Self-Compassion Tools

Finding Love And Happiness By Overcoming Our Need To Be Right

Self-Compassion Blog.  Finding Love And Happiness By Overcoming Our Need To Be Right.

Striving To Be Right

One of the most mind-boggling ideas out there is that other people value you based on how often you are right.  Being right makes people feel confident, and at ease in their relationships, while being wrong causes people to feel unsure and anxious.  It makes sense that we feel more comfortable in an ever-changing world, if we feel that we understand it.  Somewhere deep down inside we know that we cannot understand everything, so we opt for the next best thing: to know more than everyone else.  It’s ok to think it.  Yes, we desire to be know-it-alls. 

The Know-It-Alls and The Know-Nothings

But, despite how great being right feels, it blinds us from what the experience is like for the person, who is wrong.  They feel incompetent and helpless.  If we follow this logic, the know-it-alls, by their very nature, make others feel like know-nothings, and know-nothings feel bad about themselves, which makes them not want to hang around with the know-it-alls.  If a good life is judged by the company we keep, how do we judge the life of someone, who cannot keep any company at all?  My guess is that we find it to be a sad one.

Learning To Choose Relationships Over Rightness

If you learn nothing else from this blog, savor this invaluable piece of relationship insight: people will often feel about you the way you make them feel about themselves.  If you make them feel like losers all the time, they will feel sad, and they will identify you as a sad person.  If you make them feel like winners all the time, they will feel happy, and you will be recognized as a happy person.  Despite this seemingly impossible dichotomy, you really only need to make them feel appreciated, which requires just the occasional win.  So, do yourself the kindness of letting go of your need to be right all the time, instead making room for the love, compassion, and ease people will naturally feel in the presence of someone, who prioritizes these characteristics themselves.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 272.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Your Desire To Leave A Legacy

Self-Compassion For Your Desire To Leave A Legacy

Your Desire To Leave A Legacy

We need self-compassion for our desire to leave a legacy.  Since the dawn of mankind, people have tried to leave reminders of their presence in statues, buildings, monuments, and even crudely carved initials or drawings.  To balance the difficulties that life throws at us, we would like recognition for our efforts in life and death.  For some, leaving lasting change is not only something that gives their life meaning, it is something that helps them get through every day.  And yet, because life is so unpredictable, some days we feel our work has gone unnoticed, and our legacy motivations become legacy stressors.  In these very moments, what we need most is self-compassion.

The Trouble With Legacies

It is easy to look at well-known artists, authors, inventors, those involved with business and politics, and say, “I think I could do that.  What could be more gratifying than creating lasting change?”  However, most of these people suffered greatly in their tasks, and were not fully recognized (or recognized at all) until years after they died. Transforming some part of the world means that you will have to work through very tough days without recognition.  Fortunately, you can use self-compassion to ensure that you get the rewards and care you need to persevere through these trying times.

Self-Compassion Steps For Managing Legacy Problems  

During those days in which you feel overlooked, stressed, and disappointed in others or your own efforts, name one of these feelings.  Notice where there is tension in your body, and soften around these parts.  Note how you have come by these feelings naturally.  It is so hard to work at creating change, and even harder to feel that your efforts are not valued.  Because it would be futile to try to control the future, instead we are going to focus on creating opportunities for change, since that is the one thing we can control.  Regardless of the outcome, we are going to reward ourselves for having the courage to act.  Slowly, your mind and body will get the sense that there is someone, who will always recognize and reward them for their efforts, someone they can always count on, you.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 250.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Setting Reachable Goals, And 3 Easy Steps To Achieve Them

Setting Goals

If there is a time for self-compassion, it is when people are setting goals.  We tend to set broad, very unrealistic goals that require superhuman will power and energy to complete them.  I do not know who we picture working to accomplish these goals, but I hope it is not us.  We are only human, and such goals would probably cause us a lot of pain and anguish.  I do not know how you feel about pain, and anguish, but I am against them.  And, yet, it is really important to set short and long-term goals that are in keeping with our values, if we are to live an inspiring, and meaningful life.  Geesh!  What should we do?

