Why Mindfulness is an Act of Self-Compassion

There is a place where space and kindness grow. This is the realm of Mindfulness. When we are able to be with what is, we are able to listen deeply and understand. Self-Compassion can be defined as the acknowledgement of one’s own pain and the ability to ease that pain. We can be aware that we are unhappy, struggling, feeling stressed, burnt out, frustrated etc. But this does not necessarily mean that we are able to help ourselves rebalance and come into well-being.

In order for us to notice our pain, we have to be present. In order for us to ease our own suffering, we must understand what is happening. We might meet challenging emotions and strong physical sensations. We may even find an incredible feud of thoughts unravelling in our head. If we are able to be with our feelings and notice the thoughts that are rising, perhaps even the stories and projections that they carry: we have an opportunity to understand what is unfolding. Self-compassion is not victimization. It is the ability to be there for yourself as a caring friend would be in times of difficulty. Mindful Self-compassion does not have to feed the drama: the constant replaying of an event or dwelling on a problem. An interesting research (Ostafin B. & Kassman K., 2012) studied 157 participants and showed that individuals with greater mindful awareness were better able to solve insight problems. This means that they were better able to overcome their habitual responses obtained from previous experience and create new responses. Often the way in which we respond to challenges is conditioned. Many times if there is an uncomfortable feeling or thought brewing within, we may judge it and suppress it. If we are very tired, we may continue to push ourselves and work hard. Self-compassion is the ability to listen and to self-regulate. This is not something that happens overnight. In my personal experience, it is a life-time habit that continues to grow. At times, it may include saying no to somebody, even when you don’t want to let them down. At other times, it may include listen to one’s own storytelling and realizing that we are being ridiculous and moving on. Really there are no rules except the practice of deep listening and non-judgement.

When I started practicing mindfulness, I felt that I was inside the mind of a crazy person. And to a large extend I was. My mind was going so fast. I had never cultivated the habit of listening to my own thoughts. The process was uncomfortable, full of growing pains. Quite soon after starting however, I found myself feeling a little less anxious. It was as if the practice of mindfulness offered me a temporary relief from the mayhem of my mind. Personally this is what mindfulness does. It eases my mental unrest and busyness. It clarifies what’s there. It helps me to understand what’s happening inside of me: how my thoughts, life circumstances and emotions are meeting. Mindfulness is a practice of self-compassion, but it also enables us to take self-compassionate action. Being aware and understanding what is going on allows us to make intelligent choices when responding to life circumstances. Just the simple action of stopping, tuning into your breathing and taking 3 conscious breaths is a start.