Practicing mindfulness is becoming aware in the present moment WITH COMPASSION. Sometimes when we cultivate this awareness and are able to be truly present, we don’t like what we find. When this happens, it is important to remember that mindfulness allows us to become increasingly comfortable with discomfort. We can practice awareness, becoming awake to what is happening right now and accepting WHATEVER it is that we find, with kindness and without judgment. In this acceptance of what we find — worry, anxiety, anger, impatience, and/or mental chaos — we can simply notice with objectivity, not assigning value to what we find. This is practicing self-compassion. We remember that we are not our thoughts, our feelings, or our physical sensations; we are the spaciousness behind all of that.
The Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron describes this remembering as compassionate abiding. She states: The peace that we are looking for is not peace that crumbles as soon as there is difficulty or chaos. Whether we’re seeking inner peace or global peace or a combination of the two, the way to experience it is to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises. Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth — it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened.
A question that has intrigued me for years is this: How can we start exactly where we are, with all our entanglements, and still develop unconditional acceptance of ourselves instead of guilt and depression? One of the most helpful methods I’ve found is the practice of compassionate abiding. This is a way of bringing warmth to unwanted feelings. It is a direct method for embracing our experience rather than rejecting it. So the next time you realize that you’re hooked — that you’re stuck, finding yourself tightening, spiraling into blaming, acting out, obsessing — you could experiment with this approach.
Practicing “compassionate abiding” or self-compassion allows us to start where we are right here and right now. And we can do this over and over again. This is such a gift to those of us who tend to get discouraged by not sticking to our routine of meditation, blowing our promise to be a kinder, gentler person when dealing with ourselves and others, sweating the small stuff and making mountains out of molehills.
We can cultivate this practice throughout our days by using mindful breathing. Simply pause, take a deep breath in and a long exhale out. Notice what is there — which physical sensations and emotions. Release any thoughts about what you observe and kindly return to the anchor of your breath. It is kind of like training a puppy: we tell the puppy to sit, it wanders away and we gently bring it back to sit, over and over and over again. Just as we are gentle with the puppy, we can be gentle with ourselves when we get caught up in a whirlwind of distraction or negative energy and/or thoughts.
Try this heart meditation for compassion:
Find a place to sit quietly. Put everything aside. Perhaps light a candle or wrap yourself in a yummy shawl.
Begin by taking a few deep breaths and releasing on the exhale. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth — RELEASING — for at least three breaths.
The first step is offering. OFFER whatever it is you find in your heart: business, worry, desires, judgment, likes and dislikes. OFFERING outward begins to open your heart.
The second step is receiving. Allow yourself to RECEIVE compassion, love, joy, kindness, silence, space.
Focus your breath in and around your heart space. Offer with the exhale and receive with the inhale.
End with a gesture to connect to your heart; hold your hands together in namaste/prayer pose in front of your heart or with your palms, one over the other, on top of your heart, and receive one thought of love about yourself.
This practice can also be extended to others.
Another practice is a loving-kindness meditation. There are many versions of this but a very simple one you can do anywhere and anytime you need some KINDNESS goes like this….
Place the palm of your hand over your heart.
Take several deep breaths visualizing the breath entering IN and exiting OUT through the space in and around your heart.
To deepen your practice, try one of the following meditations:
Mantras for difficult days leftbrainbuddha.com/mindful-mantras-difficult-days/
A refresher for some helpful additional resources...
Insight Timer app: insighttimer.com/
Three-minute body scan meditation: www.mindful.org/7-qualities-mindfulness-trained-body-scan/
Five-minute breathing meditation: www.mindful.org/a-five-minute-breathing-meditation/
Clia Tierney, MA
The owner of Asante Wellness Coaching, Clia Tierney helps women move past "stuck" into possibility. She coaches people to overcome obstacles and obtain clarity about their goals. Through the process, personal transformation takes place, resulting in greater well-being, life balance and fulfillment.
Clia's professional background and life experiences as a teacher, educational therapist, yogi, wife, mother of teenagers, daughter and sister have fueled her passion for helping women of all ages identify and reduce their stress and struggle so that they can discover their purpose and confidently move forward.
To subscribe to the SOULFUL Insights health and wellness newsletter click here.