Make it RAIN!

drinkingtherainAs I explained in a previous post, self-improvement is one of the three strategies that Tara Brach suggests we use to run from shame. I want to introduce you to the other two ways we hide from shame and a practice that she suggests help to keep our heart open during difficult or threatening times.

Here’s the full list:

1. Fleeing through addiction to substances or experiences that numb intolerable feelings, denial of feelings or depressing feelings

2. Fighting our world out of feelings of deficiency such as judging or blaming ourselves. This might manifest as taking our feelings out on others and blaming them for your feelings.

3. Self-improvement, which is often the most sneaky. This would be always trying to be better person; a constant striving to be more acceptable, to conform or to please others.

Any of these sound familiar? I thought so and I hear ya.

Running from shame doesn’t make the feelings go away. It frequently makes it worse so Brach teaches four steps to facilitate coping with a sense of deficiency so that we can allow ourselves to encounter and experience difficult feelings. The four steps are represented by the acronym RAIN, which makes it a lot easier to remember when we are overwhelmed by shame or other difficult emotions. Check out the links below for a guided reflection through stages of RAIN and more thoughts from Brach on how to employ this tool.

R   Recognize what is happening

A   Allow life to be just as it is

I   Investigate inner experience with kindness

N  Non-Identification.

The Shambhala Sun has reprinted a very helpful excerpt from Brach’s book, True Refuge, which takes you through each of the four steps. Check it out at

Other resources from Tara Brach:

Brach, T. (Speaker). (2005). Radical Self-Acceptance: A Buddhist Guide to Freeing Yourself from Shame. [Audio recording]. Sounds True.


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Does Meditation Intimidate You?

meditatingalonebtwntreesToday I am leaving for a 10-day meditation retreat at the Ontario Vipassana Centre. Vipassana offer pay-what-you-can retreats around the world so it’s a pretty amazing opportunity to develop your meditation practice.

Have you ever considered meditating but felt too intimidated? If so, then I’d like to introduce you to Pema Chodron, a beloved Buddhist teacher, author and nun. When I started meditating several years ago, I listened to her recordings called “How to Meditate” and it was the first time that I felt meditation was accessible to me. It wasn’t about clearing my mind at all. It was about being present with what is going on and adopting the attitude that whatever is happening is okay. She explained that meditation is for any type of mind: wild, distracted, drowsy, moody and so on. I thought to myself, “my mind is all of these things! And Pema says that’s okay!” I felt liberated and I hadn’t even started meditating yet.

I think Pema Chodron’s humility is what really persuaded me to give meditation a try. She laughs at herself saying, “I have a lousy meditation that doesn’t bother me anymore…I just have this hopelessly, unworkable, non-meditative mind and I’ve devoted my whole life to it and talked to millions of people about it.” Her honest and hilarious words helped me let go of striving and perfectionism in my practice because she helped me to understand that meditation was about acceptance. She had me hooked. In listening to these words, I knew that meditation practice was an essential part of my path to self-acceptance and self-compassion.

Maybe you’re starting to warm up to the idea too? There are lots of resources out there if you want to get started. You can check out Pema Chodron’s “How to Meditate” series, visit the weekly meeting at a Shambhala center near you or check out if you want to try a residential retreat like I am doing. I think group meditation is a great place to get started if you benefit from structure and accountability.

I have a couple of posts prepared during my absence so don’t fret 🙂

I can’t wait to report back to you all. Be well.


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Beginner’s Mind

In-the-beginners-mindHello and thanks for stopping by! If you are reading this, then please accept my apologies for the premature publication of this post! Rather than take it down and confused everyone who received emails, I’ve decided to just update it later. More to come on beginner’s mind! Thanks for your understanding.

Please proceed to today’s post on Meditation by clicking here



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Share your story

1669672_285554028268514_2094545939_oShameless Inspiration is all about creating a community where we can support each other on our journey to cultivate self-compassion and shamelessness. One way to do this is by sharing affirmations/mantras on the “I am” page and I’d also like to open up the opportunity to contribute your personal stories.

1. Identify a specific life experience/story and ask yourself: What did I learn? How did this effect/illustrate my relationship to shame and self-compassion? Please tie it all together by summarizing your insights and what individuals experiencing similar difficulties might glean from your story. Take a look at my posts to get a sense of what I’m looking for or feel free to contact me with questions.

2. Keep in mind that the Shameless inspiration audience is diverse. Shameless deals with self-compassion and shame which every human experiences. Please do not submit posts that discuss religion, gender, self-improvement, political ideology or other perspectives that might limit the accessibility of your post.

3. Please send a little bio telling us about yourself that will go at the bottom of the page. A picture too please.

4. I may suggest edits to your post so you must be open to revisions.

5. Your submission must be completely original writing that has not been published anywhere for any reason. Online or otherwise.

6. Email your submission to

7. Thanks for taking the time to grow and share on Shameless Inspiration.

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A message to the community

I posted a message about 1669672_285554028268514_2094545939_oShameless Inspiration on my Facebook wall yesterday and wanted to share it with the rest of the community.

