In the last session of the 4 week beginners course I was teaching this week, we focused on kindness to self and others. Often people are surprised that mindfulness places so much emphasis on compassion, and yet it is crucial to the quality with which we practice mindfulness. Compassionate awareness avoids activating our stress response in difficult situations and allows us to think more clearly. As his holiness the Dalai Lama says
“Compassion has two functions: it causes our brain to function better and it brings inner strength. These, then, are the causes of happiness.”
In fact, research has shown that compassion to ourselves brings such benefits as:
- Increased resilience
- Improved mood
- Increased capacity to care for others
If you notice that you’re being critical towards yourself or you’re skipping all the self-care activities to focus on the things you ‘have to do’, then it might be time to start strengthening the neural networks responsible for self-compassion in your brain. The more you practice self-compassion, the better you will get at it and thus this will become your default habit. Loving-Kindness meditations are a great way to practice self-compassion, but I wanted to suggest a short, morning practice you can do as well, based on setting loving-kindness intentions. When we set these intentions daily, we tell our subconscious brain that this is a priority and allow it to respond accordingly. This is all the more powerful when make this the first act of the day.
- Sit up in bed as you wake.
- Place your hand on your heart and become aware of your breath.
- Feel the warmth in your heart area and allow yourself to enjoy this pleasant sensation.
- Repeat the following (silently or out loud)
May I be well
May I be happy
May I be loved.
May I talk to myself with kindness.
May I treat myself with kindness.
- Repeat this several times.
- Sit a moment longer with the breath and allow your intentions to settle before you continue with your day.
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