Here in the quiet of a Sunday afternoon, as I ready my dogs for a walk around the pond, I wanted to reach out to share a story from a former student from the Book of Love.
‘Accepting all part of myself with welcome’
Today I’m honored to share Eva’s story with you. Eva, like Nina, was in the last Book of Love class. And also like Nina, Eva found strength and hope in creating a book of wholeness.
Eva wrote to me this week and I was moved by her hope, self compassion and resilience. I lay her words, a treasured stone of courage, upon the hearth of our shared human experience, a testament to the strength that rises to carry us through it.
“The Book of Love gave me the space to find myself and sing my song back to me no matter what was going around me.
The part of the course that I found particularly healing was the part where I was enabled to accept all the parts of myself, including those I had previously rejected. All were guests and welcome at my table.
After the course ended I went through a very difficult time of homelessness and joblessness. As I slept at various friends’ houses and different hostels, and wondered how I would make ends meet, my self-critical voices became very strong.
When I was able to binge, I did so uncontrollably. It was then that I found my Book of Love most helpful. I would draw all the parts of me at the table, including those unwanted guests. I found that the other guests – love, joy, compassion, hope – they were all still there. They hadn’t gone away, just the other guests were being a bit noisier.
Happily I’m in a better place now with a home and work I enjoy. I am so grateful to the Book of Love course for giving me the ability to find self-compassion in the hardest of situations.
And when I’m at ease my Book becomes a testimony of boundless joy and memories in the tapestry of my life. It’s the most deep and authentic self acknowledgment.”
When our coping strategies take over
Thank you Eva, for the gift of your story. As I take in her experience, my whole body feels a soft sigh of warmth.
I hope her story has also been good medicine for you.
What moves me about Eva’s story is how she was able to find love, joy, compassion and hope in the midst of tremendous difficulty. I smiled when she wrote, “they hadn’t gone away, just the other guests were being a bit noisier.”
When we go through a hard time, our messiest coping strategies can rise up, trying to steer our ship to safety. These coping strategies – like numbing behaviors, overdoing, perfectionism, rigidity, self criticism, and overeating – can be so noisy, and they can make us feel disconnected from our inherent goodness and strength.
Bringing the nourishment that feeds new life
Compassion is a balm. It sees us with clear, honest eyes – soft eyes that hold warmth and understanding.
And like compost, compassion brings much needed nutrients and nourishment to a soil that has been depleted.
This past year, so many of us feel like depleted soil. I think of a poignant image from The Lord of the Rings, where an elderly Bilbo Baggins wearily says, “I feel like butter that’s been scraped across too much bread.”
I’ve heard from so many people: “This is just too hard. The expectations in modern life are just impossible to maintain.”
I wonder – perhaps these cultural expectations as a whole are dying, giving way to a more humane way of living?
From decay comes new life
I think compassion’s particular nourishment helps us remake the expectations that we carry for ourselves. And like compost, compassion’s nourishment comes from a paradoxical place: what we think of as the ‘decay’ of our lives, all those places where we felt like we fell short or were not enough.
As Eva described, out of decay, and out of the dying of impossible ideals, self images, and expectations, over and over, something new is born. Seedlings arise.
May we all have sacred spaces where we can reconnect to our noble beauty, to who we are, to what we carry, and to what we bring. May all our seedlings be nurtured.