A few weeks ago I found myself in a “Facebook argument.” You know one of those instigating social media conversations that hook you? You may be wondering, she gets hooked? Yes, I get hooked. Thank goodness it is not often but when I do, I do. Rather than bore you with the details of the whole conversation I will just say that I was shocked by a post that was very judgmental, racist and critical toward others. I felt the need to comment first stir in my body and then in my mind. That led to a whole string of comments back, one by someone who does not know me but must have looked up what I do and stated, “Oh I see you teach compassion but you still stepped in the mud.” She said it as a criticism however, it was in that moment that I felt such a sense of relief in my body and mind as, little did she know, she gave me a compliment not a criticism! It was in that moment that I was reminded, once again, what the practice of compassion has done in my life.
The purpose of self-compassion practice is so you CAN engage in and sit in the mud when you need to! Self-compassion knows there is mud and that’s why we practice. Kristen Neff, co-founder of the MSC program states, “we practice self-compassion because we are suffering, not to get rid of suffering.” It is not about getting rid of the mud or avoiding it, nor is it about becoming soft and weak in any area of your life. Rather it is about getting stronger, facing what you need to when you need to, and easing the fear of doing that. It makes you have a louder yet more grounded voice and the ability to use it when you wish because it puts you in touch with your needs. Self-compassion practice allows you to find, have and express your needs and values and stick to them no matter what. Hence my willingness to engage in the mud. When I read something that struck me as inhumane and against my values I was able to express my voice in a grounded and compassionate way. The whole incident was another reminder to me of how much self-compassion helps us to stay true to what we need and believe in. That is the internal protection of self and the external protection of others. Self-compassion is fierce and over time it will lead you to become more self-protective and protective of others.
The following practice will help you to explore your relationship to your needs, voice, and your expression of what’s important to you.
1) Close your eyes and call to mind what is most important to you. Ask yourself: What is most important to me? See what comes into mind first. It is from this discovery that you can now ask the question:
What need arises from what is most important to me?
2) Take notice of what calling this need to mind feels like in your body. What sensations do you notice from just calling this need to mind?
3) Take a little movement into that area. Check back in to see what it feels like now.
4) What is it like for you to have this need now? Is it the same as when you first called it to mind? Different?
5) Start to imagine yourself expressing this need in some way. Imagine writing it out or saying it out loud. Check-in now to see what you notice in your body as you imagine expressing this. Where can you feel it the most? What are the sensations you notice now?
6) Take a little movement into that area now. Check back in to see what it feels like now.
7) Imagine what action expressing this need could lead to in your life?
8) Take a hand to your heart and a few release breaths (in through your nose, out through your mouth) and acknowledge your strength and power in both allowing and expressing a need. Acknowledge how challenging this can be but doing it despite.
Practice this anytime you feel you have something to say but are holding back and shutting down and away. Remembering that self-compassion allows you to openly express in a fierce but grounded way as well as builds up your internal strength to sit in the mud when you need to.