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Lions Roar : November 2015
self-compassion recognizes that life is hard for everyone. The pain I feel in difficult times is the same pain that you feel in dif- ficult times. The circumstances are different, the degree of pain may be different, but the basic experience of human suffering is the same. Step 3: Mindfulness Mindfulness involves being aware of your moment-to- moment experience in a clear and balanced manner. It means being open to the reality of the present moment, allowing all thoughts, emotions, and sensations to enter awareness with- out resistance or avoidance. Why is mindfulness an essential component of self-com- passion? Because we need to acknowledge and be with our pain long enough to respond to it with care and kindness. Many people don’t acknowledge how much pain they’re in, especially when it stems from their own self-criticism. And when confronted with life challenges, people often get so caught up in problem-solving that they don’t pause to con- sider the pain they are experiencing in the moment. Mindfulness counters our tendency to avoid painful thoughts and emotions, allowing us to face the truth of our experience even when unpleasant. At the same time, it prevents us from becoming “overidentified” with negative thoughts or feelings. This type of rumination narrows our focus to ourselves and damages our feelings of self-worth. Not only did I fail, but I am a failure! Not only was I disap- pointed, but my life is disappointing! Mindfulness protects us against getting caught up and swept away by these aversive reactions. When we observe our pain mindfully, we can acknowledge our suffering without exaggerating it. This helps us take a wiser and more objective perspective on ourselves and our lives. Misconceptions About Self-Compassion Why does our culture ignore self-compassion or even discour- age it outright? Many people turn their nose up at the very idea of self-compassion—it’s weird, dangerous, just plain wrong. It’s worth looking at our misgivings about self-compassion more closely, because they stand in the way of our happiness. Self-compassion is weak. Self-compassion is for sissies, isn’t it? It’s a hearts-and-flowers approach to life that will make us soft. In fact, research suggests that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of strength and resilience yet discovered. It helps people adjust after divorce or cope suc- cessfully with conditions such as chronic pain, menopause, breast cancer, and positive HIV status. It’s also an important Meditation: Be Kind to Yourself A three-step contemplation to give yourself the compassion you need (and deserve) 1. Put both hands on your heart, pause, and feel their warmth. You can also put your hand anyplace on your body that feels soothing and comforting, like your belly or face. 2. Breathe deeply in and out. 3. Speak these words to yourself, out loud or silently, in a warm and caring tone: This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is a part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need. The first phrase, This is a moment of suffering, is designed to bring mindfulness to the fact that you’re in pain. Other pos- sible wordings are I’m having a really tough time right now, This hurts, or anything that describes the suffering you are experiencing. The second phrase, Suffering is a part of life, reminds you that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. Other possible wordings are Everyone feels this way some- times, This is part of being human, etc. The third phrase, May I be kind to myself in this moment, helps bring a sense of caring concern to your present- moment experience. Other possible wordings are May I love and support myself right now, May I accept myself as I am, etc. The final phrase, May I give myself the compassion I need, firmly sets your intention to be self-compassionate. You might use other words such as May I remember that I am worthy of compassion, May I give myself the same compassion I would give to a good friend, etc. Find the wordings for these four phrases that are the most comfortable for you and memorize them. Then, the next time you judge yourself or have a difficult experience, you can use these phrases as a way of reminding yourself to be self-com- passionate. This practice is a handy tool to soothe and calm troubled states of mind —KRISTIN NEFF PHOTOBYSUZIMARSHALL/STOCKSYUNITED