How I learned self compassion through mindfulness and meditation
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Before I started practising mindfulness, I loved to give myself a hard time. In fact, if I had people in my life who spoke to me the way that I spoke to me, I suspect we wouldn’t have been friends for very long. My thoughts were filled with self-criticism and negative self-talk.
Through meditation, I learned to be kinder to myself by observing these thoughts as thoughts alone. We could all do with a bit more self- love in our lives, which is why I begin here with my students.
The first step to self-kindness through mindfulness is becoming aware of thoughts and feelings.
Did you know we have around 70,000 thoughts on average each day (!!), the majority of which we are not even aware of. We become engrossed in these thoughts, and even though we’re not even sure where some of them come from, we can still feel the corresponding emotions such as stress, tension, dis-ease or anxiety.
Any form of meditation, especially mindfulness, helps us to understand our relationship to these thoughts and emotions. We realise that they are transient and so we do not need to become engrossed in them. The awareness that we can watch our thoughts separates us from the thoughts themselves, giving us the power to choose whether or not to listen to them.
The second step is acceptance of these thoughts and feelings.
For me, this is the most important lesson in kindness learned through this practice. Our inherent reaction when we have negative self-talk or emotions is usually to become engrossed (causing them to spiral onto more and more of the same), try to push them away (causing them to bubble away under the surface), or beat ourselves up for being negative in the first place.
Acceptance is simpler than we think. Rather than judge ourselves for having thoughts that do not serve us, we accept they are there and try not to get involved with them. Through practice (this takes time - be patient!) the acceptance of those thoughts and emotions will allow them to gradually reduce, as you no longer give them the attention they crave; reducing the self-criticism and increasing the kindness.
We can also practice being kind to ourselves each time we sit, by congratulating ourselves when we notice the thoughts and emotions and are able to accept and let them go.
The final step is bringing this kindness into our everyday lives. For me, the hardest part of starting meditation was learning to sit with awareness and acceptance of what arose, with no expectations.
This became my greatest breakthrough and most rewarding lesson. I learned to just be, to surrender to what is, without imposing unrealistic expectations in my life, or trying to guess what is about to come next!
This was, and is, the most important act of self-kindness, a huge factor in reducing self-criticism, and ultimately led to the understanding that where we are in this moment is exactly where we need to be.