As you swirl the creamy, sweet goodness sitting on the surface of your morning coffee, you begin to plan your day. Compiling an amalgamation of tasks, you tell yourself that all of this hard work will be so worth it later, but later never comes. Instead, you come home to home responsibilities, and go to bed a little too late, only to wake up the next morning stirring yet another cup of coffee, imagining what you will do when you finally find time to take a break, and give yourself the satisfaction that comes with a heaping dose of kindness.
Routines Rule. Later Does Not Exist.
So many of us find ourselves in this routine, and while we complain about the never-ending cycle of work and inadequate rest, we make no plans to fit in this well being that we dream so much about. We do, however, find more time to do work. We make excuses to ourselves. Hey, this is really important. I have bills to pay. If I want to keep up with Brad from sales, I need to step my game up. He’s listening to self-improvement tapes every day. If I don’t get a hold of some of these tapes, he’s going to out improve me. Somehow, it does not register to you that “out improve” is not a saying, and that Brad is as miserable as you are.
You must find ways to bring well-being and kindness into your life now because later does not really exist. In a recent conversation, this idea sparked some controversy, so, with genuine interest, I asked my conversational partner to describe this later place. He began, “Well, it’s um. It’s um…” Struggling to find words to describe it, he slung in, “It’s that place that’s better than now.” So, I asked him what was so wrong with right now. He was dumbfounded. Working for later is not human error, but it is an erroneous philosophy likely created by a boss, who could not immediately compensate her workers. No money, no problem. I will just pay them later. That’s it! Why settle for crumbs now, when you could have a banquet later! Self-compassion does not work this way though. If you wait too long to take care of yourself, later might look like depression or a serious physical illness.
Well-being cannot be acquired in one all-night cram session. That is called binging, and it actually has negative effects on our health. The most negative effect is that it requires so much time and effort that we believe (rightfully so) that it might be some time before we are able to provide this kind of well being to ourselves again. Ironically, most of us are aware of this phenomenon but via eating. We don’t make time to eat several small meals a day, so we try to eat enormous meals to satisfy the wildebeest like hunger we develop over long periods of starvation. We immediately feel satisfied by this kind of feeding, but this feeling is quickly followed by a sensation that can only be described as swallowing a rock that sinks your entire body to the bottom of the ocean. Then, we live in this coma like state until our body runs twenty-five marathons to digest the meal for ten we have just consumed.
Small Servings of Self-Compassion Several Times a Day
Like eating multiple small meals during the day to decrease digestive work and increase accessible energy, I want you to think about a successful self-compassion practice as one in which you are able to deliver it in small doses stretched out across the entire day. You will not only experience well-being in the moment, but you will experience a synergistic sense of well-being at the end of the day that family and friends will likely notice too. Try this, as a quick but effective self-compassion practice: Take two minutes, and let your breathing slow, and become regular. Imagine firmly grasping, and then gently letting go of each one of your obligations. If you have 15 extra seconds, you can follow this up with the self-compassion phrases: May I be free from suffering. May I be kind to myself. May I accept myself just as I am. May I live with ease.
Shoot, even if you only have 30 seconds, you can stop to notice where in your body you are storing tension, and gently tense up those parts, and then allow them to soften naturally. Kapow! Who doesn’t have 30 seconds? Think 30 seconds or 1 minute is not very much time? Ask professional fighters who go full bore for 3 to 5 minutes at a time, and get 1 minute of rest. See how many of them would give up that minute. From my personal experience, I would say none.
Find the Self-Compassion Practices that Work Best for You
Much like the rest of life, certain practices are going to feel like better fits. When I was a fashion consultant, I always advised my clients to never purchase anything that did not make them look better than they did without it. If progressive body relaxation works for you, do that. If the self-compassion phrases work for you, do that. If biofeedback breathing works for you, do that. If it is enough to repeat in one word what you wish for yourself in the moment (peace, acceptance, well-being, kindness, hope, freedom), then do that. Perhaps, you have a favorite phrase. My two favorites are: May I be enough. May this moment be enough.
Because of branding and social status, we often marry ourselves to the practices validated by those with the most power. Forget about marriage, don’t even engage yourself in following the practices that work well for someone else, but do not work for you. Let your body be your guide. If you give it permission to speak its mind, it will never lie to you. Your acid test will be whatever creates a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
Don’t Be a Follower. Be a Pioneer.
When it comes to taking on new practices, we tend to overly consult the experts because we fear our own intelligence. Will you make mistakes? Definitely. Will you make discoveries? Definitely. If you are honoring your experience and pursuing your own well being without hurting yourself and anyone else, you are doing this practice correctly. If you find it hard to give yourself permission immediately, take mine until you feel ready to do so. As one of my favorite mentors says, “Doctor’s Orders.”
If you discover something that you think might provide self-compassion and well-being for others, feel free to submit it to me, and if it makes sense and I have your permission, I will publish it in my writings so that it can reach a wider audience. The two greatest goals of self-compassion practice are acceptance and kindness. Let them be your guides, and put on your archaeologist hat. Mine away at the goodness that is your heart, and remind yourself that the kind of wisdom that enables you to live of a life of acceptance, kindness, and vitality holds the greatest power. Embrace your wisdom and by extension your power.
Accept that we are guided by routines, and integrate self-compassion into your routines. Make these integrations short and doable. Sprinkle these self-compassion practices throughout your day. Use only the practices that feel like a fit, and trust your body’s intelligence to determine goodness of fit. Be a pioneer, and come up with practices that work best for you. Finding things that work, as long as they are driven by the good intentions of your heart, can only be empowering.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 55. In the Books.