I started this book back in March and I am so glad I took my time reading it. I have been reading it with one of my best friends and we have exchanged notes and thoughts after each chapter over these many months. I LOVED it and feel very grateful that I found it one day as I perused the library. I checked it out, got a few pages in, and realized I HAD to have my own copy...so I ordered one for me and one for my friend that same day! My husband also read it and gave it 5 stars, though he wished at times it had been written more "poetically", maybe. But I think that is what I loved about it. It was prosaic, yes, but SO PRACTICAL and so applicable. I found myself underlining so many things and I would often be reading and feel like I had just been spoken to directly.
The first chapter, titled The Fiction of Me, pretty much blew my mind. I had never really thought about how we create these stories that encompass "who we are" and that they are just that--STORIES. Under the heading of "Longing for What We Didn't Get" is this powerful section:
"The awful yet liberating truth is that the time for getting these needs met was in your childhood. You cannot get now what you didn't get then. No one else can assume the role of the loving parent you didn't have then. You may be loved and even adored in mature relationships, but that can't fill the empty space of what you didn't receive so long ago. The good news, though, is that you can learn to be with the ache in your heart with understanding and self-compassion and find peace and freedom in letting go of the desire for things to be different.
Although none of us ever adequately fills the empty space in our hearts with something or someone else, the empty space itself can be something sacred in its own right. Perhaps this realization comes only after you stop thinking of the emptiness as something to be filled or hidden, and perhaps it can happen only once you come to terms with your life just as it is."
I found that so beautiful and meangingful and not only applicable to childhood losses or griefs--but any loss we have endured, anything that has left us with that empty space in our heart. And the idea of that place becoming something holy really spoke deeply to me.
Other favorite parts:
"You don't have to fall for all of your interpretations hook, line, and sinker. You don't have to believe all of your thoughts."
After a meditation-on-the-breath section:
"Focusing on the breath can also bring you a measure of calm in difficult times. Anytime you feel yourself becoming stressed, upset, or beset by difficult thoughts or emotions, pause for a few mindful breaths. This will create a little space and may allow you to choose a different way of responding to the situation."
"Be aware that emotions can impel you into actions that are conditioned and automatic, and these automatic reactions are often the greatest cause of suffering in your life and the lives of those around you.
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. Mindfulness is the space between the stimulus and the response that allows you to make more conscious and deliberate choices when you're emotional."
I really liked these parts that I underlined in the chapter on Mindfulness Practice...
Mindfulness is an ancient practice that, in essence, involves being an objective and nonjudgmental observer of whatever arise in the present moment. It is a way of learning to relate directly to your life, rather than the preconceptions you have about life. Mindfulness is not something you have to "get" or even learn, for it's already within you. It's just a matter of accessing it by becoming present. Mindfulness is taking life one moment at a time. Here's a simple but profound truth: The moment you realize you aren't present, you're present once again. Mindfulness is always that close."
In the middle of the book, there is a beautiful and moving chapter on Self-Compassion.
As a bit of an over-achiever, so many things spoke to me. There are SO many parts of this chapter underlined, but these are my favorite lines...
"The mind that's perennially striving for a better place or condition creates suffering by leaving the present moment, which is the only place we can experience love, peace, or happiness. When you are somewhere other than now, you can miss the most precious experiences of your life. This can be akin to searching for your camera to preserve an experience that you end up missing because you're searching for the camera."
"Self-compassion entails giving yourself a break from self-judgment with kindness and caring. Understand that criticizing yourself (or others) is a source of suffering and is an entirely optional activity of the thinking mind." Who Knew ; )
"Sometimes we can find what's right and wholesome and worthwhile within us only after we've opened to and allowed ourselves to feel the pain we've been avoiding."
And then one of the most beautiful, profound sentences I've ever read:
"The site of a wound is eventually the place of healing, and the way a heart mends is no less wondrous than they way a skinned knee mends."
One of the later chapters is titled Becoming Real and talks about practicing acceptance (something I struggle with).
"You can learn to let everything be, both within yourself and in the world around you. You can learn to be just as you are and to stop wanting to be somehow different.
Know that radical acceptance doesn't mean you're okay with terrible things that have happened to you...it simply means you acknowledge that whatever happened has happened.
And from a more expansive point of view, you may recognize that some ot the troublesome parts of your story have been necessary for you to become who you are in your fullness. They may also be instrumental in helping others who struggle with similar life issues."