Imagine that your partner, friend or child has had a tough day. They might have been let go at work or lost a loved one or struggling to see any positives in their life. How would you respond to hearing and feeling this? I’d assume you’d most likely listen to them, show them compassion and love and try to help them overcome their troubles or worries. You’d be kind to them.
Now imagine that the person hurting or suffering was you. Would you still respond the same way? Would you listen to yourself and not only be compassionate, but patient? Would you acknowledge the source of your suffering and figure out how to help yourself?
We are often kind to others, but rarely are we kind to ourselves.
In a hyper masculine society, being kind to yourself is often seen as a sign of weakness. We are told success is achieved by being hard and fast and strong not by being kind, compassionate and patient. And in moments where we feel sad or anxious or depressed, we are often patted on the back and told to get over it, as if negative emotions are just obstacles getting in the way of our success. However, life is not a sprint and emotions and feelings aren’t hurdles to be jumped over, they are meant to be listened to, acknowledged and appreciated. In doing this, we are able to identify the source(s) of our pain(s) and give ourselves permission to let them pass.
Unfortunately, for a lot of us, we are unaware of the internal dialogue that is playing out when we are feeling sad or down. We often don’t recognise the voices walking into our minds; it just feels like they’ve always been there and that they will remain there forever.
“In [meditation] leave your front door and back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.” — Shunryu Suzuki
I love this quote for its simplicity and humour, but letting thoughts come and go like guests is, for many of us, more difficult then it sounds. The problem is that certain thoughts have been around for so long that they start to act as a source of comfort even though they’re hurting us. It’s like that friend or partner that you know deep down is going to cause you suffering, but you keep them around or allow them to come back because you’ve learnt to care for them. However, just like that friend or partner, allowing thoughts (negative and positive) to come and go is within your reach.
The first step is to:
Pay attention to your internal dialogue
Whether it’s through meditation or walking or any activity that will allow you to introspect, start paying attention to what you say to yourself when something goes wrong and how you say it. This is difficult and confronting at first, but it will ultimately allow you to observe the dialogue rather than be engaged in it.
Reframe the tone and sentiment
Once you start to notice what you say and how you say it, reframe it into something more positive, compassionate, and loving. A great way to practice this is through a loving kindness meditation practice, which involves silently repeating kind phrases to yourself and others.
To incorporate this beautiful practice into your day, we’ve (read: A — SPACE:) created a short, but powerful guided meditation for you to listen to when you want to bring a sense of love and compassion into your life.
I hope this article and our guided meditation acts as a continuous reminder that you have the capacity for love and compassion not only for others, but more importantly, for yourself. If you have any questions about this practice or what we’re doing at A—SPACE, please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org