Obstacles to Practicing Self-Compassion
As young children, we enjoy life’s developments, and inquire about how they came to be. We have little access to the past or future at this age. We imagine that the way things are is how they have always been. Honey has nothing to do with flowers or honeycombs. It has always been honey. Moms and Dads have never been children. They were born Moms and Dads. As adults, we think back to our childhood selves, and we are quick to distance ourselves from that naivete, maybe rightfully so in some situations. We understand about bees and honey, and even the birds and the bees and how little humans become big humans.
However, even as adults, we still have the tendency to believe that things are as they always have been. Instead of seeing qualities that can be learned, we attribute the characteristics we might enjoy to qualities with which you are born. We also become so excited to attain the final product that we wonder if we cannot skip all of the steps and just have it. Can I not simply have self-compassion? You can have it, but as there are so many current stresses in our lives and scars from past stresses, we need time to develop the ability to respond to each of these unique challenges with understanding and kindness.
Practicing Self-Compassion Right Now
Knowing that self-compassion practice is one that is developed over time might be disappointing for some, who want it right now. Fear not. You can have some of it right now, but to get the most out of it you want to make it a daily practice that rewards you over a lifetime.
So, where do you start? You start right where you are, right here, right now. Are you feeling worried about starting a self-compassion practice? Notice the worry as it comes up in your thoughts and in your body. Name the worry. Allow it to manifest as it does, and let that be enough. Watch it as a kind but scientific observer. Notice it as it comes up and passes away. Then, bring kindness to your experience. Put your hand over your heart, and recite 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).
When people begin a self-compassion practice, I often hear things like: This is too easy. How will I know it is going to work? How will I remember all of the phrases? The truth is that the longer we practice self-compassion the more our bodies and minds feel able to use it to tackle the more difficult stuff, and the more difficult stuff we are able to manage the more empowered we feel. You know it is going to work because you see the pain pass. You are aware that you are burdening yourself less than before with unhelpful rumination or bodily stress. You remember the phrases by keeping a notecard with you or keeping them in your phone, and once they work, you will have more than enough motivation to store these lines in your long-term memory. Also, as a byproduct of rehearsal, you will begin to retain these lines implicitly.
To have a successful self-compassion practice, you must surrender to the truth that your current ability to practice is exactly what you need for your experience right now. We all acquire a series of traits as we move through life, and while we are not always aware if or when they are going to serve us, they tend to make sense in the future. How many times have we asked the universe why we must suffer in a certain way only to use that experience down the road to help someone else?
For those who really find the self-compassion practice difficult, you may become the most important self-compassion practitioners. You have greater motivation to work on your practice, and may understand it better than people who come by it more naturally. Perhaps most importantly, many people struggle to take on and acquire a self-compassion practice. If you can give them courage by telling your own story of difficulty, they may just get what they need to literally have a better life. This is one of the greatest unsung gifts of developing a self-compassion practice, which is the ability to share with someone else a sincere way to help them tolerate and overcome their greatest suffering.
Summing It All Up
Wherever you are in your practice, be kind to yourself. People wish for a better world every day; a world in which there is less suffering. If your self-compassion work is diminishing your suffering in any way, you are already helping to make those wishes come true. Give yourself credit for that. There are no extra points in life for more suffering. The two greatest rewards will always be living with greater ease and more love. Do not wait until it is too late to get more of both of those things, and take your place as a self-compassion practitioner from your first attempt. If there is one thing I am sure of, it is that your life will always be better with more self-compassion and never better with less.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 79. In the Books.