compassionateInherent in every human being, even in those we may judge to be mean, bad or heartless, is a sense of care. We deeply care for our family members, our friends, neighbors and pets.

Unfortunately, we do not care for ourselves to the same degree as we do for others. We tend to beat ourselves up; judge ourselves critically; ignore our aches and pains; and end up feeling shame, guilt, fear or depression. This happens because we tend to live according to our conditioned beliefs or stories, such as we are not good or worthy enough, we are bad or we do not matter.

For example, if our mindset is that of scarcity and lack, we will strive endlessly no matter how much we have achieved in money or status. Outwardly, we look good because we have achieved so much. Our friends and colleague are impressed by our achievements, but we experience emptiness and sadness inside.

We may self-criticize, beat ourselves up and end up feeling depressed or anxious without being aware of the stories we have created in our minds. We try to find meaning and long to touch the joy and happiness that is always there in each one of us.

When we become mindful of this, it is an awakening, and we want to listen to the body, be with the sensations of tension and constriction and embrace with gentleness what the body is telling us at that time. We listen patiently. We come to understand that we want ease, flow and acceptance of who we are; and that we are whole, just like any other human being.

The human Swiss cheese is great even if there are holes in the cheese. We realize that we were driven by a belief that we are not good enough, and that to be accepted by ourselves and others, we had to achieve beyond what we already had. That belief served us well to a point, but in our awakening, we realize that doing life is not serving us any longer. We want to be in life and meet it as it comes along, the good and not-so-good as defined by our mind.

We cultivate self-compassion, the ability to be present to our own self experience. And we embrace the feelings, the body sensations and the thinking. We come to know why we are suffering and to develop an empathic response for ourselves.

Self-compassion is not selfishness, self-indulgence or self-pity. It is coming to hold ourselves with the utmost kindness, tenderness and respect so that we can feel whole and be in the wholeness of life, touching the beauty and the tragedy as they present, with presence, child-like curiosity and equanimity.

Nellie

Nellie Grose, MD, MPH; Holistic Functional Medicine Practitioner at the Center for Health & Healing

To register for her Lunch and Learn on Cultivating Self-Compassion, register here