This is the week two of Niki Meadow’s, of The Richness of a Simple Life, Kindness Challenge. She’s invited people to focus on kindness for seven week; offering a prompt each week and inviting us to work with that focus and then post about it at the end of the week. Do consider joining us – now is always the right time for adding more kindness to the world.
This week’s focus was: Self-Compassion. The invitation was to pay attention to the way you treat yourself and the things you say to yourself both spoken and unspoken.
The first few weeks of this journey we’re focusing on ourselves, and not without good reason I think. So many folks struggle with giving themselves what they offer willing to others. But truly it must be a balance – we must be equally in service to ourselves to be of service to others. Otherwise flow cannot continue. We all understand this at one level – the empty cup cannot continue to pour out to another, and the cup cannot be refilled if it blocks itself off from receiving what nourishes and sustains it. But the more nuanced understanding is that we must be willing to give to ourselves what is needed. We must practice self-compassion.
It’s easy to assume we know what compassion is, and yet I think it serves us to pay attention to our thinking and our language around it. Often the way I see compassion used and spoken about contains a hint of pity and judgment and perhaps even fear. I don’t believe that’s what compassion is truly about. I think compassion is being affected by the suffering of others and moving on their behalf, because we recognize the unity of our us-ness, our all-ness.
What is compassion? It is understanding that the challenges we face are enormous; that this life journey of ours can be filled with disappointment and loss, hardship, failure and suffering and yet we’re all doing the best we can. We know these experiences ourselves, which is why we can understand them and see when others are suffering and extend compassion to them.
Compassion isn’t simply feeling sadness or grief for your own suffering or for others. It’s about finding strength in that sorrow. It’s about finding the will to continue, and it’s about allowing everything just to be as it is.
With self-compassion you offer yourself freedom from judgement; you offer yourself a break; you release the need to be anything other than exactly who and what you are in the moment. And with that comes freedom. Time to breathe. Time to invoke self-kindness; time to realize our own humanity and connection to all others; time to practice mindfulness. It allows space to understand that you have the ability to create something else, something new, something that will feel better.
The School of Life has created a wonderful little video on self-compassion. I encourage you to take four minutes and watch it.
I’m always been drawn to this understanding by Karen Armstrong:
“Compassion asks us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else.”
Take it a step further and don’t inflict double damage on yourself by being anything less than compassionate when you come up against your own harsh voices and stumbling blocks.
For me this week has been a struggle with not getting nearly as much done as I’d intended. Dialing into compassion allows me to recognize that I really need to honor my unique creative pattern – I have a very organic flow of energy that follows rhythms that are not connected to the number of things on my to-do list. And I recognize that I will always, always, always have a billion more ideas of things that excite me, pique my curiosity and engender delight than I can possibly get to in the course of a week. Or a year. Or a lifetime. I have to face the fact that I’ll have to carry some of that list of explorations into my next incarnation.
What about you? Do you understand the importance of self-compassion? Do you practice it with a level of mastery? What is the most compassionate thing you can say to yourself in this moment? Do tell – you know I love to hear.