The three components of self-compassion

1_OxPMWDQ1SXUdGG-EXgDBBQ.pngWhen things go wrong, how do we treat ourselves? What comes to your mind?

—Perhaps some self-criticism, being hard on ourselves?

—Feeling isolated or avoiding others for fear of shame?

—Ignoring our own painful feelings and distracting ourselves with entertainment, food, drink?

If, in recalling and reading this, we find we’re feeling a bit down about ourselves, we could place a hand on our heart or give our arm a reassuring rub. We could tell ourselves it’s okay, we’re all hard on ourselves at times. And we could perhaps encourage ourselves with some self-talk like, “May I be kind to myself in this moment.” Taking a moment to really feel that warmth and reassurance.

Here, we just practised all three components of self-compassion.

Mindfulness

In order to soothe our suffering, we first need to recognise our suffering. So mindfulness means simply being aware of our feelings and how painful they are, without getting carried away in the drama of the storyline.

Common humanity

How many times, when we fail or something goes wrong, do we feel, “This shouldn’t be happening!” Remembering others face the same challenges helps us feel normal. We’re not alone in our suffering. We all make mistakes, all of the time. Can we start to see this as part of the human condition?

Self-kindness

This means actively soothing and comforting ourselves when we experience suffering. Genuinely wishing ourselves to be happy and expressing that in our words or actions. Over time, this rewrites the scripts in our brains that trigger self-judgement, and self-kindness becomes our new default.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” ~ Chris Germer

I’m very grateful that I recently experienced this. In a future post, I’ll be sharing a personal story of using self-compassion in the face of unexpected suffering.

Still feeling skeptical? Worried that self-compassion might turn you into a wuss? Coming soon: what the research says about self-compassion as a key factor in building resilience. We’ll also be exploring the courageous, active aspects of self-compassion.

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Content gratefully adapted from the Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher Training Course. Lyndi is a graduate of this course, based on the work of Kristin Neff and Chris Germer. Find out more or register for an MSC course in Brisbane.

 

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Self-compassion break

Hand on Heart

Self-compassion break

This short practice trains us to bring mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness to our suffering.

If we’re currently experiencing emotional discomfort or suffering, we can work with this.

Otherwise, we’re invited to think of a situation in our lives that is difficult, that is causing us stress. Calling the situation to mind, and seeing if we can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in our body.

Now, saying to ourselves:

1. “This is a moment of suffering…”

This is mindfulness, acknowledging what is happening.

Other options include:

“This hurts.”
“Ouch!”
“I’m feeling stressed.”

2. “Suffering is a part of life…”

This is common humanity. We all suffer from time to time.

Other options include:

“Other people feel this way too.”
“I’m not alone.”
“We all struggle in our lives.”

Now, placing our hand over our heart, feeling the warmth of our hand and the gentle, touch of our hand on our chest. Or adopting a different soothing touch; perhaps a reassuring rub on the arm, the tummy, folding the hands…

Saying to ourselves:

3. “May I be kind to myself…”

We can also ask ourselves, “What do I need to hear right now, to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to us in our particular situation, such as:

“May I give myself the compassion that I need.”
“May I learn to accept myself as I am.”
“May I forgive myself.”
“May I be strong.”
“May I be patient.”

This practice can be used any time of day or night, to help us remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when we need them the most.

“Self-compassion really means
being on your own side.”

…any questions? Problems? Feel free to get in touch.

Listen to an audio of Kristen Neff guiding the Self-Compassion Break.

If you’re interested in the theory of how this works, see the three components of self-compassion (coming soon).

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Content gratefully adapted from the Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher Training Course. Lyndi is a graduate of this course, based on the work of Kristin Neff and Chris Germer. Find out more or register for an MSC course in Brisbane.

What is self-compassion?

 

Compassion Cloud Tree

Simply put, self-compassion is treating ourselves in the same way we treat a good friend.

Maintaining a good quality friendship requires us to do a few things… to pay attention to our friend, to be kind to our friend and to see ourselves as equally important.

Would you enjoy the friendship of someone who never called you, was always critical of you and saw themselves as better than you? What about someone who avoided you, was scared of you and felt inferior to you? In either case, very difficult to maintain a genuine friendship.

