In part, the practice of mindfulness involves attending to our difficult emotions and their accompanying physical sensations rather than dwelling on the stories that create them. But the part of mindfulness practice that's currently stumping me is how to develop compassion for myself when I'm sad, anxious, angry, regretful, or otherwise in emotional pain. I realized that I don't know how. Am I supposed to conjure up a feeling of "there, there, dear," accompanied by a couple of pats on the shoulder? It feels fake and unhelpful. Is it simply a matter of scheduling a massage or pedicure? A little "me-time"? While I wouldn't exclude those options, I don't think that's what this practice is really about.
Because I can feel compassion for other people, I started there. Feeling compassion for another person begins with recognizing that s/he's suffering. That suffering causes us to feel pain in our hearts. The pain is accompanied by benevolence, sincere caring, and the desire to help. We extend understanding rather than judgment. We can't control whether our compassion is received or rejected by another, but we feel compassion because we see in another what we experience ourselves.
Feeling compassion for yourself means recognizing and accepting that you're suffering, empathizing with your own experience of pain, and letting emerge a sense of caring and warmth toward yourself. You need your own understanding and kindness, not judgment and berating. Your belief to the contrary, you're actually not a loser: you're just human, and being human often hurts a lot. To imagine otherwise -- to expect smooth sailing -- is delusion. Throughout our lives, we can expect to be upset and angry, get sick, feel powerless, encounter loss and grief, screw up, fail to meet our own expectations or achieve a dream, and break our own moral codes. Embrace this hard reality rather than fight it. Fighting it compounds the feeling of failure and inadequacy. It's a losing battle. Accepting it leads to sorrow, yes, but also compassion for yourself and others. We're all one because we are the same inside.
And don't forget the fact hidden in plain sight: practicing meditation and mindfulness in themselves are acts of compassion toward yourself and others.
What are you noticing about self-compassion?
How do you care for yourself during meditation or other mindfulness practice when difficult emotions emerge?
for Mindful Monday
© August 4, 2014, post: Donna Pierce
Photo credit: "meditation." Photocapy, 1/4/03
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