Self-compassion is not easy for me.
I’ve been focusing on the self-compassion break this week for my upcoming MBLC teacher training retreat and I tell you this has been a tough week. Whether or not that is due to my intention this week to focus on any difficulties encountered and to apply self-compassion break … the result is that this week, suddenly I am noticing quite how many times I am experiencing a hard time!!
In mindfulness when we start out noticing the thoughts in the mind we really begin to think we are terrible practitioners! My mind is worse than it was before!! We aren’t worse, in fact we are better – our mindfulness cultivating awareness of noticing what’s happening while it’s happening… we are becoming more perceptive to our mind habits.
And so, this week, focusing on the self-compassion break I made my intention to be on alert – looking for when I felt a ‘moment of difficulty’. Even writing it makes me feel sad about how many moments of difficulty I actually experienced- there I was quietly getting on with my life and my work, but trouble came a-knocking at my door in the form of the words of others. Even when trying to be helpful, things can go wrong it seems.
The words came to my ears and they were hurtful, and they kept on coming. Sometimes the words weren’t true, and so a feeling of hot indignation arose, sometimes they were annoying! Unjustified accusations “you’re so judgemental!” (can I even admit that one in this blog?! Haha!) Sometimes complicated and subtle underhand criticisms…triggering self-doubt and well, all kinds of things, despair, sadness, hopelessness. Phew, blimey, the universe is delivering me what I need right now to learn to practice in daily life!
Is this unusual to have so many in a week? I don’t normally notice so many moments of difficulty. This brings me to ask myself: When these daily difficulties normally occur do I just soldier through it with a gritted smile? Glide over it, do I normally just blame the other for being difficult? become resentful.. grumpy, defensive? Silent? or do I beat myself up and blame myself? Probably a mixture of all of these things. I notice too that when an emotional difficulty arises – the mind’s habit diverts it away with thinking or work, or wine, to avoid the pain. Anything but actually experience those difficult emotions.
Several incidents of really quite shocking (to me) accusations, misunderstandings, and pernicious wording all came at me from different angles. Had I not been equipped with my mindfulness toolkit this week, and the self-compassion break, I think I would have curled up into a little ball under the duvet and never come out again. I am amazed I am OK. Mindfulness works. I reflect that Mindfulness has brought me a real sense of steadfast relisience in the face of difficulty, and it fuels my motivation to practice. And a curiosity and courage to look at what is being levelled at me, actually too.
I am learning to be patient, curious, accepting and kind. Kind in a way like I am comforting a child. The accepting is difficult, and so is the being kind, but I am naturally curious about the mind. As soon as I notice a feeling of tension rising I’ve seen my habit is to feel attacked. A victim, misunderstood, upset, tight, cross, numb, blank, and I shut down and don’t want to speak. This habit is very strong and makes me want to run for the hills. Or dive under the duvet. Anything but face that difficult emotion. While I’m under the duvet I think quietly to myself that I must be an awful person.
Because the light of mindfulness is shining on all my faults, no dimmer switch here just headlight glare of my own shortcomings – the compassion practices are so welcome, so needed, so helpful – they have given me a soft-glow warm bulb to replace my hard glare halogen lamp. Let’s give ourselves a break and tread softly. This for me is impossibly difficult and so the 5 min practices feel good and the short, repeated practice alongside mindfulness practice is training me to intercept as soon as I pick up on the feeling of the difficulty arising.
In the Buddha’s teaching in the two arrows sutra, the pain (of harsh words directed at me for example) is the first arrow hitting home, the original pain. This first arrow gives me 10% of the pain. The other 90% is the resistance to that pain which comes in the form of diversion, defensiveness, compulsion, rumination – the reactive drop-down menu that is my automatic conditioned response. What I realised this week is this:
The Self-compassion break intercepts as soon as the first arrow hits home.
It allows me to accept this as a moment of difficulty – accept the feeling, offer myself some comfort – be with the moment of difficulty, staying right there in the midst of it. Stave off the second arrow.
I comfort myself like I would a distressed child. Perhaps this is comforting the little me inside. I offer a hand of comfort to myself.
Just before we learn the self-compassion break we learn the Rain Practice, a powerful practice, which helps us to disentangle ourselves from identifying with our thoughts, and emotions – thereby transforming our relationship to them and liberating us from their hold over us. But we don’t always have time to do RAIN in the middle of a difficult situation, but we can do a short self-compassion break, silently and without others knowing what we are doing. With a gentle voice tone to ourselves and a subtle warm touch of our own hand as if we were comforting am upset child or a dear friend – we find that we do have what we need to connect with our boundless inner compassion, bathe in it, and respond to the situation from THAT PLACE. This short powerful practice has powered me through this week – has been like a comforting hot-water bottle soothing my pain, and the feeling a warmth extending towards everyone else who is suffering from being on the end of other people’s difficult words this week. May we all respond with compassion.
Beginning here by imagining someone saying difficult words to you. Or bringing to mind a time when this did happen recently. As a way of practicing, begin by offering yourself a moment to pause, breathe, find a gesture of self-soothing that doesn’t make you feel self-conscious – hand on heart, one hand in another, holding yourself, whatever feels comfortable for you.
With soft voice tone inwardly and silently saying to yourself,
“This is a moment of difficulty”
“Suffering is part of everyone’s life”
“May I be kind to myself in this moment”
We can offer this wish to the other in this situation too.
I hope you don’t encounter too many difficult words or situations this week, but if you do, try the self-compassion break. You can find it on our MBLC APP.
Warmest and kindest wishes,