It is not only others who hurt; we each also need compassion. Self-compassion is a necessary foundation for any genuine personal development. Are we kind and considerate toward ourselves? Do we consider our long-term benefit rather than merely temporary pleasures? Do we respond in a truly compassionate way to the difficulties that come to us in life?
Do you respond compassionately toward yourself?
—Is your inner talk compassionate?
—Are you kind to yourself when you make an error, fall ill, or fail in a task?
—Do you judge yourself more harshly than you judge friends?
What blocks you from responding compassionately toward yourself?
Sometimes old beliefs and patterns picked up in our youth condition our reactions to life’s events. These may include ingrained beliefs that link our self-worth or lovability to success, social standing, or abilities. Are you ever mean to yourself because you don’t feel “good enough” or deserving of kindness?
To cultivate compassion toward yourself, first notice what obstructs the flow of compassion. If you find old conditioning, without judging yourself for falling into the pattern, intentionally rest your attention in the present situation. Open softly and gently to current reality. It may not be as toxic as repeating past patterns.
Try replacing self-judgment with thoughts of self-compassion. Each time that you hear an inner dialog that is self-degrading, replace it with kind words.
May I be free from pain and suffering.
May I be at peace.
I care about my pain.
May I be a peace with myself just as I am.
You may see suffering each and every day, but there is also beauty to witness. Even in dismal conditions, we can connect with the lightness, the space that surrounds even the most oppressive situation—the sun’s warmth, the smell of the ravioli cooking, the song of the wind in the grasses, the kindness of a stranger. Cherishing the simple acts of kindness and present moment contacts can balance the tendency to spiral into depression.
Notes on a Guided Meditation on Self-Compassion:
1. Select a personal issue to use for the meditation such as loneliness, betrayal, fear, financial insecurity, illness, grief…
2. Direct a soft caring response toward yourself regarding the selected issue. Feel the heart touch the issue gently. Be willing to acknowledge your pain.
3. Be present with your pain without having to fix it, get rid of it, deny, avoid, or distract yourself from it.
4. Just to be alive in this experience of personal pain and difficulty.
5. Extend to include specific others who you imagine might be affected by a similar challenge.
6. Universalize the meditation to embrace all beings who suffer from that particular condition or issue—all beings who are right now feeling lonely, grief, fear, pain. Consider people of all nations, all ages; consider animals, birds, fishes, insects. Consider people who you have known experience something similar and people you have never met.
Recognize the probability that others feel as you do. You are not alone in your pain.
Notes on Reflection Assignment:
Observe and reflect upon your habitual response to your own suffering.
Are you compassionate toward yourself?
In what ways is your self-compassion thwarted?
What would it look like to bring more compassion for yourself into our life?
For further reading, I recommend a book called Self-Compassion, by Kristin Neff.