“A human being is a part of the whole called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us…Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion…” ~Albert Einstein~
We all experience times when life is challenging us in some unexpected fashion. Life is not always what we want it to be. It can take us to the top of the mountain just to drop us down the next day with no cushion to fall on.
How do you respond to yourself when things go wrong? Do you soothe and nurture yourself in a compassionate way when you feel sadness, grief, pain, frustration, anger and rage? How do you treat yourself when you fail to deliver what you planned? Are you sympathetic to yourself when you disappoint those that look up to you?
In the next couple of days, the year 2011 is over. How do you feel about yourself as we step into the New Year? Do you feel you have accomplished all that you set out to do twelve months ago? Do you judge yourself for still carrying on that weight, not having a job, not finishing school, not having a relationship?
As I am writing these words, I am doing my own inner re-evaluation of where I was a year ago and where I am now. I can say to myself that I have failed in a number of ways and in the same time applaud myself for the things I have accomplished. My critical voice wants to emphasize the things that are left undone, yet the nurturing voice reassures me that I’ve done the best I could. Which voice does it win? The one I feed the most.
Self-compassion is a choice. With intention, we can choose to feed the nurturing and caring voice. I am choosing to believe that at all times I have been exactly where I’m supposed to be. The desire to change “what is” can become the source of my suffering. Loving what is at all times is a true sign of self-compassion. Not accepting reality as is will create a vicious cycle that will become difficult to overcome. In the end, we would have to fight not only the reality of the unfolding events, but the thoughts, feelings and emotions associated with that situation. Self-compassion requires us to learn how to be with what is in a way that we allow life to take its course and not go against the grain.
Learning to become compassionate is a process. Unless we have been taught early on how to accept our feelings and emotions, we are growing up being unkind to ourselves for the way we think, feel and behave. However, as we learn to practice self-compassion, we will have to travel the path gradually.
Here are the stages most of us experience as we learn to become more self-compassionate as explained by Christopher K. Germer, Ph.D, in his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion-Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions.
Infatuation- Most of us have been so used to being unkind and demeaning to ourselves that we don’t even know what it means to feel good. The fact that we allow ourselves to have positive feelings and emotions resembles the infatuation stage of a new relationship. This phase eventually has to end, however it planted the seed of self-compassion. Now we know how it feels to feel good and experience love. At this primal stage, our critical voice could try to tell us that we are selfish or that we don’t deserve to feel good or be happy. Please don’t feed the wolf that speaks doubt! Believe that you deserve to feel good in your own body and in your own presence.
Disillusionment- Just as we believe that the old way of processing feelings is forever gone, here we are again experiencing our old self that feeds the unkind voice within. Disillusionment appears because we try too hard to change our old ways. We have not learned yet to allow the natural process of transformation to take root in us. We want to do it all at once and be a self-compassionate being. Wanting to feel good at all times will create much disenchantment with reality. We will continue to feel disappointed if the practice of self-compassion is not allowed to carve its own way to the depth of our soul. It cannot be rushed!
Acceptance- To arrive at acceptance takes a while. Acceptance is a noble place within. It is the inner state that allows us to be at peace, to feel free, to forgive, to love, to be! It is the ultimate state that wise souls aspire for. It is the let go stage, the surrendering of the egoic mind to the reality of life as it unfolds before our eyes just as it should. At this sublime stage we experience the dichotomy of humanity as the only way to arrive at the Innate Intelligence that engulfs us all in its beauty. When we learn to accept life as is, all useless fighting will leave us. The desire to avoid discomfort might still have power over us, but now we have seen through it. Now, we are self-compassionate to ourselves as the only way to be. Accepting reality is the true acceptance and the main path to self-compassion.
It takes time to embrace true acceptance. It takes many moments of infatuation, disillusionment, and even unbelievable exaltation, just to realize next day that you are back to disappointment and perhaps infatuation again.
But make no mistake. If you keep at it, one day you will wake up and say: “I am free. I matter so much that I choose to be self-accepting and self-compassionate. I am worth all the love I can give myself.”
So, nurture yourself with the best loving-kindness you are capable of. When you allow healing to take place in your own heart, in fact you heal the whole world. As you are more compassionate with yourself, the feelings you experience engage the energy field that binds us all together. Remember that we are always creating our reality. How much better creators we can be creating from a place of self-acceptance and self-compassion…
“You hold the creative power of the universe within you. The path you are on now is one where you are learning that you are far more than who you might have imagined yourself to be up until this point. You are body, mind, and spirit. You are matter, maker of matter, and experiencer of matter. You are the vehicle, the driver, and the one who determines the quality of the ride.”
Make the choice NOW to practice self-acceptance and self-compassion! It is not in vain!