The quintessential self-compassion question is this: “What do I need?” And what better way to discover those answers than to sit in your own good company and embrace whatever may arise?
These brilliant minds of ours are tricksters at times, and despite our earnest wishes and effort to hold our experience with kindness and warm attention, obstacles will show up during our sacred meditation time. Doubt. Grasping. Aversion. Restlessness. Weariness. Sometimes we’ll want to give up. To doubt the practice. To doubt ourselves. To run away and never come back.
Ah! This is a sure sign that this it is time to soften. Perhaps to surrender some striving to do it “right” or to feel a certain way. At times like this — and with each and every practice, exercise, and experience — it’s also helpful to remember the zones of optimal learning in which we open and close so that we remain in the most self-compassionate state of engagement and out of the “overwhelm” zone.
So an invitation for the week ahead as you practice and move through your days: Notice your obstacles as a curious scientist might, and hold your challenges as a dear friend might. With time, this gentle self-embrace will find its way more and more into your daily life. And we soon find that practice and living are one and the same.
Warmest wishes for the coming rest week,
Reminder that there will be no class this Tuesday, May 29. Rest week!
Formal Practice: Please add Affectionate Breathing to your practice this week, practicing 15-20 minutes for four days. If you choose to have a go at the Practice Makes Imperfect journal pages, try if you can to record at least one short comment each day, even if you have not practiced formally. This will help increase awareness about you are relating with yourself on a day-to-day basis.
Optional Creative Invitation: Create Your Own Joyful Meditation Space [instructions]. This is an elaboration of the conversation we started in class about ways to support our formal practice by refining intention, inviting in ease, and surrendering struggle.
- Week 7 Video: Password 1Meditate2
- Practice Makes Imperfect Journal: A printable worksheet with invites you to check in daily with yourself; a good way to support awareness and identify trends unfolding in your deepening self-compassion practice.
- Obstacles to Meditation and how to work with them (Chris Germer)
- Specific to our self-compassion practice, Chris offers a summary of how we can kindly work with our obstacles as they arise. Here are the pages in case you’ve misplaced your copy (pages 207 – 211 in Mindful Path to Self-Compassion).
- For some, it may be helpful to learn more about obstacles, beyond the scope of what was offered in class. If this would be useful for you, feel free to visit this in-depth exposition as offered by the Insight Meditation Center. Remembering that this is not a blueprint for perfection or a way to get trapped in thinking/comparing; rather, it is a way to help illuminate and hold in tender awareness your own frequent obstacles so that you are able to work more skillfully with them when they arise.
- If you are a person who is still fairly new to meditation and you would like specific guidance for how to begin a practice, you may wish to check into any of the following resources by Tara Brach. As this is offered from a Buddhist perspective, please translate any language that doesn’t resonate with you personally to language that does. 🙂
- If you are a person who would like to learn more about contraindications and best practices in regards to meditation, you might appreciate the Meditation Safety Toolbox by Willoughby Britton, et al. The toolbox contains documents, protocols and best practice guidelines from the UMASS Center for Mindfulness, Bangor and Oxford Mindfulness Centers, and other mindfulness researchers.
- Bill Morgan’s collection of short guided meditations (scroll down to the bottom of the page) to bring joy and richness to meditation.
- Insight Timer: A popular app that allows you to meditate in virtual community with others. Free to use, the app has every type of guided meditation conceivable, all available to you 24 x 7. If structure is helpful to you, it also allows you to track your own progress. Finally, it has a simple meditation timer if you’d prefer to sit without guidance.
“Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging.”
– Bob Sharples, from Meditation: Calming the Mind
I Go Among Trees
by Wendell Berry
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.
After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.
~ Wendell Berry from Sabbaths