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Being with Strong Emotions & Letting Them Go

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
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Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh on Being with Emotions from The Mindfulness Bell:

“We should not be afraid of our feelings and emotions. Sometimes an emotion can be very powerful, like a storm. It makes us suffer a lot. But we should remember that an emotion is only an emotion. Not more than an emotion. Sometimes we think that we are only our emotion. That is not correct.

…When we observe a tree in a storm, if we focus on the top of the tree, we feel a lack of safety. The tree seems fragile, unable to withstand the storm. But if we focus on the trunk of the tree, we see its firmness. We see that the tree is deeply rooted in the soil and that it will withstand the storm. When we are overwhelmed by strong emotion, we should not focus on the level of the brain or the heart. We have to bring our attention down to the level of the navel. This is our trunk. We know that to stay in the storm is dangerous, so we go down and embrace the trunk. We practice mindful breathing, and focus all our attention on the rise and fall of the abdomen during the storm of strong emotion. Breathe in and out deeply, and nourish your awareness that emotion is something that comes, stays a while, and goes away.”

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For me, the rising and falling of emotions during this storm feels like being by the ocean watching the rising and falling of the waves, the moments of stillness and the moments of turbulence, while staying rooted in my practices of mindfulness, compassion, and joy.

I welcome the various sensations and feelings, allowing them to stay, and asking do you need anything? Offering a gentle touch, resting my hand on my heart and belly, noticing the rising and falling of my chest and belly with my breath. Sometimes, humming or rocking helps or the offering of a kind phrase, Darling, I’m here. I know it hurts. It’s okay. I’m here.

For instructions on a meditation practice that can be helpful for being with difficult emotions, please visit here to learn about RAIN from Meditation teacher Tara Brach.

I find it important to discern the difference between being with emotions as they come and go and holding onto certain emotional states such as fear or despair. A practice I try to do daily is shaking. It helps me to release anything extra, anything that I no longer need to carry, any energy that is stuck or stagnant. Here’s an example of it offered here by Kim Eng.

I also find it helpful to connect with moments of joy and levity as well. For example, listening to a gentle song like the one below brings me ease and helps regulate my nervous system. Engaging in yoga or qigong practice, finding things that make me laugh, or being with forms of virtual connection and joy such as a virtual dance party are all supportive activities that I schedule into my day to help me find balance.

 

What helps you to stay centered and rooted right now? What helps you be with strong emotions and what helps you let them go? What brings you joy and levity?

 

–lissa

pleasure activism

intergenerational trauma and triumph (pleasure activism series)

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
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Message from the Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers:

“As you move through these changing times… be easy on yourself and be easy on one another. You are at the beginning of something new. You are learning a new way of being. You will find that you are working less in the yang modes that you are used to.

You will stop working so hard at getting from point A to point B the way you have in the past, but instead, you will spend more time experiencing yourself in the whole, and your place in it.

Instead of traveling to a goal out there, you will voyage deeper into yourself. Your mother’s grandmother knew how to do this. Your ancestors from long ago knew how to do this. They knew the power of the feminine principle… and because you carry their DNA in your body, this wisdom and this way of being is within you.

Call on it. Call it up. Invite your ancestors in. As the yang based habits and the decaying institutions on our planet begin to crumble, look up. A breeze is stirring. Feel the sun on your wings.”

I deeply appreciate the wisdom of these grandmother leaders. In these recent weeks, I’ve noticed an increasing sense of fear and collapse as well as resilience at times. When these felt sensations arise, they don’t feel like they’re just my own. They feel collective and intergenerational and like they can offer wisdom about how to take care and how to be with what is if I can allow them to be present and listen.

I notice myself inviting my ancestors in, knowing that they can be a source of support, knowing that they have loving wisdom to offer, and feeling significant solace in that and also acknowledging the conditioning and trauma passed through my ancestral lineage that I can offer up for healing right alongside my own wounds that need healing. I feel gratitude to be able to be with the multiplicities of experiences and medicines that are a part of my lineage.

About Integenerational Trauma

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The impact of abuse, genocide, slavery, oppression, white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, and trauma don’t only appear in the person or community who experiences or witnesses them. They are transmitted in the generations that follow until they are addressed and processed. Intergenerational trauma impacts us all. Acknowledgment of the trauma(s) and their impact as well as space for collective healing have to occur in order to break the cycle.

For more information about Intergenerational trauma, please see the videos below.

