This week was all about you – for our purposes, anyway. We talked about self-compassion, and managing the internal monologue that can disrupt our mindfulness efforts with criticism, doubt and discouragement without falling into the trap of further judging ourselves for it. It’s no easy task, but fortunately, there are options to help us with it for this weekend’s mindfulness challenge.
Part of mindfulness is noticing the critic, rather than simply dismissing it out of hand or struggling to push it away. Believe it or not, that only encourages it to come back with more enthusiasm. You end up in an internal cycle of criticism and judgment. One technique that can assist in not necessarily displacing the critic, but introducing a counterpoint to the noise, is called a “metta” or “loving-kindness” meditation.
The idea with a loving-kindness meditation is that you are directing well wishes towards yourself – for example, happiness, peace, safety, and so on. Depending on the day, your intention, or just how things go during the meditation, it can then expand further by offering well wishes (internally) to someone else, which can be easy or hard depending on the person. You can then really go big and offer good stuff to all people, which again, may or may not work for you on any given day. So, we start where we are, which is always with ourselves.
There are nice examples of “metta” or “loving-kindness” meditations here and here, and lots of other places online. One easy way to start is just by finding your breath, and with each inhale thinking to yourself: “May I be happy (exhale), May I be peaceful (exhale), May I be safe (exhale),” and then repeat. If you want to take it to the varsity level, picture someone else who could use your well wishes, and think internally “May you be happy…” etc. In case you’re wondering, the Olympic level isn’t necessarily wishing well for the whole world or a larger group, it’s offering these good things for someone who causes you difficulty. I know – that’s why it’s Olympic! One step at a time. For now, start with you.
Listen, if you haven’t done this before, I know it seems super awkward. I get it. Part of the reason for that, though, is that we aren’t often very nice to ourselves in moments of weakness and vulnerability. We’re used to pushing ourselves to “get over it.” Self-compassion isn’t wallowing, though, it’s just a way of taking care of yourself and acknowledging that confronting the tough stuff takes major courage. You have to move gently, if you can. Simply taking a few moments to wish yourself well can be incredibly powerful, and empowering.
Take a few minutes this weekend to check it out, and see what you think. It might not be something you incorporate into a regular mindfulness practice, but it’s a nice trick to have up your sleeve when you need it. We spend a lot of time giving other people the space they need to work through their “stuff.” We are, at the very least, worthy of that same level of compassion for ourselves.
Photo credit: Ales Krivec