I’m like one of those Japanese bowls… I have some cracks in me, they have been filled with gold…
HI there! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Last you looked I was headed off on a training retreat to learn how to teach a self-compassion program developed by Chris Germer and Kristin Neff. It was quite the gathering of folks from all over the world. I suppose that says a lot about the state of the world and the wish of so many of us that something… anything… perhaps self-compassion practice even… could create a shift away from our determined efforts to create suffering.
As with any retreat, I learned – and keep learning – that the process is subtle, sneaky, and seductive. Somewhere along the way (and I don’t recall when it happened), I discovered this splinter just west of my heart. One of those things you don’t know is there and that it has had you off-kilter until it’s no longer there. To be honest, I don’t even know the accreted story around the splinter other than it having something to do with shame.
Of course, it has to do with shame. What else would sit festering and infecting everything, cracking apart the rigid calcified self-constructs only to create more? Fun times were had by all my constructed and contrived selves!
And then this past weekend, I had the absolute delight to co-teach with Chris Germer right here in my own backyard. Almost 100 people at the retreat and I was gobsmacked by the kindness and solid practice. You might say to me, “Hey Genju! Can you see it now? No need for shame or unworthiness. Feel the love, Girl! Fill those cracks with gold!”
You might and you’d be right. Except for that moment when that Thing happens in a retreat. You know the one I mean: where you’re bopping along and BAM! you get that ole familiar mind worm about screwing up. Right at that moment, as I shut down for how long I don’t know, Chris leaned over and said something about how the session was flowing. Something about how he would do this differently next time and that he was doing fine but really preferred the back-and-forth. Having been shut down and on high threat alert, my mind and body flooded with shame. I had let my co-teacher down! We got through the rest of the day and you know I sat up all night deconstructing this nanomoment, right?
Well hell. It was a self-compassion retreat so that’s what I practiced. Not with the idea that I wanted the suffering to end but – as Chris says – BECAUSE I was suffering! And then (really after about 4 hours of torment), I heard his words again but understood them differently. Earlier someone had said they wanted to hear more from him about self-compassion; he and I consulted and agreed it was a good idea for him to carry the late morning and afternoon session. He wasn’t referring to my preoccupation. He was referring to the imbalance of the teaching dynamic after we decided to shift our roles. Can you see those cracks filling in with gold?
Checking in the next morning, it was clear that my high threat stance had really warped the message. But wait, it doesn’t end here!
In the Q&A, one participant asked: If in Buddhist teachings we are told to see there is no self, what is the self in self-compassion?
Yah. One of those questions. But it opens the door to asking whether self-compassion is really a selfie. (Spoiler alert: I don’t agree that it is but let’s hash it out.)
OK. You take a stab at this and I’ll publish my answer and my revised answer in the next post.