The Road to Self-Compassion

What a winding, unpredictable road it is.

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I’m still basking in the glorious energy of the Self-love, Compassion, and Care art&psychology workshop event from the end of May in Sacramento.  And it got me wondering…

How radical is it to practice self-compassion? 

Talking to all these courageous and open-minded women during the event made me have a greater appreciation for how much of a mind-shift we are creating in our current world. Drawing from my day job of psychotherapy, I cannot help but take notice of how difficult it is for people to just willingly give themselves such self-compassion and love. Like we have to prove that we are worthy of such attention, praise, care, and concern. As if there was more work to do to make us feel okay to give our selves even half of what we so readily give to others.

We hesitate.

We create conditional statements.

We deny ourselves the love and unconditional regard that we so freely give to the significant people in our lives.

Why?

Honestly, I don’t know.

I’ve got lots of ideas why and how each of us gets there at some point, but it is all a big question mark.

To shed some light on such a penumbra, I went at it the only way I knew how.

With a brush and canvas, of course. 😛

I decided to re-work an old painting of mine that I felt was wholly incomplete. It was a painting about a light, airy, and carefree feeling. But it was also titled Pyro because it was about a strong feeling of intuition, desire, and fiery love. It used to be about a more romantic type of love, but now I think this transformation has shifted it to be about self-love. I also didn’t think the final image completely depicted all that I wanted it to, so I revisited this piece and decided to kick it up a notch.

And so this is what happened. Check out those colors and wild movement!

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Like all my other paintings, I created this with intentionality. I made it for me–to be enjoyed by and appreciated by me. I gotta say, most of my paintings are about me gifting myself something I’ve always wanted. A funny remake of this, a rendition of a famous artist’s style, or something that looks b a d a s s on that one empty wall in my room. I mean, why make anything if you don’t like it, right?

This painting has lots of interesting moments within it, and that’s what keeps me curious. To me, this piece conveys how we each spend so many of our moments judging ourselves and thinking and rethinking each moment to the point that we drive ourselves mad with our own thoughts. Sometimes, these patterns of thinking are helpful, other times not. The colors are vibrant and lively to capture the immense energy that our minds are able to produce with each thought; and it can be used for good or bad. In this work, such colorful brushstrokes look as if they are easily swayed in a nonsensical pattern, turning at each bend but never really going anywhere.

Much like how an anxious mind works–trying to “solve” a situation by overthinking and creating “worst-case scenarios.” Pre-planning for what bad thing could happen. And in the end, was it productive?

Our thoughts are so powerful, they can affect how we feel.

Our thoughts can lead us to awe-inspiring journeys that no man has ever set foot. And yet, if we are not careful, such thoughts can lead to our distress. So instead, be still, and find your inner anchor through your breath. Take comfort in the notion that your self-worth is internal and not dependent on what goes on around you. Realize that you, too, deserve your love and care.

And really mean it.

Music on deck: It’s All In Vain by Wet

This whole self-love, compassion, and care is a forever journey that I hope we each find ourselves on at some point in our lifetime. Because we deserve it. We are innately worthy. And that is not something that changes with experience or luck.

To quote my favorite poet on this matter:

Rumi

 

❤ Danessa

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Never Broken

The Mindfulness and Meditation summit was such a treat. I had a great time tuning in at my own time and at my own pace. At first glance, I didn’t know whether it was worth listening to singer/songwriter Jewel.

Man, I’m so glad I took a leap of faith and did.

All I remember about her in the 90s is that I loved listening to my aunt’s CD of hers and that it always made me feel emotional. Her songs were not bubblegum pop in any way or form, which was what I was heavily into those days. But I truly liked it. Her hauntingly tragic and sweet songs made me contemplate life more deeply. And now, listening to Jewel discuss mindfulness and meditation is another happy surprise. I never knew how committed she was to mindful living, and this discovery alone is such a gift. Here is Jewel in an interview with entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vee:

In Jewel’s memoir, Never Broken, her discussion about life and how she got through so much pain, trauma, and suffering has made me see her and her work in such a new light. I appreciate her recounting what she wanted out of her new-found fame when she first broke into the music industry. What are my values? It’s refreshing to hear a celebrity with her star power reveal how connected and rooted she is to her true self. She happily declined certain opportunities for amassing unspeakable luxuries and immediate rewards and opted to wait for the lasting, deeper, and more intentional blessings that she trusted would eventually find her. Jewel’s inner compass was her art and her art-making, and it never led her astray from her path.

