A Step Towards Self Compassion

Self compassion has been one of my themes this year, a thread in my life.

To me, self compassion is the idea of creating space within for our imperfections, our fears, and giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, to do what nourishes our mind, body, and soul.

In early 2015, I found myself in an all too familiar place- really burnt out and exhausted.  2014 was exhausting, I was working full time at a Recovery Center, part time at my private practice, plus creating my website and writing articles; coming home and trying to push myself every day was exhausting.

I was giving way too much of myself and not taking the time to replenish, take care of myself, and renew my own energy.  I was working really long hours, coupled with this false belief that if I just worked harder I would ‘deserve’ a break.  I was so exhausted and beaten down, I knew that I had to change my life.

This past year I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m not one of those people who can work 10+ hour days every day.  I’m one of those people who need to do restorative yoga, take naps, baths, lay in hammocks, drink tea, and sit in nature.  All the time.

In my own self work I’ve focused a lot of time and attention to transforming the implicit belief of ‘I’m not good enough’ into the belief of good enough. To let myself know- it’s good enough and I’m proud of you.  And that it’s ok if you made a mistake, it couldn’t have happened any other way. You’re human, our imperfections are what makes us compassionate and kind.

Changing that inner dialogue is really challenging.  As those who have worked with me know, updating outdated beliefs are what I focus a lot of my time and attention to when working with clients.

Giving ourselves permission to be imperfect and to begin to quiet the negative inner critic is really challenging.  But it’s also really important.

I often share the story of when I first began a formal meditation practice in 2007 by attending a weekend meditation retreat (I thought this was how you were supposed to do it, I had no idea that you could go to an hour class).  So in my beginning Shambhala practice we were learning a type of Tibetan meditation where you sit with your eyes slightly open and try to lightly focus on your out breath.  This went on for hours, it was really hard.  So I would constantly find myself lost in thought.  And what I began to notice was that in trying to find my way back to my breath I would find my mind calling myself all types of terrible names, and pointing out how I messed up again- It was really scary to see what was happening in my head.

And when I eventually found the courage to further explored it, the negative self talk seemingly spilled into every part of my inner and outer life.  It was clear, I needed to do some major self work.

Meditation is just one method to journey inward and give ourselves an opportunity to become more aware of this inner dialogue.  It’s dialogue that is often telling us the wrong story, that can filled with wrong beliefs about ourselves, that maybe made sense when we were young, but today are completely outdated and holding us back from who we are becoming.

Meditation gives us an opportunity to slow down and begin to notice what our minds chatter about, what our mind says or does when we notice that we are lost in thought and want to return to our breath.  Even the subtle, or not so subtle, nuances of tonality becomes more obvious with time spent in meditation.

I still remember the moment that a meditation instructor suggested that when I notice myself lost in thought, to meet myself with compassion and say “thinking darling” and then come back to the breath.  It had honesty never occurred to me before that moment, that I could bring myself back to my breath in a loving and kind way.  And I did.  And I slowly began to change my inner dialogue with myself.

I believe that the practice of meditation gives us a really special opportunity to begin to transform our inner dialogue and self talk.  We give ourselves space so that we can practice and train the mind to respond in a gentle and loving way.  Each breath is an opportunity for a fresh new start, to begin again.

We practice this on the cushion or the mat, so that when we’re out in the world and experience a moment when life is really difficult, we can meet those challenges in a gentler, softer, more loving way.

And it’s not an immediate change, sometimes it takes years. It did for me.  And I’m still working on it, but I have faith that every day I am changing. I invite you on this journey with me, to have faith to find the space within and the compassion to give ourselves the opportunity to change and transform.