Sunday, December 13, 2009

Compassion for ourselves

I taught a meditation workshop yesterday afternoon that was lovely and peaceful and very illuminating. I do not consider myself a meditation expert, but really enjoy introducing people to the concept of meditation and especially compassion focused meditation.

As we practiced, the theme of compassion emerged. This in the first yama of the eight-limbed path of yoga and is called Ahimsa in sanskrit. One student provided the best opportunity to demonstrate the practice of Ahimsa.

We were practice a metta blessing of loving-kindness toward ourselves. When we finished, she shared that she often struggles in life with giving too much of herself to others. During the meditation she found herself thinking of others when she was intending to focus on compassion for herself. Then, she was critical of herself for this. I so appreciate her honesty.

This is exactly what most of us do in meditation and in life. And this is the perfect moment to then practice compassion for ourselves. Recognizing that this is a pattern of thinking we have engaged in for many, many years and that we practice compassion by gently recognizing that we have strayed in our focus and returning to our intention. That is the practice and we offer ourselves opportunities everyday to recognize those moments and practice Ahimsa.

I see this harsh evaluation of missteps in myself and in my children. As a parent I try to model compassionate responses as often as I can, but definitely struggle when I'm having a difficult day. On those days I easily get caught up in the negative thoughts streaming through my mind and struggle to let go and refocus on compassion, for myself and them. The judgment creates barriers and walls between me and my children (or anyone else I am upset with), whereas compassion creates connections and understanding.

Image how the world can be different if we all work toward being more compassionate toward ourselves first, filling our own bucket, and then we can truly share that compassion with others, filling theirs. That positive energy can make such a difference in the world.

How often do you focus on cultivating compassion for yourself?

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