Home Base with Jeff Warren
Home Base with Jeff Warren
More Care in the Tank
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More Care in the Tank

What if every twinge of discomfort or restlessness or heartbreak was a blinking indicator light? Reminding you to take care, calling you home to yourself.
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I used to drive a used 2007 Toyota Prius. Dents on the roof panel, rusted tire wells, upholstery stained with petrified banana chunks. I called him Clank because every time I closed the driver-side door it sounded like banging a cheap heating duct.

Clank!

Design by our friends at The Muse Collaborative

Clank had an indicator light that never stopped blinking. No mechanic could figure out what was wrong. But Clank had heart. He kept going, protecting my family, also getting excellent mileage. 

Blink, blink.

Every time his indicator light blinked, I decided it was a sign that Clank needed love. I’d pat his plastic dashboard and say ‘It’s OK buddy.’

You can probably tell where I’m going with this. We all have our own indicator lights, always particular, often overlooked. Maybe a low-level emotional ache that’s often in the background, or a literal pain in the neck, throbbing with each new responsibility. For me, today, it came in the form of agonized rumination about how to problem-solve every part of my life.

For two hours, I walked around under one of those Charlie Brown thunder-scribbles. In pain, and resisting that pain, because I wasn’t clear enough to notice I was in pain in the first place. And then:

Blink, blink.

Oh. Right. Thanks Clank – my spiritual teacher. I don’t actually need to problem solve everything right now. What I need is more care in the tank. I paused, took a few breaths, and patted myself on the chest: ‘It’s OK buddy.”

Self-compassion is a subject I’d long avoided. When I started doing meditation retreats, I would focus on the warrior aspect of sitting in humorless determination. Which didn’t get me far, although I did get better at noticing my humorless determination. At the time I thought self-compassion was a bit self-indulgent, and happened mostly in spas. Also I didn’t think I deserved it – a rather harsh judgment that itself throbbed painfully in the background of my life. 

Blink, blink.

Then one night, when our first baby was howling through an interminable sleep regression – my own nervous system bolting and seizing – I put a hand on my chest, and noticed my whole body settle. I said, “It’s OK buddy.”

My animal body responded immediately to touch. It grounded me, and strengthened me, and helped me find my feet. As I settled, baby settled too. It was a kind of sympathetic magic. Compassion propagates.

When our environment feels hostile, self-compassion is the environment we learn to create inside ourselves. We don’t need to summon any extra energy to do this – we can say a supportive phrase, go for a walk with a friend, or drink a glass of water. Whatever kindness works for our system. The implementation itself isn’t hard. What’s hard is remembering. What’s hard is believing we’re worthy of kindness in the first place.

A guided meditation can help break the ice. Like any habit, the more you practice, the easier it gets. In honor of Clank, here’s a short meditation about noticing our own personal indicator lights, and then sending in some love. You don’t have to fold yourself into a special sitting position – you can play it in the background while washing dishes, or half-listen as you walk the dog. Whatever works. 

Much love my friend!

Jeff

PS - We’ve decided to start offering an extended 20-minute version of each Home Base meditation. These will be available to all paid subscribers. Click the button below to listen and let us know what you think.

Listen to the Extended Meditation

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The indomitable Clank - and author - circa 2020

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