Taming the Self-Critic: Using Self-Compassion
I’m great at compassion for others. I’ve practiced a long time, including specific Buddhist compassion meditations.
But when it comes to practicing compassion toward myself, I find it much harder.
I recently went to a one day meditation retreat and was bluntly reminded how much I still struggle with self-criticism. I’ve made progress, but still find it difficult.
At the retreat, we prepared in the morning with short sits and readings on meditation. Then, after lunch, we had two long sitting meditations with a walking meditation in between. During the first meditation, self-criticism began to arise in my mind, but after the walking meditation, it really went to town.
My thoughts began racing about my recent move and my upcoming week-long kayak trip. They went something like this: “You should have worked harder to complete the move. You’re not prepared for the kayak trip. The food isn’t even done! Why did you plan the kayak trip so close to the move? Look how much you still have to do with the move. You should have waited longer.” And on and on….
I caught myself after a little while, and pulled myself out of the little squirrel-like thoughts that were frantically gathering rotten nuts and throwing them at me.
After years of practice, I have found that self-compassion is the way through for most of us. Many of my mindfulness students have told me this as well. By treating ourselves with warmth, kindness and being non-judgmental, we can shift the squirrel mind back to present moment awareness.
It really includes leaning into the feelings and thoughts and allowing them, rather than fighting them.
This practice of enfolding self-critical thoughts and feelings with the warm blanket of self-compassion works over and over and allows us to return to present moment.
Jack Kornfield is one of my heroes of self-compassion: an amazing practitioner, author, mediator, founder of Insight Meditation, he trained as a monk in the 1970s and is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He says, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
Isn’t that lovely? To be soft and kind with myself first, then it emerges for others, too.
Join me this fall for at Janati Yoga School for an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program on Wednesday afternoons, starting October 17.
Or learn how to Tame the Self-Critic, Sat Oct 26 from 2-5 or Friday November 22, 6-9 pm.
Susan Young is a mindfulness facilitator and professional certified coach guiding people toward their purpose and goals with confidence….firstname.lastname@example.org