Compassion Training: Trying not to fall in the hole

I think I’m between chapter  2 and 3. It all depends on the circumstances.

An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson (excerpt from her book “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery“)

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in. I am lost….I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

walking down the sidewalk

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the side walk.
I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I fall in….it’s a habit…but my eyes are open.
I know where I am. It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down a different street.

This is why I’ve decided to take this course: Compassion Training with Mark Coleman (you can listen to the podcasts here). I made this decision after recently noticing myself being less than compassionate with someone and myself. Something which should have been simple to deal with left me thinking, “Wow, I am really a bitch.” Now, that is not the type of language I want fermenting in my mind, and my behaviour is not the kind I want to continue cycling; because looking back, it is a reaction (both the action and the thought) that continually reemerges.

So why am I writing about this on my teaching blog and not my personal blog? Because as you’ll see from the tagline under my blog’s title, I am passionate about compassionate communication. I think the world needs a lot more compassion and as a teacher of language, I think I’m in a position to make this happen. As language teachers, we are all in this position. I’ve always thought that the first step in creating this change should come from me (see a post on this by my friend and fellow teacher: In Order to Change the World). But I didn’t truly understand what that meant.

I think I’m closer to understanding it. My understanding is I can’t teach kindness if I’m not kind with myself. I can’t be compassionate with students and other teachers if I’m not compassionate with myself. Once I do that for myself, I’ll be ready for the world.

Awareness is the foundation of kindness. Kindness is the expression of awareness. – Buddhist verse

So for now I’ll sit and do my best to be mindful of what arises because that is the kindest thing I can do.

*I’d also like to take this chance to let my dear readers know that I am starting the WordPress “Post a Week” blog challenge. The fancy new badge you see on the right makes this official. I took this challenge back in 2011 (check out my “Post a Week 2011” posts) and I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot about myself, my teaching, and my learners. I hope to gain similar positive results. And it wouldn’t be a real challenge without challenge without challenging you too! Are you up for it?

Thank you for reading and your continued support,


17 thoughts on “Compassion Training: Trying not to fall in the hole

  1. So glad I save the emails I get telling me there’s a new post of yours. I had this one in my pending list for a long time, but reading it right now was just what I needed. The love and desire to connect, to be compassionate, to look inside… it’s inspiring and sends waves of strength and energy to this little corner of the world. Merci!


    1. Bienvenue Laura!

      What a treat to find your beautifully supportive words here. I am so grateful to know that what I write from my heart touches yours. And what is even better is that you waited until the time was right. The more I follow my heart, the more life seems to open up to me. You have given me a great gift in knowing that I don’t have to be scared to share and that in the end it brings you strength. An awe-inspiring cycle. :)


  2. Thanks for sharing the Five Short Chapters. I keep thinking of holes in streets and the thus infinite loop of a circle of self-discovery… feels liberating to be aware of the stages of the process. And of different streets)

    One more thing I immensely enjoy (and actually am strongly mindful about) in 2014 is its “missionary” spirit. As in us setting out on missions we find personally important. The nature of these missions also looks appealing to me!

    It is very fortunate for us that you’ve taken the blog a week challenge.))
    While I know myself and you know my current hedonistic motto, I’ll be counting on a weekly reading pleasure… and another chance to sit and try to be mindful. Thank you for this)


    1. I heard that poem on the podcast and had to listen to it three times. It really struck me. The metaphor for how most of us (me) move through life is so tangible. You chose the perfect word to describe its impact: liberating.

      It’s true that 2014 has a “missionary” spirit. I hadn’t looked at it that way. Actually I have all of John’s posts open and ready to tackle. I’m not sure I have the space for that mission, but it could be a part of my 2014 mission. Maybe I’ll be missioned out. :P I’ll keep your hedonistic motto in mind when I get overwhelmed. :)

      Thank you for mindfully stopping by my dear!


  3. I can relate to the compassion thing. I wrote a blog about some things not being able to be taught but being able to be learnt. My lack of compassion is linked with my lack of empathy and patience. Thanks for linking the posts and podcasts. I really like the any you have set your blog out. It’s quite sophisticated to my novice eyes.


    1. Anna, thank you for stopping by, for reading, and for sharing your thoughts. I’m really curious to read the blog post you mention. Could you link it here? I love the play on the passive use of learn here. Very powerful.

      And I hear you when you say your lack of compassion is linked to empathy and patience. It’s really hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes if you just wish they got on with the show! Haha… it’s interesting you mention these two because those are the feelings that really prompted me taking this course. I saw myself loose patience so fast, and in the end realized I wasn’t able to give them empathy.

      Thank you for mentioning my blog layout! Actually I just changed it yesterday when you commented! I like it but I’m not sure about the beige. We’ll see. I went over to yours and fell in love with the balloons. So sweet and simple. It’s the first time I saw it. Great choice. :)

      Happy blogging Anna!


  4. I’m definitely in Chapter 3. No. Wait. Chapter 4…sometimes. Oh, how I strive for Chapter 5! I will take on your challenge, but will do so “down a different street”. Thank you for ALWAYS, ALWAYS being an inspiration!


    1. Oh Kristina, I love your way with words. They, you, always make me smile. I love forward to hearing more about that different street if you are able to share…. ma chère. :) Hehe… I tried my own Kristinism. Love you babe!


  5. Hi Josette,

    Thanks for writing this, and thanks for sharing the podcasts and course you have found so enlightening.

    Being kind and compassionate with myself can be…immensely challenging. It’s nice to know I’m not the only struggler in the world! I’m looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on this course and your own awareness raising.


    PS- quite like the new format and aim of the blog.


    1. I’ll extend the thanks for giving me the extra boost I needed to actually publish this today. Knowing you are reading will definitely help me in following through on looking for those holes.

      Part of my new blog look is also about cleaning up my tags and categories to make it easier for readers to navigate. In order to do that I’m having to go through each post (not as hard as it sounds) since 2009 and delete or add the tags I want. In doing this I came upon a quote from an old post that made me think of our talk:

      We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. – Carl.G. Jung

      I found it at this post, ASK NOT, “WHY?” ASK, “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?” I guess I’ve been pondering this topic for a while, which is a great example of how acceptance is a life long journey for some of us. Don’t lose heart though. It is a worth while journey. It gets easier.


      1. Josette, so much to think about in this post: it has taken me several days to decide which chapter I am on (or in?) now, and I hope it is 4 (does it mean that I am still deciding?) Also, I am curious about Chapter 5: is it giving in and deciding not to take the challenge? :-) On a more serious note (and thinking about this Reflective Mission idea started by @JohnPfordresher): can we say that developing kindness to yourself is a mission, or a reflective lens?.. I clearly need to formulate my thoughts on that :-) Thank you for letting me reflect more!


        1. Zhenya! I forgot to say thank you for inspiring my Mission Statement! :)

          And I never thought of Chapter 5 that way. You are always thinking my dear. :) I am grateful for that.

          You keep me smiling!


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