I am having a fruitful week facilitating the Compassion Based Living Course (CBLC) teacher training retreat with my wonderful colleague Jan Mayor.
It is always an intensive process as we take ourselves through the eight weeks of the CBLC in four days. So lots of compassion practices and each participant teaching a session and receiving feedback. The group is one of mature and committed practitioners with a deep wish to share compassion with their communities. This is so needed in our society just now.
A few insights have struck me this week. The first is a mental image of my inner self critic, clinging on to my neck, almost throttling me. When I ask it what it is afraid of, it is afraid of my power. My power looks like a dazzling sun shining in my heart. When I practiced befriending my self critic my visualisation got very windy and threatened to blow the critic away.
When I did the compassionate image practice, my visualised compassionate beings unhooked the self critic from around my neck like unbuttoning a cape and threw it away.
I was a bit alarmed at this as our approach is to befriend the critic. I have done a lot of befriending of this particular self-critic. The message I got today was to let it go.
This version of my self-critic is linked with a desire to be approved by others. All others, but some others in particular. It is also linked to a fear of exposing myself, of stepping in to my own power, in case I am rejected.
In my practice today, a strong message emerged. There is only one person’s approval I need and that is my own. Then I can step into my own power and flourish. No longer throttled by the fear of my self-critic. I am interested to see where this journey takes me.
In the compassion training we use a metaphor of the lotus and the mud. The lotus flower needs the mud as fertiliser to grow. Similarly, our capacity for compassion requires us to turn towards difficulty in order to grow.
This version of my inner critic is mud that no longer fertilises. All the learning and growth has been squeezed from this particular clump of mud. Now it needs to dry, turn to dust and blow away in the breeze.
I feel unburdened and joyful.
The transformative power of the compassion training never ceases to amaze me – in my own life and in the lives of those I teach. The fruition is not just warmth and kindness (to self and other). It is also a clear seeing and the strength to throw off the shackles of convention and habit and find a new way with more freedom. And of course there is the side effect of joy, which inevitably emerges.
My invitation to you this week is to notice whenever you are being self-critical. They try a short self-compassion break practice. The self-compassion break is also available on our Mindfulness Based Living app (link) available for free on the Apple and Google Play stores.
Our Level 2: Responding with Compassion course is now open to all those who have done an eight week course in Mindfulness of whatever flavour (including MBSR and MBCT), via a short online ‘Access to Compassion’ course.
Let’s be curious and see what can be learned from befriending our self-critic. May your lotus flower bloom!