Perspectives 11: Cultivating Self-Empathy

Perspectives Issue 11: March, 2013

In This Issue

  • Self-Empathy Fundamentals
  • Upcoming Workshops
  • Spring into Change: Coaching group starts in April

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Happy Spring!  I’ve spent much of today glorying in the wild and wonderful cascade of sun and showers the day has offered, and the fanfares of forsythia that are bursting out everywhere. I don’t know about you, but Portland’s long, luxurious spring is one of my favorite things about living here.

I’ve been doing a lot of work with organizations for the past few months, and a lot of teaching, which has not left a lot of time for writing, so I was delighted to find in LaShelle Lowe-Chardé’s Connection Gem of the Week, a wonderful article on self-empathy to share with you this month.  LaShelle teaches and facilitates nonviolent communication with women and couples, and many of you have heard me using some of the approaches and tools she introduced me to in workshops and coaching sessions.  The cultivation of self-empathy is a powerful practice that can transform how we treat ourselves, and each other.  You’ll find a link to her website, and information on a workshop she is offering, at the end of the article.

Self-Empathy Fundamentals

A guest article by LaShelle Lowe-Chardé

Have you ever attempted self-empathy and found that you just end up getting stuck in unpleasant feelings and a swirl of repetitive thoughts? A number of people have reported this experience to me. Let’s define self-empathy and break it down a bit more into its fundamental elements.

Self-empathy is meant to allow space for you to experience all that is alive in you with acceptance and honor for that experience.

Self-empathy isn’t meant to be an elixir that removes unpleasant feelings.

I often think of feelings as energy entities that want to be known — experienced fully and acknowledged. Sometimes this takes a few minutes, sometimes a few hours or days or weeks.

What I call “being a big container” means allowing feelings to be there. You notice a feeling as it arises and say something like, “Okay, I notice I am feeling hurt right now. That’s okay to feel. I don’t have to do something about it nor push it away.”  Then you get to know the feeling by paying attention to it in specific ways.  You can ask yourself questions like this:

  • Where in my body do I feel this feeling?
  • How much space does this feelings take up in my body?
  • What’s the texture of this feeling – sharp, dull, rough, slick…?
  • Does this feeling move or stay still?
  • What’s the energetic quality of the feeling – heavy, light, expansive, contracted, busy, scattered, dense…?

Asking questions like these not only brings you into mindful awareness of your experience, it also interrupts the mental habit of weaving interpretation and stories.  If you have the resources to read this email, than it’s likely that you are not fighting for your physical safety and survival every day.  Most of your suffering comes from mental habits that run themselves when you’re not looking.

When you interrupt mental habit energy by mindfully attending to what is alive in you, you create a spaciousness in your consciousness. This means that unpleasant feelings can arise and be there without a reaction from you. When you are not in reaction to your own internal experience, you can continue to function and be attentive to others, your work, your bicycle ride, etc.

A simple mindfulness practice to begin with involves cultivating an  “acceptance voice”. Find a short phrase that helps you accept your internal experience. Mine is simply, “That’s okay”. I have practiced this voice so much that it now arises of its own accord when needed.

Meditation is an ideal situation for this practice. When you sit quietly with the intention to stay in the present, your mind invariably wanders off and a variety of sensations and feelings arise. Each time you notice your mind wandering or a sensation or feeling arises, repeat your acceptance phrase and return to your practice noticing your experience in the detailed way described above. If you continue this practice over time, you will find yourself less reactive and more able to flow with whatever experiences and situations you encounter.

When you have begun to settle your body, heart, and mind with the practices above, you can do the next two steps in self-empathy.  First, name the needs that are alive for you in the present moment.  As I was sitting in mindful meditation this morning, my consciousness revealed a need for creative expression by offering a simple art idea that I could do in the moment.  Our waking consciousness communicates needs in the same way our dreams do at night, through tone, images, color, quality of light, energy, characters, memories, words, sensations, emotions, etc.  Your role is simply to pay attention and translate what your consciousness tells you into a need you can act on.

And acting on your needs is the next step in self-empathy.  When you have a specific concrete do-able plan for meeting your needs, your body, heart, and mind relaxes into a relationship of self-trust.  The important thing here is that the actions you decide on are ones that you can easily follow through on within a day.  Putting your needs off until summer vacation doesn’t create a relationship of self-trust.

Take a moment to scan through this article and choose one of the practices mentioned.  Decide when and where you will practice that element of self-empathy today.

