It’s probably obvious that cultivating self-compassion will help you come into a healthier relationship with yourself. When you practice interrupting old patterns of self-criticism and relating to your experience with greater curiosity and less judgment, your internal climate becomes significantly friendlier.
Recently, I met a little dog named Cookie who reminded me of how easy it can be to misunderstand inconvenient feelings, as well as how hard it can be to have compassion for them.
I was at Austin Zen Center recently, attending a ceremony for my teacher, who was installed as the Center’s first abbot. As part of the ceremony, my teacher made five statements to summarize his teaching. The one that stuck with me most was this: whatever you find in yourself, acknowledge it, accept it, and forgive. This statement aligns very closely with the three aspects of self-compassion: awareness, a sense of common humanity, and kindness. It also sounds like a recipe for making amends with oneself, and I wanted to share it with you.
If you’re human, you’ve probably made an unforced error. An unforced error is a sports term that refers to a missed shot or lost point (as in tennis or volleyball) that’s entirely a result of the player's own error and not because of the opponent's skill or effort. In other words, it’s the shot you “should” have made. You’ve made shots like that hundreds, maybe thousands of times, yet for some reason, you missed it this time.
In this article, I offer six concrete suggestions for navigating the holidays.
I had an experience recently which re-affirmed for me that self-compassion is probably the most powerful tool I have. Some might wonder how that could be true. While more people are becoming aware of the importance of self-compassion in mental health and well-being, it still runs counter to the values of the prevailing mainstream culture that tends to emphasize immediate gratification, competition, and self-esteem based on hierarchical achievement.
I bet everyone has some experience of the seasickness that Leonard Cohen is talking about. Our minds have very strong opinions about the way things should be: for example, innocent people shouldn’t suffer; we ourselves should look, speak and be a particular way; our loved ones should do what we know is best for them. And when life doesn’t match up with how we think it’s supposed to be (innocent people suffer, we aren’t as articulate or successful as we think we should be, our loved ones do things that don’t make sense to us), we often feel this seasickness.
I recently read a Huffington Post article about photographer Steve Rosenfield’sWhat I Be Project. Since 2010, Rosenfield has invited subjects to write words on their face and/or body that relate to their deepest insecurities. He then photographs them, looking directly at the camera, and titles their portraits with their insecurity included in the phrase, “I am not my __________________________ .” Rosenfield describes his Project as “a social experiment turned into, what is now, a global movement about honesty and empowerment.” And, I would add, self-compassion.
When things don’t go as planned, is your go-to explanation that it’s because you did something wrong, or because there’s something wrong with you? For many people, self-compassion is a real challenge.
I recently came across “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!”, an award-winning children’s book by Mo Willems. In this story, a bus driver needs to take a break, so he asks the reader to keep an eye on things until he gets back. His last instruction is: “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!” As soon as the driver leaves, an insistent pigeon appears, pleading to be allowed to drive the bus. The pigeon tries many angles: direct (“Hey, Can I drive the bus?”), crafty (“Hey, I’ve got an idea: Let’s play ‘Drive the Bus.’ I’ll go first!”), bribery (“I’ll give you five bucks!”). As the pigeon persists and persists, and begins to enter tantrum territory, the reader gets to hold the line and say “No!” What a great reminder for kids (and adults).
If you are having a hard day and feeling challenged, stressed, burnt out, or self-critical, maybe there is a tree, a flower, a lake, or a patch of sky that you can connect with to remind yourself of your interconnectedness with a wider world.