There was a short clip from her interview with Tami Simon when she said something that stood out to me. That she found solace in the Alaskan outdoors. And that she wanted to be one with nature, just like the hard woods. Because “hard wood grows slowly.” And looking into her book, here’s an excerpt what she meant:

To this day, I calibrate my inner life to what I have observed in nature, and one of the most significant lessons it has taught me is that hard wood grows slowly. I know, not the flashiest phrase, but a profound one. I watched soft wooded trees shoot up in the spring and rot only a few years later. The harder woods became friends of mine …

Great survivors have the ability to yield, adapt, give. This stopped me in my tracks. My life was not teaching me to yield, it was teaching me to cover up, protect, harden. I felt a panic. Hardening was the opposite of yielding. I walked home deep in thought and wrote in my book, things that don’t bend break. …

Slow growth meant thoughtful growth. Thoughtful growth meant conscious choices. It was a ladder of thought that pulled me up over the years until I arrived at one of the mottos I try to live by: hard wood grows slowly. …

If I wanted to grow strong and last, and not be brittle or broken easily, I had a duty to make decisions that were not just good in the moment but good for long-term growth.

-Jewel

I loved every bit of her writing. Reading it felt like listening to a close friend talk about how they’ve been doing for the past X number of years and how they’ve learned to overcome so much. I particularly enjoyed learning more about her songwriting inspirations and what life stories influenced them. For instance, I didn’t know that the song “Foolish Games” was about her bittersweet and tumultuous relationship with her mother. As I re-listen to her songs, I can’t help but feel like I have learned so much more about the multiple layers that people usually have.

How she survived abuse, neglect, homelessness, and not become another “statistic,” I’ll never truly know. But Jewel’s story proves that resilience and grit are inherent qualities in the human spirit that propel us towards healing and equilibrium. Our bodies and minds seek balance and harmony, and even when we don’t consciously understand why we feel anxious, mad, or sad, our bodies and minds want to protect us from harm’s way. That is why we sometimes forget, we disconnect, and sometimes become numb. These are not flaws of the human body, its adaptive nature is to protect us from hurt and pain. Only that sometimes, they get too intense and become troublesome when they take the forms of symptoms and clinical disorders.

Here’s a beautiful bit from her book on pain and suffering:

I loved to observe people. I watched love and life play out in a million ways, but one of the best things I learned was this: You don’t outrun pain. I saw men and women in those bar rooms all trying to outrun something, some pain in their life…

I saw that no one outran their suffering; they only piled new pain upon their original pain. I saw the pain pile up into insurmountable mountains, and I saw the price people paid who buried all that pain, and along with it their hope, joy, and chance at happiness. All because they were trying to outrun the pain rather than walk through it and heal.

Jewel

You know it’s a good book when you begin to have moments of self-reflection.

Reading through this book and talking with dear friends has made me look back and assess how far I’ve come from the years that have gone by. Almost four years ago when my dad passed away, it then seemed like I was never going to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I found myself wondering why I was such a magnet for all pitiful and hopeless situations imaginable. I remember thinking to myself… really?? how unfair it was that others probably never had it so difficult. That what I had experienced in a matter of a few months was like a lifetime of horrible events balled up to one that could be shared among a handful of individuals. And yet here I was, with the terrible windfall of luck to win it all B I G. I remember being deeply unhappy and spiteful of happy families. Of happy people and their simple and uneventful lives. Why is this my path? Why am I alone in this grief and sadness? And how come everyone seems to have moved on without me?

It took me so long to get to where I am today. And honestly, sometimes I do still feel like I don’t deserve to be. Things got better when I decided to be my own best advocate. My own protector and caretaker. That grief and loss was not going to stop me from living. That I had lots of dreams and goals that were waiting for me to get started. That I was deserving. And I am grateful for the people who have stuck by me. Who have gone with me through hell and back, and have continued to be my solid ground.

Jewel Never Broken

Jewel’s book was such a heart-warming read. Her life stories have reminded me to come back to where it all started for me, too. To practice gratitude, to learn to be a better friend, to accept and know that pain is temporary, and to never forget that I must yield to life when the storm comes.

-Danessa


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You can get Jewel’s Memoir Never Broken: Songs are Only Half the Story here