If ‘loving yourself’ sounds too corny, OK. Instead, how about easing up on yourself, because you are probably your own worst critic?
When you are trapped in self-judgment, are you even aware that you’re doing that? A key component of the practice of mindfulness is to first be aware of your thoughts. If you’re not used to doing this, it may seem foreign, but cultivating the practice is so powerful it can change your experience of life for the better.
Self-compassion is being supportive and understanding towards yourself when you are having a hard time, rather than being harshly self-critical.
Using your body’s sensations to connect with the hurt you feel when something bothers you, helps you to first recognize what’s going on inside you, so you can then work on alleviating that hurt.
When something bothers you, you are likely suffering with a fair amount of self-judgment. Even when you are angry with someone else, there will be an element of self-judgment. Examples may be as simple as not getting a text message from friends to invite you to go out with them, or bigger such as the guilt of a failed relationship. Maybe you feel inadequate, rejected, or just broken. This is a powerful, negative feeling that sits within you, isn’t it?
Try this as a practice of self-compassion:
Sit quietly, undisturbed. Center yourself by taking some deep breaths.
- Think about the situation that is bothering you.
- Identify what is happening in your body when you are feeling this hurt, this self-judgment, this self-blame. If you’re not used to doing this, be patient. Do you feel something in your chest, your back or your abdomen? What sensations do you feel? These are the areas that you would generally feel the discomfort, tightness or whatever you are feeling, even if it is hard to describe.
- Know that this is your hurt, and you are likely judging and blaming yourself in some way. Be with it for a minute. Allow yourself to feel it.
- Now it’s time to practice self-compassion. Place your hands on that area. Say this to yourself, directing it to the area of hurt “I care about this suffering”. This will sound strange at first, but allow yourself to do this. Tell the hurt that you care about it and that you see it. Let it be noticed.
- Repeat gently, either silently or aloud, “I care about this suffering”, and then add more words like this: “May I be free from suffering” and/or “May I be at peace.”
- After a few minutes, you may notice that the hurt subsides, and in its place a warmth will spread through that area. This will provide a softening and opening of the area.
Doing this practice likely won’t completely rid the hurt, but it can soften the experience. The hurt may continue but not with such unrelenting cruelty.
So be kind to yourself, and try this practice.
If you would like to read deeper into this subject, I would recommend an excellent book called ‘Radical Acceptance‘ by Tara Brach.
~Wendy Quan, of The Calm Monkey