When the going gets tough…Take a Self-Compassion Break

When the going gets tough…Take a Self-Compassion Break

We all have moments where we feel we don’t measure up. A friend described a scenario to me that was so relatable. She was describing a low point in her life on a beautiful spring day as she was walking in Central Park. She was looking around and saw people pushing carriages, holding hands, playing Frisbee, and laughing. She groaned. She believed that these seemingly happy people must have received a manual that she somehow missed on how to be happy. She had a veil of darkness that prevented her from plugging into the Well-Being that is there for the taking, the Universal Flow of Life. This was one of her darkest moments but also one of her brightest moments, as it was the moment that she realized she needed help.

All of us have moments that are dark. AND we all need each other. It is in connection that the light can enter our darkness. Being connected to our own inner self is vital for our Well-Being. When I am struggling with any negative emotion, I connect to myself by taking a self-compassion break. I learned about self-compassion from Dr. Kristin Neff. To learn more about the research behind practicing self-compassion: http://self-compassion.org.

Practicing self-compassion is similar to treating yourself like you would your best friend. I use it in my parenting a lot. Parenting is not for wimps. It can be really tough especially when adolescence hits. When I am feeling frustrated, angry, disappointed, or any negative emotion, this is what taking a “Self-Compassion Break” looks like for me.

  • I take a deep breath.
  • I acknowledge that whatever it is I am going through is tough. I say to myself “This is difficult.” Once I acknowledge the difficulty and accept that what is happening in the moment is what it is, I tap into a immediate sense of relief. I can feel my shoulders drop. I relax a little.
  • I then say to myself,  “I am not alone. There are millions of other parents who go through these difficulties.” This is a real switch from former beliefs that other people have the answers and I am the only person in the dark. This forms CONNECTION. This lifts the veil of isolation.
  • I then place a hand on a part of my body in a gesture of love to myself. If no one is around I may place my hand over my heart. If I am doing this out in the open, I may place my hand on my arm and stroke my arm in a reassuring way. I am sending love and kindness to myself. I say “May I be kind to myself as I go through this difficulty. May I send myself love.” I tell myself that I am doing the best I can. Then, when I am able I say a couple of affirming statements, such as “I am brave. I am facing my challenges wholeheartedly.”
  • I usually end my self-compassion break with a mantra that I find helpful such as “This too shall pass.” “The Universe is always conspiring for my benefit.”

By the time, this process ends, often just a couple of minutes, I have shifted. The great news is that I can do it at any time and it helps me become connected even when I am alone. It is also a great process to model for your children. Children start to become critical of themselves in grade school. We tend to think it is motivational to be critical of ourselves, but research has shown this is not true. Self-criticism can induce anxiety and depression. Cultivating self-compassion is protective against anxiety and depression.

Spring is here! I wish you renewed hope, peace and joy. The next time your inner joy is muted by grief, anger, frustration or sadness, try a self-compassion break. Send me your comments about your experiences. Would love to hear from you!

To join the movement of Mindful and Compassionate Communities and to learn more about our programs, click on these links:

https://westchestercenterformindfulnessandwellbeing.com

https://www.facebook.com/mindfulcompassionatecommunities/

Conscious Creation

As a life coach, I start every session by asking my clients where they are emotionally on a scale from 0-10. I believe we are all meant to be Happy, Joyous and Free and my work is to help people live from that place as much as they can. But none of us can live there always. Before anyone gets the idea that people, like myself, who are on a journey to see the good in the world, who speak about what they are grateful for instead of what is irking them and post inspirational quotes every day on Facebook don’t have really sucky days, I want to share my story… of one day…today. The reason I have embraced meditation, prayer, gratitude journals, affirmations, exercise, and conscious creation is because without it, my life would be a nightmare. My natural tendency in life is to be Irritable, Judgmental and Discontent. When I hit the floor in the morning, I am not Miss Sunshine. If I don’t take some action to transform my natural tendencies like prayer, meditation, journaling, my morning goes like it did today: “Uggh! I have to get up. It’s 6:50.” “Damn, I overslept!” “OMG, we have no milk. OK, here is a granola bar for breakfast….it is NOT the end of the world! People are STARVING, for God’s sake. YOU have a granola bar!” When my daughter is having trouble finding her shoes, the next sentence that comes out “what do you mean you can’t find your shoes? If you put them where they belong, you would be able to find them!” Then my next thought is “Are these words coming out of my mouth or did my parents sneak in the house this morning to do some pinch-hitting parenting?”  Next, I interrupt my husband, who is seemingly unaware of all that needs to get done to successfully have our child out the door in the next 10 minutes, lowering my voice so that my daughter who is hunting for footwear cannot hear, “Honey, could you please pack a snack while I write a note to the teacher, fill out the permission slip for the class trip, write a check for the class dues, find an envelope for the class dues, and then slit my wrists!” My husband is happy to help out. Maybe he really doesn’t want me to slit my wrists! But while he starts the process of packing a snack, I do not miss a trick! (In case you didn’t know, my part-time job is “Family quality assurance director”, a nicer title than “control freak”.)  I informed him the snack was not healthy enough, he needed to get something else. He picked an apple and a pear and then proceeded to place them in a Ziploc bag which I did not see the necessity for since I have a reusable snack bag that will not wreak havoc with our environment. That was the last straw. The lines in the sand were drawn and a battle ensued about our differing views on packing snacks, health and the environment. In the midst of all this, my daughter could not wait to get to school, away from this madness. Boots on her feet, granola bar in hand, apple and pear packed in the Ziploc bag, permission slip signed, class dues in envelope, and off to school my wonderful and peaceful daughter went. I said my good-byes and watched as this precious child walked to the car with her father and immediately felt the pang of sorrow and regret of NOT being PEACE.