Giving Up

This is normally the point in which people become stressed, and give up on their goals.  Netflix has shows waiting for them, and they have gone minutes since checking their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.  But, later that night, they find that they cannot sleep.  They toss, and turn, and then toss, and turn some more.  Something is gnawing at them, and they turn on the light to get some clarity.  Annoyed, they ask themselves what the big idea is.  The mind inquires, “What are you doing with your life?”  Immediately, their brain brings them back to the moment in which they were so overwhelmed with planning that they gave up, and they start to feel disappointed, and dejected.

Finding Your Way Back To Hopefulness With Self-Compassion

As you might imagine, this is a great time for self-compassion.  You could give yourself self-compassion for not being able to sleep, or self-compassion for worrying about your life, or self-compassion for how hard it is to erect a manageable blueprint for one’s goals.  You might find yourself with a little more well-being, and be able to return to bed.  Of course, when you wake up the question is still there, but not because you are seeking more disappointment or self-criticism.  This question reappears because deep down inside you have a formidable wish that is not easily scared off.  This wish is for you to live an inspiring and meaningful life.

Self-Compassion For Your Goal Concerns And 3 Quick Steps To Goal Success

Remembering the self-compassion you practiced last night, you think to yourself about how you might use self-compassion to plan your goals.  This is what you do.  You notice the anxiety that comes up with this burden, and you name it.  You notice the areas of your body that are tense and you soften around them.  You notice how you have come by this stress naturally, and you bring compassion and kindness to your experience. 

Then, you do the following three things.  Pick one goal that allows you to be present and full of love at work, with friends, and at home.  Then, write down two things that are necessary to complete this goal.  Finally, make a plan to work on one of them, and take a picture of your long- term goal that you keep on your phone or print and laminate to keep in your wallet or pocket.  When the worries about your life re-emerge, and they will, return to the self-compassion practice, acknowledge the action that you are taking, and take a look at your picture.  The best part about this process is that literally anybody can do it, and the few that do will find greater fulfillment, inspiration, and ease than they have experienced in a long time.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 239.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Crisis

Crisis

Recently, a reader asked me about self-compassion for crisis.  He understood how self-compassion could help him work towards more self-acceptance, and set goals that were in line with his core values, but he wanted to know more about how self-compassion could be helpful in addressing something unwanted, and overwhelming in the present.  It is a fair question, especially given the fact that most people imagine mindfulness and self-compassion being practiced in a tranquil room with white noise, ample offerings of tea, and hours of quietude.  

Tonglen

In terms of crisis, Tonglen Self-Compassion or the breathing in of suffering, and the breathing out of a wish for freedom from suffering is perhaps ideal for a crisis situation because it is accessible, merely requires breathing, and is aided by having something substantial to work with.  An example of which might be: I am breathing in totally freaking out, and I breathe out a wish to be free from this immediate fear.  The in-breaths are normal, and the outbreaths are long like blowing through a straw for 6 seconds.  Slowly, this kind of breathing will start to regulate your body’s response to stress, and the wish for well-being will decrease the agitation you are experiencing in your mind.

Acceptance

Another great self-compassion practice for crisis is acceptance.  The hardest part of a crisis is resisting it.  This is what leads to panic attacks, and overwhelming ideas.  Your body and mind are already working too hard.  The best thing you can do for them is accept that your current experience is more than enough, notice how it feels, and let it pass.  I like to think of a train slowly passing before me with 5 cars, the last a caboose that I put my worrying thought on, and watch it until it travels out of sight.  I repeat this exercise until I feel more regulated, and able to address the crisis in a meaningful way.

Single Word Self-Compassion

Perhaps the last self-compassion practice that I like to use for crisis is single-word self-compassion.  If you have done formal self-compassion meditation practice, you will be used to using the phrases, May I be safe.  May I be free from suffering.  May I be kind to myself.  May I accept myself just as I am.  These are examples of wishes that you might make to ensure a sense of well-being.  You can simplify each one of these phrases into one symbolic word: safety, freedom, kindness, self-acceptance.  During a time of crisis, you may feel too overwhelmed to go through entire self-compassion phrases, but still have enough mental energy to recite a single word, and sometimes one word is all it takes.