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Impacts of intergenerational trauma by The Healing Foundation:

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Dr. Joy DeGruy’s research on the intersection of racism, trauma, violence, and American chattel slavery:

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A talk based on the book It Didn’t Start With You, How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn:

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In Pleasure activism, adrienne maree brown writes that we are “descended from legacies of trauma and triumph” and “it is still a rare thing for most of us to sit with what we feel, how we feel, the reality that we carry memories and feelings from what our ancestors experienced, and that we carry out current continuous collective trauma together.”

We don’t acknowledge that often when we are meeting, it isn’t just us who are in the space together. It is all of that history, all of that unresolved and possibly unrecognized pain, shame and self-loathing, difficulty with connection, distrust, and/or hypervigilance from our lineage, which also joins us in our moments together. It makes our already fragile interactions with each other that much more complex and volatile.

The histories of trauma that we are holding in our bodies can block us from pleasure, self-worth, wellness, and connection. Illnesses in mind, body, and heart can manifest as a result of all that we are carrying in the body that doesn’t get released.

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How can we do our healing work?

*Normalizing trauma and community healing:

adrienne maree brown encourages a normalization of trauma since it is an experience that almost all of us know directly or indirectly:

“Trauma is the common experience of most humans on this planet… What we need is a culture where the common experience of trauma leads to a normalization of healing. Being able to say: I have good reasons to be scared of the dark, of raised voices, of being swallowed up by love, of being alone. And being able to offer each other: I know a healer for you. I’ll hold your hand in the dark. Let’s begin a meditation practice. Perhaps talk therapy is not enough. We should celebrate love in our community as a measure of healing. The expectation should be: I know we are all in need of healing, so how are we doing our healing work?” — adrienne maree brown

*Connection & Healing:

Reach out to those you trust for support in processing and being with this.

Consider connecting with your ancestors too if this would be of support to you. Lissa explores one example of this in a past post. Shirley Turcotte, a Métis knowledge keeper and registered clinical counsellor, explores the concept that our ancestors share messages and medicine for us in our felt sense experiences in this video. There are many other practices available as well. It may be helpful to connect with customs and traditions particularly meaningful to you and your people to help find what would be most supportive.

Here is a video by Turcotte demonstrating how to attend to intergenerational fatigue:

*Time for Reflection:

It can be important to allow for time for reflection on how intergenerational trauma has impacted you to support the healing process. This may be helpful to do alone, with loved ones, in nature, through creative outlets (drawing, writing, etc.)…

Reflect on your ancestry, country of origin and any other regions inhabited by your ancestors, customs, patterns, traditions, traumatic history and forms of resilience and triumphs that have been passed down. Do the best you can with the information you have access to. Stay connected with your body and its response to notice even the earliest signs of activation. Take care of yourself during this process with deep breaths, shaking, humming, breaks, and whatever else you find supportive.

*Support for unprocessed grief:

Find practices that are supportive to help heal unprocessed grief, which is often associated with intergenerational trauma. Check out Lissa’s post about Being with Grief for some resources for working with this.

*Trauma therapy, help for addiction, and resources:

The impact of intergenerational trauma and unprocessed grief can cause mental health symptoms, substance abuse and other forms of addiction that interfere with a person’s ability to function in life. 

If therapy is resonant for you, it’s important to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with, who can support your particular set of identities, who has a deep understanding of intergenerational trauma and its impact, and who has specialized training in dual diagnosis treatment and in modalities such as Seeking Safety, Indigenous Focusing-Oriented TherapySensorimotor Psychotherapy, EMDR, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

For some individuals, it may be recommended to engage in psychotherapy in combination with psychotropic medications to help with symptom management. Meeting with a psychiatric provider who prescribes medications such as a psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatrist can allow for one to explore if this would be a supportive option.

Please see these resources from Ayana which provides therapy for marginalized and intersectional communities.

*Self-acceptance:


“It gives me permission like nothing else to accept myself in all of my own wildness and growth. Nature puts the struggle in perspective, and I am filled with my own power.” — adrienne maree brown

*Gratitude Practice:

It can be helpful in this processing and healing work to spend time celebrating the strength, the wisdom, the resilience of your ancestors. Bask in their goodness. Take in their love. Although there are aspects of wounds and imperfections in any lineage, there are many qualities and experiences that can also be affirmed and appreciated. This Ancestral Medicine article by Daniel Foor offers ways to appreciate and honor ancestors.

