As I continue to read Kristin Neff’s book on Self-Compassion, I’m discovering that practicing it is a lot different than talking about it. This is true just as (some weeks ago) the Tao reminded me that talking about a path, Is not walking that path, and similarly thinking about life is not living.
Kristin offers several tips for practicing self-compassion, including these:
- Self-compassion is a practice of goodwill, not good feelings.
For most of us, this can be confusing, we’re struggling to be compassionate and kind to ourselves, often in the hope that it will make us feel better than we usually do. But this is a misconception. We move toward self-compassion in order to accept all of who we are – the parts that feel good, and the parts that experience pain, sadness, grief or suffering, and still be compassionate!
- When we practice self-compassion, pain may actually increase at first.
With mindfulness, we can sit with the difficult emotions, whenever they emerge, however they show up, and begin to accept them as evidence of our full humanity. The goal is not to push big emotions away, or bury them under some “feel-good” substitution, but to genuinely welcome all of our wholeness – even the painful parts!
- When overwhelmed by difficult emotions, the most self-compassionate response may be to pull back temporarily – focus on the breath.
Our sense of overwhelm is driven by fear. The goal of self-compassion is to be driven by love (self-love, love for others) and to recognize that our authentic, whole, selves do experience the entire range of human emotions. But our breath is with us at all times and can be a powerful tool for helping us be calm, reflective, accepting and even, self-compassionate!
As we discover those circumstances and situations that make us sad, discouraged, or any of the many difficult emotions we humans may encounter, we’re reminded that life is not perfect, but it is rich and resonant. Our lives are filled with many opportunities for sitting with pain, becoming calm with it and developing the habit of self-compassion and as Kristin says, “giving ourselves what we need in the moment – planting seeds that will eventually blossom and grow.”
We have the opportunity to look at that sense of overwhelm, that comes with those big emotions that can frighten and weigh us down, with fresh sense of love and compassion. We have the very human moment in which we can simply welcome all that comes – warm and uplifting, sad and heart-breaking – with calm and breath, that enables us to connect to all of humanity.
These are the moments we are reminded that we are no different than everyone else in the world, we are emotionally vulnerable and amazingly human! So beautifully worthy of self-love and self-compassion. The deep pain can heal, but only if we attend to it with kindness. When we shove it away, hide from it whenever it shows up, we run the risk of letting it grow and becoming our emotional enemy instead of accepting it as simply a piece of our self.
No matter what emotions you’re experiencing, especially as the winter holidays are upon us – big and boisterous, happy and hopeful or sad and soulful, serious and seemingly inconsolable – they are all a part of YOU, worthy of your loving attention, your kindness, patience and self-compassion. Let me know if you’re having difficulty welcoming that thought!