Learning to Be-friend Yourself

With Valentine’s Day later this week, we often think about being kinder and more loving towards our partners, friends and family members. But, we rarely think about including ourselves on the list. In fact we are often more critical and rejecting of ourselves and our bad qualities and habits than anyone else in our lives. Chances are that if you’re criticizing yourself for where you’re falling short and telling yourself that you’re failing, improving your health and well-being will be much harder.

Why is this? Because studies show that feeling someone is cheering you on or being encouraging of you, makes it more likely that you will be inclined to stick to the changes you’re trying to make. We know that feeling supported is key in helping us adjust to changes in our lives including new parenthood or moving to a new city. Still, many of us are automatically self-critical and feel negatively towards ourselves without even thinking. To help you be kinder and gentler to yourself and more likely to continue with taking steps to stress less and live better, try these 3 tips.

  1. Befriend yourself. Instead of being self-critical, think about the words you would say to a good friend who was trying to change something about his/her life. You would never say to them like you do to yourself, “You’re a loser. You never finish anything you start. You’re just lazy, etc, etc.” Instead, you’d more likely be comforting and reassuring, even encouraging. Pretend you’re talking to them and use the words you’d say to them. It will help you feel better and improve your chance of succeeding at the changes you’re making.
  2. Make self-criticism less automatic. Often we don’t realize that we’re thinking negatively about ourselves until we start to pay attention to it. What we tend to notice first is that we’re feeling bad or down or not motivated. Start asking yourself what thoughts you’re having when your mood changes and becomes more negative. Many of my clients are surprised how frequently they have self-critical or self-rejecting thoughts when they keep track of them. Several who have been addressing this in counseling, told me recently that the more they replace these negative, self-critical thoughts with what they’d say to a friend, the better they feel, so give it a try. 
  3. Practice self-compassion. In fact, the definition of mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment on purpose without judgement. I say “with self-compassion.” This means that you extend the same lovingkindness to yourself that you do all your loved ones. One of my favorite ways to do this is to repeat to myself this lovingkindness meditation from Dr. Joan Borysenko that goes, “May I be at peace. May my heart remain open. May I know the beauty of my own true nature. May I be healed. May I be a source of healing to others.” Say this once or twice a day especially if you’re having a hard time with self-criticism. It works!

More resources on self-compassion:

Chopra Meditation Challenge

Self-Compassion Always (video from Dr. Sanford’s YouTube Channel)

Back in the day before electricity lit our lives up year round, fall’s longer nights and cooler weather prompted us to move indoors and spend less time engaged in the hubbub of daily life. It was a time of rest and restoration. Harvest was ending and families huddled together preparing for winter’s onset.

Today we’re often too busy to even notice the leaves turning but we can change this. This week, take 15 minutes to go outside in the morning to smell the fall air. Notice the the trees, their leaves, and how effortlessly they let go. If you live in the city, pay attention to how outdoors feels different than last month. Stop to reflect on nature slowing down.

Then choose another day to write down what you’d like to let go of. Put each on a  slip of paper. Maybe it’s guilt over a mistake or pushing yourself too hard. Just write whatever comes up without judging or censoring. At the end of the week, take all you’ve written and burn them one by one, releasing them from your soul. Fall is an excellent time to release the old to make way for the new.

You can also do this with your family/friends. Give each person slips of paper to note what they’re ready to discard and burn them together. Reflect and reconnect with yourself and others, creating space for what you do want to enter your life like the trees shedding their leaves for new growth.

This week’s mantra: “I can shed my outworn beliefs and let go of what’s no longer good for me.”

For Lillian As You Leave

Lillian Michalsky is an extra-ordinary person and someone I’ve been privileged to know if only for a short time. I met her over a month ago at a women’s retreat at Feathered Pipe Ranch. Although she was not teaching the class, her wisdom and insight made an impression as she sat in her lounge chair in our circle, living with pancreatic cancer. Her life is a legacy for the strength of human spirit which I know will continue in the hearts and souls of those she’s touched long after she dies.

In truth, I don’t know much about Lillian’s past. I know that when she was in her early 20’s she came out to Montana on a mission trip, got “adopted” by one of the Native American tribes who live there, and became a medicine woman because of their trust in her. Until then, this tribe’s language had only been spoken, and they were afraid of losing their stories which they wanted to impart to their children and others. Together, she helped them develop a written alphabet and translate their stories so they could be preserved. Remarkable indeed.

I was fortunate enough to be in a prayer circle she led at Feathered Pipe at the conclusion of our retreat. As we shared our prayers with Lillian and India and prayed for each other, we created a sacred space which lovingly held our souls. It was the most meaningful, spirit-filled ceremony I’ve ever been in and a beautiful way to end our time together. For this, I am forever grateful. I am likewise grateful for the generosity and compassion of all my sister goddesses in the circle.

