Extend Your Family: A Self-Compassion Approach to Finding Well Being in the Kindness and Criticism of Others


About 10 years ago, I went on a 10 day, silent meditation retreat. Although nobody spoke besides the meditation guides, the meditators behaviors spoke volumes. Meditating for such long periods of time increases your awareness of your body/mind’s response to people’s behaviors.

So naturally when someone offered to clean my plate, I would experience the depth of the kindness, as much as I would experience the depth of rudeness when someone cut you in the meal line or made a cacophony of grunts at the meal table.  Some meditation leaders geared their teachings around kindness.  Some were brash, at times critical, and at other times down right rude.

As you can imagine the kindness was gratifying, supportive, and energy giving.  It was just the warmth you needed in taking on a challenging practice.  The criticism and rudeness were exhausting and distracting like the fly that buzzes right by your ear and lands on your neck because they secretly want to annoy you.

Because the retreat was challenging enough without the negative emotions, I had to come up with a way to make peace with them.  So in true self compassion form, I noticed them, and thought about how I might bring compassion to myself.  I wanted to wish them well without taking away from my own well being.  Then, it came to me, in my own family I have family members that annoy me, but I make peace with it by acknowledging their common frustrations and reminding myself that I love them.

So on the meditation retreat, the voice in my head sounded like this, “Uncle Frank (Totally made up the name. I had no idea what idea what their names were.) just cut me in the food line.  He is always in such a rush to get to the food.  I hope he feels he has enough to not rush one of these days.  He makes me crazy sometimes, but I still love him.”

Similarly with a critical meditation teacher, “There goes Uncle Dominick.  He is a wily guy, who gets so excited that he judges people without thinking about it. That is so annoying, but I love him anyway.”

As you can imagine with your own family, it worked.  Far too often we feel that we have to take on other’s suffering as they project it on to us, but it really is none of our business.  To adjust, we must give them back their responsibilities by acknowledging our own experience of it, labeling it with some lighthearted insight (to not add to our burden), and remind ourselves that we love them (which restores our own sense of well being).

Give it a shot the next time you find yourself in traffic, in line waiting for something, on the phone with customer service, at work, or in your own relationships.  What do you have to lose except maybe some ongoing stress and who needs that?  Give up the stress.  Make some new family members. Have fun with the names you give them.

Wishing you well being, understanding, support, self compassion, and increased ease in your life.

365 Days of Kindness.  Self-Compassion.  Day 14.  In the Books.