Mindfulness teaches us to keep our focus on the present moment. Why this moment? This present moment is where you live and the only place where you can be effective. Our brains wander about half of the time, based on research. Often the brain is wandering into the past to replay some unsettling event or the brain is worrying about something in your future. In the past and future, we cannot take any action but the negative thoughts have a stressful effect on your body, mind, and spirit. Mindfulness calls us into the now, so we can engage with and appreciate what is really going on around us.
However, for many, learning mindfulness can feel challenging. Your busy mind is used to running the show in your head. When you begin to practice mindfulness, you are reining that busy-mind in and it rebels a bit. This is perfectly normal and part of the mindfulness learning curve. Mindfulness is a practice. You’re helping your brain to learn to operate in a new way. Breaking old habits takes a bit of work and can feel challenging. Instead of frustration, this is your call for self-compassion.
How to connect with our compassion for ourselves might be most easily seen by how we express compassion for another. Imagine a dear friend who comes to you to tell you about a challenge in life with calming practices or with focus. What would you tell them? Listen to yourself, then use those same statements to support yourself through your mindfulness practice.
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There are two great times to practice your self-compassion. One, you notice yourself voicing criticism or frustration with yourself anytime. When you hear that negative voice, stop yourself and remember how you might respond to a dear friend. Change your tone and offer yourself encouragement. When frustration arises in mindfulness practice, you face the challenge that the mind wanders. Rather than frustration, call your mind back to the moment, to the breath or to your mantra with kindness, like you might call a small child back to the task at hand.
The other time where we often could use self-compassion is during a mindfulness check-in. A check-in is a short pause to take a deep breath and assess how you are feeling at this moment. You don’t have to be sitting still. You might be walking between classes or between offices at work. Take in a deep breath and turn your focus on you and how you are feeling in the present moment.
When doing a check-in, you take the role of observer or reporter. You are assessing what’s going on right now for you. You might notice that you’re feeling tired. You can decide to do some deep breathing to build your energy or take a walk at lunchtime. You do not choose to beat yourself up for staying up too late.
Our normal response to noticing that we are tired might be telling ourselves to “tough it out”, “be strong”, “don’t fail” while continuing the same old behaviors Mindful kindness calls us to learn to connect with ourselves in a compassionate way in these moments. Mindfulness with kindness calls us to look at more compassionate responses to our own needs and consider helpful solutions.
So, taking the time to calm yourself is an important practice. As you work through the learning curve, and even when you’re not practicing, be kind to yourself. Take regular moments to check in with yourself. If you’re struggling, give yourself a bit of kindness and comfort. Remind yourself that sometimes life is a challenge and your pain is not a punishment. Then make a plan to relieve the discomfort if you can… through good self-care and self-compassion.
Mindful kindness doesn’t remove a problem but it acknowledges your personal suffering and considers solutions. It replaces self-judgment with self-compassion and gives you an awareness of ways you might help yourself. Blocking out challenging feelings builds more stress responses in the body. Be there for yourself, learn to be aware, compassionate and find creating solutions. All this can happen in just a kind, mindful moment.
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