I believe the sense of personal deficiency is an epidemic. Being overly self critical is a common thing my clients bring up which they would like to change. Feeling continually harassed by your own inner judge who is merciless, nit-picking, demanding, and always on the job is exhausting, and quickly beats you down. Folks often say to me they assume something is wrong with them because they struggle to control and fix what is they see as a extremely flawed self. When we feel shameful of the distorted views of our self, we enter into a trace of tremendous suffering.
The good news is, there is a way to snap ourselves out of this trance and trust the goodness and purity of ourselves. The following meditation centers on mindful self-compassion. One of the reasons people struggle with self compassion is they often feel it is self-indulgent. It also requires us to tap into, and sit with, our vulnerability. This is uncomfortable under the best of circumstances, but absolutely vital in activating our ability to truly take care of ourselves.
To get started, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Recall a situation which elicits a difficult emotion, such as anger, fear, shame, or hopelessness. Visualize this situation, remembering what was said and how you felt. From here, you can apply the following practice for reflection and healing.
Recognize What is Happening
As you reflect on this situation, ask yourself, “What is happening inside me right now? Which sensations am I most aware of? Which emotions? Is my mind filled with churning thoughts?” Take a moment to become aware of your “felt sense” of the situation as a whole. Can you identify painfully constricting beliefs, emotions, or physical sensations? Or maybe the critical inner voice speaks up, feelings of shame or fear, or the familiar squeeze of anxiety or the weight of depression in the body?
Allow Life to Be, Just As It Is
Allowing meaning letting thoughts, feelings, sensations, or emotions we have simply exist, without us trying to fix or avoid anything. Send a message to yourself to “let be” this experience. Find in yourself the willingness to pause and accept “What is…is.” You can experiment with mentally whispering words like, “Yes,” “I consent,” or “Let it Be”. You might find yourself saying yes to a huge inner no, to a body and mind painfully contracted in resistance. You might be saying yes to the part of you saying, “I hate this!” That’s natural. At this point, you’re simply noticing, as opposed to judging, pushing away, or controlling what you find.
Investigate with Interest
Now begin to more closely explore what you are experiencing, calling on your natural curiousity. You may ask yourself, “What about this most wants, or needs, my attention? How am I experiencing this in my body? What is this vulnerable place providing me?” Notice where you feel the experience most distinctly in your physical body. Are you sensing heat, tightness, pressure, or aching? Which emotions are you aware of, as well – anger? Fear? Grief? Shame?
As you continue to investigate, you might want to ask yourself, “What am I believing?” If this leads to a lot of thinking, let it go. But, you may find a very distinct belief emerges almost as quickly as you ask. Do you believe you are failing in some way? That someone will reject you? Are you concerned you will not be able to handle the unexpected? Continue to send the message of allowance, and let the fullness or intensity of the experience wash over you.
I really like to add this second N to RAIN, because I believe self-compassion is so vital. Self-compassion begins to naturally arise in the moments which we recognize we are suffering. To do this, try to sense what the wounded, frightened, or hurting place inside needs most, and offer some gesture of active self-care to address is. Does it need a message of reassurance? Forgiveness? Love? Acceptance? Feel free to experiment with gestures of kindness to see which comforts and soothes most.
Non-Identification and Natural Awareness
Turn your attention to the simple realization that YOU are not your mind nor are you your emotions. You are the awareness that is always there underneath every thought, emotion and sense perception. Notice your own presence and rest in the wakeful, tender space of awareness.