Last night, we had Prof. Paul Gilbert join our Membership’s Live Online Teachings as part of our Pre-Conference Teaching Series. He gave a wonderful talk on the importance and relevance of Mindfulness, Intentionality and the Motivation needed in Cultivating compassion and developing the compassionate self.
Paul’s teachings were clear, funny and 100% relatable. For instance, he used the example of weight gain to demonstrate his teachings:
Mindfulness: Knowing that I am a bit sluggish because I am carrying a bit too much weight.
Intention: What do I want to do? I want to lose weight
Motivation: Why? Well, because I have high blood pressure, I want to be happy and healthy & the best that I can be for myself and others.
Cultivation: What are you going to do about it? How would your compassionate self view the situation?
Through this example, we can see how we might move from a difficulty to a solution that holds compassionate motivation and a compassionate response. He referred to this as a Compassionate Motivational System.
So this got me thinking- how might this formula help me, Jane, cultivate and develop MY compassionate self through engaging my Compassionate Motivational System?
Well this morning, I woke up feeling a bit grumpy and overwhelmed with the prospect of spending the weekend playing catch up on all of the housework that has been building throughout the week. Plus, my fridge is looking a bit bare- most tellingly, the kids are starting to complain.
My immediate thoughts were framed around the story that I am not paying enough attention to my domestics. Clearly, I am not going to get Mother of The Year award and that peanut butter and jam sandwich that my youngest is bringing to school for the 5th day in a row is going to rot his teeth and diminish his palate. All I could see was the many ways in which I was not measuring up to my mother’s standards. My God, when I grew up there would be thermoses of hot lunches lovingly prepared and satisfyingly consumed! I was failing.
So how can I reframe this experience? This chaos in my mind? How can I tap into my compassionate self?
Well according to Paul’s words of wisdom:
Mindfulness: Knowing that I am feeling overwhelmed with thoughts of ‘not good enough’ and a need to be better.
Intention: To be more kind to myself/to be more compassionate. To care for my family.
Motivation: Why? Well, so I do not give up. So, I do not feel so overwhelmed and bring any more suffering on to myself. So that I actually clean my house, get the groceries bought, rather than grab the kids and head out for the weekend, avoiding and putting off the chores for even longer.
Cultivation: How would my compassionate self view this situation? & What am I going to do about it? How would I most ideally like to see this difficulty and deal with it?
My compassionate self might see that in all actuality, the kids have had home cooked meals all week, and my youngest’s peanut butter and jam sandwich shows that he knows how to make a sandwich, something that I wasn’t doing until I left my mother’s home. I am teaching him independence and self-reliance.
The ashes around my woodstove is evidence of evenings of togetherness, doing homework, chatting and watching Netflix together. So rather than obsessively cleaning, I was sitting down with them, engaging with them.
And the fact that I did not have time to clean during the days is because I have a job that I love that contributes to my well-being and in turn theirs’.
In short, we all do things differently, but we all do the best we can. I am doing the best I can.
So, what am I going to do about my overwhelm? I am going to be kind to myself. I am going to walk to my favourite bluebell forest after work, sit quietly, mentally make a plan for Saturday (one that includes slowly, one job at a time, getting through the house), and I am going to order my groceries online. Done and dusted!
“Jobs a good un’”, as my friend and colleague Helen likes to say.
According to Paul, when you introduce a Compassionate Motivational System, you reduce the amount of damage you do to yourself and others & it brings harmony to the chaos of the mind. And after doing this little exercise for myself, the chaos in my mind has become clear. I feel focused and most importantly, that self critic has moved on with limited damage.
So, my question for you is to ask yourself- Can you apply this formula to your own chaotic mind states? Can you move towards developing your compassionate self, and in turn, not only reduce your own suffering, but that of others?
This week’s challenge is to sit down, settle the mind and body through some mindful breathing and apply the formula of Mindfulness, Intention, Motivation and Cultivation to a small problem, or difficulty that has been plaguing the mind.
What does your compassionate self have to say about it?
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