Bookshelf Additions- Fall 2016

Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff

Kristin Neff’s book is on such an important topic, that can be nothing less than life-changing for those who struggle in this area.  She defines self-compassion as the sum of three components:

First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.  Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering.  Third, it requires mindfulness- that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it.

There are so many exercises that I’m looking forward to using, and I was really interested in how she encourages parents to cultivate self-compassion in their kids:

“…focus on their actual behavior, rather than on their general character.  You want to emphasize that we are not defined by our failures and shortcomings but are instead all of us works in progress, in a continual state of learning.  It’s also important to validate the emotions underlying your child’s misbehavior before trying to correct it…If you make it safe for your child to take personal responsibility for his actions by using compassionate language combined with a kind and caring tone, however, he will find it much easier to acknowledge his problem behavior and work on changing it.”


Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton

“I am empty, alone, addicted- and still, invited…Something in me says yes to the idea that there is a God and that this God is trying to speak to me, trying to love me, trying to invite me back to life.  I decide to believe in a God who believes in a girl like me.”

 “Crisis comes from the word meaning ‘to sift.’ Let it all fall away and you’ll be left with what matters.”

 “I didn’t know that everyone feels the hot loneliness.  I didn’t know that it would pass.  So…I reached for an easy button- a book, a binge, a beer, a body, a shopping spree, a Facebook feed- to shove it back down…what if my anger, my fear, my loneliness were never mistakes, but invitations? What if in skipping the pain, I was missing my lessons?  Maybe instead of slamming the door on pain, I need to throw open the door wide and say, ‘Come in.  Sit down with me.  And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.’“

“What if pain- like love- is just a place brave people visit?…I need to resist the easy buttons.  Maybe my reliance of numbing is keeping me from the two things I was born for: learning and loving.  I could go on hitting easy buttons until I die and feel no pain, but the cost of that decision could be that I’ll never learn, love, or be truly alive.”

“Grief is love’s souvenir.  It’s our proof that we once loved.  Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world:  Look!  Love was once mine.  I loved well.  Here is my proof that I paid the price.”


Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist

“If you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.  In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments.”

“The only way through the emptiness is stillness: staring at that deep wound unflinchingly.  You can’t outrun anything…all you can do is show up in the stillness…I start to carry an inner stillness with me back into the noise, like a secret.”

“You were made by hand with great love by the God of the universe, and he planted deep inside of you a set of loves and dreams and idiosyncrasies, and you can ignore them as long as you want, but they will at some point start yelling.  Worse than that, if you ignore them long enough, they will go silent, and that’s the real tragedy…We get to shape our days and our weeks, and if we don’t they’ll get shaped by the side catch-all of ‘normal ‘ and ‘typical,’ and who wants that?…You get to make your life.  In fact, you have to.  And not only can you make it, you can remake it.”

“We get to decide, which is both so freeing and such a beautiful responsibility…What do you want? What do you love? What ways of living have you simply acquiesced to, because someone told you to?  Because it seemed smart or practical or easy?  Are those the best words to describe how you want to live?”

“Brave doesn’t always involve grand gestures.  Sometimes brave looks more like staying when you want to leave, telling the truth when all you want to do is change the subject…It’s about learning to show up and let ourselves be seen just as we are, massively imperfect and weak and wild and flawed in a thousand ways, but still worth loving.  It’s about realizing that what makes our lives meaningful is not what we accomplish, but how deeply and honestly we connect with the people in our lives, how wolly we give ourselves to the making of a better world, through kindness and courage.”

“I will spend my life on meaning, on connection, on love, on freedom.  I will not waste one more day trapped in comparison, competition, proving, and earning.  That’ the currency of a culture that has nothing to offer me.”



The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk

“Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way mind and brain manage perceptions.  It changes not only how we think and what we think about, but also our very capacity to think.”

