Sand & Self-Compassion: How To Love A Crisis

Sand sifting through fingersDo you believe in synchronicity – and not the song by Police, either – the idea!  The idea that so beautifully describes what happens when you learn about something for the first time and then SEE IT EVERYWHERE!  When I first learned about synchronicity, it was one of those lightbulb moments. Decades later, it’s a concept that still amazes me. Take the blog title for instance:  Sand & Self-Compassion.

Synchronicity tied these things together for me recently and I think the knots are worth sharing.

So, I was minding my business one day, when a friend called to tell me that Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery  was coming to speak at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Indianapolis.  As someone who has her book, reads her blog, follows her on Facebook AND Instagram…I wasn’t expecting a new message. BUT I bought a ticket roughly 30 seconds after I found out she was headed my way, because:

  1. I love her
  2. I support her mission, and
  3. I love to occasionally leave the house.

It turns out, I needed every. single. word.  In fact, my friend and I joked that we took notes like we were back in college.

Bullet Journal with inspirational notes

I’m new to bullet journaling, and this was the first adventure I took it on. I love that now I can carry this inspiration with me every day.

Glennon went in depth on several issues that are common themes in her work.  One of which, is crisis. Her message was that our instincts tell us to protect ourselves and our loved ones from crisis.  We distract, ignore, diminish, avoid!  Sound familiar yet?

Glennon made the argument that in these attempts at avoiding and diminishing, we take away the last bit of power you or someone else has in a crisis, to grieve for what has been lost.

Then she defined crisis.  Crisis literally means “to sift”.

When we’re in crisis, we watch everything we thought we needed fall away, like sand through a sieve, and find out that what’s left over is enough.

-Glennon Doyle Melton

When we avoid the impulse to get PAST it, we have the time to recognize the transformation WITHIN it.


And just in case you’re the type of person who would rush home and double-check that, ahem, I found this for you:

crisis (n.) 
early 15c., from Latinized form of Greek krisis “turning point in a disease” (used as such by Hippocrates and Galen), literally “judgment, result of a trial, selection,” from krinein “to separate, decide, judge,” from PIE root *krei- “to sieve, discriminate, distinguish” (cognates: Greek krinesthai “to explain;” Old English hriddel “sieve;” Latin cribrum “sieve,” crimen “judgment, crime,” cernere (past participle cretus) “to sift, separate.

I walked away from Glennon’s talk, feeling grateful I’d been there and vowing to review my notes (not Type-A at all) after letting it all sink in.

I was still in this “sinking-in” phase a few days later, when I found myself in the ‘ole mini-van, mind racing.  Not in a bad way, rather an I’m-gonna-plan-this-week-like-a-boss kind of way.  I realized I needed to calm my thinking, so I didn’t become get too scattered!

I turned to a podcast I knew would help me do just that.

The One You Feed is a podcast that I can’t recommend enough.  It’s tag line is “conversations about creating a life worth living.” It made it onto my list of Top Five Podcasts, because I love it so much!

To be honest, I hadn’t been listening to it for a few weeks because I wasn’t in the mood for anything related to making myself a better person. Can you relate?  It’s a lot like watching re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when you have an important documentary in your queue.

I know, I know, I know.  Life is all about accepting that who we are in this moment, is enough.


So back to the mini-van.  Kristen Neff was the guest the day I decided to tune in and the conversation was in part, about her book, Self-Compassion. In it she lays out the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion:

Self-esteem is a positive evaluation of self worth, upon meeting ideal goals. Self-compassion is a way to relate to yourself kindly, that does not entail judgement or evaluation. So where self-esteem can desert you, self-compassion is a much more reliable friend because even when you fail or feel inadequate you can still support yourself like a friend and treat yourself with kindness. – Kristen Neff

This got me thinking about the phrase “go easy on yourself.” I say it all the time without knowing HOW to do it, yet it’s so important to learn for our own benefit, to teach our children as well as to model for those around us. Professor Neff recommends these steps:

  1. Start with an inventory – how do I treat a friend going through a struggle? How am I treating myself?
  2. Try adopting the same tone and language you would use with a friend.
  3. Pay attention to physical comfort because the body will be comforted before the mind is ready for it.
    • physical warmth
    • soothing touch
    • tone of your internal dialog
  4. Frame your imperfections, remembering that all people have both weaknesses and strengths.
  5. Recognize your pain and be willing to sit with it long enough to validate it and have a compassionate response.

The last bullet point is what gave me that “YES” feeling of synchronicity.  I let the words from these two fantastic women jumble around in my mind, and saw it clearly.

To approach CRISIS in a healthy way, you must trust its meaning IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD.


Things, relationships, accolades, milestones, health, dreams, can fall through your fingers like sand.

Only by looking at crisis through the lenses of self-compassion, will we allow ourselves the time necessary to validate our loss, ourselves, and see that what remains are things that can not be taken from us.

And I should add, the harder this is for us to do, the more we need it and the more OF it we need.

It’s a tall, but wonderful order, my friends.



  1. Alison says:

    Thank you for this post and for the tall order, Diane. It’s not easy to have self-compassion when we’re in crisis, but I agree that it is definitely a vital part in order for one to gain deeper perspective of inner growth. I have found it more difficult these days to find the space and time to validate the loss of my daughter Melanie; the more time passes, I feel like it becomes more difficult to connect with the grief and loss, which has helped me feel more connected to her. Although our crisis has now passed, and it’s been a few years, I definitely feel like I continue to sift through the grains of sand in terms of our loss of sweet Melanie. I will try to continue to try to find self-compassion through this process of mourning. Sending you love and peace, Alison

    • totlosophy says:

      Oh Alison. I am so sorry and feel so honored that you would share your story here. To recognize grief as the connection to someone – is deep and powerful. Melanie is more than grief and your relationship with her was more than one of sorrow. Hell of a lot easier to type than to live. I’m holding a special space for you while you do the work that self-compassion gives you the time for – connecting to Melanie in a new way.

      Have you ever checked out Kristen Neff’s work? She offers some guided-meditations on self-compassion that you can download: I also adore Pema Chodron, (the tiny yellow book, pocket pema, in particular) whose words on self-compassion I find especially poignant.

Leave a Reply