“Dear friends and family,

I have an important message to share with you today. A couple of months ago, I started a project called Shameless Inspiration with the intention to promote self-compassion. I’ve had the opportunity to learn a great deal about thoughts, emotions and behaviors while attaining my degree in psychology, conducting professional psychology research and seeking therapy to improve my own mental health. I feel really lucky to have this knowledge of mental health and to have had opportunities to let my self-compassion and empathy grow. I have more joy in my life and I’m less hard on myself for feeling sad, fatigued or any of the other difficult emotions/sensations that I used to see as a sign of my deficiency or weakness.

I believe that anyone can benefit from a knowledge of psychology whether it’s to help with stress at work, struggles in a romantic relationship or to cope with mental disorder. I built Shameless Inspiration to give others this opportunity for self-examination and self-expression. On the site, I provide stories, research and a supportive community to facilitate the process of identifying and transcending the beliefs that limit our ability to love ourselves, others and life unconditionally.

Cultivating self-compassion and coping with shame in a loving way can help you live your life to the fullest. It can also lead to social change. The way we relate to others is a reflection of how we relate to ourselves. If we are judging others for having “problems,” then we are more than likely beating ourselves up for the same thing. I believe that building a more self-compassionate community is the foundation for facilitating important social change: reducing mental disorder and the stigma surrounding it, domestic violence, hunger, homophobia and so on.”

Join the self-compassion movement by….

  • Following this blog
  • “Liking” the Shameless Inspiration Facebook page
  • Commenting on, liking and sharing posts
  • Posting affirmations or mantras
  • Submitting your personal stories and wisdom to be featured on the site!

Thanks for reading and I hope to meet you soon on Shameless Inspiration.


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TED talks on the need to be right: Where do good ideas come from by Steven Johnson

lightbulboverheadThis is my last of three TED talk recommendations that I am providing as a follow-up to It feels so good to be right…or does it?

In his talk, Steven Johnson explains that we that “Eureka” moments are not the result of a moments insight but our the culmination of much longer incubation process. He also emphasizes that collaboration leads to our most innovative ideas. The argument he offers in his talk offers more inspiration to reduce our attachment to our ideas and recognize how deeply influenced we are by one another.

Click here to watch Where do good ideas come from


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Overcoming resistance using the “I Am” page

1669672_285554028268514_2094545939_oThe “I Am” page is the heart of the Shameless Inspiration community. It is where members go to take risks and have others bear witness to their commitment to self-compassion. I’ve received notes from people who have been surprised by the power of releasing their affirmation out to the world. Members have said it provided much needed comfort while coping with the illness of a loved one or their own anxiety issues. I am so grateful for your participation in this initiative and for the bravery of those who have shared affirmations and mantras.

Whether you have contributed to the “I am” page or not, you have more than likely experienced resistance to the idea of these mantras or affirmations. Perhaps you have sat in front of the page trying to think of something and then decided you couldn’t think of anything meaningful, the activity was stupid, no one was going to see it anyway or that it wasn’t going to help you. This is totally normal and I’d like to offer some suggestions for challenging those thoughts when they arise.

“I can’t think of anything meaningful” –> It’s important to make your affirmation meaningful BUT also remember that a really important goal is also overcoming resistance and perfectionism by just doing it. Perhaps the next time will feel more sincere and effortless. There are days when affirmations like “I am enough” or “I am loving” don’t sit as well with me and I usually go with a self-compassion mantra or affirmation like “I am brave and hopeful” or “This is hard for me right now but I am going to respond with self-compassion.”

“This is stupid” –> This can mean a lot of things. I used to think affirmations were lame but now I realize that they are a really important way to capture your positivity. Often times when something is going well, we let it just speed by without really absorbing it and letting it sink in to our attention. On the other hand, when something is negative, it’s easy to ruminate for hours or even years! Affirmations are a great way to pause. For more on this, check out my post “Positive Thinking and Affirmations are New Agey and Lame”

“No one (I know) is going to see this so who cares” –> Yup, someone may or may not see your affirmation but are you doing this for yourself or other people? Posting on the “I am” page is first and foremost an opportunity to inspire yourself.

“I’ll just do an affirmation in my mind” –> Two reasons to use the “I Am” page: shamelessness and accountability. (1) Shamelessness. One of the benefits of the “I Am” page is that it’s an opportunity to shamelessly express the self-compassion you deserve. A pervasive and toxic idea in our culture is that being positive and self-critical is cool or noble and the “I Am” page is all about challenging that. All the anxiety and indifference that arises when you attempt an affirmation is actually a great opportunity to challenge this resistance with affirmation. My resistance to doing an affirmation is often an indication that I should do it. (2) Accountability. The “I am” page encourages you to put your affirmation in writing, which often enhances one’s sense of accountability to an intention. This is particularly useful if you have chosen to work with a specific affirmation for a month such as “I am trusting.” Of course, the affirmation will only be part of the work to expand your ability to trust but it is an opportunity to put your intention in writing and share it with the world.

