I was practicing my own medicine in the woods yesterday and I was marveling at how wonderfully this process works. I was using all 5 of my wellness bodies yesterday. I was running (well, my version of running which is really like fast walking/jogging/sitting). While I was moving my body, I was connecting with the breath to be present, watching the thoughts that came up. I was using some of the mind-body tools I typically use with myself and my clients to feel into an energetic block in my body, having conversations with my guides, the trees, and watching for signs. I walked out of the woods feeling so energized and revitalized.
The process really is just so encompassing that I feel so grateful for being given this perspective so many years ago. I found in my own life that this multi-modal approach to living just cut through all the crud that life seems to continually throw at us. I started using this process on myself many years ago and have refined and defined it each year and with each client. I’m constantly upgrading it with my own practice, making sure that this is actually useful.
Self-compassion is pivotal
This encompassing practice though it has many parts and can be complex has a very important piece that runs through all modalities. Self-compassion. This is pivotal. Self- compassion is basically the antidote to what I spoke about in episode 10, that we have that critical voice in our head. I think it is what many of us are missing in our lives, and just don’t know what it is or have it modeled in our lives. I know until I consciously sought it out when I was in my 20s-30s, I didn’t know anyone who had a foundation of self-compassion. In fact, I had the belief that the only way i can do more/be more/be better was to yell at myself to get my behavior to change. This is actually counter-productive: it might work in the short-term, but it is not a sustainable solution for change.
Let’s start at the beginning – what is self-compassion? Kristin Neff is one of my favorite researchers and she has committed her whole research career to studying mindful self-compassion. She developed an evidence based quiz to assess an individual’s level of self-compassion. I use this tool in many of my research studies, and in my mindfulness class (mindfulness has been shown to increase self-compassion).
Dr. Neff says: “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”
Whew! Right? I love that! And in that space of allowing ourselves to be having a hard time or struggling or wishing things were different we just show up for ourselves with kindness and compassion. We show up for ourselves. Now most of us have spent our whole lives looking to others to do this for us; when we show up for ourselves with compassion, we listen, we know it’s hard, we see that part of us that is really struggling and really wants it to be different.
Now, here’s the kicker; just because we show up for that part of ourselves and say “dang it! I know it sucks.” doesn’t mean that we have to just sit there in that horrible situation. I can show up for myself in the same way that says “I know you are suffering. I know this sucks. AND I’ll help you be whoever you want to be.”
One of my favorite phrases is “I love you exactly as you are, and I’ll help you be whoever you want to be.” It’s the opportunity to show up for ourselves and be what we always wanted- the cheerleader, the therapist, the confidant, and the warrior. We are all of that when we show up for ourselves in presence and compassion. I’m here, and how can i help. I always like to think of it as a best friend. What would you want your best friend to say to you? That’s the internal voice we want to learn and have on a constant loop.
If self-compassion is new to you, Here are some ways you can begin to practice in your life.
Ways to practice self-compassion
First of all, the very practice of mindfulness or meditation is a practice in self-compassion. You are showing up for yourself. It really is such a gift to be present and available.
Second, you can practice by placing your hand on your heart and saying something kind to yourself. It can be a reassurance that you are here for yourself, or just that you love yourself. “I see that you are trying really hard” or “I love you no matter what.” Something that feels believable and kind. This can be kind of sneaky and sometimes it almost sounds like the voice of compassion, but it can actually slide over into the critical voice “well, it’s ok – you deserve the cake. You had a rough day.” That’s not compassion.
You can also practice loving-kindness meditation for yourself.
May I be well,
May I be happy
May I be free from suffering.
If these feel challenging, I want you to do something that you love to do. Something that only takes 5-10 minutes of your time but that is a real joy. Feeling the sun on your face, smelling a flower. Do something that lights you up everyday, and offer to yourself as if you are offering a gift to your most cherished loved one.
There are so many other things that we can do to practice self-compassion. These are just starting points. So see if you can do one thing that brings in more self-compassion for yourself.