When we breathe in, we are expanding our lungs to accommodate air. When we practice meditation or engage in svadhyaya we expand our minds and our consciousness. When we practice yoga asana, we expand our physical bodies. And when we practice compassion, gratitude, joy, we expand our hearts. Take a moment to turn inward- what is in your heart? Who or what do you hold in this sacred space? Loved ones, pets, places, and even precious memories reside here. Now look again…. Do you reside there, too?
As yogis, we often practice compassion for others; turning our love outward and extending it to those dear to us, and even to strangers. But how often do we turn that same compassion and love toward ourselves? When a friend comes to us with a burden or heavy heart, we listen, we comfort, we create a safe space of non-judgment and acceptance, and most of all we love them. But when we encounter obstacles, face shortcomings, or go through rough times, do we extend this same compassion to ourselves?
When we offer ourselves the same kindness, love, and acceptance, this is the practice of self-compassion. Next time you are struggling with something, notice how your inner voice sounds. Is it critical and judgmental? Or is it comforting, gentle, and kind? When you have a tough time or are struggling through the muck of it, do you take the time to comfort yourself and create a safe space of non-judgment where you can experience your feelings? Can you accept yourself, just as you are, in this moment? This is the practice of loving and caring for yourself, and believe me, it takes a lot of practice.
Breathe in. Expand your heart to include yourself. Breathe out.
Mara teaches Cultivating Self-Compassion for Health starting 8/27/15. Sign up Here.