Visit our website!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Tip of the Week: Are You Practicing Self-Judgment or Self-Compassion?

Oftentimes we can be so patient and loving with others, but can have a harder time giving ourselves the same respect. As we begin to incorporate self-compassion into our yoga practice, we start to incorporate it into our daily life. At its most practical level yoga is a process of becoming more aware of who we are. Yoga techniques facilitate balance and health, and unfold our dormant potential. Yoga allows us to be more aware of ourselves and feel connected.  As such, yoga is a process of self-discovery, and when we approach this process with self-compassion we are more likely to love the person we discover.

Self-compassion is extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Kristin Neff, PhD has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. 

  • Self-kindness: Self-compassion entails being warm towards oneself when encountering pain and personal shortcomings, rather than ignoring them or hurting oneself with self-criticism.
  • Common humanity: Self-compassion also involves recognizing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience.
  • Mindfulness: Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to one's negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Negative thoughts and emotions are observed with openness, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which individuals observe their thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them.
The following article by Jamie Greenwood from answers the question "What are you practicing?" in a humorous and enlightening way. 

What Are You Practicing—Self-Judgment or Self-Compassion?

“You are what you practice most.” ~Richard Carlson

“What are you practicing?” she asked in a gentle, lilting voice.
The entire class was in triangle pose, and at that moment I was comparing my triangle to the young woman’s right next to mine, scolding myself for wobbling out of the pose and simultaneously harassing myself for not being “further along” in my career. (Because if you’re going to hate on yourself, my motto is GO BIG.)

“Are you practicing judgment or comparison?” she tenderly probed.
“WTF!” I thought. “Does this woman have a direct line to my brain?”

“Are you practicing worry or blame?” she continued. “Perhaps youre practicing patience and love. Notice what youre practicing and know that you become what you practice. What you practice is what you live.”

DAMN IT! I was three days into a five-day yoga retreat and I was far from blissed out. In fact, I had deftly managed to tie myself into a knot of comparison, self-doubt, judgment, confusion, shame, and embarrassment.

With my inner critic having hijacked my brain I was a total wreck, and caught myself, more than once, crying through one of the two yoga classes I took each day.
I should also mention I was pissed to be spending days of supposed relaxation and inner communion bumping up against every old demon that laid buried within me. Not a productive use of time, and if there’s anything I hate, it’s feeling unproductive.

I had gone on the yoga retreat (my first ever, and a huge indulgence according to my inner critic) for a good dose of soul care. I was craving reconnection badly and knew an idyllic yoga retreat in the Berkshire mountains was just what I needed to come back to myself. Little did I expect that to get to that reconnection, I first had to wade through a number of stinky layers of self-perpetuated crap.

And so there I was, wobbling in and out of triangle pose, in full blown comparison mode and hating on myself for not having written a book yet, for not being on SuperSoul Sunday, and for most certainly not being Zen during a yoga class.

And then her soft words plucked me out of my maelstrom of negativity.
“What are you practicing?”
I took a breath.
And then another, letting the fresh oxygen pulse through me.
I took another, solidified my stance, stretched more deeply into the pose, and faced all I was practicing.
I let the comparison and self-doubt wash over me. Let the judgment and shame flow. Let the embarrassment of this entire emotional debacle be there without feeling bad for feeling any of it.
In the breath I found that I wasnt practicing the negative feelings and old stories. I was experiencing them. What I was practicing in feeling them (without kicking myself for experiencing them) was compassion.
I let the compassion grow, filling every edge of my body, and watched it morph. First into curiosity for my feelings, then acknowledgement for my pained state, and then into deep love for myself for finding kindness where there had originally only been gripped anger and a cold heart.
What I found in the instructor’s question was this: I can experience any number of painful thoughts and feelings, and in approaching them with compassion, it’s compassion I’m practicing, not negativity.

I wish I could tell you with that realization my struggle ended, my demons were forever released, and I quickly became the blissed out, wise yogini I had wanted to be at the start of my retreat.
Not so much.
It took another few days (and will probably take the rest of my life) to continually soften, to come back to the breath, and to remember to practice compassion. 
But what her question did do was loosen the knot.
It created space to find compassion where there had originally been none. It sparked the sloughing off of old layers, the questioning of painful stories, and the unfurling of my most sacred knowing to allow me to reconnect with myself.

“What are you practicing” is a brave question, as it often brings us face to face with the uncomfortable emotional space we’re in. And yet, it’s in letting ourselves ask the question and getting curious about it that a crack is made for compassion to squeeze through.

The next time you catch yourself in a maelstrom of comparison, anger, self-doubt, worry, or judgment, take a breath and ask, “What am I practicing?” Be gentle with what comes up (no judging yourself for being judgmental) and notice if in embracing your experience with tenderness, compassion has a chance to blossom.

Know this: It’s impossible to practice love and patience all the time. That kind of every-second-of-every-day bliss was not built into us humans. We suffer, and that’s okay.
And when we can be compassionate with ourselves when we’re practicing things other than love, our heart softens, our grip loosens, and suddenly we have a greater access to the love we were seeking all along.

Woman with heart hands image via Shutterstock

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.