Self-Compassion in the Wider World
Self-compassion is the practice of looking inward, recognizing the human flaws, faults, or failings that we hold, and responding kindly to ourselves. Self-compassion can tenderly offer love, acceptance, and kindness as one offers compassion to a friend who is suffering.
Some auto-play thoughts that we walk around with are doubt, insecurity, and unkindnesses that we keep hidden from others. We would not say aloud the thoughts that we tell ourselves. This negative lens influences our inner world of well-being. If we could hover above the earth and hear what we tell ourselves, there would be a cacophony of harshness. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re failing at this.” “You can’t…always…never…” are all examples of the severe things people tell themselves.
So, starting with self, more love can be brought into the world when we bring more support, love, and acceptance into our own being. The idea of this sounds foreign yet we do this willingly for a friend who is struggling. We naturally champion them with encouraging words to boost them up. Friendship and kindness bring compassionate words to our loved ones who are struggling. “So that didn’t go well, tomorrow is a new day.” “I believe in you and believe you have the power to turn this around.” “I hear you really tried, and you did not get what you hoped for. That is disappointing. I’m with you in your sorrow.” “You are still amazing even when you make mistakes.”
We can do this for ourselves as well.
“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside of ourselves.” — Bessel Van Der Klok M.D.
Here are some Ideas to Grow Self-Compassion as a Practice:
Meditate Daily. Thoughts get a time out and are not allowed to rule when we meditate. Thinking clocks out. Sitting with the breath for 5 minutes strengthens the practice of noticing harming thoughts. Meditation can be as simple as setting a timer, sitting still and holding awareness around the breath as it comes in and out of the body. Nothing else is needed. By thanking thoughts that come up, one can return to the focus on the breath. So easy in concept, so necessary to practice.
Notice my thoughts and feelings regularly throughout the day like checking the weather. Cloudy? Sunny? Is a storm brewing? What can I tend to in this moment to feel in balance, empowered, and at peace?
Imagine holding self like a child, offering comfort and acceptance. This comfort sounds like, “You are having a human experience that is inherent with mistakes, failings, and flaws.” “That’s ok.” “You can still try! Mistakes are a part of it! Look at how far you have come! You are doing your best. No one is perfect. That moment is done. A new moment is now. Let’s begin again.”
Compassion in the Wider World
When we can experience compassion for ourselves, we have a greater capacity to offer empathy, love, and compassion to others.
We have the opportunity to renegotiate the contracts that America has made. The history of our nation is deep and complex in the many ways the systems have supported systemic racism. Our voice and support can stand with real justice and help advocate change in our communities. Education, connection, and compassion are all great places to begin. Learning what has been enables us to stay present in the moment to choose compassion.
How can I make a difference? That can feel weighty. But it can also be soft, curious, and inviting. I attended a virtual town meeting last night to explore ways to bring safety and support to all people of our community. Showing up to the conversation is where I choose to begin. We all get to begin. We all get to try. Finding peace in the imperfection is possible. Tricky. But possible.
Compassion Practice for Community Support and Global Solidarity
Tonglen: Taking and Sending with our breath
Tonglen is a meditative practice that offers love and compassion for the world. Sitting for this meditation, close your eyes and focus on the breath. Center. The in-breath is focused on the wish to ease human suffering and the out breath is for the relief of human suffering. Specifically, we can use the in-breath to focus on what is happening in the world. Breathe in, wish to ease separateness, injustice, poverty, strife… The out-breath is focused on the wish for relief from human suffering. A wish for justice, equanimity, love and compassion for all humans is a wish for relief.
Taking and sending is a practice to keep our hearts open and willing to participate. As we grow compassion for ourselves, we grow compassion for the world around us.
In-breath: Painful Injustice
Out-Breath: Wishing Restoration
This video explains how to do tonglen. It is short and ends abruptly. It is a tutorial, not a meditation.
May my breath be my guide. To be peace. To be love.