Offering: Compassion for Yourself – A Women’s Class Series

You might find it easier to be compassionate with others than with yourself.  You can even name other’s needs before identifying your own.  You would like to make peace with your internal critics and be able consider your own needs as much as do those of others.

Join LaShelle for this six-week series and learn and practice coming into compassionate relationship with yourself.  It runs Thursdays from 7-9pm from April 4th-May 9th at the Friend’s Meeting House in SE Portland, and costs $150.  Read more and sign up.

© LaShelle Lowe-Charde, 2013.  Used by permission.
LaShelle Lowe-Chardé is passionate about helping people express their deepest values in their relationships and creating clarity and connection with self and others. You’ll find more information, and can sign up to receive her Connection Gem of the Week, at her website:

Join the Conversation

I’d love to hear what this article brought up for you.  You can share your experiences and response to this article in the comments box at the bottom of this page.

. . . . .

Upcoming Workshops

Spring Cleaning Your Heart and Head

Are you feeling cluttered? Stuck in old ways of thinking and feeling? Bogged down by your past? Come learn ways of clearing out the clutter, letting go of old burdens, and making room for the new self you want to become.

Date and Time: Thursday, April 4th, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Location: Portland Community College, CLIMB Center, 1626 SE Water Avenue, Portland (near OMSI), Room 303

Cost and Registration: Pre-registration is required. The CRN is 28112. The cost is $29. You can You can register online (the most efficient way), or by calling 971-722-4234.

Tools for Taming Your Inner Critic

Self-judgment can paralyzes us, hold us in fear, keep us from growing into our strengths and taking action.  Change your relationship with your inner critic and learn to move through fear into action.  Whether you are struggling in work/vocation, family, love, creativity, wellness, or some other arena, this workshop will help you find in yourself the resources you need to become the person you dream of being and give you tools for staying on that path.

Date and Time: Thursday, May 9th from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Location: Portland Community College, CLIMB Center, 1626 SE Water Avenue, Portland (near OMSI), Room 206

Cost and Registration: Pre-registration is required.  The CRN is 28113.  The cost is $29.  You can register online (the most efficient way), or by calling 971-722-4234.

. . . . .

Spring Into Change — Coaching Group starts in April

Do you want something in your life to change?

Maybe you have something niggling at you, some change you want to make. Or maybe you’re feeling like you’re setting aside the things you most want. Or maybe you’re just feeling stuck or unfulfilled in your life right now.

Whatever your situation, you have what it takes to discover the right path and make the changes you want to make. But it can be hard to stay focused on what you want in the midst of your complex and already very full life.

Maybe it’s time to give yourself the time and focus you need to figure out what you want and how to step into a life that has room for all of you.

I invite you to join 8-10 other people who are also on a journey of self-discovery and creation for a six-week facilitated coaching group starting April 17th. The group will meet on Wednesday nights from 7:00 to 9:00 in my home in outer SE Portland.

There are more details on the Spring Into Change page on my website.

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What People Say About My Groups and Workshops

“Emotional, rewarding and life changing”

“The group was inspiring, stimulating, helped me shift out of negativity toward optimistic ideas. I love your style – welcoming, supportive.”

“This workshop has changed how I think about my life”

“I now have LOTS of tools to help me make shifts in my life that I’ve wanted.”

. . . . .

Individual Facilitation

If you are feeling stuck and want to do more in-depth work to move through your stuck spots and begin creating the life you want to be living, I invite you to do three months of individual facilitation (“coaching”).

We will focus in on what is most alive for you, most stuck, most confusing, and discover ways for you to access your own deep wisdom and to release old patterns that have stopped serving you and are preventing you from making the changes you want to make. Individual facilitation is practical — learning and action are integrated, so you are actually taking the steps you want to be taking while getting more clarity about what makes these changes challenging and how to make it easy. The cost for three months of facilitation is $425.

You will find information about individual facilitation with me on the website.

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Call for Questions

Are there things you are struggling with, or coaching-related things you are curious about, that you’d like to see me write about in this eNewsletter? I’d love to know what they are. Please email me and if I feel like I can address it in the newsletter format, I will.

Have a wonderful spring!



PS: Pass it on

If you know someone who’d benefit from this newsletter, please pass it on to them. Thanks for helping me connect with the people who want what I’ve got to offer.

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© Tasha Harmon, March 2013. All rights reserved. You are invited to share this eNewsletter with friends and colleagues as long as it stays intact, with all acknowledgements and contact information in place. If you’d like permission to reprint articles from my eNewsletters, written permission is required. Please do contact me about this if you are interested. Thank you.
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