Being a friend to myself: a self-reflection exercise

Healing Hands.jpg

This reflection exercise can help us understand if there’s a difference in the compassion we show to others and the compassion we show to ourselves.

During this reflection exercise, we’ll be reflecting on how we treat our friends and how we treat ourselves. We can do this either with pen and paper, or without.

You’ll need to put aside about 10 minutes to do this.

“Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.” ~ Wilfred Peterson.

Taking a few moments to sit and settle into the present moment. Making ourselves comfortable. Allowing ourselves a few easy, deep breaths… with a sense of ‘letting go’ on the out-breath. Then allowing the breath to settle into a natural rhythm. Closing the eyes and scanning through the body from head to toe, noticing any areas where we’re subtly holding onto tension… and bringing some kindness to those areas. Perhaps even offering ourselves a silent inner ‘Awww…’, allowing our heart to melt a bit with each ‘Awww.’ If we like, using the out-breath as an opportunity to let go of tension a little bit more each time.

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The best improv and writing tool ever

Are you stuck for ideas for your scenes and stories? Want a tool to help you start now, with no thinking required? Want to instantly find a character, activity, situation and sense of urgency?

This might be the tool for you!

In my opinion it is the best improv and writing tool ever.

I found it by accident while improv-swotting for the Wurzburg Improv Festival. I haven’t improvised for a while, so was searching for a way to practice by myself, before I meet other improvisers and ruin their lives.

After reading a wonderful article on improv by Dan Goldstein, I was inspired by the idea of starting scenes with an ATTITUDE, and an ACTIVITY on a SPECIAL DAY.

Then I remembered the fantastic Brainstormer App! Simply input three lists and they will display on three spinning wheels. Spin each wheel and receive a unique random scene-starter!


Here are some of the lists I used:

Mischievous, depressed, angry, jealous, moaning, virtuous, vain, suspicious, confused, elated, drunk, grieving…

Dancing, hiding, tickling, writing, drinking, polishing, practising, copying, stretching, jogging…

Olympic final, anniversary of Hitler’s death, our wedding day, the day I admit I love your brother, your birthday, grandma’s 100th birthday, driving test, the day I get knighted…

So a random combination could be:

…which prompted this scene: the Saudi Arabian team have entered us at short notice into the Diving Finals. We have never dived before! So I put on a video of Tom Daley and we watch and figure out how to dive like a champion!

I tried combination after combination and really enjoyed creating an entrance and first line for the scene it prompted. It also occurred to me how awesome a tool this was for writer’s block or for story generation.

You can make your own categories and lists using the Brainstormer App. If you don’t have a smartphone or iPad, make cards, or simply print your lists, close your eyes and point!

Well happy storytelling, folks!

Let’s see if this simple tool makes us better writers and improvisers : )

The day I didn’t meditate

Today I didn’t meditate.

I didn’t intend this. I intended to wake up early, do some yoga, thirty minutes mediation then off to work at school.

However, I slept through my alarm and woke up fifteen minutes before I needed to leave the house.

I was disappointed, but happy I still had time to make it to work. I threw some clothes on and after making time for breakfast, left ten minutes later than I would have ideally wanted.

This left me an hour’s journey to complete in fifty minutes.

I worried. I started to panic. And then I saw my own mind.

“Does it matter?” I asked myself, “That I might be late? If the teachers think badly of me, will their thoughts hurt me? Is it possible I could drive there quickly, but still stay calm, stay with myself, as if I had just meditated?”

It might just work.

On the drive, I prayed that I would have an easy journey and arrive in time. I started to play Pema Chodron’s Bodhisattva Mind, and started absorbing her wonderful teachings.

Then I got a text.

The text was from a friend, in trouble. She was heartbroken at a relationship meltdown and wanted somewhere to stay at short notice. She sounded really in need in the message.

I turned off Pema Chodron and as I drove, I practised for my friend. I imagined breathing in her distress, sending that energy down into the earth, and breathing out peace, to her.

I sang mantras and sent compassion to her, and a few other friends having a difficult time right now. I decided to ask my landlady’s permission to offer my friend the bottom bunk below me at my lodging.

As I drove, I noticed that I also made good choices. I drove swiftly and deftly, without causing hazard but at full speed.

When I arrived, I was fifteen minutes later than agreed with staff, but twenty minutes before I would work with the children. I thanked the forces that be for answering my prayers.

I still had plenty of time to set up. In fact, I had time to set up, make a drink and text my friend the offer of a bunk.

I felt incredibly peaceful. I had not meditated or done yoga, but felt like I had practised for hours.

During this day, I had such wonderful clarity. I saw efficient solutions to problems, collaborated well with staff and saw beauty in so much of the children’s work.

I found myself able to have time to complete my work successfully and able to have a text dialogue with my distressed friend.

I felt thankful all day to the teachings and yoga and meditation training that have allowed me this great peace of mind.

Later on that day, I reflected. Why was it that I felt so peaceful, even though I had missed my meditation?

It remembered the Buddhist tradition honoured three paths to enlightenment: meditation, compassion and wisdom.

Perhaps during my drive, the mantras and practice I had performed were compassionate. And Pema Chodron’s audiobook is full of wisdom. They must have helped.

I also reflected that there is something more important than meditation.

And that is the great peace, the true nature of ourselves that we may find through meditation. The goal, if you like, is not to meditate, but to find our true self. To find our peace.

In Donna Farhi’s fantastic Bringing Yoga To Life, she says we must remember that anything that we should never tether ourselves to anything that can be lost in our practice. If our security lies in our ability to perform an incredible posture, what happens when we suffer injury, or get old? Do we lose our security?

Donna Farhi suggests we tether ourselves instead to the “unchanging core of our being”, for it is only with the infinite that we can truly realise our security.

I want to thank Donna Farhi, my teachers and guides and my friends in need for the great lesson I learned today.

I learned that the rituals of meditation and yoga are just signposts to my real nature, the infinite truth.

I’m not about to throw my practice book out of the window. Meditation and yoga are my training ground. But that is all. What they are training me for is that amazing, infinite, all-encompassing light of peace.

And that peace lies within me, within all of us; in our deeper, true nature.

All the time.