Investigating with Kindness: Self-Compassion and Guided Meditation
This is Part Three of the four part RAIN series on Mindfulness and Self Compassion.
Investigating with Kindness
"People can love you from the very core of your soul to every particle of your external being, and that will never liberate you from the responsibility of loving yourself."
When people used to say "love yourself" I never got it. What does that even mean and how can we tangibly put that into practice? Do I give myself a hug? Buy myself something nice?
I'd gotten through university to running a business through hard work, commitment and pushing myself further (so I thought). In my mind I saw this as the key to getting what I wanted - I needed to keep doing more and working harder.
Underneath all of this striving and quest for achievement though, was a vulnerable part of me that felt like I wasn't good enough as I was. My actions of always doing more and trying to climb the ladder to perfection was an attempt to move away from thoughts and feelings of unworthiness that would frequently tell me I still had further to go before I was good enough. I would work harder so I didn't have to face the feeling that I was falling short with most things.
I'm unsure how many times per day I would act from that place that believed that I wasn't good enough now. It was exhausting. And far harder than touching into the vulnerability I was feeling. There were frequent areas where this pattern emerged: about my weight, my career, my ability to run a business and who I was as a person.
The turning point came from beginning the journey of Mindfulness and Meditation and learning to recognise and investigate with kindness that I was believing "I'm not good enough now therefore I need to do more". Perfectionism can still limit me from time to time but now I recognise the pattern sooner and have some tools to help myself.
Exploring Limiting Beliefs With Kindness
Part of waking up from the trance of unworthiness is investigating these thoughts and feelings with kindness. Thoughts can randomly pop into our head and we can't stop them - it's just chemistry.
It is important to recognise though that not all of our thoughts and beliefs are true. Here is a practice that greatly helps me when I get stuck in not feeling like I'm good enough adapted by the work of Byron Kate (more details below):
- Is it true? When I stopped and pondered this question when I felt unworthy, I couldn't know for sure if I wasn't good enough, but it sure felt real in my body.
- How is it affecting my life and how does it make me feel? Sadness, shame and fear were my usual feelings when I was believing I wasn't good enough. When I thought about how much believing that thought was holding me back from reaching my potential and living wholeheartedly I also felt a deep sadness. What was I missing out on by believing this about myself?
- How would I feel if I wasn't believing the thought I'm not good enough now? More relaxed, present and open-hearted. I could be more creative, spontaneous, tell people how I felt, take risks... Basically my thoughts were more expanded than contracted.
Self Compassion 101
Details and precision matter a lot to me as a Physiotherapist and a Pilates instructor. It's an important part of my work and is a core value that Cassie and I have built our retreats upon: we focus on the details to create a truly beautiful, relaxing experience for those who attend.
But when striving becomes obsessive and over analysis creates paralysis it's a problem. It can interfere with trying new things, going after opportunities and how much of ourselves we share in our relationships. "What if I fail?" or "What if I make a mistake?" or "What will people think of me if I tell them how I really feel?"
Beliefs about being unworthy are so common for everyone and I'm sure you can relate to what I mean... The hollow ache in the chest and belly when we feel like we're not measuring up.
If perfection is used in an attempt to escape the feeling of shame it can create stress and anxiety. We're always trying to better ourselves. Our life can revolve around getting somewhere so that we're one day good enough that we miss out on the the life that's right here.
Self compassion is the antidote to perfectionism. We learn to be with our own vulnerabilities and offer them care and understanding. Self compassion is about how we relate to our own suffering in difficult times... Do we push it away? Cover over it? Tell ourselves it's wrong to feel that way and to work harder? That we need to be a certain way before we can be loved and accepted?
Often we think if we aren't constantly criticising ourselves we are "letting ourselves off the hook". We might not lose the 10 kilograms we want to, advance our career or grow our business if we silence that voice that's always on our case... How many times do you tell yourself you need to be more organised? Or you shouldn't be so lazy? So messy? So loud? So emotional? So weak? We think that by keeping ourselves in-line with a critical internal dialogue we will create the changes we want in our life.
However, Dr Kristen Neff has researched self-compassion and her work suggests the exact opposite. Self-compassion actually helps to create long term transformation. Changes that you want to create because you care about yourself, not because you believe are worthless or unacceptable as you are, are more likely to last.
Weight loss is a classic example of this: most people set out to lose weight because they don't like themselves and embark on a self depriving diet that is not suststainable. But instead if we bring in practices of exercise and eating foods that make us feel good because we care about ourselves we're more likely to stick with and they become new ingrained habit. One we will stick with and one we won't.
Dr Neff describes in her research that self-compassion is about being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
Having compassion for yourself means that you recognise, honor and accept your humanness: your flaws, limitations, imperfections and mistakes. To me, this is what it means to give love to yourself.
The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life - Dr Kristen Neff
GUIDED SELF-COMPASSION MEDITATION
The accompanying meditation is just a taster of self-compassion. If you would like to know more we invite you to attend our Summer Day Retreat on February 26th (our first Summer Day Retreat is now sold out). You will learn from Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction expert Christine Hiltner. Enjoy a day of yoga, Pilates, meditation, relaxation, seasonal vegan lunch a refreshing tea blends whilst we explore mindfulness and self compassion.
You can investigate thoughts like these by using the work of Byron Katie. Her work revolves around investigating our limiting beliefs. You can begin to investigate with kindness by asking yourself:
- What am I believing about myself right now?
- Is it true? Can I know for sure that it's absolutely true?
- How do I feel when I believe this thought?
- How do I feel when I'm not believing this thought?
We hope you enjoy the meditation: