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Self Compassion – self care and self love

We all need more self-love

Understanding what being kind towards myself meant, and actively doing this has changed my life. I was once one of those people who ‘beat themselves up’ constantly and who’s inner critics (there was a committee and cacophony of them) were so loud that my own true self struggled to be heard.

I had, in the past, associated self-care and self-love with being self-centered and selfish, so when I first read about self-acceptance and compassion it jarred a little. It bumped up against a lifetime of believing I was not worthy. Through repeatedly being kind to myself in little ways  – developing a habit of self-compassion – I eventually shifted from being uncomfortable with myself most of the time to being comfortable with myself most of the time. Amazing!

I discovered a book by Tara Brach some years ago called “Radical Acceptance” and I listened to an audio book “Radical Self-acceptance” – these helped me turn things around. It is only when we accept ourselves just the way we are, and stop trying to bend ourselves out of shape for crazy reasons, that we can change.

I am a massive fan of Tara Brach who is an American  psychotherapist and an advocate of meditation. She gives talks, writes, teaches and posts many resources for free on her website. Listen to her teachings – she has a wicked sense of humour, telling many good and bad jokes in her talks! I have included a talk at the end of this blog.

The RAIN of self-compassion – Tara Brach

Over many years of working with people Tara Brach has created a tool for practicing mindfulness and compassion. She says:

“I’ve come to see the sense of personal deficiency as epidemic. When we feel unworthy, we are in a trance that causes tremendous suffering. Yet, I have found in my own life and with countless others that we can awaken from this trance through mindful self-compassion. We can come to trust the goodness and purity of our hearts.

In order to unfold, self-compassion depends on honest, direct contact with our own vulnerability. This compassion fully blossoms when we actively offer care to ourselves. Yet when we’ve gotten stuck in the trance of unworthiness, it often feels impossible to arouse self-compassion. To help people address feelings of insecurity and unworthiness, I like to share a meditation I call the RAIN of Self-Compassion.”

White Tulips  – Sir William Nicholson

RAIN = Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture

The acronym RAIN is easy to remember – the steps are:
  • Recognize what is happening;
  • Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
  • Investigate with interest and care;
  • Nurture with self-compassion.

Visit the RAIN of Self-Compassion for a full description of the steps, including translations to other languages.

The following is taken from Tara Brach with thanks. I have changed slightly and added some material of my own.

 R    Recognize What’s Going On

Recognizing means consciously acknowledging, in any given moment, the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are affecting us. What’s going on in an around us? Notice it all!

The first step is to simply recognize that we are stuck and experiencing negative and punishing thoughts and painful emotions and physical sensations.

Common signs that you are in this trance include a critical inner voice, and oh boy haven’t I had plenty of this voice. My friend used to say to me:  “Alyson… you would not be that unkind to me or another friend so give yourself a break!”

Feelings of shame or fear are common, and for those of us who have lingering shame from childhood, it is not always easy to recognize our emotions and physical feelings. Stay with it – you will tune-in and recognize those painful feelings – usually attached to feelings of unworthiness. The squeeze of anxiety or the weight of depression in the body are also signs that you are in this cycle. You can use a simple mental whisper, ‘stay still and notice’. Just notice what’s come up.

Flower Seller Diego Rivera

A    Allow the Experience to be There, Just as it is

Allowing means letting the thoughts, emotions, feelings, or sensations to  simply be there, without trying to fix or avoid anything.

When we’re caught in self-judgment, allowing doesn’t mean we agree with our belief that we’re unworthy. Rather, we honestly acknowledge our judgment, as well as the painful feelings underneath.

Many people I speak to think allowing is too passive, however, it is one of the most powerful things we can do, and it takes courage to truly accept what is going on and be with it.

Encourage and support yourself when the going is tough.

Resolve to pause and let be through silently offering an encouraging word or phrase to yourself. For instance, you might feel the grip of fear and mentally whisper ‘It’s OK’, in order to acknowledge and accept the reality of your experience in the moment.

Nick Fewings – Unsplash

I   Investigate with Interest and Care

Once you recognize what is arising and allow it to just be, then you can deepen your attention through investigation. This means simply calling on your natural curiosity, asking “What’s going on here?”. This help you become more focused and direct your attention to your present experience.

Examples of questions you might ask yourself are: What most wants attention? How and where am I experiencing this in my body? What am I believing right now? What does this vulnerable place want from me? What does it/I need most?

Whatever your questions, the transformation comes when you bring your attention to the felt-sense in the body and not attempt to intellectualize or analyze.

Approach your experience in a non-judgmental, kind way – with an attitude of care. This helps create a sense of safety, making it possible to honestly connect with your hurts, fears and shame.

Morning Spring – Maxfield Parrish

N  Nurture with Self-Compassion

In this final step we bring self-compassion into fullness as we intentionally nurture and commit to self-care.

Sense what the wounded, frightened or hurting part of you most needs, and then offer some gesture of active care that might address this need.

Does it need a message of reassurance? Of forgiveness? Of companionship? Of love? Experiment and see what gesture of kindness most helps to comfort, soften or open your heart. It might be the mental whisper,I’m here with you. I’m sorry, and I love you. I love you, and I’m listening. It’s not your fault. Trust in your goodness.  Positive and kind affirmations that you repeat to yourself can be helpful to start the process.

In addition to messages of care, many people find healing by gently placing a hand on their heart or cheek or try hugging yourself. You can envision being bathed in or embraced by warm, radiant light and then take a bath, light a fire, whatever fills you with warmth – metaphorical and physical.

If it feels difficult to offer yourself love, bring to mind a loving being – family member, friend or pet – and imagine their love and wisdom flowing into you.

When you have the intention to be kind to yourself, the smallest gesture of love – even if initially it feels awkward – will nourish your heart.

JW Unsplash 

After the RAIN

When you’ve completed the active steps of RAIN, it’s important to notice your own presence and rest in that tender space of awareness.

Through practicing RAIN you will come to realize that you are no longer imprisoned in the trance of unworthiness.

Ober-Rae Starr Livingstone

Self-Compassion is not a one-shot meditation. Keep doing it. When uncomfortable feelings arise or when difficult situations provoke unwelcome emotions think RAIN and practice these steps. As you do this you may experience a small shift, perhaps a subtle sense of warmth and openness, a widening in perspective, a quieting of the negative mental stories and self-criticism, a softening of your heart. Trust this and trust yourself!

RAIN is a practice for life—it can help you transform. Every time you are willing to slow down and recognize, “Oh, here it is that feeling of …. unworthiness… fear…  hurt… judgment…,” you accept, investigate and nurture. Gradually you’ll experience natural loving awareness as the truth of who you are.

 Jude Beck – Unsplash