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!

 

 

Meditations On True Refuge

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I am overcome with the stillness, the beauty, the connection, the aliveness. I am all these things. They live inside me. And they crackle and come alive in recognizing themselves in this place.

In this moment – in every moment – there is ease and peace and stillness. It belongs to me, always. It belongs to each of us, always. It’s where we meet and are connected. It’s love.

How can the universe be so kind? So compassionate? What did I do to deserve this? Nothing. It’s mine simply because I am.

I send this peace, this love, this bliss to the world, to all my brothers and sisters, each one of us with breath in our lungs, feet on this earth, sky above our heads. We are all ocean; let’s make peace and be playful in our waves.

The universe is perfect. The universe takes care of me. I am a child in its care, protected and loved and cherished and celebrated. Nothing to fear. Nothing to fear. Stay still and listen. Or just be. Stay open and surrender. Let the ocean carry me.

 

I spent last weekend at Kripalu Centre for Yoga and Health, quieting down for five days of meditation, yoga  and stillness. The highlight was a three-day program led by the incredible Tara Brach, who took us through guided meditations, gentle talks and interactive exercises based on the teachings in her book, True Refuge.

The passages above were the thoughts swirling through my head on my last morning there, as I sat in Kripalu’s Meditation Garden. This post is a bit of a departure from what I normally write, but I wanted to share what I wrote that morning because a) it had just spilled out of me without much thought and so it occurs to me that it’s the most raw, unedited thing I’ve ever shared on my blog, and b) the thought of sharing something so raw and unedited makes me feel nervous and vulnerable (and alive), so I’m daring myself to publish it here.

Sending love and light,

Sabrina

 

 

I Care About This Suffering

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In my last post, I pointed to the reasons we default to messages of self-hatred over self-compassion when our vulnerabilities, fear and shame are triggered. It’s helpful to understand, as a first step to breaking the cycle of negative self-talk, that our brains are naturally wired to look for the bad and to sort for differences as methods of survival. We can stop beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up, and that’s a good thing. But then what?

Often we hear about replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk as the best path to self-compassion. We should focus on the positive and talk to ourselves the way we’d talk to our best friend. I think this advice is solid, and an important way to create new neural pathways in our brain that normally default to self-criticism. But I also think there is an important step missing here. What’s missing is the healing.

When we talk badly to ourselves and say words like, “I’m such an idiot! Why do I keep doing these stupid things? When will I ever learn? What was I thinking?”, we are wounding ourselves. Then, if we quickly switch to positive thoughts as the antidote, it’s like we’ve slapped on a Band-aid without any regard for the proper healing the wound. We just put the Band-aid on with fingers crossed that the wound will magically heal without any care or attention.

What I’m suggesting is that it’s important to tend to that wound and ensure its proper healing, even though focusing on the wound sometimes means prolonging the pain. This is a true act of self-compassion. Think of it like this:

Your child comes running to you after falling off a bike and scraping a knee. Without taking a close look at the wound or stopping to console the child, you quickly head for the cupboard, take out a large Band-aid and put it on the wound. You pat your child on the head and say, “Cheer up! All better! Now go back to riding your bike!” and push your kid out the door thinking, “I got this self-compassion thing DOWN!”

What’s missing from this is the tenderness most of us would naturally want to show this child. And even though we know it might prolong the pain the child is feeling, we take time to examine the wound, clean and disinfect it properly, gauge the right kind of dressing to put on the wound, and console the child with the gentle message, “I care about this suffering.”

This is the same kind of care we should take when we realize we’ve been engaging in negative self-talk. Instead of instantly pivoting to positive self-talk, we need to hold our pain a little and let ourselves know that we care about the suffering.

Tara Brach has a beautiful mindfulness practice that she writes about in Radical Acceptance, and I invite you to try it the next time you catch yourself inflicting pain through self-criticism:

  • Pay attention to your body and where the tension, pain or discomfort sits from the emotional wound you’ve inflicted on yourself through the negative self-talk. Is it a tightness in your gut? Is it a tingling heat on your face? Is it a discomfort in your shoulders or neck?
  • Place your hands on that spot where you feel the sensation from the emotional wound. Close your eyes and breathe. It will not be comfortable to be in this place because you will be deeply feeling the pain, discomfort and tension. Just be with the pain and breathe into it. Don’t talk yourself out of it; just stay present to it.
  • Then say the words, “I care about this suffering.” Repeat this as many times as you need to in order to really feel your self-compassion.

