Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with one word that helps you feel at ease. This is how you can tell you have found that right word. Physically, your body will soften and relax. Cognitively, your thought process will slow down to a managable gait. Emotionally, you will feel grounded.
Well, how do we go about finding this word you might ask? Stop when you can during the day, and notice your breath. With your eyes open or closed let out long, slow exhales like you are blowing through a straw. For me, a 6 second outbreath is optimal, but you can experiment. Once you have had a chance to have 10 outbreaths or so, notice how your body feels, then try out a word. Wish that word for yourself, and see how your body responds. If you feel your body relax, then that might be your word. If you feel it tense up, not to worry just try a new word.
If you are busy like most people, you will not have unlimited time to work on this at one sitting, so try for 2 or 3 minutes and then come back to this practice when you can during the day. Do not rush it. Taking your time and allowing your special word to emerge is doing a kindness to yourself. If you want to develop self-compassion, you must trust the process and yourself. The length it takes you to find your word is not symbolic of anything. Like anything valuable, it takes the time it takes.
Here are some sample words that other people have identified as bringing them ease: free or freedom (could be short for freedom from suffering or the freedom to be yourself), ease (could be short for ease and well being), enough (could be short for let this experience be enough, may I be enough, or my current lot in life is enough), acceptance (could be short for self-acceptance or acceptance of your present experience or acceptance of what you must do for yourself or acceptance of yourself and others), peace (could mean inner peace or peace among all people), kindness (could be kindness to yourself or kindness to all).
Here is what to avoid. Do not take on a word that involves striving or implies a lot of work for yourself because this is likely the opposite of the body’s tranquil resting state. Do not apologize about the word that makes you feel at ease. You deserve kindness and well being.
What this is not. This is not an attempt to persuade you to be soft or lazy. It is about locating well being through a symbol that you can access during the day when you find yourself overwhelmed with stress or simply a word you can think of when you are taking a moment to yourself to fill up your tank with well being and healthy energy.
I have been doing this practice for some time, and as such I have a few words for different situations. Sometimes, when I am in particular situations, the word I need manifests and I repeat it gently to myself to endure and bring kindness to my experience. We use the word gently here because the emphasis is on taking care of yourself. Nobody wants the rough caretaker. They want the gentle one.
If you read about my crazy plane experience, you know that the word I used there was acceptance, mostly because my mind was trying to alter the bad experience which was only causing more stress. When I feel overly obligated or judged, I repeat the word free, as in may I be free from suffering so that I can bring kindness to my experience and the experience of others. When I am in a difficult situation without apparent support but I know that I am following my path towards creating opportunities for a better life for others and myself, I repeat the phrase I am proud of you.
Whatever your experience, you cannot mess this up. Over time, you may collect many words or need only a few. Trust your experience. The words you need may change, and that is good because it demonstrates your ability to adapt to a changing environment with adaptive kindness. Whatever your word, may you hear it often and may it bring you well being and ease.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 23. In the Books.