 “Whether we remember a particular event at all, and how accurate our memories of it are, largely depends on how personally meaningful it was and how emotional we felt about it at the time.  The key factor is our level of arousal…The mind works according to schemes or maps, and incidents that fall outside the established pattern are most likely to capture our attention…We remember insults and injuries best”

“The essence of a therapeutic relationship:  finding words where words were absent before and, as a result, being able to share your deepest pain and deepest feelings with another human being.  This is one of the most profound experiences we can have, and such resonance, in which hitherto unspoken words can be discovered, uttered, and received, is fundamental to healing the isolation of trauma- especially if other people in our lives have ignored or silenced us.  Communicating fully is the opposite of being traumatized.“


Living Beautifully, with Uncertainty and Change  Pema Chodron

“The propensity to feel sorry for ourselves, the propensity to be jealous, the propensity to get angry- our habitual, all-to-o-familiar emotional responses are like seeds that we just keep watering and nurturing…But every time we pause and stay present with the underlying energy, we stop reinforcing these propensities and begin to open ourselves to refreshingly new possibilities….it’s important to realize that interrupting thoughts isn’t the same as repressing them.  Repression is denial of what’s happening, which only sends the thoughts underground where they can fester.  At the same time, we don’t want to keep chasing after the thoughts and getting hooked by them.  Interrupting thoughts is somewhere between clinging to them and pushing them away.  It’s a way of allowing the thoughts to come and go, to arise and pass, to not be such a big deal.”

“You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts…it’s the definition of having loving-kindness for yourself.  Loving-kindness for yourself does not mean making sure you’re feeling good all the time. ..Rather, it means setting up your life so that you have time for meditation and self-reflection, for kindhearted, compassionate self-honesty.  In this way you become more attuned to seeing when you’re biting the hook, when you’re getting caught in the undertow of emotions, when you’re grasping and when you’re letting go.  This is the way you become a true friend to yourself just as you are.”

We can spend our lives consumed and hooked by chasing or avoiding the 8 worldly concerns (pleasure/pain, fame/disgrace, gain/loss, praise/blame) or we can work to liberate ourselves.

Tonglen- breathing in pain, breathing out relief.  It’s powerful for developing our courage- sense of oneness with others and awakens our empathy-  breaks down walls we’ve built for ourself and liberates us from the prison of self.  It reverses the usual logic of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.

The author outlines 4 Commitments:

1- to not cause harm, in speech or action

2- to take care of one another

3- to embrace the world just as it is

“It’s not easy to keep this vow, of course.  But every time we break it, what’s important is that we recognize that we’ve closed someone out, that we’ve distanced ourselves from someone, that we’ve turned someone into the Other, the one on the opposite side of the fence.  Often we’re so full of righteous indignation, so charged up, that we don’t even see that we’ve been triggered.  But if we’re fortunate, we realize what’s happened- our it’s pointed out to us- and we acknowledge to ourselves what we’ve done.  Then we simply renew our commitment to stay open to others, aspiring to start fresh.”

 “Letting go of the fixed self isn’t something we can just wish to happen…It’s something we predispose ourselves to with every gesture, word, deed, thought…We’re either going in the direction of letting go and strengthening that ability or going in the direction of holding on and reinforcing that fear-based habit.  We can choose reality- stay with it, be here, show up, be open, turn toward the sights and the sounds and the thoughts that pass through our minds- or we can choose to turn away.  But if we turn away, we can pretty much count on staying stuck in the same old pattern of suffering, never getting closer to experiencing wakefulness, never getting closure to experiencing the sacredness of our existence.”

“We discover selflessness gradually, but always the prerequisite is being present.  When we can be present with an emotion without any distractions, we find out very quickly how insubstantial, how fleeting it is.  What seemed so threatening, so solid, so lasting, begins to dissolve, giving us an immediate experience of impermanence, as the feelings arise, dwell, and then pass away.  We feel an emotion and it threatens to take us over, but if we stay open to it and look directly at it, it either disappears altogether or morphs into something else.  Fear might become sadness.  Anger might become hopelessness. Joy might become vulnerability.  When emotions start to pass away, we never know what they will become.

“I realized then what it means to hold pain in my heart and simultaneously be deeply touched by the power and magic of the world.  Life doesn’t have to be one way or the other.  We don’t have to jump back and forth.  We can live beautifully with whatever comes- heartache and joy, success and failure, instability and change.”