Now imagine the friend who is always there for you, who always supports you; someone with whom you have a lot in common. Easy to be their friend, right? Not just rewarding and fun, but genuine friendship often brings out the best in both people.

Imagine if we could befriend ourselves in the same way? This is self-compassion, and like having a good friendship with someone else, relating well to ourselves also brings out the best in us.

“By practising self-compassion regularly, we can
turn a harsh inner critic into a supportive inner coach.”

Sometimes, when we need help, having someone on your own side can be incredibly supportive. But what happens when we find that our friends are busy or not available to us? The one person we can count on being there for us 24/7 is ourself.

So cultivating self-compassion, the ability to be on our own side with kindness and understanding, is one of the most important tools we can learn in life, and is a major factor in our wellbeing, confidence and resilience. And when we feel well and happy, we can be more available to be better friends to others, too.

The good news is, our current level of self-compassion is not a done deal. It can be cultivated.

The reflection exercise Being a friend to myself is a great way to gain some insight into our habits around self-compassion.

 

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Content gratefully adapted from the Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher Training Course. Lyndi is a graduate of this course, based on the work of Kristin Neff and Chris Germer. Find out more or register for an MSC course in Brisbane.

Self-care break

We all need to stop from time to time and recharge our batteries. Here’s a practical, 3-min self-care exercise that can decrease stress and increases self-awareness, self-compassion and resilience.

This practice uses the acronym S.N.A.C.K.

S is for Stop and self-care. Permission to stop. We can lift our eyes from our screens, perhaps looking at something soothing like the view out of a window, a plant or a family photo. In this phase, we can investigate a soothing touch… placing a hand on the heart or belly, rubbing the arm, hugging ourselves – whatever feels reassuring.

Once we’ve found our soothing touch, we can appreciate this for a moment. Taking in the warmth from that contact or the comforting sensations from the reassuring rub.

Now we can begin taking soothing breaths. Long, easy breaths… exhaling fully on the out-breath… encouraging a sense of letting go. Tuning into the nourishing quality of the in-breath, the way the body naturally energises itself with oxygen.

N is for Notice. Noticing physical sensations… for example, tuning into the feeling of the earth supporting our feet and legs. Or the seat supporting our weight. Noticing emotions… how are we feeling? A bit anxious, irritated? Bored? Where do we feel this in the body? And noticing thoughts. I’m noticing a thought as I type of, “I hope I’m expressing this practice well!”

A is for Acceptance. As best we can, accepting whatever we feel. We can express this silently to ourselves with a phrase like, “It’s okay to feel this.” Choosing words that fit for us. Even if we’re feeling resistance towards a certain feeling, seeing if we can accept the resistance.

C is for Common humanity. We all feel this way at times. It can be a real relief to remember we’re not alone. Expressing this silently to ourselves, with a phrase like, “Everyone feels like this from time to time,” or whatever words feel right.

K is for Kindness. No matter what life throws at us, no matter how many mistakes we make, we can benefit from treating ourselves with kindness. Perhaps reminding ourselves with a phrase like, “May I be kind to myself in this moment.”

Finally, resting in this sense of kindness, or our soothing touch. Taking a few soothing breaths to complete.

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Many people find that this short practice, which can take just 90 seconds, helps them to pause the accumulation of stress and generate a sense of warmth, acceptance positivity and friendliness that is very motivating.

Just now, as I did this, I experienced a familiar feeling of anxiety and thoughts like, “I’ve got so much to do today! Should I really be blogging?” The practice helped me normalise this and not take it so seriously. Now I have a smile on my face, and though my workload hasn’t decreased, I feel good about continuing and the anxious feeling has subsided somewhat.

Taking a break like this might highlight further needs, like physical or social needs. Maybe we notice we’re feeling stiff and need to stretch, maybe drink some water, or that we feel like talking to someone.

It can be beneficial to drop any expectation that this practice will definitely ‘make us feel good’. It might be that the practice allows us to tune into unpleasant emotions that weren’t so obvious before. Here, we can lean into the acceptance, common humanity and kindness phases. The point isn’t to make us feel good. The point is to get in touch with what is real, acknowledge it and be friendly and kind to ourselves with whatever we’re experiencing.

You can find a guided audio for this practice on the meditation app Aura Health.

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Recently, Lulu Cook and I led this practice for Mind With Heart with hundreds of attendees at conferences with amazing mental health charities Standby and Roses In The Ocean, to help support everyone’s self-care on the day.

