We are taking a break from Creative Invitations this week. Instead, focus on backdraft, how it shows up in your life, and how you relate with it. Thank you!
Over the past three weeks, we’ve revisited familiar MSC territory from MSC Session 1. This week’s invitation is to bring awareness to what you’ve discovered during the last three weeks of preparatory work to help you write a compassionate letter for yourself. This letter will live with your Roadmap and be a companion during your journey; you may wish to pull it out anytime you feel your energy lagging, your commitment wavering, or your purpose coming into question. The reason for the exploration and the compassionate letter is to remember that this is a journey and to move away as best we can from where we think we “should be” to lovingly be with where we are.
Your journal and a pen you love to write with. (We especially encourage you to handwrite this letter.)
- To begin, simply free-write anything that’s on your mind about the CDP course. Allow it all to emerge. You might give voice to uncertainty, fear, excitement, curiosity, or anything in between. Allow enough time and space for the quietest thoughts to arise, then set them free in your journal.
- Once you feel you’ve said everything you need to say, go back over your writing and underline any words or phrases which emerge and seem like they need a kind response. Perhaps a fear expressed, or ambivalence, or an element of self-doubt.
- Next, please write a self-compassionate letter in response to any of the underlined words/phrases from Step 2. Practice using your self-compassionate voice as you write. You might even begin your letter with a term of endearment, remembering to bring the same kindness to your letter as you would to a good friend. IF you find that you have difficulty summoning a self-compassionate voice, we invite you to write your letter from the perspective of a being who wishes the very best for you: a pet, a friend, a mentor, or another loved one.
- Here are a few things you could include in your letter to yourself:
- What words do you need to hear as you venture out on this journey?
- Knowing that all experiences shift through periods of difficulty and ease, open and closing, what might support you personally along the way?
- From this early leg of the journey, what words will you say to yourself when you’re thinking about quitting?
- If you have identified misgivings or hindrances to self-compassion, how might you bring care and kindness to these aspects of your experience? If you have identified the pain of one of more of the myths of self compassion, how might your respond to yourself lovingly about these?
- How we can attend to ourselves lovingly in these ways? Physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual?
- What resources can you draw upon during your time in the program that will help you stay committed to taking care of yourself?
- Once you’ve finished your letter, we encourage you to keep it somewhere accessible so that if you wish, you may draw upon the strength of your own words in the future.
- As you read your letter to yourself you may like to remember soothing touch, the half smile, and pay attention to the tone of your voice as you read.
One step further…
If you wish, you may choose to submit a photo or a scan of your self-compassionate letter to one of the teachers via email, and when the moment is right, we will print it out and mail a physical copy back to you sometime during the next several months as a gentle and reminder of your own voice of support.
As you write, be present to any joy or excitement that emerges.
If fear or doubt emerges, is there one small, tender step you can take to soothe yourself?
Now that you’ve written this self-compassionate letter, can you think of any specific actions you can take to set the stage for a truly deepening experience in your life?
If you wish, feel free to share your explorations on the Discussion board.
© 2018 Aimee Eckhardt.
Please do not duplicate without written permission.
To support and re-invigorate your commitment to cultivating self-compassion through both formal and informal meditation practice. In this Invitation we are looking at formal practice a little more closely. We invite you to consciously create a space in your home where you can meditate which serves to inspire your ongoing self-compassion practice.
- Your journal and a pen
- Physical objects which evoke for you a sense of reverence, resonance, and joy
- Which unique personality types or characteristics in The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion most resonate with you? As a reminder, these can be found on pp. 196 – 206.
- What are some of the things that hold you back most consistently in terms of your approach (grasping, aversion, restlessness, weariness, agitation, doubt, etc.)? Are there some ways you can name and soften around those familiar friends?
- In what way do you relate with your challenges to formal practice? Are you meeting your experiences “on the cushion” with kindness, or with something else?
- Recall a formal meditation session that you considered uniquely nourishing and fruitful. What was special about that time? Is there some quality of that experience you can use to support you in the future? How did you speak to yourself? And following on from Chris’s discussion, how can you motivate yourself kindly? How can you bring fun, delight and yumminess to your practice?
- Recognizing the value of informal practice, what are some of the informal practices that work in your life?
Once you’ve fully explored the essence and the edges of your meditation practice, you may release the exercise. Or, if you wish, you may continue on to craft a devoted space in your home to support you in your ongoing practice.
One step further…
- If you already have a spot where you most frequently meditate at home, see how you might incorporate a collection of physical objects which will serve as symbols for your core values, longings, and wishes for yourself. This space could exist indoors or outdoors, and you could choose a small table top, a simple shelf, or even a shadow box you can affix to the wall near where you practice.
- Considering your journal exploration above, what intentions, desires, or commitments would you like to represent symbolically in your meditation space? Bring 3 or 4 values to mind as a starting point.
- Begin to collect objects you feel best represent these values in #2. For instance, if you have a commitment to bringing nature into your everyday life as a means of practicing informal meditation, perhaps a small vase with a flower would be a good object to incorporate into your space. If you’re committed to living a creative life, perhaps you can incorporate a beloved paintbrush or photograph you’ve taken. Try if you can to drop into your heart during this collection process, knowing that when you touch an object, you’ll feel in your body whether it belongs in your meditation space. Not every object you include in your space has to have a “reason.” Resonance is enough.