“This isn’t going to help” –> You won’t know unless you try. When this thought comes up, you might choose the affirmation “I am opening my mind” or “I am taking chances.”

“I don’t need affirmations” –> Perhaps this is true and only you can decide what you need. However, it’s important to realize that this is often another way of hiding. One red flag would be if you were initially interested in the idea and then became deterred in the course of choosing an affirmation. You may also want to ask yourself if you don’t want to “need” affirmations. What does it mean to need or not need an affirmation?

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TED talks on the need to be right: Your Elusive Creative Genius by Elizabeth Gilbert

elizabeth gilbertThis is my second of three TED talk recommendations that I am providing as a follow-up to It feels so good to be right…or does it? In this post, I explained that I am adopting a new way of think about my ideas, the ideas of others, and “the process” of being right or wrong. I wrote:

“I’m trying on a whole new way of thinking about being right that is based on the notion that we cannot claim our ideas, beliefs and even the process of being right (or wrong). In order to have this experience of being right, others must be willing to hear and acknowledge your thoughts, emotions and ideas. Being right involves the individuals who validated your suggestion and also the people who gave you the knowledge and skills to develop them. Conversely, if you are wrong, you have been partly responsible for making someone else right by choosing not to be hardened around your ideas and hearing and affirming something or someone else. When I think of it this way, it starts to feel like we’re all just bouncing around ideas that don’t fully belong to anyone. I feel less personal attachment to my ideas because they seem like they emerge from a process and a collective experience. I start to feel a responsibility to share the stage and to hear opposing ideas.”

I think Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on creative process and inspiration captures a very similar idea. She talks about looking at creative ideas as something that just pass through us as though we are simply vessels or messengers. I love Gilbert’s stories and humor and I believe this approach takes the ego out of the equation.

Your Elusive Creative Genius by Elizabeth Gilbert


“You know, even I have had work or ideas come through me from a source that I honestly cannot identify. And what is that thing? And how are we to relate to it in a way that will not make us lose our minds, but, in fact, might actually keep us sane?”

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Rock that enthusiasm!

happinessdependsuponourselvesToday is the UN International Day of Happiness! In honor of the event, I wanted to talk about unbridled enthusiasm. Have you ever dared to show enthusiasm for an idea, an event or just for a moment of life and found that the people around seem annoyed or say things like “simmer down” or “whoah, ok, we get it.” What’s wrong with being excited? For example, I was at the Apple store one day hoping to get my computer fixed and when I was successful I jumped in the air and then went to hug my friend. I could see immediately that he was embarrassed by me and encouraged me to relax. In truth, I’ve been guilty of judging enthusiastic people at times. For example, a taxi cab passed me on the street with three kids taking pictures and singing Vitamin C’s Graduation song. I cannot deny that I felt a whole bunch of negativity and judgment toward this display but then I remind myself that I’m losing out when I react this way. Another common situation is having an idea for an event or an activity that others may doubt or think is silly, which may leave you sad, hurt, defeated and so on…In the past, I’ve let people trample on my enthusiasm but I try hard not to take people’s responses too personally anymore. It’s hard to know where their feelings from and either way it’s about them not me. I remind myself that this is my moment to enjoy and I am to blame if I let anyone take it away from me. I won’t let other people cause me to dampen my joy and make me feel “too big or loud.”

We are worthy of joy and deserve to take up space and express ourselves!  So don’t be afraid to celebrate the Day of Happiness with some unbridled enthusiasm.

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TED talks on the need to be right: What security means to me by Eve Ensler

Eve EnslerI’ve selected a series of TED talks as a follow-up to my post this week, It feels so good to be right…or does it?. The first talk I’d like to recommend is What security means to me by Eve Ensler.

A desire to feel safe, secure, important is at the core of the desire to be right and an attachment to our ideas. This TED talk on security is one of my favorite lectures of all time. Ensler explains how our attempts to feel secure often cause us to limit our minds and our lives without actually making us more secure. I believe her ideas are relevant to all forms of security from national security to the emotional security we seek in our relationships.

Check out her talk by clicking here

Excerpts from What security means to me by Eve Ensler:

“I think that when [security] is the focus of your life, these are the things that happen. You can’t travel very far or venture too far outside a certain circle. You can’t allow too many conflicting ideas into your mind at one time, as they might confuse you or challenge you.”

“You become whatever it is that will freeze you, numb you and protect you from doubt or change. But all this does, actually, is shut down your mind. In reality, it does not really make you safer.”

“Freedom means I may not be identified as any one group, but that I can visit and find myself in every group. It does not mean that I don’t have values or beliefs, but it does mean I am not hardened around them. I do not use them as weapons. In the shared future, it will be just that, shared. The end goal will [be] becoming vulnerable, realizing the place of our connection to one another, rather than becoming secure, in control and alone.”

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