OPENING THE DOORS TO SELF-COMPASSION

There are a few core tenets that guide my experience as a yoga teacher (also just as a human being).

  1. Practicing Self Compassion

  2. Doing what nourishes

  3. Being alongside others

I wanted to write a bit about self-compassion today so that I could share an amazing resource I’ve come across with you. It’s been incredibly helpful for my own self-compassion journey.

Over the last five (?) months I’ve been reading Kristin Neff's book "Self Compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself." I am learning SO much. I feel like every time I open the book I'm drenched in wisdom and I haven't been able to read it too fast because I just want to soak it all in! My therapist was the one who suggested I pick this book up and I am SO glad that I did. It's one that I go to over and over again. If you are also working on strengthening your ability to be self compassionate, I highly recommend. :)

Anyways. A simple, powerful lesson for you from Neff today on self-compassion.

There are three tools that can be used for getting into a place of self-compassion. Gateways to self-compassion. Each can be studied in detail, but below I’ve given just an overview.

1)

First, there is mindfulness. We must learn to first notice and acknowledge our suffering or pain. This could be physical pain, emotional pain, self-doubt, stress - you know what your suffering is.

Once we become aware of these things, we can find a way to respond - by design. Not by defaulting to our regular reactions to things.

We choose to focus on things that arising for us in the present. We choose to focus on these things in a non-judgemental, unattached way. As a yoga teacher, I love the symbolism to an asana (physical) practice here. "What you're doing is sharpening your skills of attention, building your mindfulness muscle. This will eventually help when challenging situations arise, so that you can be aware of difficult emotions without running away with them" (Neff, 101).

Doesn’t that sound exciting? I hope that empowers you like it does me.

2)

Second, there is kindness. We can give ourselves kindness and care. We are always here for ourselves. Gently caress your arm. Wrap your arms around yourself. Reassure yourself with the same candour and warmth as you would a loved one. What does that sound like?

"Oh, Sarah, this is really hard right now. I can totally understand why you’re experiencing this pain. I’m here for you if you need anything. I’m always here for you.”

Have you ever told yourself these things, aloud? It’s powerful. If you’re open to it, try looking yourself in the eyes too via a mirror. Get out of your head and hear yourself experiencing love.

You can always tap into this.

3)

Third, there is perspective, or as Neff describes it, the reminder of our common humanity. In our experiences of pain, we have to remind ourselves that it is normal, as humans, to feel pain and suffering. It is also normal, as humans, to experience joy and freedom. It’s also about acknowledging that to be human means that we aren’t perfect. But we are resilient beings, we - if not yourself already, the collective we - have done these hard things before and are capable of making it “through the wringer.”

In summary (and these are Neff’s words):

"The beauty of using self compassion as a tool for dealing with difficult emotions is that is has three distinct doorways in. Whenever you are in pain, you have three potential course of action.

- You can give yourself kindness and care.
- You can remind yourself that encountering pain is part of the shared human experience.
- You can hold your thoughts and emotions in mindful awareness.”

Opening those Doors

I find Neff’s first suggestion of giving yourself kindness and care via some sort of physical gesture to be the easiest way to get started. For me, it signals to myself that I’m getting into a state of loving kindness.

Putting my hand on my arm, or my face, is abnormal, and it actually helps me to draw attention to how I’m feeling. Then the supportive, loving self-talk follows, where I remind myself of that shared human experience. That resilience. That hope.

When I first did a short meditation on this, I could quickly feel after that as I was being kind to myself, my capacity for LIFE was already becoming greater.

In some cases, I also quickly developed the urge to reciprocate this kindness to someone else. I find that I want to be kind to others then, too. That I’m ready to be compassionate to others too.

Give yourself love, kindness. We have the power to generate that warm fuzzy feeling of ‘pay-it-forward’ from within…

That’s amazing!

Sarah Steiner