by Megan Larson: I recently saw a quote: “One day the mountain that is in front of you will barely be visible in the distance,
Sometimes the “mountains” in our lives are actually created by ourselves in the form of blocks and barriers to wellbeing. As a psychotherapist I find the majority of my work is to remind everyone about the importance of “extending grace” and exercising self compassion towards oneself in all situations and circumstances. What does this mean? Self-compassion is simply the process of turning compassion inward, the ability to be kind towards oneself. Kristin Neff, best selling author on self compassion, describes this process as, “we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.” In my experience working with people, when self compassion practices are implemented, noticeable improvements to wellbeing take place.
Self compassion is the opposite to self judgment and criticism. Having a self compassionate stance allows for one’s feelings, situations and reactions to be held with understanding. Compassion sees our common humanity in our mistakes and setbacks rather than getting trapped in a “ me reality” that views oneself as not okay, flawed in some way and unworthy. Mindfulness plays a large part in our ability to practice self compassion as we witness thoughts and feelings without over-identifying with them. Self compassion doesn’t mean that we don’t hold ourselves accountable for regretful actions or lapses in judgment. It just means that we extend understanding for how those circumstances came to be which lead us down that path. Instead of judging and criticizing ourselves we accept ourselves just as we are with all our flaws or shortcomings.
A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to attend a Tibetan Buddhism series of classes by a wonderful teacher named Lama Lakshey Zangpo (https://tsintamani.org/teachers/)on the practice of “Tonglen” — “giving and receiving” — which is a form of loving kindness or compassion meditation from the Buddhist tradition. The first step in the Tonglen practice is to extend compassion to our own suffering before we expand it to others. With visualization you imagine holding yourself with loving kindness and understanding. This had me reflect on the importance of exercising this skill for myself and others, especially in moments of challenge, such as internal judgment, shame or criticism. Below are a couple of examples of how we can start implementing self-compassion today:
- In times of internal hardship remember to treat yourself like a close friend, family member or someone you love. Visualize someone you love. Feel their presence, what advice or kind words would you speak to them if they were in your shoes? What words or gestures would you offer them to help ease their pain? Now give yourself that same attention and care.
- Use a daily metta practices directed towards yourself or in troubling times:
– “May I be well, May I be happy, May I be free from suffering, May I be at ease”
– “This is a moment of suffering, May I hold myself with understanding”
– “I am a human being having a human experience, this too shall pass”
– “I can choose how I perceive every situation and I am choosing to
offer myself kindness and grace.”
- Channel your creative abilities as a way to process the experience and observe with mindfulness:
-Make time to connect with the natural world where there is less noise as a way to clear your head and connect with your body. Sit in nature, listen to all the sounds and marvel at its beauty and that which you are already a part of.
About the author: Megan Larson MSW, LCSW is a psychotherapist, parent coach and mindfulness guide with therapy offices in Colorado & California. She provides parent-coaching & support to clients across the country. Her clinical work is influenced by current research on play therapy, neurobiology, and the mind body connection. As a yoga & meditation student her approach stems from Eastern traditions, specifically Tibetan Buddhism. She is featured in the book The Unexpected Power Of Mindfulness & Meditation. Megan is passionate about working with people, nature and meditation. She lives in the mountains of Big Sur, California with her husband Rob, two black labs Norbu & Shiva and tabby cat, Meow.
Web site: avibrantmindllc.com