February is for Self-Compassion
Oh self-compassion. What is it and why is it my favorite concept in the world? I still remember being blown away by Kristin Neff's book on self-compassion. Thank you to Dr. Neff! The idea that I could be kind to myself was r e v o l u t i o n a r y.
Now, I'm like -- yea yea yea. Be kind to myself.
But, back then, and now -- when I really think about making it an authentic practice to be a good friend to myself, I just. AGAIN. MIND BLOWN!
Unfortunately, our minds need to be ready and open to hear/take in certain messages. I've probably heard this feedback before from elders, often and it never really sunk in. But, so grateful that it finally clicked in my late 20s. It helps that there are hundreds of research studies confirming that self-kindness decreases anxiety, depression, and the tendency to be in survival mode (fight-flight-freeze), and increases the tendency to feel safe and calm.
We can think of babies crying as depression and anxiety, and self-compassion practices as when a caretaker walks over to a baby, says something soothing in a sing song-y voice, picks up the baby gently, hugs them, and continues to make empathic, supportive statements to them. Singing to the child. Dancing with the child. Asking the child -- what do you need? How can I help?
We become that caretaker and we hug ourselves, self-soothe, dance w/ ourselves, check in about our needs and take care of our needs.
Kristin Neff discusses how there are three branches of self-compassion -- mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness (e.g., as I check in with my breath and my body, what am I feeling right now? I'm noticing there's some sadness in this moment, and that's OK. We all experience bouts of sadness. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I continue to breathe and take care of my needs in this moment).
Tara Brach -- a master meditation teacher -- discusses the process of RAIN. Recognizing emotions, Allowing for the feelings to be there, Investigating where those feelings might be in our bodies, and practicing self-nurturing.
I just love this, and I'm realizing now, in this moment, the reason that I love this practice so much is because we all needed that loving, caring, accepting, nurturing caretaker. And many of us did not experience that. And, it's heartbreaking. It's painful. But, with self-compassion, we can finally embody that parent for ourselves. We can learn and practice to give ourselves the unconditional love that caretakers may have not been capable of, or friends and lovers and society as a whole may not be capable of.
We have this incredible power within us. And yes. This is a skill that can take some time to develop, especially when outsiders weren't able to show us this deep level of love and understanding and acceptance. I tell folks that building up this skill and many other skills that contribute to healing, is like exercising. We start slow and overtime, we can increase weights. We notice that we become stronger. That practicing this skill becomes more natural and familiar and automatic. We also notice changes in how we think, how we speak, and in what we do. We become kinder to ourselves and others.
So powerful! So healing!
I LOVE THIS!
I'll end with my favorite meditation --lovingkindness meditation. Connect to your inhales and exhales. Connect to your body. Connect to your feet on the ground. Soften tension, and think --
May I be happy.
May I feel loved.
May I feel deeply connected.
May I feel seen.
May I feel understood.
May I feel cared for.
May we all feel cared for.
Here's to you, living with incredible ease and surrounded by an abundance of love.