Enough

No matter which technique you choose, never forget that whatever effort you make that it is enough, that you are enough, and that the experience you are having is enough.  You do not need to change anything.  Notice it.  Let it pass, and be kind to yourself.  Only then will you have enough room to accept it, and move on. 

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 235.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Those Without Mothers On Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

There are days of the year, where (like many people) I feel the loss of someone or something in my life.  I long for gratitude on those days, and wait for the difficult moments to pass to be grateful that I have endured them.  It is not always the most mindful thing to do, but it is self-compassionate. 

Mother’s day is not one of those days for me.  I have been blessed with four women, who each parented me like I was their own child, my two grandmothers, my mother, and my Aunt Susan. While my Grandma Jean has been gone for about 16 years, I feel her with me every day.  I ask her for council, when I am stuck with difficult decisions, and always pray for her strength.  She was an absolute force, while she with us.

Normalizing The Challenges of Living Without Or In Conflict With A Mother

It is because I realize how fortunate I am that I feel deeply for people, who have lost their mothers, never knew their mothers, or who have an embattled relationship with their mothers.  It is so hard to feel that the place from which you originated can no longer or has rarely/never welcomed you home.  I feel for people, who do not understand this misfortune.  The only thing worse than not having a warm, welcoming mother is criticizing or belittling the troubles of someone who does not.  So, this self-compassion entry is dedicated to you.  I hope it brings you some well-deserved balm for your hearts, and a greater sense of ease.

Your concerns are normal.  We all want to feel loved and accepted, and people who do not bare the stamp of blood family can be fickle in their support and availability.  So, those that have lost their mothers to illness, complicated life circumstances, or mental health issues feel a sense of vulnerability.  And, this vulnerability is very real, but it does not make you fragile.  It makes you wise.  It is the part of you that has decided before anything that you are deserving of unconditional love, and that your life is worth dedicating to this important venture.  Some people are fortunate to have a living place to locate this love, and a person to praise for this teaching once a year.  That said, you are no less whole, no less deserving, and no less lovable, if you do not.

Mother’s Day Self-Compassion Practice

So, how can we help you get what you need on this difficult day, and every day after?  By simply practicing self-compassion.  Notice your feelings.  If there is a sense of emptiness or sadness, acknowledge it, and grieve it.  You deserve unconditional love and acceptance, and a mother is a hard person to live without.  Resist getting seduced by the stories that emerge, when you focus on this loss.  Instead, notice how your body feels, and soften around the parts of your body that are tense.  Breathe in the feelings of loss, and exhale the wish to be free from the pain of loss.  Notice your own capacity to give yourself unconditional love, if called upon, and think of a way in this very moment that you can be really kind to yourself. 

Remember that the similarities of your hopes, your dreams, your pain, and your pleasure connect you to all beings.  We all wish for unconditional love for ourselves and others.  Wish this for yourself and others, and give yourself permission to accept the reverberations of these wishes for you.  May you always be open to receiving unconditional love from yourself, and from the wishes of all other living beings.  May you be free from suffering.  May you live with ease.  May you be kind to yourself, and feel empowered by your practice.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 234.  In The Books.     

The Power Of Ted

Ted

During my teen years, there were some tough days.  Being a kid that came from a difficult background, I mostly hid my emotions.  I kept a tough face on during school, smiled and laughed in my conversations with girls, and smoked cigarettes at night to dull my senses.  There were days, when these tricks were simply not enough, and though I tried desperately to hold them back, I would tear up without an audible cry.  Despite not making a sound, my dog, Ted, always knew.  He would jump up on the couch, crowding me into the cushions with his large body.  He would lick the tears off of my face, and rest his head on my chest.  I would fall asleep next to Ted, like siblings do, and wake up with a little more optimism, and well-being.

No Explanations, Apologies, Or Endless Thanks Needed For Compassion

The truth is that Ted never needed me to explain, apologize, or express endless gratitude for his kindness.  He knew that I was suffering, and his natural inclination was to comfort me, and simply let me know that he was there.  He could not talk, but he had very understanding eyes, and a warmth that was all his own.  My brothers teased him for being afraid of cats, dogs, and bunnies, the vacuum, and of course the parquet floor that he ran across as fast as he could to avoid its slipperiness.  Despite their criticisms, Ted was my hero.  He had loving compassion super powers.  I am forever grateful for the time we spent together.  So many years later, I still miss him every day.

