Being Kinder to Ourselves
“There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer… It makes no difference how deep set the trouble: how hopeless the outlook: how muddled the tangle: how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.” Emmet Fox
In meditation, the tradition of ‘loving kindness’ is a way of cultivating positive emotional states such as acceptance, patience, kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others. And, like most things that have worth, this practise needs to be applied to ourselves first. A good place to start is to learn how to acknowledge and respect our own needs. This enables us to look after our health and wellbeing better and achieve our full potential in life. It also makes it easier to acknowledge and value the needs of others without self-sacrifice or personal agendas getting in the way.
It makes good sense to develop a kinder, respectful and more accepting relationship with ourselves. We live in an age where it’s considered the norm to constantly self-criticise. Generally speaking this creates stress, causes unhappiness and shuts doors rather than opens them. We behave this way because we’ve been taught to and our peers probably do it too so that somehow makes it alright! Yet the fact is, it’s just a habit that we can and should replace with something more useful and life enhancing.
Self-kindness and compassion has to be something we actively engage with at a felt level if it is to have real meaning and positive effect in our lives. We need to give ourselves regular experiences of it rather than just thinking about it. Here are some short exercises to help you develop a kinder and more compassionate relationship with yourself that only require a few minutes of your day but have the power to change your life around.
Pause every now and then, come into the present moment and notice how you are feeling. Try not to rush this, allow yourself a few moments to become aware of what’s under the surface.
- If your body tells you it’s feeling hungry, tired, or in pain allow yourself to really listen to this information with respect and compassion, (let go of any negative thoughts or judgements). Notice what happens when you do this. Then take appropriate action such as having a rest, eating some food or addressing the pain.
- If your mind feels like it’s overworked or stressed, allow yourself to really listen to this information with respect and compassion, (let go of any negative thoughts or judgements). Notice what happens when you do this. Then take appropriate action such as stopping for a while, focusing on one thing at a time or stepping back to get the bigger picture.
- If any emotions or uncomfortable sensations are there, allow yourself to really listen to them with respect and compassion, let them know they’ve been heard, (let go of any negative thoughts or judgements). Breathe into the feelings and sensations with kindness (imagine putting a kindly arm around them). Notice what happens when you do this.
- Notice unhelpful thought patterns and negative self-talk, and replace them with something constructive, encouraging and re-assuring instead.
Practising self-kindness and compassion is a way to re-parent yourself. Remember, the best parent you can have is the one you develop within you for you. The best friend you can have is the one you develop within you for you. The best person who can hold your hand when something rocks the boat is you.
Linda Hall March 2012
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