The practice of mindfulness involves paying attention to our experience from moment to moment in a way that promotes compassion and a suspension of self-judgment. It is the notion of compassion that is of interest to me in this article. What is it and how does one go about embodying this quality in our hearts and minds.
Self-compassion emerges in action as we relate to ourselves. It is usually considered an emotion that fosters a desire to help oneself.
In my experience, one of the challenges in meditation is to be willing to see some of the thoughts and emotions that you have for yourself. This is a terrific place to start where we actually investigate the thoughts and, underneath the thoughts, the emotions we have. I have heard Jon Kabat-Zinn describe it this way. He says that once you see that you are hitting yourself continuously over the head, consider that it might be time to stop. These could be considered habit patterns in the mind and once you see the habit, you can start the difficult work of changing the habit.
Another strategy would be to develop empathy for oneself. One way of doing this would be to reflect on the habit patterns of the mind and ask yourself where it leads in terms of our well-being. If it doesn’t help, it is possible to make a choice to not keep repeating the pattern. The challenge is to discover how we keep the habit pattern going.
If you are familiar with loving-kindness meditation, you could actively cultivate kindness for yourself. It could be as simple as silently repeating statements to yourself such as: May I be safe; May I be happy and healthy; May I have ease.
Overall, one can think of self-compassion as making a connection with oneself in a way that promotes understanding, discovery, kindness, and the willingness to change if what we are doing is causing inner harm.