You may find that your discomfort, pain or tension dissipates as you hold your hand to your body and repeat the words, “I care about this suffering”. Or you may not, which is likely a sign that this wound has been there a long, long time and hasn’t had a chance to heal yet. Keep going with the practice every time you catch yourself in self-criticism and see how your body and emotions respond over time.

This is a radical act of self-compassion: allowing yourself to be with the pain, holding yourself as you would a child, showing tenderness for the suffering and tending to the wound so that proper healing can take place.

You need this, and the world needs you to do this. On my next Dose of Daring call on April 24th, we’re going to talk more about self-compassion and how it’s the furthest thing from self-indulgence: it’s what you need to do in order to truly serve and contribute to the world in an authentic way. I hope you will join the conversation!

 

 

Why We Are At War With Ourselves

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In preparation for the last Dose of Daring call I hosted on March 27, I had spent some time re-reading Tara Brach‘s amazing book, Radical Acceptance and listening to her podcast episode, Freedom From Fear-based Beliefs. Brach is so inspiring and I love her compassionate, mindful invitation for us to “stop being at war with ourselves”.

Brené Brown always talks about how we’re hardwired for connection, and how this hard-wiring automatically generates a deep, painful fear within us of being disconnected and unloved by others. The thing that is hard to understand is why we opt for self-hatred at these moments of pain, fear and vulnerability, and not self-compassion. It was Tara Brach’s teachings that really helped me understand what this hard-wiring is all about and why we universally default to judging and berating ourselves – instead of showing ourselves compassion and kindness – when we feel vulnerable.

On the one hand, Brach explains that it has been part of our very survival for our brains to have a negativity bias. We naturally pay attention to what’s wrong and not what’s right. Our early ancestors used this negativity bias in order to avoid being killed: if anyone stopped to relax and enjoy what was right and good in their lives, they’d likely be killed and eaten by the closest lion, tiger or bear. Our brains have simply evolved to focus on the negative and make it unavoidable for us to not notice to the bad stuff. It brings to mind the warning cry of Grug from the 2013 animated film, The Croods: “Never not be afraid!”

On the other hand, as another apparatus of survival, we “sort for differences”. This was how our ancestors knew who to trust or not trust as part of their tribe. Those who are like us can be trusted; those who aren’t must be a danger to our very survival. It was as true then as it is today that we also sort for differences within ourselves: those parts of our being that make us different (and potentially unlovable) from others threaten our belonging in a group and must be hidden away lest we get booted out. Better to only show those parts of ourselves that guarantee our membership in the tribe.

You see, people? This stuff is ingrained in us! No wonder we’re all culpable for listening to our gremlins, keeping ourselves small (and safe) and talking ourselves out of Daring Greatly. Brach explains that “staying on top of what’s wrong with us gives us the sense that we are controlling our impulses, disguising our weaknesses and possibly improving our character.” The problem here is that beating ourselves up actually reinforces our insecurities and deepens the neural pathways that generate our feelings of inadequacy. We can’t embrace love and belonging if we continue to question our own worthiness.

And why is important to know this? Because by understanding that a lot of our suffering stems simply from the way our brains are built, we can avoid feeling that extra layer of unworthiness and badness when we catch ourselves engaging in negative self-talk. You know those times when you beat yourself up for beating yourself up? (Psst… remember the crazy concentric circles in my last post?) Don’t do it! Remember that you’re just beautifully hardwired for survival.

So, if we can get over beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up, that’s a good start. But we have to go a little further down the road of self-compassion and mindfulness to really start to heal ourselves and get to that place of truly believing ourselves worthy of love and belonging. That’s what I’ll unpack  in my next blog post.

For now, I’ll leave you with this lovely intention from the Buddha and I encourage you to repeat it to yourself often as a prayer or mantra:

Like a caring mother

Holding and guarding the life

Of her only child,

So with a boundless heart

Hold yourself and all beings.

My next Dose of Daring will be held on Friday April 24 at 12pm (Eastern Time). On this call, we’re going to stay with the theme of self-compassion, and look at how practicing self-kindness is NOT the same thing as self-indulgence and is, in fact, an absolutely precondition to serve the world and live the life you were meant to lead.

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