As I’m recording this, today is the day the inauguration of a new president here in the US. I was in the woods today and it just hit me how much grief is there over the last four years. And I’m a white woman. I can’t even begin to imagine the collective grief from our whole country of black and brown folks. And I’m also hopeful. Grieving the losses and hopeful that now that we have woken up to the collective white supremacy in our country we can do something about it.
We’ve been talking about change and how to make change in steps that are sustainable ,and not just sustainable in the “I’ve got to get this done” but in ways that are kind and compassionate. So far we’ve talked about self-compassion/gratitude as the first step to change, and then we talked about the mind, and last episode we discussed the importance of energy to making change. This week we are going to talk about compassionate self-discipline.
What does compassionate self-discipline mean?
It’s not a term that we hear very often and definitely not the combination of words that is typical. Dr. Kristin Neff describes self-compassion that it entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. It’s what we talked about in the first episode of the way I want you to treat yourself and the conversation I want you to practice having in your head, one of kindness and understanding.
Here’s the second part that most people struggle with: they think that in order to change, they have be mean or yell to make something happen, and that is simply not true. As we discussed in the episode on self-compassion, if hating yourself or criticizing yourself got you want you wanted, you would be there by now. When you bring self-compassion together with the mind and helping it support you, then you start to build a strong foundation. Then energy that needs to be cleared can be removed and things start really moving.
Compassionate self-discipline is the final ingredient to change. The discipline component means that you first decide what you want and then you support yourself with the steps that it takes to get that thing. You want more energy or more health, and then you gently and lovingly support yourself to do those things.
That may sound lovely, and you may be asking “BUT HOW do I do this, Rebecca?”
The very first step is to first identify what it is that you want. It sounds simple, but this can be challenging for some people. After clearing the energy, this is usually a lot more clear because there isn’t someone else’s energy blocking your own wants and desires.
Get still and begin to listen. You may already have a sense of what you want. Maybe it is to start exercise or to add in one vegetable a day. Or maybe just stretching or meditating for 5 minutes before bed at night. Notice that these are very small things that i’m suggesting for change. Whatever feels doable, then cut it in half. So if 15 minutes of exercise feels easy, then try only 7 minutes. You might even cut it in half again! Remember the mind wants to tell you that it’s not worth it if you aren’t doing big things, and then it beats you up for not doing the things! It’s a tricky little system.
Now you know what you want, and you’ve created a small step to change. Now, using the thoughts that will support you in making the change like we discussed in part two: what are the thoughts that will help you change? It will probably be specific to the change you want to make- if you want to start moving your body, it might be the thought “I love moving my body” or “I’m learning to love to move my body.” If it is about adding one more vegetable, it could be: “I want to nurture my body with vegetables” or “I’m learning how to take care of my body”.
Now you have what you would like to do, and you have a thought, now it’s important to schedule it. Seem mundane? It is, and it works. Put what you want to do in your calendar. What steps do you need to take in order to exercise 7 minutes a day? Where is it most likely to happen? Do you enjoy dancing? Do you like to do it in the morning? At night after work? Are there songs that you love to dance to? How can you set yourself up for success. PUT it on your planner, your Google calendar, or wherever you look at things to get done. Drinking more water, moving your body, meditation. Put it on the calendar. Want to eat one more vegetable a day? Put grocery shopping on your calendar. Plan it into your day. Plan ahead for the one veggie so that you support yourself.
Now, here comes the fun part. You will hit 7 am when your calendar says to dance for 7 minutes. It’s cold outside. You’re sleepy. And your brain says…”you can just skip today….it’s not that big of a deal.” That’s when you use your compassionate self-discipline.
Here’s the phrase you use: “Oh, isn’t that interesting.” You might also say “I made a commitment to myself” and you get out of bed and you dance. You treat that calendar entry like you are showing up for your best friend, or like you have the most important job interview of your life. Because this is it: this is you showing up for yourself. You use the phrases “i love you no matter what” or “I’m willing to show up for you”
You may notice: what does the mind say to talk me out of doing the things I want to do? How can I support myself in doing what my heart wants?
Showing up for yourself is the biggest gift you can give yourself.
This is compassionate self-discipline. Showing up for yourself over and over again, even though it is hard. Being hard is actually a good sign. If it is uncomfortable that means your brain is making new connections instead of running the same old ruts.
These 4 episodes set up the foundation for change to setting up a life of health and wellness. You have tools you can practice to step into a life of health and wellness. Your next step is that take that small step that will lead to big change.