If you’re regularly noticing unpleasant emotions and feeling a bit stuck, you might want to get more help with this. Lifeline and Beyond Blue operate helplines in Australia 24/7. If you’re in another country, The Samaritans are an international charity offering emotional support to anyone in crisis.

Love, Lovers and The Loved One

What is it about love? That it can be so amazing, so wonderful and then so painful and lonely. It can lift you up and take you to the heights and then make you feel so small and tiny.

Love hurts!

…but love heals.

So what’s the deal with love?

Is it attachment? When we get fixed onto an idea? That I must have you, that you must have me, that we must be together. That the only way I can be happy is through you; you are the key, you are the door to my happiness.

So much suffering when we cannot get the fix of love.

So much suffering when that one does not call, does not text, when you feel that that one is ignoring you.

So much suffering when we must ache alone, lovelorn and gone cold turkey, veins throbbing for a needleful of pure love to deliver our euphoria.

And where is love? Is it something I can be given, something I can hold and taste? Is it something I can go and buy, today? Because I have a credit card…

Is it something you have for me, like a gift? And what happens when it’s not my birthday any more? Will it still be given?

Ah, the suffering of not receiving any more love presents.

Rumi said:

The Loved One’s all, the Lovers just a screen,
A dead thing; while The Loved One lives unseen.

Real love, what he calls ‘The Loved One’ is ‘unseen’, out of our sight behind the ‘screen’ of the lovers.

Rumi seems to be saying that your lover is not love itself. It is just the signpost to love, The Loved One.

And while falling in love and orgasm seem to be the heights of love, they are also the heights of despair, when we no longer get them.

So what, who or where is this ‘Loved One’? How can it possibly be ‘all’?

Well, all by definition, is complete.

When I am in love, I feel complete.

I feel like I need nothing else. I have lain awake in the early days of relationships, gazing into my lover’s eyes for hours. Not wanting anything else. Not sleep, not food, not to be anywhere else in the world.

Love is wanting nothing else but this.

This is all. This is The Loved One. This is true love.

Recently I have been working very strongly with my desire.

Circumstances mean that I am currently spending time with somebody for whom I have an attraction. Although I am attracted, I am being a good friend first, as this person is going through a healing process with their own relationship.

What I didn’t expect was that this process would be healing me, too.

I am a dreamer. I love to imagine and make up stories. Old Me would by now have dreamed up a future for my and my attractee, a whole ten year plan, a gorgeous feast of nothingness, fanciful castles in the air; a giant bubble that would burst as soon as I realised that this love was unrequited.

But this time it is different.

I sense I am attracted, but I am not inventing stories.

The attraction is powerful, but it is workable.

My desire is very strong at times (Aries Moon), but is not an inferno that consumes me.

These feelings are there, but they have space within me.

Thoughts of attraction come up, but they do not fill my mind.

Maybe it is because I am going away to Tenerife for a year.

Maybe it is because these days I love myself a little bit more.

Maybe it is because my spiritual practice calls me to help end suffering first.

Maybe it is because I am training to see my own mind and my emotions through meditation.

I feel freed. Being with someone I find attractive and not acting on that attraction has freed me. For years I allowed desire to cage me. I have totally lost my cool, lost my head, lost my way over love prospects. For years I have told myself epic tales of what if? when in reality mi amor was not the slightest bit interested.

This time, I am witnessing what my mind does with attraction. Attraction is like a beautiful flower seed. Like all seeds, it can only grow if it receives energy – from sunlight, water and nourishment. I can see the seedling of attraction there, but I refuse to give it energy.

Sometimes I want to water that seed, but then I remember the other two plants in the greenhouse, the plant called ‘helping others find happiness’ and the plant called ‘going away for a year’. These two plants are not invisible. They are real; they are my pride and joy and I would not risk their health for a seedling that will die before the summer ends.

Maybe too it is because I experience The Loved One more and more, without any partner.

When I stop to admire a cherry blossom tree, or breathe slowly through an intense yoga pose, or suck a piece of dark chocolate until it melts in my mouth, The Loved One is there.

In The Loved One I am complete. I am happy, contented, loved and not wanting for anything.

Love is wanting nothing else but this.

And we can have this any time : )