I took my dog to the car to set off on our morning hike. Her tail was wagging but mine was between my legs! Off I went to hike in the woods and do my walking meditation, concentrating on my breathing. Thoughts were swimming around, as they are always are, but I allowed them to float away, much like clouds in the sky. I was waiting for the sunshine, but the clouds kept coming. I was still not feeling as light as I usually do in the woods on a crisp September morning. I came home and spent some time journaling. When meditation does not relieve my angst, it is always time to take out the pen. There is something powerful about putting your thoughts on paper and getting them out of your head. Then I cried. I guess I was feeling sorry for myself. I just had surgery on Friday and although it was nothing major, 2 skin cancers were removed from my forehead, and I have been in pain. I have swelling around my eyes. My eyebrow looks disfigured. I have bandages across my forehead. I still have had deadlines to deal with; I have a daughter to care for and life goes on. I gave myself 5 minutes to cry. “I guess I have to accept my human-ness.” I wiped the tears and knew what I had to do next. Forgiveness was next on the agenda. I forgave myself for not having an award-winning parenting morning. Lastly, I asked the question, “How much should I battle to prevent one more Ziploc bag from entering a landfill?” I know that whenever I am disturbed, I only need to look inward for the source of the disturbance. It’s not really about the Ziploc bag. It is about my inner peace. It is about acceptance. It is about letting everyone else have their journey and not attempting to control them. I was able to reach a place of acceptance. I even managed to laugh at myself!  I said a prayer for peace, for inner peace. Then I took a hot shower, re-bandaged my forehead, put on make-up, styled my hair and started my day over.

It’s 10:30 a.m. I have a full day of work to do. I am starting anew. I pick up another journal, my gratitude journal. I write FIVE things that I am grateful for: hiking, meditation, my husband, my children, my dog. For the rest of the day, chances are the world is going to get a different person than the one that hit the floor at 6:50 a.m. I am a conscious creator. I decide to be HAPPY. I want to bring happiness to others. I decide to be LOVE. I want others to feel my love. I decide to be PEACE. I want to bring peace into others’ experiences.  Right this moment, I AM Happy, Love, and Peace. I don’t know how long it will last, but I have the tools to always return to this place, to return to who I truly AM.

Who do you want to BE today?

Powerful Intentions—Not Just for New Year’s Day!

There was a time in my life that I would make New Year’s Resolutions—I was going to lose 10 lbs, not drink excessively, stop smoking, save money… you get the drift. I don’t do that anymore at New Year’s and it is not because I don’t need to lose 10 lbs or that I wouldn’t benefit from better money management. It is simply because New Year’s Resolutions never worked for me. I may be good for a week after the New Year with my new resolve to do better but for some reason or another that resolve would disappear and I would be back to my old eating, drinking, spending, smoking habits!

Today, I live most days with keen awareness of my desires and begin the day with intentions while at the same time embracing where I am. There is power in intentions. Everything I desire is something that I think will make me feel better in the having of it. So my primary intention each day is to be happy. If I can pull that off, the THINGS I want will be allowed to flow into my experience. It is a short cut. Just be happy before the 10 lbs is released and before the $10,000 is in the bank. The emotion of feeling good is the best manifestation that can occur. So make feeling good your intention for the day. And then EXPECT it. Expectation is desire that you believe can happen. Of course, there is such a thing as negative expectation, something you do not desire that you believe will happen. I know people who walk around every day expecting the worse. That is not the expectation I am talking about. Expect a miracle! Expect your dreams to come true!

I am not always successful at this myself. At times, I am even shocked at how poorly I take my own advice. I tend to be overly sensitive to what others think about me. I say yes to others too often which means saying NO to myself which does not result in happiness. I have the “should” voice in my head speaking to me. It is not my own voice but it is a voice I have adopted and have allowed to speak to me for so long that I don’t even recognize that it is someone else’s voice. When I allow the “shoulds” to take over any part of my day, happiness is impossible. So, I am a work in progress on this New Year’s Eve. I embrace the fact that I will always be a work in progress.

2012 has been spoken about in anticipation by many people for years. Some say it is when the world will end, an ultimate example of negative expectation. However, there are others that believe that 2012 will be a time of great growth and evolution….positive expectation! I believe in the latter as I believe there has never been a time in history where people are as aware as now that they are conscious creators. It is an exciting time, this New Year’s Eve. I anticipate a personal expansion, a universal expansion and I am eager for what is ahead!

So, here on this New Year’s Eve I announce my top ten intentions for today: to love myself and others unconditionally, to not pinch myself off from my birthright which is to be happy, joyous and free, to not care so much what others think, to not listen to the “shoulds”, to listen carefully to my own inner guidance, to do more of what I want to do, to say “no” more often, to uplift others, to just BE and to “let it BE”.

Let It Be

Happy New Year to all!