Self-Compassion Essentials From Ted

Rather than hoard all of the lessons I learned from Ted, I thought that I would share some of these gems with you.  First, never apologize for what you are feeling.  Second, you are deserving of compassion and support, as soon as you suffer.  Third, there is no threshold for compassion.  The slightest tinge of suffering deserves compassion.  Fourth, sometimes you just need someone to acknowledge your feelings, and hug you, even if that person is you.  Fifth, if you have all night to be kind to yourself, do so.  You will reap the benefits in the morning.

I have certain shows that warm my heart.  When my day has been absolutely terrible, I let these shows play next to me on a laptop or Ipad, and I go to sleep right next to this loving energy. If this would keep you up, think about putting a picture of someone you love close to you, or putting on music that warms your heart set at a low volume, while you rest.

The Power Of Ted

May your life be full of Teds.  May you be your own Ted.  Never apologize, explain, or feel compelled to confess hours of gratitude for well-deserved compassion (and it is all well-deserved).  It is perfectly ok to feel that you lack the freedom to express your feelings and are undeserving of compassion.  Acknowledge these internal protests.  Let them pass, and be kind to yourself, anyway.  That is the power of Ted.

365 Days OfSelf-Compassion.  Day 233.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For The Wish To Solve Other People’s Problems

The Wish To Solve Other People’s Problems

How many of us need self-compassion for the wish to solve other people’s problems?  I would wager a lot of us.  High up on our list of hardships is watching someone suffer, and feeling unable to help them.  That is why those infomercials work so well.  For just fifteen cents a day, you can give little Jimmy the food and water he needs to get through a whole day.  You cannot get to your piggy bank fast enough.  I think some people’s hearts are so big they could crush that piggy bank with their mind!  We see this suffering, and we give.

Support Is A Virtue

It is certainly a virtue to give financial or emotional support, when you can.  But, the key word there is support.  In life, we are all on our own personal journey, seeking the knowledge, skill, and experiences we need to develop a safe, meaningful, and inspired self.  We can benefit from the support of others on our journey, but if they fix our problems, then our current conditions will change, but our problems will remain.  A wise teacher once said, “If someone else’s problems were your problems, they would be called something else.”

Learning To Compassionately Rather Than Empathically Attend To Other’s Problems

And, even though we possess this wisdom, we still feel pulled to solve other people’s problems, especially when they are suffering in an extraordinary way or in a way that we feel capable of remedying.  However, if you carry the worries of others as your own, you will eventually fall prey to compassion fatigue.  You will become resentful, and tired.  Your health will suffer, and your heart will hang heavy.  One of my favorite mentors, Dr. Inna Khazan, says there is a fine distinction between “Empathic listening and Compassionate Listening.  Empathic listening requires you to experience all the pain and suffering of someone else, and become worn by your experience.  Compassionate listening simply requires you to listen with the wish that others be free of suffering, and that they find the tools they need to return to a state of well-being.”  I find this explanation simple and beautiful.

Your Self-Compassion Practice For Wanting To Solve Other People’s Problems.

So, here is your self-compassion practice for wanting to solve other people’s problems.  Notice this impulse.  Name it.  Track down where this feeling lives in your body, and soften around it.  Remember that your job is to wish for this person’s ability to endure and transcend suffering.  Listen with your heart, and wish this for them.  Then, take the time to be really kind to yourself for making this shift (from empathy to compassion).  Believe it or not this will be a gift for the person in question.  They will feel like they are not burdening you with their issues.  They will feel empowered by your belief in them.  And, they will learn vicariously the benefit of supporting rather than taking on another’s stress.  Follow this practice to the best of your ability, and be kind to yourself, when you fall back into your old habits.  After all, that is just another opportunity for self-compassion.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 232.  In The Books.

