Sunday, March 14, 2010

comfortable self knowledge

Two books I have been reading recently are especially good on the subject of dealing with life's difficulties.  One is "Everyday Zen" by Charlotte Beck (Kindle link) and and the other is "The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion" by Christopher Germer (Kindle link).  Getting insight into one's life, thought and feelings is valuable and that is what Beck is about.  But do we really need something like compassion for our self?  

Both books emphasize that much of the suffering people experience comes from what Germer talks about as turning away from ourselves.  It seems easier to blame somebody else than to face our own fear, fear that we are too soft or too hard or too money conscious or insufficiently money conscious, on and on.  The result of sitting quietly and still for a while is nearly always a greater willingness to recognize our own feelings, which leads to fuller acceptance of ourselves as we are.  That gives us better insight into others and our similarities to them.  I have not seen a book any better than Germer's at stating in brief, clear language, steps that anyone can take to face fear or any other emotion that we would normally brace ourselves against.

It is very common for anyone to pull themselves up short and make an internal demand to change for the better.  We fiercely tell ourselves to be more honorable, more patient, whatever.  That strategy can work but it is often more effective, more interesting, more permanent and more fun to improve our ability to watch ourselves and see what we feel and what we fear.  Whether it is pain or lack of sleep or financial worries, the more clearly we can tell what we fear or picture or worry about, the better to avoid suppressing and the more accurately we can tell what we are actually doing with our minds and emotions.  Self knowledge is better than self demands.  Beck asks at one point whether we like ourselves enough to marry ourself.  

I don't want to try to say what either of these books says since they do so way better than I can.  I am merely saying to note the books and get a copy sometime when you are either in a mood to work with bothersome problems or are merely curious about an effective approach to giving yourself the kind of break, the sort of admiration you would give a lover, a mate, a beloved child or a hero that you wish to care for.

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