*Being held by nature:


“So much of our healing will include sweetening on, rubbing on, and laying open in the expanses of nature and letting it wrap our bodies in remembering and pampering. The ancestors in our bodies, known and unknown, need these rituals of healing and softness, as do we.” — adrienne maree brown

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Please know that you are not alone. You can never be alone. The healing from the impact of intergenerational trauma is not something we can do alone because we are not only working with our own feelings, behaviors, or memories but those of generations before us and our healing allows them to heal  and allows for the healing of those who are to come to heal as well.

—lissa

This post is part of a monthly series exploring aspects of adrienne maree brown‘s book Pleasure Activism. To see the first post in this series, please visit here.

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self-care -> community care

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
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There is nothing selfish about self-care. Self-care is a foundation of community-care and a form of community-care. By allowing space for our own healing and care, we support community’s healing and care. We all are interconnected.

What are some ways to find self-care practices that are supportive for you?

-Checking in. Noticing how you are right now. How’s your body, your heart, your mind?

-Allowing space for the feelings, the sensations, and states that are present in the body, heart, and mind.

-Noticing if the feelings, sensations, and states feel familiar to you. Have you felt this way before? When have you felt this way before?

-If you have felt this way before, what have you done in the past that has been supportive and what have you done that hasn’t been supportive?

-What can you do right now to support feeling taken care of and nourished?

Engaging in this type of mindful reflection practice can allow space for you to honor your current state and offer yourself care that will support your current needs. This is a way of offering the care that the body, the heart, the mind, the spirit is asking for and will most benefit from rather than allowing an external source to guide your own care.

Be aware of when judgment takes space in this reflection process or in your self-care activities too and see if there’s space to relinquish that judgment and allow care to take whatever form feels most resonant in the current moment. Care can take many forms. Resting is care too.

In case challenging or difficult emotions arise during this process, it may be helpful to engage in a self-compassion practice if that feels of support. Here are phrases that resonate with me from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh:

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Self-care can take a lot of forms ie. being outdoors, exercise, stillness, music, creativity, connecting with loved ones, cooking, comedies, resting a palm on your belly and chest noticing your breath, etc. Find works best for you in each moment.

When you take care, you support the care of others as well. That care radiates out and a collective care begins to form. Thank you for all the ways you’ve taken care of you, of us.

—lissa

 

 

 

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here for you: coping with the impact of covid-19 (regularly updated)

 

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Resources for Coping with COVID-19:

Offerings from Lissa ~ Embodied Heart Mind:

~Blog Posts every Friday offering reflections on radical embodied care approaches like this post on Being with Grief or Healing Intergenerational Trauma

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~Virtual 30-minute Movement sessions by donation (Qigong/Yoga/Improvisation)

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Virtual integrative psychotherapy or embodied wellness coaching.
Rates, scheduling, and more info here.

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~Online Group Offerings of Embodied Play & Meditation — Forms of Care, Compassion, and Pleasure in Community.   More info here

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~Online Group Offerings for One Love Sangha for BIPOC & Comrades. More info here

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May the rooting and grounding, the flowing and adapting qualities of trees be with you.

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Reflections from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh about practicing with difficult emotions from his book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm:

 “It is in moments like this that we stick to our mindful breathing and gently recognize our afflictions, whether anger, frustration, or fear. Suppose we are feeling worry or anxiety. We practice, ‘Breathing in, I know that anxiety is in me. Breathing out, I smile to my anxiety.’

Maybe you have a habit of worrying. Even if you know it’s neither necessary nor useful, you still worry. You’d like to ban worry and get rid of it, because you know that when you worry you can’t get in touch with the wonders of life and you can’t be happy. So you get angry at your worry; you don’t want it. But worry is a part of you, and that’s why when your worry comes up, you have to know how to handle it tenderly and peacefully.

You can do it if you have the energy of mindfulness. You cultivate the energy of mindfulness with mindful breathing and mindful walking, and with that energy, you can recognize and tenderly embrace your worry, fear, and anger.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

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Supportive Practices

What brings you comfort and ease? What helps you stay in the present? Stay right here and right now with what is —not off into the fog of the past or the future where worry, projection, and painful memories lie. What helps you let go? It may vary. It may be many things. It may be noticeably supportive some times and not other times. It may be supportive in the long-term but not in the immediate moment. 

It may be: Taking deep breaths. Humor. Song. Music. Moving the body (dance, yoga, qigong, running…). Time in nature. Yoga. Meditation. Reflecting on what you’re grateful for. Journaling. Art. Prayer. Knitting. Spending time in the only space (for some this is the bathroom) where you can get away from everyone in your home for a few minutes…

It’s not a perfect. Not something that will always “work.” Not necessarily something that will help everyone. It’s a practice, something to explore, to try on, to be patient with, to be with regularly without judgment or expectation, as a form of support.

