A conscious practice of self-compassion came to me relatively late in life.
I’d be conscientious about my meditation and yoga practice, and commit as much as I could to whatever I did in life, but there’s always a fertile ground for curiosity and inquiry, isn’t there? Some of it is pleasant, some not so pleasant. That seesaw is a natural part of life and of being human.
The new ground of being a parent has showed me habits and beliefs I didn’t even realise I had.
It was at this point when I came across the work of Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Chris Germer in the field of mindful self-compassion and practiced with them.
It’s easy to bypass self-compassion in so-called spiritual practice, and in life. To be devoted to practices and techniques, some of which benefit from being updated in terms of language and tone, and to constantly put others first. We can even lose ourselves in a way that isn’t part of coming to know who we truly are.
I’ve found that self-compassion lies at the root of all my thoughts, words, and actions.
It’s the foundation for how we are present in the world and live from an open, vulnerable heart.
I feel it takes the edge off times of intense emotion or challenge, so that I can gain perspective and connect internally with what is important, before responding to situations from a softer place. It’s a first step that then leads to an honest form of emotional reading and body and breath sensing that is familiar to yogis.
The considerable research, in brief, shows that self-compassion leads to a reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, shame, body dissatisfaction, and pain. It has been shown to increase immune function, life satisfaction, body appreciation, and optimism. It enhances resilience and our ability to be compassionate and forgiving toward others. That said, it certainly is not an act of selfishness.
Self-compassion helps to balance our inherent (survival) negativity bias and its fallout in life today, namely self-criticism, isolation, and rumination. It’s effective as a motivator, based on freedom from fear of failure rather than motivation based on punishing self-criticism.
Worth a try? We’re all in challenging circumstances right now. I’d like to share this simple and powerful practice. It’s like taking a short break for the sake of self-compassion whenever we need it.
May it be of benefit to you, your loved ones, your community, and the wider world.
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