Written by Diane Breneman – Feature Wellness Contributor
Edited by Beth Zollars
4 Minute Read Time
When I saw the topic Diane was writing for this weeks “Wellness Wednesday”, I thought “Oh boy.. smack dab on target”.
Most women I know, are brutal with judgement and criticism about themselves. Myself included. If it’s not something physical we are obsessing about (that arm flab) it’s judgement about what we have or haven’t done in our day and to whom (didn’t spend enough time with my 93 year old mom.)
The list goes on.
Thankfully, I have practiced meditation for many years- in my Buddhist training, the art of practicing loving kindness towards oneself is cultivating “Maitri” – or a gentle approach to yourself in meditation. It made a huge difference in my life and the way I see others.
“Making friends with myself meant seeing everything inside me, and not running away or turning my back on it. Because that’s what real friendship is. You don’t turn your back on yourself and abandon yourself, just the way you wouldn’t give up on a good friend when their darker sides began to show up. “Pema Chodron
Diane covers beautifully the importance of befriending ourselves first, before we can go out to our family, friends, and the larger world. See below for her article and visit her website for more information on her amazing classes and one on one sessions.
Training Love For Yourself and Others
“If your compassion does not include yourself it is incomplete.”
Over the last eight years I’ve taught meditation to hundreds if not thousands of people from all walks of life.
In all that time, no one has ever asked me how they could sit in judgment of themselves more effectively. Not one person has asked me to assist them in beating themselves more efficiently.
At this point, I have yet to even find one person who needs my help in learning how to be harder on themselves. Instead, what every single person who has ever come to my practice yearns for – how to quiet that inner critic and find a way to love themselves and those around them more fully.
Thankfully, meditation can create that capacity.
However, today meditation is becoming increasingly confused with the self-help and self-development genre.
Many people want to learn to meditate to fix themselves and there are a variety of apps that provide guided meditations without providing true guidance.
Meditation when thought of or taught as a sort of “fixer-upper” technique, betrays its hallowed tradition and perpetuates damaging patterns of internal self-criticism and self-judgment.
With such an approach, the subtle focus is on what is wrong with you and of course, whatever you focus on does not dissipate, instead it grows.
As a result, when those who meditate are not taught the art of self-compassion, the inward journey can be one that feeds self-criticism with each new awareness of our human nature.
Such practices over time are counterproductive and can even become debilitating.
Like most mothers, the basic meditation class will tell you to love and not judge yourself but very few will teach exactly how to do that.
The most effective method to train self-compassion is the ancient practice of loving kindness meditation. In as little as two weeks, practicing thirty minutes a day, studies have shown that you can significantly increase your levels of both self-compassion and compassion for your fellow brothers and sisters.
Loving kindness meditation is one of the most powerful forms of meditation and should form the foundation of all meditative and contemplative disciplines.
To develop a powerful meditative practice, you must learn to sit where you are with what you are experiencing in a place of awareness, acceptance and compassion.
Through such practice comes a profound connection to the shared experience of humanity and a deep appreciation for its beauty.
Life is painful, glorious and everything in between, for everyone. When you learn to embrace experiencing all that is present in you and resist nothing, resilience and strength are created.
Such a compassionate practice brings fulfillment in life and the spiritual connection every human being yearns to know.
Carl Jung has been quoted as saying,
“the most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
Perhaps this is why it is easier and more sellable to present meditation as a way to fix what is wrong as opposed to a method for accepting and loving all that is, unconditionally.
The problem is that one approach deepens your suffering while the other, albeit a bit more challenging approach, creates true compassion for yourself, others and all the world that will literally set you free in this life.
If you are going to meditate, tools to cultivate self-compassion are a must!
If you are interested in learning more in-depth study, I have classes focusing on this genre. if you would like to try a loving kindness meditation, you can find one in the “for you” section of my website at www.meditativescience.com.
Do you find it difficult to give yourself the loving compassion you desire? What are your roadblocks? Please comment below and thank you for stopping by Elizabeth by the Sea.