- Continue to feel your way through your home, your yard, a favorite park, a nearby beach, etc. to gather sacred objects for your meditation space. You will know when you have all that you need. If you are unsure, you may choose to simply begin with a stone and a candle.
- If very little comes to mind at first, know that this space is an ever-evolving place, and you can feel free to both add and retire objects as your needs come into clearer focus. As you retire objects from your meditation space, thank them for their presence and support of your practice.
Just where you are—that’s the place to start.”
― Pema Chödrön
Use the Self-Compassion Scale, journaling, and/or images to explore the role that self-compassion plays in your life at this time.
- Your journal
- (visual option) Your choice of image-making materials. You could choose to print photos from your camera, pull images from a magazine, or create images from paints or markers.
As you may be aware, as part of the Self-Compassion Scale, there are three continuums and an overall score:
Journal your responses to the following:
- “What does self compassion mean to me?”
- Do you have your own barometers of how self-compassionate you are being? What are they?
- What are three ways in which:
- You are kind to yourself?
- Common humanity is reflected in your life?
- Mindfulness brings you joy, delight, or pleasure?
You may end the exercise there, OR, if you’d like to experiment visually, some ideas and examples are listed below. Once finished, you could place your creation on a cupboard or wall to remind you to call on your supportive practices.
When you are finished, note what happened as you worked with this first Creative Invitation. What came up for you? Were you surprised by any of the sensations, words, symbols, or emotions that emerged? If your inner critic paid you a visit as you made this first piece, how did you receive him/her?
Finally, if you care to share a bit about your experience with the rest of the group, please feel free to do so on the discussion board. Always returning to the intention of the Creative Invitations, which is to be mindful of your experience and be tender with yourself during the process of creating.
Visual ideas and inspiration: Collage or tryptic:
You might like to try creating a collage of images cut out from a magazine or from photos you’ve printed out. You may also enjoy creating a a tryptic, which is an assemblage of three interrelated, but separate images. One panel could represent Self-Kindness/Self-Judgement, a second panel could represent Common Humanity/Isolation, and the third could represent Mindfulness/Over-Identification. Feel free to be as playful as you wish, and use the following examples to inspire your own creation.
Exploring your self-compassionate voice through music, images, or writing
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…
– Derek Walcott, from Love after Love
To bring awareness to your self-compassionate voice and to use that awareness as an opportunity to help you practice being kinder to yourself. As this is our first Creative Invitation, go as easily as you can, especially if the self-critic emerges as you create. Our emphasis throughout the course is on process, not outcome. If you feel the urge to quit, how can you kindly support yourself through it?
- Your journal and a pen you love to write with
- Optional: paints or markers and your sketchbook
Before you begin this exercise, please be sure you’ve completed the required “How Would I Treat a Friend?” exercise. Then, sit down, settle comfortably and find the breath. Acknowledge all that it took to arrive right here, in this moment. Breathe into your feet – really feeling the ground supporting you. Be present to the physical sensations of air on your skin. Stay with this until you feel present and centered.
- After completing “How Would I Treat a Friend,” you will have two pieces of writing in front of you: the first describes how you would support a friend who is having difficulty, and the second describes how you speak to yourself in times of difficulty.
- Turning your attention to your typical response to yourself, underline any self-critical or unkind words/phrases that you notice.
- Pause and treat yourself to a Self-Compassion Break. If you’re comfortable guiding yourself through it, feel free to do that as usual. Otherwise, you may listen to the free, guided Self-Compassion Break audio by Kristin Neff.
- If any softening occurred during your Self-Compassion Break, breathe into that sensation and allow that to stay with you, and perhaps even to fill you, if that is possible.
- Finally, return to the self-critical or unkind phrases you underlined in Step 2. What kind response can you offer to each one? What words do you need to hear during moments of suffering?
- Option 1: In your journal, write out a revised response to your suffering self, specifically speaking to each self-critical or unkind phrase you underlined in Step 2.
- Option 2: If you are a person to whom music speaks deeply, choose a song or make an entire playlist that is motivational and captures your loving self talking to you. Share it with the group if you wish, and let us know what about the song touches you. We have created a sample self-compassion playlist to inspire you (right sidebar).
- Option 3: If you’d like to explore this visually, return to the underlined phrases from Step 2 and choose a phrase or word which emerges for you most strongly as being in need of tender attention. Can you paint or draw a self-compassionate response to it? Your visual expression can be literal (decorative words, a particular soothing scene) or it can be representational (colors, lines, and textures which evoke in you a felt sense of self-compassion).
- During the process of crafting a kind response to your suffering self, what came up for you? Did the inner critic emerge? Was there catharsis or numbness? Did it feel authentic or disingenuous? How did you receive whatever came up for you?
- Now that you’ve considered what it might be like to speak with yourself in a more self-compassionate way, what emotions emerge? Did backdraft emerged? Is there anywhere else in your life that you’ve felt this? Can you practice holding it all with tenderness?