It’s definitely a time for being with supportive practices. Below are some potential resources and practices that may be of support for you.

Meditation & spiritual practices:

~Extensive List of Online Dharma and Meditation Offerings 

~ BIPOC Meditation Communities

~Tara BrachJack Kornfield: Pandemic Care, Mindfulness, Compassion Resources

~Kaira Jewel Lingo: Compassion Practice in a time of the Corona Pandemic + Article: In Times of Crisis, Draw Upon the Strength of Peace

~Ten Percent Happier Meditations & Coronavirus Sanity Guide

~Eckhart Tolle and Kim Eng Video Resources

~Iyanla Vanzant: Structured Venting Invitation & Healing White Light Meditation

~Meditation Apps such as Insight Timer or Liberate Meditation by and for BIPOC 

~Dharma Talks and Guided Meditations via Dharma Seed 

Being with the body & releasing and letting go practices:

~Online Trauma Sensitive Yoga Classes by donation

~Online Health and Fitness Classes from the YMCA

~Emotional Freedom Technique/Tapping app 

~Shaking qigong video to release stress and circulate energy by Kim Eng

~Video: How to Attend to Intergenerational Fatigue by Shirley Turcotte

Sound meditation:

~Music/dance parties like DJ D-Nice’s on IG live on 4/11 at 3pm PDT/6pm EDT

~Music playlists for example DJ D-Nice’s Homeschool playlist, Tom Schnabel’s Music for Troubled Times playlists, and Emily King’s So Fresh and So Clean playlist 

~23rd Psalm song by Bobby McFerrin and friends

~Jai uttal psalm song

~Snatam Kaur song: The Angels are Listening

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Home Retreat

Perhaps exploring a home retreat may be supportive for you. This could be formal where you set up a schedule and explore practices throughout that time that are supportive for you or informal where you honor where your body is in each moment engaging in helpful activities in a more organic way while still taking care of your everyday responsibilities.

Reflections on Creating a Home Retreat article by Dharma Teacher Jack Kornfield

In the article, Kornfield shares how to set up a schedule for a formal home retreat and offers a number of online resources one can use. He writes: “The purpose of a retreat is to follow a formal rhythm of practice that allows you to center yourself, tend your body, quiet your mind, see the present circumstances with clarity and freedom, and open your heart…Though initially a home retreat may feel unfamiliar or hard, you will gradually find yourself settling in and feeling grateful for the rewards. Now is the perfect time to draw on the inner strength of meditation and deepen your capacity to live amidst it all with awareness and compassion.”

In addition to the resources offered by Kornfield, perhaps you may resonate with Soto Zen Teacher Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s Finding Sanctuary— A Self-Paced Retreat Guidance. 

“What happens to a hurt people? We forget that we are butterflies bearing up in the wild winds. We forget that we are tender from the suffering.”~ Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Take amazing care of yourselves where it hurts, where there’s fear, where there’s anger, grief, uncertainty, despair, loneliness, scarcity… and know that you are not alone.

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Wellness Resources

~Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741 if in crisis)

~Mental Health and Self-Care Kit with Crisis Hotline information by Bokyung Kim

~Recommendations on navigating physical distancing from the American Psychological Association & Dr. Goldberg, a psychiatrist

~Explaining Covid-19 to Children document

~That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief article by Scott Berinato

~Nine Simple Interventions for Depression by Janina Fisher

~NAMI offers many mental health resources and virtual support groups

~Managing Stress and Anxiety Recommendations by the CDC

~Virtual AA Meetings 

~While at Home tool, resources, and supports

~Spiritual Tools to Relieve Anxiety About the Coronavirus article by Gabby Bernstein 

~COVID-19 Immune & Respiratory Herbs Resource

~ One journey with Covid-19: Timeline, herbs & supplements

~DIY face mask instructions + video (both no sewing) 

~What’s the Best Material for a Mask article

~A letter from the virus, a video by Darinka Montico

~Rick Hanson on Resilience

~Brene Brown’s podcast

~Coloring Coronavirus Reward Stickers by Gemma Carroll

~Free Resources for Schools

~Free E-books from North Atlantic Books

~Free books via Audible, Libby app, Scribd

~Lists of free resources from NPR & Chatterpack 

~Free Coursera courses including The Science of Wellbeing via Yale & art classes through MOMA

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Collective Care Resources

~Free Resources for HealthCare Providers + 10% happier, headspace, tapping solution free subscriptions for healthcare professionals