Don’t Give Up The Heart

Never Give Up

Years ago, midway through my self-compassion practice, I was inspired by a speech the Dalai Lama gave called, “Never Give Up.”  Its basic point was that we spend most of our lives developing the mind with little thought of developing our heart, meanwhile most of our suffering comes from trying to control things with our minds without the capacity to endure, soothe, and nurture things with our hearts. 

I Westernized this teaching for my own purposes, which I entitled, “Don’t Give Up The Heart,” to remind myself that when social forces and peer pressure would ask me to choose my mind, money, power, or status that I needed to prioritize the heart.  It’s pretty logical on its face.  None of the other things last or remain meaningful.  They also fail by themselves to bring you happiness.  It is only when they accompany something else that they become satisfactory, and potentially nice.  That one thing is the heart.

The Watered Down, Westernized View Of The Heart

The problem with urging people to follow and embolden their heart is that many people have a watered down, westernized view of the heart.  They mistake heart for whimsy, self-centeredness, naivete, or personal gratification.  They say, “ I know she was not a great fit for me, but I decided to turn off my brain, and listen to my heart.” 

Really?  Your heart told you to pursue someone that you knew would make you unhappy or cause you great suffering in the future.  I don’t know if you dialed the wrong number, but I would try your heart again.  That sounds more like you followed your ego, or you followed your desire to satiate something.  The heart, the way self-compassion understands it, is the part of yourself that is understanding, supportive, soothing, and urges you towards your core values (the principles that give your life the most meaning).

The Self-Compassionate Heart

The heart, in this sense, makes contact with your immediate experience, and uses your bodily response to be a test of what is really important, what makes you feel most at ease, and how you might go about approaching a reality that prioritizes these two things.  Self-Compassion is the vehicle it uses to be present while forming this blueprint, and then later as the tool to understand, process, and grow from the challenges that you experience along the way.  That is your truth. 

So, asking one to be loyal to their heart is another way to say that they should keep coming back to honoring their truth, and the truths of others despite social pressure to avoid this awareness via the distractions of money, power, and status.  Most of us can understand that.  We have seen celebrities and politicians be able to live a pretty entertaining life with those aforementioned three things until they experience some turbulence, and then without a value placed on their heart and the hearts of others, they find themselves overwhelmed and unable to cope.  It is really not their fault.   If you have never been presented with an opportunity to develop a skill, surely you cannot be expected to exercise it when life gives you its most difficult tests.

Moving Past Social Rewards

Money, power, status, awards, the limelight, we like these things.  How the heck are we supposed to forgo them to go on some weird journey to the heart?  Can’t we just get a t-shirt or some cool beads, and call it a day?  What if we just donate to a really good cause? That’s the funny thing.  There is nothing wrong with money, power, and status on their own.  In fact, you can use all of these things to help people, or even live really well, and we want you to live as well as you can.  That being said, these things cannot be used to replace your personal journey to self-acceptance, purpose, and self-compassion.  There is little about life that makes sense without love, and if you cannot love yourself, you are going to have a heck of a time loving other people, especially the obnoxious ones!

Easy Steps To Help You Never Give Up The Heart

So, have some compassion for yourself, when people ask you to give up your time to recharge, to take care of yourself, to wear or watch things that just make you feel good, and make time for these things anyway because, under no circumstances, will you give up the heart.  Then, nurture the crap out of that heart.  Notice how you feel this very second.  Name it.  Soften around the parts of you that are tense.  Ask yourself how you can be kind to yourself, and incline deeply into the sense of ease this gives you.

Use that as a metric to get a sense of what you need to truly be happy, to be inspired, and to do meaningful things that give you purpose.  You are never too old or too young for self-compassion.  The heart only becomes stronger over time.  Long before we can ever speak, and long after we can speak no more, this very thing will ground us in the ever-changing matrix that is the world.  It is worth developing.  Remember that.  And, no matter what the world offers you, don’t give up the heart.

365 Days of Self-Compassion.  Day 228.  In The Books.


The Self-Compassion Love Letter: Freedom From Blame, Shame, and Names.

