Compassion is an interesting concept. We seem to have an easier time finding empathy and compassion for others versus ourselves. Our heart-strings pull so easily towards those that we do not know and the kindness that is extended is that of an afterthought. The warm smile, the hug, the donation, the sharing of a social media post, most of us don’t even think twice during these times of need. So what happens when that compassion is needed most towards ourselves? I felt compelled to share my route to cultivating compassion and not because I am the master at it or because you should follow any practitioner’s prescription other than your own. But, if you have ever found yourself in the depths of struggle, physical or emotional, or just plain feeling shitty, this is what I discovered actually worked. This from someone who thought she understood how to be compassionate.
Being a big problem solver, I currently only try to offer advice if asked. In general, people just want to be validated, heard and most importantly, seen. Additionally, people do whatever suits them at the end of the day. However yesterday I was asked point-blank, “What do you do when you just feel completely shitty?” I immediately responded, “Practice extreme compassion….for yourself and others.”
What is extreme compassion? Like self-care, compassion is something that is known from a general perspective, but maybe not necessarily truly understood until this “feeling shitty” thing happens. Time and again as humans we find ourselves in an energetic dance of progression and regression. The body and mind retreat to old habits and patterns to avoid change or fear of the unknown. We get stuck in our own story and we find that it is easier to retreat to familiar relationships, eating patterns and so on, other than just becoming highly aware of what is needed moment to moment. For instance, we’ve all encountered a situation where we don’t “feel” like doing something/anything. This could be exercising, eating nourishing foods or, on some days, showering. Yes, I have been there. I used to joke about it….”you look so great today”, someone would say. My response, “Well I showered.” Those were days where I was in the depth of my extreme compassion practice.
There comes a time when exercising extreme compassion turns into a moment of residing in the shit or wading through it with a trust and love for your body and spirit. On the days of not wanting to shower, I tuned in and realized, how much better I felt when I did. So, if this could work in this moment, what about every moment? Requiring complete presence and dedication to your emotional health is a tremendous task in a busy world. Demands on our lives are endless, but it is possible and necessary for not only survival, but living with purpose. So the reflection is necessary at every moment and activity (i.e. eating, exercising, socializing, sleeping, drinking, etc). What is the pattern? Do I tend to treat myself kindly or starve myself physically and emotionally? Do I tend to treat myself with respect or retreat to self-loathing? Do I tend to evaluate my needs or just dive into numbing blind behavior? When I implemented the practice of truly evaluating every moment, the destructive patterns started to loosen their grip and the weight of my story, my shit became lighter. Sticking with the habits that would reinforce energetic momentum, I realized were rooted in deep loving compassion and those habits, those practices were what needed continual attention.
So the formula looks like this:
- Ask yourself what needs to be done RIGHT NOW.
- If the task will produce a positive feeling of wellness, DO IT, but keep it simple.
- Reflect on how you feel after the task. Do I feel lighter?
- Finally, ask yourself if you regret the decision you made. If the answer is no, then stick with that act of compassion.
Know that there will be days when this formula won’t serve you. Your dark side will be stronger and win. Additionally, this practice is more difficult if you have the responsibilities of caring for and serving others. Your space is being occupied in those moments and the practice of extreme compassion for yourself will be more difficult than if you were to run a marathon. In these times, it comes down to will. Will you reside in your shit or make the energetic shift and realize that finding extreme compassion for yourself will allow you to eventually have more compassion for others? It is a rational process and a rational thought….stay in the shit or make the shift.