Do you ever sit depression's butt down, and talk to them? It can be healing to sit with uncomfortable emotions and ask them: what are you needing?

This is something that meditation teachers: Sharon Salzberg and Tara Brach, discuss. In Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection, Salzberg explains how she sometimes offers her self-criticism tea and encourage that side of her to take a nap. In Brach's RAIN practice (recognizing our emotions, allowing them to be there, investigating where these feelings are in our bodies), nurture is where we get to practice self-compassion and ask difficult emotions: how can I support you in this moment? What do you need me to do or say to you?

I sometimes tell clients to imagine that these difficult emotions are like children who have lots of needs. And so, when the angry child shows up or the lonely child presents themselves or the sad child says hello, it's important to say hello, sit with them, and reflect on what they may be needing.

Depression tells us that we should stay in bed, ignore our loved ones, ignore our basic needs, and perceive the activities that have brought us lots of joy in the past as meaningless. I think when the depressed child shows up, it's going to be important to not only practice RAIN, but to also practice tender discipline--a term that writer Jocelyn K. Glei reflects on.

There are harsh criticisms. There's a meanness at times to the way that we talk to the parts of ourselves that we don't like. And warning, the negative self-talk ahead can be triggering. Maybe it sounds like "get the fuck out of bed, you piece of shit. You're so worthless. I can't believe you spent all day in bed. You have so much to do and you're ignoring everything. Are you proud of yourself? Why do you even bother?" It's been shown that talking to ourselves like this exacerbates our fight, flight, freeze response. We become even more paralyzed, more avoidant, more ashamed, more self-punishing.

Tender discipline is different because it wants you to treat yourself with the same kindness, patience, gentleness, and love that you would treat someone you really care about. It sounds like: "I know it's really hard to get out of bed right now. You had a tough week. You felt incompetent and unworthy. You felt like you weren't enough. I can totally see why you wouldn't want to function today. Let's stay in bed for another 30 minutes. And then, we'll brush our teeth, we'll make some food, we'll drink some water. We will also commit to calling one loved one, answering one e-mail, and taking care of one errand."

That might be a lot to commit to. It's my overachiever side coming out :D But, the goals are: to face ourselves more and to be kind with ourselves. At times, we're ashamed of certain parts of ourselves. The depressed child within us definitely experiences this shame. They just want to hide away from the world. But I think, even though they won't admit this, they also want to feel connected with others. They want to feel like someone gets them. In their anger, they choose to isolate and pretend that they don't need anyone. My hope is that you have someone in your contacts list who gets you, who accepts you, who you can call and share a laugh with. As you connect with this person, I do hope that the depressed child within you feels comforted and seen. If you don't have such a person, know that, although it's difficult, you can comfort that depressed child too.

Did you know that it was National Backwards Day yesterday?!

Did you get to celebrate?? :D

I have never heard of this day, and had no idea that January 31st was National Backwards Day, until the Calm meditation app informed me. I love this idea, and I think everyday should be NB Day! Why?! Because! We get so stuck in our habits/patterns. Same shit, different day, right? Same maladaptive coping skills, different day. Same toxic patterns, different day. Lol!

And so. Why not wake up everyday and have the mindset of: hey! It's a different day. I can start fresh. I can do things differently. I can start a new habit. I can start a new pattern that actually serves me instead of holds me back. I can get out of bed as soon as I wake up and brush my teeth, and do 20 minutes of exercise. When I have the urge to go on social media, I'll call my favorite person in the world and tell them that I love them and appreciate them instead. When I see myself focusing more on the things I don't enjoy about my life, I'll start practicing gratitude instead.

It's a new day and a new month! What new habits are you wanting to engage in?

Loneliness is interesting. We can be surrounded by many folks, and yet we still report feeling lonely. We can find others through social media or on dating sites; we may even be able to knock on a neighbor's door and say hello and ask if they would be willing to have tea with us. With all these resources available to us, we still feel so deeply and painfully alone.

I think it's particularly heart-wrenching when loneliness seems to be a theme in our lives--when it follows us around like a lost puppy that we have no energy or capacity to take care of. We felt lonely, and like an outsider, in our families. We feel lonely and misunderstood in our friend groups and/or with colleagues. We may even feel lonely while with our romantic partners. There's a general sense of disconnection in our lives. It can seem that we're performing, and no one really knows us or sees us. We may not even feel like we know ourselves.

