It was a good discussion group as usual. The first half was spent talking about Supporting Your Practice and how people responded to our offering this. In case you missed it, A. (my co-facilitator) and I would like to support any of you who want to practice self-compassion, self-acceptance and/or mindfulness on a regular basis. We want to offer you a space to talk about your efforts with it, your struggles and your successes. I WANT TO REPEAT that this is not a requirement of this group. It is perfectly alright to simply drop in and hear what we are talking about. This is meant for people who want to consciously and actively incorporate these ideas into their daily lives and get support doing so.
On putting this out there, a few people responded and in wonderful ways. We heard how much self-compassion has helped one member suffer less in her life. We also heard from 3 different people about how they have learned to accept themselves and be proud of who they are. It is so worthwhile to hear these stories and I hope that they can help those who don’t feel so strong in themselves … yet. Knowing this is possible can help.
We talked a bit about being judged by our family members and how devastating and hurtful this is. It is such a betrayal of our expectations, our utmost desire, as a human being, to be loved and cherished with unconditional positive regard (isn’t that a beautiful term?). I talked about being able to step back from those judgments and harsh words. If we can come to understand that these people are also wounded, and are attacking us in an effort to attack or deny their own pain. They want someone to blame for their own sense of shame but we don’t have to take their pain or their struggle on.
So we need to take space for ourselves, and hold strong in the thought that judging words from someone are not true words. They are not fact and they are not to be believed. (More later about this). We don’t have to believe what these people say. We don’t have to buy into their criticisms. It doesn’t mean we stop caring about these people, if we so desire (and some of us don’t. we have been hurt too much). We can still have room in our hearts for love for them and yet not buy into what they are saying.
Informal and formal meditation
After the break A. read a lot about mindful meditation both formal and informal. But first, subsequent to our earlier discussions, he read this …
“Any time a voice is talking to you that is not talking with love and compassion, DON’T BELIEVE IT! If the voice is not loving, don’t listen to it, don’t follow it, don’t believe it. NO EXCEPTIONS!” (Cheri Huber)
Then A. read about meditation from the book we are using as a basis for this group – the mindful path to self-compassion by Christopher Germer.
The path to happiness and well-being never ends. Just when we think we’ve arrived, a new challenge presents itself and we begin again. This book was written to help dissolve the illusion that we can better ourselves to the point where emotional pain is a thing of the past. A more fruitful path is to cultivate uncommon kindness – kindness toward ourselves – as long as we live and breathe. In the words of meditation teacher Pema Chödrön: “… we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is … not to try to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. (pps 243–244)
‘Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
Self-compassion practice is a special method for whittling away our stubborn tendencies to resist pain and grasp for pleasure. It’s mindfulness from the neck down, emphasizing qualities of heart – motivation and emotion – rather than awareness and wisdom. The common healing element in both mindfulness and self-compassion is a gradual shift toward friendship with emotional pain. Mindfulness says, “Feel the pain” and self-compassion says, “Cherish yourself in the midst of the pain”; two ways of embracing our lives more wholeheartedly. (pps 88-89)
‘Should I meditate?
There are two categories of mindfulness meditation: formal and informal. “Formal” mindfulness meditation is when we dedicate time – usually half an hour or longer – to being mindful of what we’re sensing, feeling, and thinking. “Informal” meditation is when we take a brief, mindful moment in the midst of our busy lives. Both approaches can be practiced while sitting down, standing, walking, eating – anywhere and any time. The difference between formal and informal meditation is mainly a matter of time and purpose.
‘Each person should decide for him- or herself whether it makes sense to establish a formal meditation practice. Formal practice is more intensive, which generally transforms the mind at a deeper level: it yields deeper insights into the nature of mind and our personal conditioning. If you wish to do formal meditation, it should be enjoyable and it should fit your temperament and lifestyle. Most people don’t want to squeeze yet another activity into their busy schedules. Nor should they. This book is not written for people who want to become meditators, although some readers might develop a taste for it. (pps 51-52)
‘Perhaps the most compelling explanation for why mindfulness works is that, over time, we acquire beneficial insights about life. We discover how everything changes, how we create our own suffering when we fight change, and how we unconsciously cobble together a sense of “self.” The latter insight is beneficial because most of our waking moments are spent vainly boosting or fearfully protecting our fragile egos from assault. … When these insights about life become deep and abiding, they help us receive success and failure with equanimity, tolerate emotional pain knowing “this too will pass,” and have the courage to seize each precious moment of our lives. In other words, intuitive insights derived from intensive meditation can help us establish a less defensive, more flexible, relationship to the world.
‘Informal practice means we choose to pay attention, on purpose, to what’s occurring in the present moment. Any moment-to-moment experience is a suitable object of mindfulness. That could mean listening to birds, tasting your food, feeling the earth beneath your feet as you walk, noticing the grip of your hands on the steering wheel, scanning your body for physical sensations, or noticing your breathing. It could be as simple as wiggling your toes. The present moment liberates us from our preoccupations, never judges us, and is endlessly entertaining.’ (pps 55-56)
Here is the link to Sounds True’s Self-Acceptance Summit beginning Monday September 11 through to Wednesday September 20. That’s ten days of videos. It’s free to register. You can either watch the recordings live or within 24 hours of the live broadcast. After that you will have to buy the upgrade ($200 USD). So if you enjoy watching and listening to people talk about the things we have been talking about here’s the link to register…
This is for The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion and has the online course run by Dr. Christopher Germer and Dr. Kristin Neff. It’s quite expensive but if you can afford it …