Title: A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself & Other Essays
Author: Brigid Lowry
Genre: Self-help/Health & Wellness
Named “One of the Best Books of 2021 So Far” by Apple Books
A beautifully presented and uplifting collection of contemplative, wry, sometimes funny essays about living thoughtfully and with care amidst life's challenges. If you're struggling to maintain grace and good humor amidst daily potholes and pitfalls, Brigid Lowry may be just the warm, wise, and witty companion you need.
Informed by contemporary psychology and Zen Buddhism, Brigid's essays offer reflections on everything from friendship to grief, and from gratitude to self-care. Give this audiobook to a friend or gift it to yourself. A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself is all the encouragement you'll need to nurture you and those around you.
OCTOBER: SOLITUDE AND CONNECTION
May I enjoy being with others. May I enjoy being alone.
Very agreeable weather. Clear skies. After Too Cold and before Too Hot. Frocks, necklaces, earrings, sitting in the sun. Lighter linen on my bed: purple with spring flowers.
I’ve been looking at intimacy and solitude. It’s interesting territory. Having been married for thirty years, to two different men, I know a little about being part of a couple. I was single for years when my last marriage ended, and after the initial crunch I came to terms with being alone.
Then this recent ride on the merry-go-round of love with all its ups and downs and sideways. Partnership doesn’t get any easier when one is older. Harder, perhaps, because personalities and habits have become crusty, entrenched.
Anyhow, I am alone again, and facing what this means to me.
In the newspaper I read that after ending a significant relationship it takes four years to regain one’s former state of ease and equanimity. This is both encouraging and discouraging. It means I feel less weird about still feeling weird about the relationship ending. It also means I have three years, one month, six hours and seventeen minutes until I’ll feel good again. Patience is a virtue, so I am told. Actually, I’m pretty happy, most of the time.
Solitude and loneliness are not the same thing. Solitude is enjoying being alone. It provides sustenance and inner richness, and is peaceful and refreshing. Loneliness is different. It’s a universal human emotion but quite hard to define. Loneliness involves feeling isolated, disconnected, our needs unmet by our social relationships. Without a sense of belonging, or being seen and valued by others, we can feel sad, bitter, vulnerable.
As with most things, balance is important. It is good to spend time with ourselves. It is good to spend time with others. Some people are better at being alone. Like many writers, I lean towards enjoying my own company, but like every other bugger on the planet, sometimes I am really lonely.
Some folk thrive on group contact. It energises them. Some find it overwhelming, confusing and draining. I like being with one or two people but I don’t often enjoy parties, for example. Once this bothered me. Now I accept it. I give group events my best shot and sometimes surprise myself by having a good time, but my long-time habit is to have an immediate shame attack on the way home about getting it wrong somehow: talking too much or forgetting to say goodbye to someone. I now accept this will happen and remind myself not to punish myself this way. Instead I put on the kettle, put on my dressing gown and relax.
My most valued relationships are with my family, beloved every one of them, and with my friends, truly glorious people without whom my life would not be worth living.
In Lost Connections, Johann Hari’s great book about depression, he stresses the need for connection with self, with tribe, with society, with culture, with meaningful work, with other people. To this end, once a week I shelve books at a local eco-community centre, where I’m forging some interesting connections with the other volunteers. Making sure I have human contact every day and engaging with people is important but it’s a juggling act, and it can be a tricky one.
What is it that makes being with people challenging for me? Mainly it’s anxiety. Am I saying the wrong thing? Is the other person finding me annoying, weird, controlling, idiotic? Well, maybe and maybe not, but when I recognise and accept my social anxiety, it frees me up and things go better.
Loving kindness to me is reminding myself that I am okay. When I feel good about myself, more love and kindness is available for others. Sometimes I do a check-in, in my journal or in my head. How connected am I feeling with myself? How connected am I feeling with other people? Aiming for balance, knowing it won’t be perfect. Sometimes it will be life with a capital F whatever I do. Permission to get things wrong. Permission to pick myself up, apologise if need be, start afresh.
Letting go of judgment is important. We’re unique, and we see all things differently. It doesn’t make anyone right or wrong. When other people behave in challenging ways, I aim to have a heart big enough to contain it. When people act badly they’re probably feeling shitty, so I make like the Buddha and try to love them anyway. Sometimes it works.
In my journey towards becoming who I’d like to be when I grow up, I’m also learning to stay out of other people’s stuff. My world is immediately easier, both in practical terms and in terms of my own emotional steadiness. I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to fix and control other people but I have finally learned the elusive yet obvious truth that I don’t have the power to make everything all better for anyone else. When I figure out what belongs to me and what doesn’t, life lightens up considerably.
Jean-Paul Sartre famously said that hell is other people. For me, hell can be myself. Like many others, I’ve spent a lifetime feeling unacceptable, an outsider, awkward, shy, crazy, fat, wrong in some way. It’s a hard game to give up but author and teacher Byron Katie has observed that it is nobody else’s job to like us, just our own. More and more I am worrying less about being liked and putting that energy into liking myself. It feels soft, and very spacious.
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November is a time to be thankful. What are you most thankful for this year?
Books that nourish the mind and feed the soul.
Why is your featured book worth snuggling up to?
A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself is great for any time of year, but it’s especially perfect for the late fall and winter months when we are all looking for ways to slow down and reflect.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Canada account to win.
Runs November 1 – 30
Drawing will be held on December 1.
Brigid Lowry began her writing career by self-publishing two dreadful poems when she was eight. She spent her twenties living in a Buddhist community, veered into performance poetry in her thirties, and subsequently survived two marriages, raised a fine son and wrote eight award-winning young adult books. Her first essay collection, Still Life with Teapot: On Zen, Memoir and Creativity, was published in 2016. She is a poet, a Zen student, a creative writing teacher, an introvert who talks too fast, a drifter and dreamer who loves the world of words. Brigid believes in nectarines, coloured pencils and op shops, and in living with authenticity and joy.
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