Day 19: Self-Compassion

Today we have a great guest post from our friend and New Leaf Meditation Instructor Leann Harris! 

Quote of the day:  “Perhaps, most of all, compassion involves courage: the courage to let our hearts break. But here’s the thing: our hearts are going to break anyway. Bad things sometimes happen in life, and we all have to find ways to work with them. The question is this: What are we going to do when that happens? Will we close ourselves off, or open ourselves up? What if we accept this pain and occasional heartbreak as simply part of what it costs to have an amazing life? ” -- Russel Kolts, PhD

Recommended Exercise: Meditate for 3 or 5 minutes using the self-compassionate exercise below.

Video Reflection

Reflection: Sometimes the hardest thing we have to face is how we face ourselves. 

One of the things I strive to do every day is be kind to those around me. While some days I do better than others, I have realized that I’m leaving out a very important piece: being kind to myself. Self-compassion is hard for many of us to do on a regular basis. Maybe we think if we’re kind that we’re “letting ourselves off the hook”. Sometimes we think self-compassion will turn us into doormats. I have learned over the years that if I want to be kind and loving towards others, I need to realize that self-compassion is not a luxury but a necessity.

We can’t give others what we won’t truly give to ourselves, and we all need compassion. Whether we’re in a good situation or a bad one, we all will eventually get sick, grow old, and die. We lose those people and things around us we cherish, yet we all just want to be happy.

I have a series of practices I use in order to bring myself back to feeling calm, centered, and soothed. These are based on Compassion Focused Therapy which uses the three circle model of emotion. This model says we are always trying to balance three things:
  1. Feeling driven and excited (“Yes, I can do this!”) with.
  2. Feeling anger, anxiety and distrust (“I’m horrible at this!”) with
  3. Feeling safe and connected (“I am loved and supported in whatever I do.”). 
This exercise uses guided imagery to feel safe and soothed so that we may allow ourselves to experience compassion turned inward.

Self- Compassion Exercise:
  1. Find a cozy spot in a room where you can add items to invoke multiple senses. For example, burning a candle or incense, playing soft music or the sounds of the ocean, or wrapping yourself in soft, fuzzy blankets. Make sure you are warm and comfortable.
  2. Get settled in any position that’s comfortable and take 3 deeply soothing breaths. Gently close your eyes.
  3. Take a moment to experience the room and observe your thoughts. Notice any that seem harsh towards yourself, such as “I don’t have time for this!” or “I should be doing something for others.” 
  4. Imagine the kindest person you know. This could be someone from your past, a leader who you admire, or someone you create in your own mind. Imagine this person is sitting next to you. (It’s ok if you can’t picture them – just know this person is there). 
  5. Feel this person’s warmth and kindness.  Imagine it flows over to you like warm water and cradles you. Feel how grounded and supported you are in this person’s presence.
  6. What do you wish your wise and kind friend could see about you? Imagine this person knows exactly what to say to make you feel reassured and strong. 
  7. Listen to what this person says and how this person feels when you are near. Notice yourself relaxing, releasing all tension and fear. Feel your body soaking up wisdom, courage, warmth, and kindness.
  8. Rest for a few minutes with this wise friend. Give yourself permission to not worry but to rest instead.
  9. Once you feel restored, allow this person to slowly dissipate yet let your feeling of calm remain. Know that they are always with you.
Don’t worry if you had trouble with parts of this. We spend our days not being very kind to ourselves so it will take some practice in order for this to feel natural. The most important thing is to keep trying and don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the beginning.

Wishing you hope, courage, and compassion!

Leann Harris
New Leaf Meditation Instructor 

P.S. A Nice Resource for Today:  Self-Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises