Compassion arises naturally when we acknowledge truth. There is much joy and beauty in a human life and much hardship and pain.
Our culture creates pressure to manage life in a certain way, to be successful, and to maintain a positive mental outlook no matter what. We live in mammal bodies with negativity bias and primitive brains on the lookout for danger. People around us are often not emotionally self-regulated and mature and they can trigger us into fear or anxiety.
Make room in your heart for the wonderful complexity and challenge of our humanity. As we do practices like the one below, we choose to take a time out from the world and to be present with ourselves with kindness and compassion. We gift ourselves an opportunity to connect within.
Bring your attention now to your heart center. We all enjoy an open heart and we don’t enjoy feeling shut down. Judging ourselves when we’re shut down is definitely not an effective strategy to open up. Tune into your whole body and notice where your body is fairly relaxed then bring your attention to tight spots, allowing them to soften. Things never improve by having our shoulders up around our ears!
As you relax your body, focus on a smooth, even diaphragmatic breath. This also relates with emotion. When we breathe in, we’re accepting the nourishment of the fresh oxygen into our system and we notice our capacity for taking in our life experiences. As we breathe out, we let go of stale air and practice letting go. Knowing the reasons why we developed dysregulated breathing patterns can help us see that being frustrated and aggressive with ourselves might be understandable but it’s not helpful.
We didn’t set out to become a wreck with cement shoulders, shallow breath and catastrophic thinking. Fear and hurt lead to these patterns. You may have an adversarial relationship with your body but your body is not actually working against you. Pain or breakdown in your body is a signal. Stress creates incredibly adverse conditions for our body and we struggle.
“I am willing to be kind and compassionate and to treat myself well.” As you contemplate this invitation, stay grounded in the breath and energy in your body. Our conscious mind might intrude with reminders of all the times we did something harmful to our body. Ignore it. We’re not interested in the rumblings of the conscious mind right now.
Settle into a deep knowing in the heart. Nurture the willingness to be kind and compassionate with yourself. Notice if you could soften a bit more. Be aware of the felt sense of your direct experience in this moment.
What would life be like if you were consistently kind and compassionate with yourself? Your body is relaxed. You have lots of energy and your breath is healthy and smooth, facilitating oxygen to the brain and all through your body.
Your mind is calm and clear. Any shaming or self-critical thoughts stand out because they are not common anymore. You see through them and they dissolve.
How would your body move without tension and tightness? Without the shutting down caused by shame responses? With a healed nervous system and a healthy self-regard?
What would people see in the face of someone who is kind and compassionate? What would your relationships be like if people weren’t such a threat? If you expected kindness and connection with others and were steady enough to maintain a wide window of tolerance?
If you feel any resistance to this exercise, notice if you could have compassion for yourself as you feel resistance?
We’re not performing monkeys. We get to have whatever experience we have and we could be soft with ourselves. There are no right or wrong results with mindfulness inquiry. We’re exploring. Patterns are formed by our experience. Tension or unhealthy thinking patterns are a response to threat or harm.
Bring your attention to your heart centre. Just for a moment, imagine being fully present with 100% kindness and compassion for yourself. There are no barriers. Allow yourself to feel into that.
Hold space for the possibility of kindness and compassion. Keep letting go of any residual blame or shame. We don’t need to do anything else. This is the foundation of healing.