The Firing Squad Of Blame, Shame, And Names

From a self-compassion standpoint, most of what we do is to avoid the firing squad of blame, shame, and names.  Somewhere, deep down inside, we fear that we are bad, broken, undeserving people, so when our fears or mistakes manifest, we seek distraction through any means necessary: watching shows where other people act out worse than we do; talking about the terrible crimes being committed by morally corrupt leaders or extremists; or perhaps more covertly complaining about something in your immediate environment that just is not right (e.g., traffic, construction, the cost of utilities).

Curiosity Cured The Heart

If we could just notice, and be curious about the concerns we have about our self, we might have an opportunity to soften into these worries with understanding, to open our hearts, and to be educated rather than defined by them.  It would probably also be easier on all these people and things that we vehemently attack to avoid these thoughts.

The Self-Compassion Love Letter: Freedom From Blame, Shame, And Names.

Because it is so hard to respond this way in the moment, I have created a tool that you can use at the beginning or end of the day that will guide the way you respond thereafter: your very own love letter.  It reads:

Dear Self, 

It is hard to live in this world, and want so much, while being afraid that the decisions we make will eventually undo the good we desire.  It is hard to worry about such things, and feel like every mistake that we make is confirmation of our inadequacy.  And, even though it is hard to acknowledge the mistakes and failures we have made, I want to take a minute now to do so anyway.  Despite these failures, I still love you.  I still accept you.  I still want to follow our plan of being good to our self, so that we can be good to others.   

Making mistakes hurts, but these mistakes also soften our hearts to the mistakes and suffering of others, which makes it easier to accept them and our self.  In this way, we are grateful for these mistakes, though we do not wish them upon our self.  May you have the courage to accept and look at these failures, when they occur, so that the mark they leave lasts but a moment, and our meaningful wishes for life last forever.  I promise to try to read you every day in the hopes that I will be able to grow from my experience, and become the person I was meant to be for me and others through self-compassion, and acceptance.

Love you,

Me

Perhaps

Perhaps, you will get to this every day, and perhaps not.  I suppose that will depend on how useful it is for you, and how meaningful a life you would like to live.  In all things, I wish you freedom from suffering, the ability to learn and grow from your pain, and mostly the deep, deep well of compassion, forgiveness, and kindness that will truly enrich your life and the lives of others.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 223.  In The Books.

Finding The Strength To Carry On.

Self-Compassion Over Glory

From the perspective of self-compassion, all pain is relative to the experience of the person, who feels it.  It is not so much the nature of the pain that defines the experience, but the opportunity it gives people to be emboldened by softening their hearts to their struggles, and the struggles of the world. 

This is not to discount or reduce the pain caused by great atrocities, but unlike many interventions, self-compassion does not glorify them either.  A secret of sufferers is that they want to suffer less.  Part of suffering less is more compassion from themselves and others, but people, who glorify suffering, often want to bring more attention to the kind of suffering that they are attending to, which does little for the suffering being experienced by the sufferers. 

People do not want apologies from strangers or even people they know for what they have been through.  What they really want is for people to support them in their journey, to share their own suffering, and to allow them to feel however they need to feel without judgment or comment.  Making people feel more exceptional and alone in their struggle will not help them feel more connected and supported.

Just 4 Things To Find The Strength To Carry On, When Harm Befalls You.

So, when great harm befalls you, how do you find the strength to carry on?  You need four things.

First, to explore the nature of the suffering, and align yourself with others, so it is knowable, and connects you to others instead of distancing you. 

Second, you need to be able to bring compassion and understanding to your experience, so that you can process and let go of the suffering.  The longer you hold on to it, the heavier the burden will be. 

Third, you need to invite kindness into your life from yourself and others.  Without a wish for well-being, your path in life cannot become clear, as it will always be muddled by the feelings, thoughts, and actions you believe you are owed (both good and bad). 

Fourth, you need to take the information you have gathered from these three steps, and look at what has made your heart stronger, and your mind better capable of seeing the world as it is.  These details will help you decide what you need to live a full, inspiring, and meaningful life of ease. 

If you have lived longer than a day, you realize it is impossible and probably foolish to believe that you can build a mindset, a technique, or a product to avoid suffering, but if you can develop your heart then you can live through it, and learn from it.  Wishing you many days of well-being, and the courage and tenacity to soften your heart in the face of suffering, as I wish the same for myself.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 221.  In The Books.