~Resources for HealthCare Providers with Covid-19

~COVID-19 Resource Document for HealthCare Providers

~COVID-19 Resources for Mental Health Providers

~Covid-19 healthcare workers’ Facebook group 

~NYC COVID Worker Care Network & Support Group for Medical Providers

~Managing Health and Nutrition NeedsVisit 211 for assistance with finding food, paying housing bills, and other essential services

~PSA Safe Grocery Shopping in COVID-19 Pandemic Video

~Resources for Domestic Violence & Abuse Victims and Survivors in NYC and nationally

~Collective Care: Resource List by Cindy Milstein & Covid-19 Mutual Aid List

~Additional Resources by adrienne maree browngenerative somatics 

~How To Get On: A self-advocacy guide for folx with disabilities

~A Disability Centered Response to Covid-19

~Queer & Trans Resources in the Time of Covid-19 web site by Max Zev Reynolds

~Know Your Rights Guide for Trans & Non-binary Folx by TLDEF

~Resources for Challenging Times from the Gender Spectrum

~Covid-19 Sex Worker Harm Reduction Resources

~COVID-19 Resources & Healthcare Access for Undocumented Communities

~~Tips for Countering Stigma and Racism and Stop AAPI Hate Incident Report Forms for COVID-19 related hate crimes towards Asian American and Pacific Islander folx

~COVID-19 Racial Equity & Social Justice Resources

~Anti-Oppressive/Anti-Racist Home School Options During Quarantine

~Resources for Educators and Families

~Decolonizing Community Care by Jade Begay

~COVID-19 Decarceral Guidelines by The Justice Collaborative

~COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resources & Freelanders’ Relief Fund

~COVID-19 Relief for Small Businesses

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***This list will be updated regularly to continue to be a source of support for you.

May you be well

May you be happy, peaceful, and at ease

May you be safe, free from inner and outer harm

May you be free from suffering

With love, 

lissa

In closing, I wish you love song from Miumiu:

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heart-centered living

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.

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13th-century poet Rumi wrote: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

What if instead of finding all the barriers we have built against love though, we find all the barriers that we have built against becoming love and let them go?

When I think of a world where everyone engages in a practice like that, I imagine a world where everyone embodies kindness, generosity, and compassion and genuinely cares about the well-being and happiness of all beings. 

In Buddhism, mind-heart qualities like loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy for the happiness of others, and equanimity are called divine abodes or the four immeasurables which are said to be the only mind states that arise once one becomes liberated.

I imagine Buddhist masters the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh as beings who emanate the divine abodes.  The Dalai Lama describes his practice as a peaceful path of kindness, love, compassion, and not harming others that has become a part of him.

Quotes from the Dalai Lama on these qualities include:

“The basic fact is that humanity survives through kindness, love, and compassion. That human beings can develop these qualities is their real blessing.”

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

“Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering.”

“A truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you.”

“Love is the absence of judgment.”

“The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your action will be.”

“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.” 

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Supportive phrases and prayers we can offer ourselves from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Four mantras:
“1. Darling, I am here for you.
2. I know you are there, and I am very happy.
3. Darling, I know you suffer.
4. Darling, I suffer. Please help.”

Nine prayers:

~May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
~May I be free from injury. May I live in safety.
~May I be free from disturbance, fear, and anxiety.
~May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and of love.
~May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
~May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
~May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
~May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
~May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

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Certainly a heart-centered way of living has its risks and can be the polar opposite of the way many of us are raised to engage in the world and yet the opposite of it isn’t safe either. My upbringing prepared me to be in full body armor at all times and I wasn’t safe. I wasn’t protected. I was just hiding, not truly living life. Over the years of practice though it seems like that armor has slowly dissolved on its own.

Along with being with practices such as the divine abodes so frequently that they become a part of our nature, heart-centered living entails a radical self-love and care. That kind of care is expressed beautifully in these pieces by poets Khalil Gibran and Nayyirah Waheed:

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What does radical self-love and care look like for you?

For me, I feed all of my wounded parts jam and stroke their hair, deeply listening and nourishing them, and loving them as I love all the parts within me. I work with the resistances I have built to protect myself from getting hurt that have in actuality kept me from love. I relinquish my baggage, my stories, my dwellings on the past and projections of the future. I love myself in my entirety in a world set up for me not even to love the smallest aspects of myself. With a love like that emanating through my day, what could I have to fear?

 

—lissa

 

(This is an updated version of a post that first appeared on lissabliss.com)
above photo by ilsebatten