This March, I am taking part in Tricycle’s Meditation Month. If you struggle with anxiety, you’ll know that self-compassion can be a really difficult practice to perfect, and since starting to meditate it’s been my main challenge.
My anxiety stems from thinking I’m not good enough, and therefore always seeking approval, to the point where it can be quite destructive. This also rears its head when I miss meditation sessions, skip swim training or even forget to write in my journal. I feel guilt, and am not very kind to myself.
On social media, I asked those taking part in Meditation Month with me the following questions:
Does anyone give themselves a really hard time if they miss a session? I seem to punish myself if I don’t sit one day, even though I know I can start again tomorrow. Any tips on how to overcome this feeling?
Here are some of the great responses I received:
- As with your breathing meditation , when you realise you have wandered, you gently come back and start again. This is the training. When you realise you have not meditated, be it days, weeks or years … gently come back and start again.
- Meditation is a practice of discipline as well as kindness. To be gentle with yourself is important. I try to accept whatever I am able to do – if that means taking a few breaths on some days instead of completing my full practice, then I acknowledge that that is good enough. The main thing is one’s intention and commitment to keep coming back to the cushion.
- I used to judge myself terribly, but my attitude seems to have improved since I started this practice. Whenever I notice I am judging or berating myself, I label it as something like, “Oh there’s Judging Judy again.” Don’t make it bad, just something that happens. I learned that from a book by Jack Kornfield. It helps me to be more gentle with myself.
- The key is to relinquish the effort to “overcome” any of our feelings. Feelings/emotions arise and pass away; we need not feed into or exacerbate them, but neither should we try to get rid of them. Instead, our practice is to notice these feelings, name/label them, direct kindness toward them, and then re-focus on something else.
- I have found that practicing loving kindness (metta) meditation have helped me a lot when it comes to calm down the inner critic. There are five different stages; cultivating metta towards one self, towards a friend, a neutral person, a difficult person and all sentient beings. Even if it is five stages, you can of course choose to start by practicing only the first stage for a while.
When I’m focused, I often try to think of self-compassion as watching my thoughts and feelings arrive and leave, but never chasing them up an unhelpful thinking path. I try to notice when I go down this path of self berating, take a step back, and observe the thoughts and feelings exactly as they are – just thoughts.
Speaking to my CBT therapist, she also gave me the following advice; if you were to say the same things to a close friend, how would they feel? If the answer is “not very good” then you could do with adjusting the way you speak to yourself.
As an added Buddha Bonus: to show compassion to oneself means you can truly show compassion to others, and you deserve it:
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”
― Gautama Buddha
Put away your doubts and worries and concentrate on the present. You will truly be there for others and this can only be a good thing!
So if you do miss a session, or your day hasn’t quite gone to plan, show yourself some compassion. Tomorrow is a whole new 24 hours to play with!
If you have any tips on self-compassion, I would love to hear about them! 😌🙏