Meeting Our Difficulties with Self-Compassion
One of my first mindfulness meditation mentors would often say, “usually we don’t begin a meditation practice because everything is going well in our lives.” The first few times I heard this it felt alarming and almost too honest. As a longtime meditation teacher now myself, I think back to my mentor’s perspective and have to acknowledge the validity and truth in his words.
Even though many people do start meditation to train their minds or make them feel even better than they already do, others knock at meditation’s door because they are looking for more tools or resources to meet the inevitable difficulties we all go through as human beings. This side of meditation is the experience of transformation and growth through meeting our difficulties with compassion, particularly self-compassion. This is the muddy, often heart-rapturing side of the practice that you come into contact with when parts of yourself need to heal or when you are experiencing challenges, stress or change.
The secret here is that meditation not only trains our brains to become more present, but it also automatically trains us to be more compassionate. So as long as we are showing up and not resisting our present moment experience by wishing our thoughts away or bypassing our emotions, then we are also inherently training ourselves to become more loving and kind.
Each time you meet yourself with kindness in your meditation practice, you also learn to meet your difficulties in a way that will lead to eventual transformation through self-compassion. Compassion is the ability to be with our own hardships and the hardships of others, is what gets us through to the other side of love and growth. If you could use more support overcoming common obstacles to self-compassion, I share my Three Simple Steps to Self-Compassion in my upcoming book Kindness Now: A 28-Day to Living with Authenticity, Intention, and Compassion. Yet today, I want to take it a step further and share one of my go-to self-compassion practices.
How To Cultivate Self-Compassion
Along with meeting your thoughts, emotions and the moment exactly as it is in meditation, there is an additional practice I often recommend to cultivate compassion. At any time during your meditation or in the midst of daily activity, stress or hardship, gently introduce the following self-compassion phrases. You can repeat them silently, with your hand on your heart if you choose and cultivate sensations of warmth, kindness and tenderness as you repeat them:
- May I meet this too with kindness.
- May I learn to meet this difficulty with love and compassion.
- May I find ease and peace in this moment.
- May I meet this with wisdom and unconditional compassion.
You can try all of these phrases at once or focus on one or two. Repeat the phrase until you feel compassion, peace and calmness in your heart. You will know when your difficulties are transforming, as you will feel relief and ease in your heart and mind. Remember that difficulties are inevitable, and it is how we meet them that will lead us to transformation, growth and freedom.
For more of my insights and practices on compassion visit kindnessnowbook.com to learn more about the full week of compassion practice Kindness Now has in store for you. And may the phrases we practiced with today support you in cultivating more self-compassion any time that you need too.
Amanda Gilbert is a meditation teacher, speaker, lecturer of mindfulness at the University of Southern California and author. She has been a meditator for over seventeen years and now leads meditation for top companies like NBC, Paramount Pictures, W Hotels, Merrill Lynch, Macy’s, and YouTube.