The Space Between

This morning in yoga class my teacher talked about the gap between accepting where we are right now and longing for something different. He called that the suffering. I agree that the more we hang out in that place, the harder it is to find joy, to appreciate where we are and even more importantly to “be with” whatever is challenging. This is the space where self-criticism lives and where we often get stuck.

I also believe that the path to accepting what’s challenging is through self-compassion, and that this space of suffering can be quieted by simple practices throughout the day that bring us back to the present and quiet the negative chatter.

Before I talk about these practices, I would like to share a quote by Kristin Neff, researcher, author and co-founder of the Center Mindful Self-Compassion:

“When we give ourselves compassion, the tight knot of negative self judgment starts to dissolve, replaced by a feeling of peace, connected acceptance – a sparkling diamond that emerges from the coal”

I love that vision of the sparkling diamond, the reflection of light from the ocean, the sound of birds in the springtime – What image or sound brings you peace and comfort when you find yourself in that space of suffering?

Self -Compassion really is a practice. We are not raised to give ourselves love. Instead, our culture promotes scarcity, distraction, the longing for more – feelings of not enough. As a matter of fact, more than one of my coaching clients have said that they cannot even imagine practicing self-compassion, but here are some simple and very effective tools for quelling the hard moments of our day:

• When you find your head filled with negative self-talk. Stop. Place your hand on your heart, close your eyes and just breathe. Replace the negative message with acceptance of this moment of suffering. In a loving voice say “This is hard.” Notice your breath and you’ll quiet your mind.

• We numb when we’re hurting. Notice when you reach for the cookie, the drink or the credit card. Again, stop for a moment, breathe, and ask, “In this moment of suffering, what can I do instead of __________ to fill the void?”

• One of the key components of self-compassion is the recognition of our Common Humanity. Offer yourself the gift of remembering that we are not isolated in our suffering, and that all humans struggle.

Sometimes, the simple act of placing a hand on your heart is soothing enough. I encourage you to try it right now with closed eyes. Stop, and listen to your breath. You may not “get it” the first time, but that’s why they call it a practice!

I am excited to announce that I will be co-teaching a Wednesday morning Mindful Self-Compassion class in the fall with Kathy Elkind.  Link here to learn more and sign up!

If you’d like additional information about Mindful Self-Compassion, check out these links – they are jam packed with research, guided meditations and upcoming events:
The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion:
Kristin Neff, Ph.D.:
Christopher Germer, Ph.D.

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