We are bombarded with social media messages and requests from family and friends asking us to be compassionate for others. What about compassion for yourself? Being compassionate towards yourself builds patience and resilience, which in turn makes it easier to have compassion for others!
First some background
Most of the Mindfulness Meditations I have talked about so far focus on paying attention to what you are experiencing right now. Sometimes I ask you to accept what you are experiencing without resistance or judgement. Some of the benefits are –
- Reducing frustration from unmet expectations.
- Reducing stress or pain by changing your perception of what is going on.
- Letting go of judgements that pops up unconsciously. A tip for recognizing some of of those judgments are that they often start with phrases like
- This means that….
- This is bad because …
- This is scary because …
Removing that judgment allows you to be more objective and opens a window for you to see yourself and others in a more compassionate light.
The dictionary describes it as a feeling of sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Personally I like to focus on “alleviate the suffering” because sometimes I become overwhelmed by the other person’s suffering instead of moving into action. That doesn’t help anyone!
I usually decide pretty quickly if the request is something that feels right to me and either help out or disregard the request.
My compassion tends to spring forth in situations where I see a person struggling with pain or loneliness. This explains why I did the series of articles on pain recently. For that matter my desire to help as many people as I can is what spurred me to start this website in the first place. 🙂
I will write more about fostering compassion for others another day. Today we are here to talk about YOU!
Compassion for YOU
This exercise is deceptively simple, please give it a try and practice it a few times. I find it becomes easier and more natural each time I do it.
When you first notice you are judging yourself too harshly maybe calling yourself names like stupid, or lazy or whatever your mean names you sometimes call yourself; Or if you notice you are finding fault with yourself or comparing yourself to others unfavorably do the following –
- Remind yourself that you deserve compassion.
- As you breath calmly and deeply pay attention to what you are feeling or thinking.
- Pay attention to physical sensations that come up
- Where in your body do you feel it?
- Can you identify a feeling that goes with it? For example it could be a vague uneasiness or anxiety. If you don’t easily identify a feeling that’s OK just move onto the next step.
- Acknowledge the emotion(s) that comes up. For example it may be
- I feel angry
- I feel ashamed
- I feel afraid
- I feel like crying
- Once you have identified the emotions, and where in your body you feel them it is time to start giving yourself some kindness (compassion).
- Sit in a comfortable position and breath deeply and calmly
- Take a few moments (just a minute or two to start with) and just notice what you are feeling without reacting to it or trying to change it. Just be with it for a few moments. Practicing non-resistance helps to bring objectivity and clarity … eventually. It often takes practice to get to this point.
- Acknowledge you are going to be kind to yourself
- Place your hands over your heart (which gives yourself physical reassurance and reinforces the self soothing practice that follows). Or if you have identified an area of your body that needs some kindness place your hands over that area. For example if you feel anxiety in your stomach area allow your hands to rest lightly on that area.
Speak to yourself as you would to a good friend who is in need of compassion and kindness –
- To strongly reinforce what you are saying speak out loud and use your name –
- (Your name) I understand you are feeling _____ Naming the emotion or sensation you are feeling acknowledges it without judgement.
- (Your name) It is OK to feel _____ This gives you permission to feel what you are feeling and further helps to remove judgement.
This next step is where you start moving towards kindness and compassion for yourself. Personalize this to fit what you are feeling. There are so many possible variations I will give you just a couple to give you the idea of what I mean –
For sadness you could say
- (Your name) I am here for you, I will help you. What would you like me to do for you?
- Then be still for a few moments to allow yourself to answer that question.
- Acknowledge your answer and do what you have requested if it is something that feels right and healthy.
For loneliness you could say
- (Your name) I am here for you, I love you. As you say these words allow yourself to really feel love for yourself. Repeat this as many times as you need in order to really FEEL that love.
- Address any other feelings, sensations or emotions that have come up in the same manner.
Please share any other techniques that you have found useful for fostering self compassion. It can be very useful for other readers!
To your Health!