The Freedom to Be Present, Just As You Are: Practicing Self Care as an Awakened Being
What if the freedom to be one’s self entailed being open and compassionate with ALL of one’s self? How does this fit with your regular practices of self-care? Let’s add mindfulness to the equation and take a look.
Mindfulness is a willingness to see your own stress and suffering, and an ability to stay present with it, even and especially when it may be uncomfortable.
Very often our self-care routine is either perfunctory, or it’s done in an effort to make ourselves feel better. In the first case, it’s something we do because it is the right time to do so. Example: weekly manicure or twice a week yoga class. In the second case, we initiate a self-care activity in order to try to make our stress (whether it’s mental, emotional or physical) go away.
Let’s see what changes when we combine the two … In a mindfulness approach to caring for yourself, we are not trying to get rid of any of the negative emotions, thoughts or physical sensations. Instead, mindful self-care is an approach of “being with” the inner experience … a way of “holding space” for one’s self.
Mindfully caring for yourself
One way of tending to yourself is to notice what it is you’re experiencing within … notice your emotions as they pass through. Give special attention to stuck emotions, to those emotions that bring a heavy or tight sensation in the body. The ones we most want to ignore, minimize, and deny. The ones we often find ourselves responding to with busyness: amped up doing is often a sign of repression. Over-stressed frenzied doing is a sure signal that you are in need of TLC. So pause and check in when experiencing this level of chaos, remind yourself to slow down, and be courageous enough to notice what it is that you’re feeling.
Tending to Self
Get out of the auto-pilot habit and check in with yourself
Notice how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, whether there’s tightness or ease in your body
Sometimes it’s difficult to notice our true emotions, but easier to notice racing thoughts, tension or discomfort in the body
Rather than the same old “Self Care”, experiment with Self Compassion.Experts agree that there are three main aspects of compassion.
1. Mindfulness Vs. Lost in Emotional Reaction
The first step of Self Compassion we’ve already touched on – mindful presence turned inward, towards yourself. With mindful presence, we neither ignore nor overreact to our feelings. Instead, we stay grounded, pause and breathe, and as best we can, feel what we’re present to in the moment, releasing negative thoughts as they arise, and holding awareness with the flow of the breath as a grounding practice.
2. Self Kindness Vs. Self Judgement
Self-compassion involves being warm and tender with oneself during times of upset, failures, or moments of inadequacy. Rather than judging one’s self harshly, using criticism to motivate, a compassionate person recognizes that being imperfect is natural, so they are gentle with themselves when their experience doesn’t live up to their expectations.
3. Common Humanity Vs. Isolation
When we are overwhelmed or down due to our own suffering our vision often narrows, and we find ourselves feeling isolated and alone. Often, we buy into a “poor me” mentality, imagining that our suffering is worse than that of others; or perhaps even that we ourselves are worse than others. Often we mistake the experiences we are having with our sense of who we are as a self. Therefore if I am miserable, I must be a terrible person. Self-compassion, on the other hand, has an attribute of connection. Because when we are coming from a space of compassion, we understand that suffering is part of our shared humanity. We aren’t suffering because we are bad, we’re suffering because we are human. A compassionate perspective helps us broaden our horizon, and feel the connection with all that is – this touches and awakens our hearts.
Inner Guidance System
Don’t practice self-care the same way everyone else does, which is basically practicing self-care on auto-pilot. Doing what you’re doing not because it feels intrinsically right, but because it’s “the right thing to do at the right time”. As we awaken from our sleep of unconsciousness, we become ever more aware and awake. Old habits become increasingly uncomfortable. One of our biggest, easiest means and ways of being guided is from our inner knowing – an internal guidance system already wired and ready to go (from birth). But in order for this system to function properly, we need mindfulness skills. We need to listen inwards. We need to feel the subtle energy presence of our being. Our emotions light this system up for us.
Pay attention. Practice mindful presence and self-compassion. This is only the beginning. Many more steps will reveal themselves to you, but first, you must start where you are … One step at a time.
Blessings on Your Sacred Healing Journey! Thanks for sharing the journey with us! Much Love, Lynn and Cheryl
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, check out our upcoming Mindfulness Class at this link!