Just For Today … Practice Self-Compassion

fairys-and-mermaids-image-31000Practice self-compassion today by writing a letter to yourself acknowledging all of your positive characteristics and attributes.

We live in a society where we often feel as though we are in a state of constant competition in all areas of our lives:  work, relationships, hobbies, and in turn, we are often overly self-critical.  Practicing self-compassion can help us to restore feelings of self-worth and instill an inner peace to propel us in our actions.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”  ~ Jack Kornfield

The Power of Rites of Passage

Today, the importance associated with ritual rites of passage is on the decline. We often celebrate birthdays, weddings and other cultural occasions, but pay very little attention to the ways in which these events may mean more than simply an opportunity for festivity and drinking beer. Many of our cultural celebrations are in fact rites of passage, with a much deeper transformational meaning both symbolically and literally.

What is a rite of passage?

Rites of passage are often known as liminal spaces, that is, they usher an old state of being into a new state of being. The concept of liminality was first conceived of within the field of anthropology and was used to explain rites of passage which carried children into adulthood. In the Xhosa culture in South Africa, boys are ritually circumcised, after which they must live alone for several weeks in the wilderness. This rite is performed to signify the transition from boyhood to manhood.

However, rituals such as these are more than merely symbolic – they are considered to have real transformational power. The enactment of these rites doesn’t just represent your transition to a new state of being, but they actually and factually transform you. This idea was taken up in the field of psychology and is known as individuation.

Individuation process

Individuation refers to the process whereby a person becomes a psychologically separate unity or whole. For example, a baby starting to realize that it is not one and the same with its mother, but rather that it exists as a separate being. Therefore, whether one regards the liminal space as an important part of rites of passage on a collective anthropological level or individual psychological level, it performs the same function. The liminal space acts as a passage from a prior state of being into a new state of being. It is a space in which personality and agency can be shaped unrestricted by fixed ways of being.

How modern rites of passage have changed

Marriage is a rite of passage still practiced in most societies, but it is often reduced to a stressful box-ticking exercise that ends in a couple living together. This cannot be regarded as a rational reduction given the sky-rocketing divorce rates that we see today. The sentiment that true love does not need ceremonies seems to ignore the deeper wisdom that more ancient cultures afforded to liminal rites of passage.

The reason why we reduce the importance of rites of passage today is that we value objectively verifiable fact over subjective experiences. The transformational power of rites of passage is a subjective truth as it can only be verified through experience. A couple may report that their relationship feels different after the performance of a marriage ceremony, but this is not something that can be proven. Therefore, we tend to disregard it. Our “rational” approach to life runs the risk of ignoring the transformation potential of experience in liminal situations.

The idea that rites of passage can be truly transformational experiences may encourage us to look more deeply into the rituals we perform in our lives. We may be prompted to examine our actions and the meaning attached to them more carefully, rather than moving through these processes hollowly and without pause. So, the next time an important occasion is on the horizon, take some time to really feel it and the potential it has to change your life.


Save The World With A Smile

elephant dog friends
No matter how much of a free thinker you are, it is impossible to escape the structures placed upon you through which you have come to know about the world.  The way in which society expects us to live is strongly influential and it powerfully impacts our idea of what constitutes as a “good” life. Cultural norms run deep, affecting our perceptions and choices in ways which we are often unaware.

Feeling the pressure of today’s society

Our societal milieu is outcomes and performance based. There is a constant pressure to be the best, to outdo your neighbor and to win at all costs. We are told that if we do not maintain this competitive edge we will fail at life. Therefore we strive to be the cleverest, the thinnest and the fastest. Consequently, we have become a society of manipulative and conniving beings. This way of being borders on the sociopath, as the only bottom line we look out for is ourselves, while treating everyone else as collateral damage.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. affecting around 40 million adults. In 2012, an estimated 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode within the year. Clearly we are not coping with the pressure and not only are we harming others in our quest to the best, we are also harming ourselves. Moreover, we are destroying the planet and all the natural resources we depend upon for survival. It isn’t difficult to see that this mind set is not serving us well. It doesn’t take a genius to look around and to see that that our “win at all costs” attitude is actively helping us to fail. So why do we continue to cling so tightly to it?

At the core of our nature, we are social creatures. Human beings have a deep need for acceptance and belonging, which is very difficult to overcome. Those who speak out against the evils of the world tend to be ostracized. This is one of the deepest human fears – rejection. So while we try to sculpt our lives to match our individuality as best we can, we still ultimately march to the beat of society’s drum, however faint.

So what’s the answer?

Awareness is always a good place to start. Take note the next time your hand feels forced or you feel ‘there is no other way’. What societal expectation is in play? You may not be able to change anything, but at least you are no longer an automaton or a sheep blindly following the flock. You are aware and as soon as you become aware, you start becoming more responsible. Maybe next time you’re faced with an impossible choice, you will identify room for compromise. Perhaps avenues you hadn’t considered will start to appear.

The truth, the real truth, worth repeating over and over again, is that all our decisions come down to a choice between love and fear. We fear being excluded so maybe the answer is to begin to include others. We fear rejection, so maybe we should focus instead on acceptance. We fear the fear itself, so maybe we should begin to practice compassion. This may not solve all our problems, but it reminds us that change happens one small step at a time. Never underestimate the power of a single smile or a small act of kindness. It is the only place to start.



EVENING MEDITATION (30 mins.) ~ Just for Today … If we are a global village, everything you do affects others. This week notice how your dreams and actions affect other people. You can bring light if you choose to.

Stories about the human colonization of other worlds were popular in the 1950s, with a promise of material abundance, and much of the population of the Western world excited about the possibilities offered by new technologies and a beneficial, authoritative science. That humans could extend their reach to other worlds seemed inevitable progress. Today, the popular faith in science and technology has drained away, to be replaced by a widespread, if often unspoken, fear. We have opened the box and seen where our ambition leads, and though we might quickly close it again and look away, it is too late in the day for any kind of innocence. We must move past the delusions of society.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”  ~ The Buddha