To me, the answer is simple. It's love. It's being a part of loving communities. Somewhere. Anywhere. It's loving and accepting ourselves, and loving and accepting others. We live in a country, though, where finding connection can be incredibly difficult. How many of us walk around in NYC, for example, and look at others? Do we notice each other? Do we smile at each other? Do we think: "Hey, I know that life is hard, but I hope you're having a good day." When we see someone in pain or in need, do we stop and ask: "can I help in any way?"

I wish we lived in such a world, where we see each other and are kind to each other. But, to no fault of our own, we come from trauma. We experience pain, heartbreak, grief. The more trauma and sorrow we experience, the more we might close ourselves up, build up walls, hide ourselves, and hope no one looks at us so we don't keep getting hurt. We may also stay away from others because we believe that if we get close and vulnerable with them, we might be the ones who do the hurting.

I think it can be difficult to notice our flaws and our mistakes and forgive ourselves. And, start to trust that we're working on learning from our mistakes; trust that we can change. Trust that we can become better, more connected and embodied humans. And that, no matter how many mistakes we've made or how imperfect we are, we still are worthy of love. It can also be difficult to forgive others, and think "they hurt me, but I get it. They're also traumatized humans." When we're interacting with another human and we notice the irritation/frustration/annoyances bubbling up inside of us, it's hard -- to take a breath, notice these uncomfortable emotions, empathize with ourselves and them, and practice acceptance around their imperfect selves.

Interacting with humans is hard. But, if we're not ready to interact kindly with others, I've got good news! You can start interacting kindly with yourself. You can start connecting more with yourself. It has to start with you. The more you accept yourself, the more you'll accept others. The less you'll want to control others to make them into what you want them to be. The less you'll be controlling towards yourself.

To me, self-acceptance, self-love, self-connection all sound soooo peaceful. But, unfortunately, those skills take work. Constantly looking at ourselves and practicing certain skills to improve these traits within us take practice. So, the question is: are we ready and willing to do the work? If we're not ready and willing, it's totally OK! Change and willingness take time.

If you are willing though, I'd love for you to try this lovingkindness meditation below. If you'd really like! You could do an experiment. Practice this for a week and see how you feel at the end of the week. You can set a timer for 5 minutes and do this for 7 days. You can find a meditation on YouTube. You might even download a popular meditation app -- Calm or Headspace -- and practice this meditation. Ooh! You know what's even more cool! As you move around the world, notice the folks around you and wish them loving kindness. See how that feels. Notice the dogs, the trees, the flowers-- wish them all loving kindness. It may seem silly at first, but doing that helps the brain. It challenges the brain's negativity bias, and helps the brain notice the positives more.

What may happen is that you feel more joy, you feel less lonely, you feel more forgiving of self and others, and you feel more open to new, heart-filled, awe-inspiring experiences. You might even feel optimistic, which feels impossible in the world that we live in. If you do this experiment, you have to promise me that you'll let yourself relax into it and be open. Really let yourself breathe; deep breaths (inhale on the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4). Really connect to your body. I love focusing on my feet, my shoulders, my fingers, my belly going up and down when I meditate. So soothing.

Community is important. Human interaction. Deep bonds. All so crucial to our well being. But, if those deep bonds aren't as readily available to you, try loving kindness meditation. It can be powerful. It can be healing. You might notice that it helps you forgive someone who you thought you'd never be able to forgive. But, outside of these powerful experiences, I especially love that it allows us to feel more connected to ourselves and to everyone else in the world.

This wonderful yoga teacher said once that through lovingkindness meditation, someone is always thinking about us. How beautiful is that? You could be stressed out at work, and breathe, and think about the fact that someone somewhere is thinking about you and wishing you loving kindness. It's so beautiful! It gets me so excited!


Thank you for reading.

Happy meditating.

I wish you peace and happiness. I wish you love.

Lovingkindness Meditation

(wishes towards yourself)

May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be healthy.

May I live a life with ease.

(wishes towards a loved one, a mentor, a kind neighbor, a pet, etc.)

May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live a life with ease.

(wishes towards someone who you may be in conflict with)

May they be safe.

May they be happy.

May they be healthy.

May they live a life with ease.

(wishes towards all beings in the universe -- trees, birds, folks in other countries)

May everyone and everything be safe.

May everyone and everything be happy.

May everyone and everything be healthy.

May everyone and everything live a life with ease.

Learn more about loving kindness meditation.

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