Like anything transformational, self-compassion only comes alive through practice. Here is my simple approach to this powerful practice – culled from the amazing self-compassion authors Tara Brach, Kristin Neff and Kelly McGonigal, plus bits and pieces from a lot of EWLive speakers who know their self-compassion stuff.
Step 1: Do a body scan.
Take 5 minutes in the morning and evening to sit quietly, close your eyes and simply breathe. As I breathe, I notice my body and take inventory of places that feel contracted or even painful. And I just sit there, noticing and breathing until something miraculous happens – those places loosen up and I start to feel a tenderness toward myself.
Step 2: Feel the pain, feel the love.
Yes, this happens. Just like when you see a child skin her knee, and you instantly feel compassion toward her and want her to feel better. When we discover pain in our bodies and we simply recognize it, our human instinct for compassion sets in and BOOM – we start to send loving thoughts. If you want to kick it up a notch, physically and gently place your hand on the places of contraction in your body – it will feel… lovely.
Step 3: Hands on the heart.
This is Kristin Neff’s most powerful technique for instant relief if you are trapped in a cycle of worshipping your unworthiness. Put your hands on your heart – that’s it! Kristin’s version is more elaborate – but I am usually tight on time, and just this simple gesture can turn everything around in an instant.
Step 4: Recognize the change.
Perhaps the most important part of my practice is to witness, feel and record the outcomes from this practice. Recognizing the positive change that ensues when we are tender and forgiving with ourselves will reinforce the practice, and soon our impulse to worship our unworthiness will be replaced by an impulse of self-compassion. Rad.
Remember, the mind’s instinct to blame and shame is powerful, so you have to hit these practices hard one hard. I’m serious – hands on the heart 50 times a day if you need it. It will be the best valentine you have ever given, or received.