Saturday, I learned that her physical strength is dwindling and her time here may be drawing to a close. In celebration of Lillian, I am asking that this week each of you meditate on a song which is one of her favorites, “Give Yourself to Love” by Kate Wolf. It is a good reminder for all us. Here are some of the lyrics:

“Kind friends all gathered ’round, there’s something I would say:
That what brings us together here has blessed us all today.
Love has made a circle that holds us all inside;
Where strangers are as family, loneliness can’t hide.

You must give yourself to love if love is what you’re after;

Open up your hearts to the tears and laughter,
And give yourself to love, give yourself to love.”

You can listen to the song  by clicking here.

With much love, Lillian. Namaste.

Mindfulness For Self-Care: Informal Practice

I’ve been teaching my new mindfulness class “Don’t Worry. Be Mindful.” for the past two days so I thought I’d share some of the info here since mindfulness can be one way of practicing self-care. If you’re new to mindfulness, it’s defined as “paying attention to the present moment on purpose without judgement.” Now, if this sounds like something more to add to your to-do list, it’s not. One benefit of mindfulness is that you can practice it while you go through your day without adding anything.

We call this “informal” practice. For example, when you’re showering, direct your attention to the sensory experience of taking a shower-sounds, touch/feeling, smells, sights and taste (well, maybe not taste although when shampoo gets in my mouth…). If thoughts occur, note them by saying “Thought-Planning-Overthinking, etc,” and then re-direct your attention back to the sensory experience of the shower. At first, you may spend most of going from thought to sensation, thought to sensation and back again. Don’t worry, that’s completely normal. The idea is to let whatever happens happen without judgement which is another benefit of mindfulness. It teaches you to treat yourself with self-compassion instead self-judgement or self-loathing which we in the western world are ever so good at.

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As in mindfulness, self-compassion or self-love is a key aspect of self-care. Likewise, letting go of your worries and thoughts and just allowing yourself experience the richness of the moment you’re in, helps nourish you-mind-body and spirit. Research has shown that practicing present moment awareness, i.e. mindfulness, diminishes stress, tension, pain, depression, and anxiety and strengthens your ability to cope with life changes, improves your health and immunity, and increases feelings of joy and well-being.

Last week, Time magazine ran a feature article about “The Mindful Revolution” which you can read by clicking on this link-http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2163560,00.html.

This week your assignment (should you choose to accept it), is to pick one activity you do on a daily or regular basis, like showering, doing the dishes, driving to work, and focus on your sensory experience of the activity rather than the thoughts or “tickertape” running through your head, as one class participant described it Saturday. Do this without judgement, understanding that your mind is likely to drift from thought to sensation and sensation to thought frequently. Remember, mindfulness is realizing your mind has wandered, so when this occurs, stop, take a breath, and re-direct your attention to the moment you’re in. That’s mindfulness!

Namaste.

Give the Gift of Self-Compassion

buddha

At the holidays, we often get caught up in what to buy our family and friends. Sometimes, we even sneak a little something in for ourselves. What we frequently overlook though is being kind, patient and loving towards ourselves as we weather the ups and downs the season and many of our family gatherings bring.

Last week in Psychology Today online, a group of 25 women bloggers posted about how they practice self-compassion in their lives, and had some great advice which we wanted to share with you here today. Here’s what a few of them had to say. For the complete article, click here.

Drop Self-Judgment

For me it means dropping self-judgment every time I notice it—from eating too much chocolate last night to procrastinating writing my novel this morning to being envious of a friend this afternoon. It is the act of dropping my story that I am bad, wrong, less than, not spiritual, not progressing.

–Jennifer Louden

Put Self-Care First

My greatest challenge and learning from this practice is that self-care and compassion has to come first—not after I’ve taken care of others, or done my work for the day, but as my first priority.

–Sandi Amorim

compassionShow Up for Yourself

The most intimate relationship we will have in our entire lifetime is with ourselves. No one hears our   hearts the way we do. No one knows our hurts the way we do. We are the sages of our soft spots and our   edges. Self-compassion is showing up to that relationship with honesty and with love.

–Jamie Ridler

Let Yourself Fail

Self-compassion means not having to be right all the time. Letting myself off the hook if I’ve tried my best and things didn’t come out like I wanted. A lot of it is forgiveness. I get to be a mortal. I don’t have to be better or stronger than other people. I get to just be a fallible, wonderful, person like everyone else. It means I’m not special, but in a good way.

–Laura Simms

Forgive Yourself

Oh, and how do I practice self compassion? Easy. I am constantly forgiving myself. Forgiving myself when I judge another to be wrong, when I judge myself as less than… and judge the world for what I see as “bad”. Practicing self-compassion is saying “I forgive myself, for I know not what I see/do.” over and over again.

Kerilyn Russo

Give yourself the gift of self-compassion this holiday season. You’ll be glad you did!