Sunday, January 3, 2010

Starting with Self-Compassion

One of my words for 2010 is "maitre" ... the Sanscrit word meaning loving kindness toward ourselves. If we want to have a more compassionate world, perhaps we need to begin by being compassionate with our self. Kristin Neff, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Human Development at the University of Texas at Austin, has a website devoted to ideas about how to be more compassionate towards ourselves. Here are two of her recommendations for being more self-compassionate when we might normally be self-critical or judgmental:

Self-Kindness - "What would a caring friend say to you in this situation" "What is a kind and constructive way to think about how I can rectify this mistake or do better next time?" Try putting your hand over your heart or gently stroking your arm when feeling a lot of pain as a gesture of kindness and compassion.

Self-judgment - "Who ever said human beings are supposed to be perfect?" "Would a caring mother say this to her child if she wanted the child to grow and develop?" "How will I learn if it's not okay to make mistakes?"

And here is another set of recommendations found at
Six Ways to Develop Kindness Towards Yourself
Adapted from The Force of Kindness, by Sharon Salzberg (Sounds True, 2005).

People often find some difficulty in caring for themselves, in receiving love, in believing they deserve to be happy. Developing care towards ourselves with the power of concentration is the first objective, the foundation for later being able to include others and finally all of life in the sphere of kindness. Try these ways:
1. Spend some time consciously reflecting on the good you’ve done, or a good quality you have.
2. Remember a time you made a mistake. What qualities help you learn to act differently? What qualities stifle the creative urge to change?
3. If you see anger, fear, or similar states arising in your mind, and you find yourself reacting to them as “bad” or “wrong,” purposefully translate that response to “painful” or “suffering.” See what changes.
4. Reflect on what the middle way might look like for you in a particular endeavor, relationship, or challenge.
5. Devote some time each day to self-care. Can you spend 15 or 20 minutes doing something to be kind to yourself?
6. Develop and practice loving kindness meditation for yourself.
About the image: This is from a new set of "Dragon Country Intentions" I'm doing to get ready for the "Frozen Dead Guy Festival" gallery opening. Most are taken from the poem by the same name and posted here.


  1. Great post today, Joyce. Self-caring: we can understand it and yet so often fail to engage in it.

    I understand that Jan Phillips is undertaking a "Lovingkindness" project. I'm going to look into it and perhaps write about it.

  2. this is a great post Joyce.

    When I first got out of that relationship with Conrad, I was very broken. I didn't 'feel' as if I was capable of anything and so, I actively engaged in good self-care. One of the things I did was to make a list of the things I'd done I was proud -- like write a play with a group of street teens two years in a row and produce a concert with the play as the centrepiece.

    If I could do that once, I can do it again, I'd tell myself.

    And eventually, I did. Grow to do other great things.

    Thank you my friend for sharing your light with such compassion.