A friend of mine (who also has CFS) has been doing an e-mail class with US Zen teacher Cheri Huber over the past few months. Cheri's work places a strong emphasis on developing a compassionate and kind inner-voice, which she calls a 'mentor'.
As part of the e-mail course my friend was asked to find someone else to teach some of Cheri's practices to, focussing on the development of an inner-mentor. I am the proud little guinea-pig!
I thought I'd blog about doing my 'assignments' (because if I blog about them it means I actually have to do them!)
My first task was to find a way of recording my voice. I ended up just clicking on the video recorder in my laptop and recording myself speaking on video. This way, the recordings are on my desktop and with one click I can be listening to them. (I thought it was important to make the listening process as simple as possible, or I'd find an excuse not to do it! Like most people, I don't particularly enjoy listening to my voice on tape.)
My next task was to record myself saying all the positive, good things I was doing to support myself in my meditation and awareness practice, and all the ways I was committed to giving myself a better life.
It was quite weird to record myself saying these things, but I came up with three minutes of affirming statements. The recording says things like: 'I'm really committed to making my life better and giving myself the best chance of getting well and finding peace. Even when my meditation practice is really difficult and I feel like I'm getting no-where I still keep going. I'm committed to spending money on books and on my psychologist. I'm committed to travelling to the monastery whenever I can. I really appreciate the parts of myself that are persistent and focussed and creative - because these parts help me just to keep going in this practice.'
Now my task is to listen to this recording every day. As I listen I silently say, 'Yes, that's true' after every statement I make on the recording.
It is very interesting to listen to what the critical voices in my head say in response. 'No - it's NOT true!' they say. 'If you carry on like this, just focussing on positive things, you'll never get well!'
I try not to engage with these voices, but just bring myself back to the recording and my silent repetition of 'Yes, that's true.'
I've been listening to Cheri Huber's radio programs for a year now and have noticed she often recommends people record themselves speaking. Until I did it myself I wondered why, but now I see why it's so powerful.
I have a 'voice' running continuously in my head, and for 99% of the time it's a voice of judgement, and comparison. Having another 'voice' that I listen to on my laptop makes it clear that what is going on in my head is just one opinion. It's not necessarily correct and I can learn to develop this kind, mentoring voice and then have a choice about what I listen to.
All very interesting! I'll let you know about the next assignment when I do it.
This blog has many lovely readers and one just e-mailed me a link to a website I thought you might like. It's called self-compassion.org and is a collection of writings, MP3 downloads, and exercises all focused on self-compassion.
There's even a test you can take called 'How Self-Compassionate Are You?' (I'll admit I'm a little scared to take that test!)
There are some lovely resources on the site, including some written self-compassion exercises that I'm going to try. The website's author, Kristen Neff, is a US professor who is also a Buddhist and has a book about self-compassion coming out in April.
Another website I discovered recently is Levine Talks - which features audio by the wonderful teachers and writers Steven and Ondrea Levine who spent many years working with sick and dying people. This website has been set up to give some financial support to Steven and Ondrea who are now retired and both quite unwell - so it's not free. (But, at $10 a month it's not crazy expensive either!)
Hope you are all enjoying the first days of the New Year (and not snowed under!)
Mekong River view taken opposite my guesthouse in Luang Prabang, Laos.
New Year's greetings! I hope this coming year is one of peace, happiness and as much health as is possible.
After living it up over Christmas I am now in an energy slump. (Mojitos at midnight? Never a good idea...)
But, I do have a new haircut to console myself with as I spend the next few weeks recovering in bed. One of my sisters, Brigid, (in the top photo with stripy top) is a wizz with a pair of scissor and she and my Irish cousin gave me an asymmetrical new hair-do.
Reactions from other family members were mixed. Well, actually, they weren't mixed at all. One sister said, 'It looks like someone has hacked at the back of your head with a hatchet.' And the other said, 'Our hair grows symmetrically for a reason, God makes it that way.' (I asked her when she'd last seen a symmetrical tree).
My other news is that the little print I commissioned as arrived and it is gorgeous and so detailed.
I love the way Plamena wrapped the text around the image.