When a loved one is suffering, we often offer to listen, ask questions, attempt to understand, and support them by simply sitting and being with them in hopes of easing their suffering.
How often do you provide the same for yourself?
Compassion is empathy, understanding, accepting, and providing space to heal.
Self-compassion is doing the same for You. It’s listening within, providing acceptance, understanding, and offering what is needed in this moment, without judgment. Somehow we’ve come to believe that taking time for us is being selfish and we need to be strong for others, not our self. So instead, we ignore. If you wouldn’t ignore a friend, why ignore yourself?
We all do it and it’s time to stop. In order to ease pain, grow, change, and break old patterns, we need to be aware of it in the first place. This is difficult to do when we’re constantly in the midst of noise and clutter in our heads such as tasks that need to get done, kids that need to be driven somewhere, what you’re going to make for dinner tonight, that situation that happened at work yesterday. How can we hear or feel what’s going on inside if we don’t stop and take the time to do nothing but just be?
Think about this. When you hear a funny rattling sound in the car and ignore it, it gets louder. If you continue to ignore it, you may also begin to feel sensations of the car jerking. Maybe smell smoke, and see smoke. Do you still continue to ignore it? Until it stops running all together? If it breaks down, how will you take care of those you love without the mobility of a car? No. Most likely, you take it to the mechanic, the mechanic asks questions, maybe starts the car and uses his senses of hearing, feeling, looking, etc., to get an idea where he should begin, and then breaks things down to find the source. Now change can begin.
In order for us to understand what’s going on internally and make changes, we need to STOP and BE, not continuously DO. The doing-mode, is like a dog chasing his tail, moving in circles, building frustration, dizziness, and losing his bearings. Sound familiar? Now if the dog just stops, accepts his frustration and learns how to be with it, the easier and quicker he’ll be able to let it go, feel better, and move on. Have you ever noticed how quickly a dog moves on?
This does not mean accept defeat or dwell in our emotions. Far from it! It means allowing it to be there long enough to understand what is present and why. Once we understand the why and give the attention it needs, your mind, body, spirit will have no need to hang on to it anymore. It begins to fade away naturally. Have you ever struggled with a math problem? It was explained over and over and still didn’t get it? And then that 5th time, for some reason it just clicks. Then next time it pops up, you recognize it and know exactly how to solve it. Frustration and judgment gone.
Without self-compassion, we begin to lose compassion in many things. If we take time to understand, allow, and accept, the pain will begin to ease. We can heal from negative experiences, understand automatic reactive patterns to triggers, and be prepared when a similar situation comes up again. When we’re prepared, we’re able to choose for our self in this new moment if we want to continue to react as we normally do or respond differently.
It’s such a simple answer and yet so difficult to do because we are so hard-wired to “find the solution” by fixing and doing. Let’s stop doing. Instead, let us simply STOP, pay attention, be with, and heal. Here are just a few simple steps to begin providing compassion for yourself:
- First step, believe you deserve and need it for your own mental, spiritual, and emotional self, as well as for your relationships. Don’t we all deserve and need a little compassion in this crazy thing we call life? If not for anything else, but to be able to then have compassion for others? I think many can agree, in the light of all the news lately, this is especially true right now in this moment and time. It has to start with putting yourself first. You’re not being selfish.
- All you need is 3 to 5 minutes to start, sporadically throughout the day. Now, I bet your first thought is, “I don’t have 5 minutes.” Perhaps, wake up 5 minutes early. Does it take you more than 5 minutes to fall asleep at night? How much more clear and sharper will you mind be if you gave yourself these precious minutes?
- Try any of these simple exercises within those 3 to 5”.
- Focus right now on your stomach and pay attention to how it rises and falls as you breathe. Follow that wave of breath for at least 5 cycles (1 cycle=breath in, breath out). Notice the shift in your body and mind after.
- Step outside or open the window and feel the breeze on your face, the sun on your skin. Take in a deep breath of fresh air. What do you smell, hear? Just notice sights, sounds, smells, sensations for at least 30 seconds to a minute. Again, notice how your body or mind shifted.
- Close your eyes and open your ears to sounds that are near and sounds that are far. Try to notice when they begin, when they end, and when they begin again. How does you mind and body feel now?
These are quick, informal Mindfulness practices to begin learning how to just stop and be present in the moment. The building blocks of awareness and recognition. More formal Mindfulness practices will teach you to begin recognizing and catching thoughts and emotions, how to sit and be with them without dwelling or feeling the need to avoid or escape from them. Pretty soon, you build acceptance. Accepting you without judging, belittling, punishing, shaming, blaming, and so forth. Are you ready to listen to you?