Mindful Self-Compassion: Trading Criticism for Compassion & Up-Coming Classes in Salt Lake City!
Last year I attended a Mindful Self-Compassion Retreat just like the one mentioned in the article below. IT WAS LIFE CHANGING. You may have noticed, as have I, that many teachings around mindfulness often suggest ways for us to be better "doers"...parents, workers, lovers, partners, surfers, etc. I am left wondering, "Why not teach ways for folks to tend to themselves as human beings, just as they are, not needing to be a better version of who they are?" Mindful Self-Compassion offers an approach to living that invites us to include ourselves in the circle of compassion. This reflective process looks & feels differently for each of us depending on our unique life experiences. Despite our differences an indisputable commonality is the sense of shared humanity, that "just like me" she/he also knows what it is like to suffer and wishes to feel understood, cared for, included, and at ease. When we learn to treat ourselves with compassion we begin to observe with curiousity our habits of thought, behavior, and attitude. We practice being present to the edges of the heart with a soft gaze inward and asking "What does the part of me who is suffering need to hear right now?" We learn to soothe and comfort ourselves and to let go of striving to be a better version of who we truly are. This reflective process becomes a launching pad for making awakened decisions in life that align with our core and universal needs. We naturally feel more connected to the world and, therefore, wish to live in such a way where we treat ourselves and others with compassion.
For those of you who have entrusted your heart in personal therapy with me or have courageously participated in a group class, you know that I truly believe in the process of self-inquiry met with self-compassion. In real life this translates into "being with" what we are truly aware of rather than focusing on changing or getting rid of our authentic experience. This approach makes room for joy and wonder.
If you'd like to be a part of an upcoming Compassion or Mindfulness Class, or would like to arrange a private group class please visit:
The One Vital Skill They Don't Teach You In Business School
Getting into a top business school requires demonstrating a certain level of success. Many people believe we need to push ourselves hard in order to succeed in business and in life. I used to believe this too. I went to an Ivy League school, got my MBA from Stanford and worked in finance for almost ten years, where I would work hundred plus hour weeks and push myself to the brink of exhaustion.
I got burned out and quit my job. I still wanted to have an impact with my career, but I wanted to do it in a more enjoyable and sustainable way, without sacrificing my values. Since then, I’ve learned one vital life skill that I wish I had known thirty years ago that has helped me tremendously on this path.
This one skill allows you to be successful (and redefine what “success” means to you) without all the self-criticism and suffering. This vital tool is self-compassion.
Recent research suggests that treating oneself kindly, rather than criticizing oneself, actually leads to greater willpower and better results. This is a radical concept for anyone used to pushing themselves hard to get things done. Luckily, it’s a skill that can be taught and cultivated over time.
If you want to start cultivating the skill of self-compassion, here is a simple and practical exercise: write yourself a self-compassionate letter.
A 2010 study showed that people who wrote a self-compassionate letter to themselves once a day for seven days were less depressed, less anxious, and experienced greater happiness up to six months later! Click here for instructions on how to write a self-compassionate letter.
Think of a friend of yours who had some sort of misfortune or was feeling inadequate. How would you respond to this friend? In particular, what tone of voice would you speak in, and what might you say? Take a moment now to think of a friend and imagine what you would say.
Now think of a time when you’ve been suffering. You’ve failed, had some misfortune, you were feeling inadequate in some way. What conversation went on in your mind? What was the tone of your voice? What was the content?
I recently spent a week at a self-compassion retreat with leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, PhD, and her colleague Christopher Germer, PhD, a clinical psychologist specializing in mindfulness and compassion-based psychotherapy. At this workshop, they demonstrated that even though many of us may not think we know how to be self-compassionate, we really do because we’ve been doing it with other people our whole lives.
According to Kristin Neff’s definition, self-compassion involves three main steps;
Mindfulness “Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions, so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated,” Neff says. In order to practice self-compassion, you first have to recognize that you’re having a hard time. We can’t change our suffering if we do not first acknowledge that we are indeed suffering. Even if it may seem like something insignificant, if you feel upset, even a little bit, then you are suffering.
Mindfulness, as defined by Neff, is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. If you’ve never meditated and are curious to learn more about mindfulness, here is a free 30 day meditation challenge that’s just five minutes a day.
When we suffer, we often assume we are alone in our suffering and this creates a sense of isolation that compounds the problem. If, instead, you were to say to yourself; “other people have had this problem too, it’s part of being human,” you will begin to identify with our common humanity and start to recognize that we all suffer in one way or another. As you connect with this common humanity, you may notice a softening of your heart and a sense of our interconnection.
Self-Kindness The third component of self-compassion involves treating ourselves with kindness and gentleness. As Neff says; “Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.” For many of us, this feels very foreign at first as we’re used to speaking to ourselves in a harsh and critical manner.
The next time you’re struggling with something, think of how you would speak to a friend in the same situation and then say those words to yourself. Another great tool is to ask yourself in any given moment; “What do I need right now?” Or, you can try a loving kindness or self-compassion meditation.
Underneath it all, self-compassion is really about embracing our imperfections, which, ironically, allows us to feel better.
To learn more about Dr. Neff and Dr. Gerner's work please visit: www.mindfulselfcompassion.org