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Is Self Compassion Selfish?

Dear All,

What do you think of when you hear the word self-compassion?

For me, I hear self-indulgence, mixed in with a bit of woo-woo.

Some of you may love the word and be fully committed to the practice of self-compassion.

Good for you!

But many of us have a less evolved relationship with self-compassion.

Maybe we don't think we deserve it or that it has to be earned. Maybe we associate it with people who are selfish or shallow.

And maybe we have no idea what it really means.

I've spent most of my adult life taking care of others and have given almost no thought to what it would look or feel like to be good to myself.

So, it's not surprising that in a year of Gatherings, I never chose self-compassion as a topic.

Something feels distant about it.

Desirable, yet distant.

But the more I coach women to slow down and take better care of themselves, the more I realize that I've got my own work to do in this arena!

I thought that Louise Hay was talking to me personally in her quote:

"You've been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens."

We are so hard on ourselves. We ruminate relentlessly about what we did wrong, what we messed up, what we might have done differently. While all of you who read this newsletter are deeply compassionate human beings, you may find it challenging to turn that warm, giving compassionate self inward. As meditation teacher and author Jack Kornfeld teaches: 'If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete." So let's look at how we can tame our inner critic and become more compassionate to ourselves. Chris Germer, the co-founder of the Center for Mindful Self Compassion, promises that it's easier than we think. He says "self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness towards ourselves that we would give to others."

I thought a lot about whether I should write now about self- compassion in light of the recent events in Washington.

But I decided that this topic is exactly what we need. We need to become better friends with ourselves so that we can be better friends to those around us and expand the circle of tolerance, love, and acceptance.

To the extent we make headway individually, we will make headway in the world. It’s important to sit in meditation, do no harm, expand our own awareness and awareness of the world, bringing in compassion and wisdom. The whole purpose of meditation is to connect more deeply; to ourselves and ultimately to the world.. We need to pay more attention, see things more clearly so that we can take thoughtful and meaningful actions to repair the world. We want to expand rather than be limited by our small, self critical minds so that we can include other ways of viewing the world.. The poet Yung Pueblo reminds us that "the beauty of self-love is that it can grow into the unconditional love that can end all harm." So, we do need to keep leaning towards self-compassion and self-love if only to save the world from hate and intolerance. The scientific research is clear that self- compassion really changes our brain so that we can be more effective, productive and focused. Let's consider how to give ourselves the nurturing, encouragement and support that we give our children, our friends, our colleagues.

The three components of self-compassion:

1. Kindness towards ourself: Make an effort to offer yourself a bit of warmth, a little tenderness in those moments of doubt, failure, frustration and self-criticism. Imagine how you would treat a friend going through the same thing.

2. Common Humanity: Remember that whatever you are feeling in the moment, countless others have experience the same doubt, failure or disappointment so you are in good company.

3. Mindfulness: Breathing centers you so that you can listen to your inner voice, rather than the inner critic. Remember that you are not your thoughts - particularly the negative, self-critical ones.

Another tip I give to my private clients is to give your inner critic a name. When she starts going on and on about what you didn't do or could have done better or what a loser you are, thank her for sharing and move on. It may sound silly but the more you separate yourself from your inner critic the less you will identify with her. Tell her to leave you alone! It turns out that self-compassion is actually essential. The Dalai Lama says, "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." Let's bring on the compassion both for ourselves and others. The world has never needed it more. This poem Love after Love, by Derek Wolcott, is a beautiful homage to self-compassion. "The time will come when with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other's welcome. and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror Sit. Feast on your life. Great reminder to "feast on your life." Sending love to all. Hope to see you on Sunday at the Gathering! With love and light,

Nora Plesent

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