I have made gargantuan progress in this department! I now truly know what it feels like to actually really care about myself, like myself, want to look after and be kind to myself. What a game changer this has been.
The breakthrough started a couple of years ago when I attended a Self Compassion Conference at Samye Ling Monastery where Kirstin Neff and Christopher Germer were speakers along with Paul Gilbert. People wept in the audience as self compassion cracked the hardness around their hearts, as we all realised how rough and tough we have been to ourselves.
I resisted the whole idea for ages, to the point where I looked with fear at the self compassion books I bought at the conference when I passed them on the coffee table. Then I picked one up and read it and the effect was a big softening in attitude and tears too. Tears when I realised how horrible I have been to myself. Compassion for my own suffering state as well as for others.
It takes time for these new ways of being kind to settle in, and compassion for ourselves in our resistance to it is also necessary I have found. I have regular self sabotage relapses and that is a whole subject I will be writing about at some length later on, as it really is a hot topic for me. The more I remember to be present right now and to be loving and compassionate to myself, the sneakier the self sabotage has become, and it has upped its game too. As if it has an intelligence all of its own, how mysterious.
To even remember takes practise. I have an App on my phone which randomly sends me reminders through the day, and that helps a lot. Anything that helps to break the unconscious stream of thought is helpful. I walk in nature every day for an hour, usually alone. The beauty helps to silence the inner dialogue. I listen to music which fills me with awe.
I treat myself to things that are good for me more often now. I joined a health club and for the last 5 months I have been starting each day with a swim at a local hotel pool. To my joy, I have the pool entirely to myself 99% of the time. I usually find as I am swimming along that the inner chatter starts up. I then focus my attention on the mesmerising patterns the water and colours make right in front of me, on the sensations I feel in my body. Back to the present and what is actually happening right this minute. And then I float wightless in the jacuzzi, shower dress and ready for the day by 9am.
I worry a LOT less, though I do still worry. I have a £20k tax bill to be paid by the end of this month and £3k in the bank! But even though worry and fear arise – they subside too as I reassure myself that all will be well whether I manage to pay it on time or take a bit longer, it is not a danger to my survival. As Paul Gilbert points out from his evolutionary psychology perspective, a lot of what we are doing is simple self soothing. Soothing and calming the primitive brain and its fight or flight responses. Listening and allowing and reassuring it.
Sometimes when I am stressing out I give myself a little hug and a stroke, it works 🙂