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Mindfulness and Self-Compassion as Therapy Tools

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shootingstarYou’ve probably wondered why I use and teach mindfulness and self-compassion in therapy. Or if you’re new to my blog you might be wondering how they relate to the services I provide. Although I couldn’t possibly write everything about it now, here I talk about it in a way that could help you begin to see the way they can release your long-held emotional pain. Or if you have learned to numb out instead of feeling it and they will help you feel alive again.

It helps to think of mindfulness and self-compassion as tools. Thinking of them this way makes them more concrete and less abstract. Everyone can learn these, but timing and where to begin are part of my job as your therapist. There are practices at any level from which you enter into using them as tools to find relief and your self in the process.

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn refers to mindfulness as a gateway or the path to experiencing the full dimensionality of being human and being alive. Mindfulness can be practiced formally , as in meditation, and informally, as in short awakenings through the days. This means paying attention to the present moment deliberately, with all of your mind, while being open, curious and non-judgmental about what you are experiencing, in your body, mind, and environment as it is unfolding.

Self-compassion as a tool is a process you can use to awaken a nurturing place inside you that can be comforting and validating when you are doubting or criticizing yourself, or worse, feeling shamed or loathing toward your being at all. Self-compassion is a natural part of human beings, but when a child doesn’t receive it, or can’t receive it, and don’t see it role-modeled or addressed, it isn’t awakened in them.

Awareness is what both of these tools bring forth, awareness of the full pure essence of your experience in that moment for you. There is no right or wrong or better or less than or one description. It just is what it is and it’s everywhere, awareness is. With awareness of your worth through self-compassion practice, you find your place in the world, in relationships, in your career and anywhere else you need to show up and be who you are.

You can draw on this avenue of connecting to your self-worth anytime you feel bad, embarrassed, less than, like failure, not good enough, blamed, shamed, put down, left out, invisible and unloveable.

Awareness through mindfulness practices is ongoing too. It’s not like you wake up a certain number of times and arrive once and for all. No, it’s not like that even for monks who meditate and practice mindfulness for years. Awareness is the gift of life and cultivating it is the practice of refining the space called awareness that you inhabit. Cultivate is a verb, a process.

As great leaders and Buddhist monks teach us, each day is a new beginning and each moment is a new moment. Realizing this is a compassionate viewpoint in that essentially we humans are all the same. We hurt the same, we want to be loved and loving, we want to be peaceful people and do no harm, we want to feed our family and have shelter and work that is fulfilling.

And at the same time being human means we make mistakes, say and do things we regret, have accidents, fail at some things, make poor decisions and judgments, feel bad about our behavior and hurt others when we do. Dr. Kristen Neff has made this her life’s work as a researcher, professor and mother of a child with special needs. Through her research she sees self-compassion being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Awareness of our human beingness opens the door to feel self-compassion or compassion toward another at a difficult time and then helps you remember that the next moment is a new moment and fresh beginning.

At any time, know that you can begin again with an open heart, non-judgmentaly, with compassion toward yourself or others. Then get on with living. This process takes but a few seconds and being awake to knowing this as truth. A shift in your perspective, behavior, self-image, problem solving will result.

I’ll stop here to let you take this in. Watch for more about these two beautiful tools in coming posts. Questions, thoughts?? Please connect in the comment box below or on my blog if you are getting this through email. Please sign up to receive my posts if you aren’t already, and like my business FB page and boards with helpful tips and encouraging quotes and ideas.

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