When a recent winter storm blew through the Bay Area, a transformer on my block blew: no electricity, no lights, no heat, no refrigerator, no stove, no phone, no internet for 36 hours. Many of you have experienced similar power outages and loss of resources in this stormy winter weather.
Even though I could cope fairly resiliently with no lights, no heat, no cooking, I began to have a meltdown over no internet; so many projects to create, send, track. I could feel the contraction into worry, the narrowing of vision, the pacing, the close to hair pulling and nail biting.
I walked through my kitchen and my eye caught a magnet on my refrigerator, given to me by someone in my Mindful Self-Compassion class, a beautiful photo of a lotus blossom with the words, “May I give myself the compassion I need.”
Whoa. I paused, came into the practice of noticing the miserable state of mind I was in, remembered that if I could be kind to myself in this moment, I might be able to shift out of the contraction and worry into a state of mind that would allow me to resolve the dilemma of no internet. Breathing slowly and deeply, hand on my heart, “May I accept this moment exactly as it is; may I accept myself exactly as I am in this moment.”
After a brief moment and an easing into a little more calm, the inner light bulb went on. I have internet at my office. Ten minutes away. And a phone, and lights, and heat. Another moment of deep gratitude for practices that actually help us shift out of contraction and reactivity into opening to options and possibilities again.
Mindful Self-Compassion is one of the most pivotal practices we have for shifting our state of being out of a moment of contraction and narrow (survival) focus back into a larger perspective where the vision widens and possibilities can arise in our awareness. Mindful Self-Compassion doesn’t solve the problem; it simply brings us back to a state of mind from which we can begin to solve the problem.
You can learn to give yourself a self-compassion break with the exercise from Mindful Self-Compassion training below. As you practice, reflect on your experience. Notice any shifts in your experience of worry, upset, overwhelm from this practice.
1. Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that is causing you stress. [You can use this exercise in an immediate moment of stress as well.]
2. Feel any discomfort in your body as you bring this difficulty to mind.
(Note: focus on a difficulty that feels manageable to you, not overwhelming, but big enough that you will feel some genuine discomfort, not nothing.)
3. Say these words or words like these to notice and name your experience:
This is stressful.
This is a moment of suffering.
4. As you become mindfully aware of your experience, expand your awareness to include a sense of common humanity:
This suffering is a normal part of life.
I’m not the only person who has ever felt this way; other people feel this way, too.
I’m not alone; other people feel this way, too.
5. Place your hand(s) over your heart, feel the warm touch of your hand on your heart center (or any other soothing touch that works for you) and say:
May I be kind to myself.
May I be safe.
May I be strong.
May I accept myself as I am in this moment.
May I give myself all the compassion I need.
Or any other self-compassionate phrases that work for you.
6. Offer yourself a sense of kindness, loving presence, care. Relax into the shift in your body, in your mind, in your state of being.