drinks or one less serving of pumpkin pie – and choosing instead to lean in to the discomfort, knowing that it won’t be forever and you might be present-enough to learn something new about someone else or yourself.

Or it could be making the choice to be kind and authentic and gracious with the other people, and not on the offensive (or defensive). What would one hour of no judgement or harsh words feel like?

Finally, it might look like staying in the present moment long enough to fully embrace the joy and happiness that could be found there.  Mindfulness will always be the thread running through an attempt to Dare Greatly.

If the armour is stuck on tight and you’re having a hard time taking it off, then just bring your attention to the fact that you are wearing and using the armour to protect yourself from vulnerability, and then at least the choice to wear it becomes a conscious one.

Good luck. This is not an easy experiment. It is for those who want more connection, love, meaning and joy in their life, and this is always a risky affair. The trick is to know – whether the experience is a good one or bad one – that at least you tried. At least you were Daring Greatly.

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #34 – Month-end Mindfulness: A New BFF In 7 Days

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #34 – Month-end Mindfulness: A New BFF In 7 Days

The more I facilitate The Daring Way™ program with those brave women and men looking to live more wholeheartedly in their lives, the more I understand how much this one thing seems to be so lacking for each of us: self-kindness.

Practicing self-compassion is a key path to living wholeheartedly. Brené Brown’s definition of wholehearted living is to engage in life from a place of worthiness, knowing that while we are imperfect and vulnerable and afraid, we are at the same time courageous beings who are worthy of love and belonging. Kristen Neff, a leading researcher on the topic of self-compassion, identifies three components of self compassion: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. Of these three components, it is self-kindness that seems to stump most people. When people try to show themselves gestures and thoughts of genuine, life-affirming kindness (as opposed to superficial affirmations or self-comforting actions that spill over into numbing behaviours), there is a real struggle. It’s amazing that we can’t treat ourselves with the same tenderness, warmth and love that we so easily give to our spouses, children, family members or friends. When it comes time to give ourselves a little kindness, it feels fake. It feels indulgent or egotistical. Mostly, it feels undeserved.

This week’s Work/Life Lab, in celebration of Month-end Mindfulness, is all about giving yourself a nice, healthy daily dose of self-kindness. This is a mindfulness practice because it requires some self-centering and some real attention to your being. Neff explains that self-kindness involves “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.”

So here’s what I want you to do: this week, pay attention to those times you fall into the default of self-criticism. Notice when thoughts of “How could I be so stupid?” or “What was I thinking?” or “Why am I so tired?” or “Why can’t I just get over this?”… anything that’s harsh and adds another layer of blame, frustration or stress to an already painful situation. When you notice you are going there, take a breath and soften. Soften, soften, soften. And then tell yourself something that is absolutely comforting and kind. My stand-by is, naturally, from Brené Brown’s work: “I am enough.” Or maybe try, “All is well, and so am I.”

This is a practice; not something you just do once and assume you’re good to go. You may not even be aware of just how many negative “mental tapes” you have playing day-to-day. So take notice, take a breath, and then give yourself some kindness. Keep it up, and by the end of seven days, you might even find that you are your own new BFF.

P.S. Curious to know just how self-compassionate you are? Take Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion Test to find out!

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #30 – Month-end Mindfulness: Watch The Urges

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #30, Month-end Mindfulness:  Watch The Urges

In The Daring Way™ work that I do with clients, we often talk about the things we do to avoid feeling shame and vulnerability. One of the biggies and one of the things I think most of us can identify with is the urge to numb. We numb in a lot of different ways: food, alcohol, drugs, television, internet, work, shopping, gossip… any behaviour that take us out of our present moment experience and help us escape the strong emotions that come with the fear of disconnection, being stuck and generally feeling not good enough.

Numbing is not self-care. I am a big believer in self-care and engaging in behaviours that give us comfort and self-compassion when we’re feeling overwhelmed with vulnerability. Indeed, upping their doses of self-care is a prescription I give out to most of my clients. And while we all need to embrace things that give us comfort and self-compassion, there is a danger when these choices become chronic and compulsive, moving us to a place where we completely avoid feeling the discomfort of strong emotions. Brené Brown quotes Jennifer Louden in trying to describe the difference between numbing and true comfort when we need some self-care: “A piece of dark chocolate can be a holy wafer of comfort, and three bars of it can be numbing.”

In honour of Month-end Mindfulness in the Work/Life Lab, let’s take this week to really pay attention to our urges to numb. Often, the decision to numb is unconscious and instantaneous. We are pouring the glass of wine at the sound of our kids starting to fight. We are dropping coins into the vending machine after every meeting with the boss. We are turning on Facebook the moment our spouse walks in the door. They are the default behaviours we don’t even seem to be choosing for ourselves; instead, it’s as if the behaviour is choosing us.

So, to be clear, this week’s experiment is not about changing those behaviours. I’m asking you only to pay attention to the urges. I’m asking you to create some space between the moment your strong emotions and thoughts are triggered and the choice you make to engage in whatever numbing behaviour is your go-to.

When the urge comes to do that thing – eating the chocolate, watching endless hours of television, staying at work longer than necessary – take a mental step back, take a few deep breaths and try to stay with the urge and the discomfort for just three minutes. That’s all. Three minutes. Then go ahead and do whatever feels right to you at that moment, which may mean engaging in the numbing behaviour anyway. You may choose not to numb, and that’s fine too. Again, at this point, the goal is not to manage your choice to numb or not; the idea here is to increase your mindfulness around triggers and responses, and to learn to “be with” strong emotions before going to your default numbing behaviour.

In that three-minute mindful pause, pay attention to what’s going on for you. Really get in touch with the physical sensations you feel as a result of your thoughts and emotions. Where is the discomfort living in your body? Your stomach? Your shoulders? Your lower back? Your chest? Do the three minutes feel like three hours, or do the moments pass quickly? Breathe in the moment, be with the discomfort, and when you come out of the three minutes, let it go. As you practice this during the week, pay attention to how your choices around numbing behaviours change. Just being more conscious of what’s happening to you in that moment of discomfort and the numbing response you choose is turning up the dial of your mindfulness. And when we are more mindful and can increase the space between trigger and response, we are more likely to choose comfort over numbing.

I would love to hear how this experiment goes for you this week! Please let me know by leaving a reply below or posting a message on my Facebook Page!