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Finding the good in the situation – NL Corona Lockdown Day 2

Strange times aren’t they? There has been such a sudden shift in life as usual and many of us are still in the midst of processing, making sense of what is going on and adjusting to these new parameters of working remotely, closed schools and social distancing.

Yesterday on Day 1 of the NL Lockdown I facilitated my first ever mindfulness session on Zoom. It was an amazing experience, the experiences shared were deeply touching and insightful. I am very grateful for the opportunity to hold space and guide communities through the process of mindfulness especially right now. I went into this online format with some resistance certainly. And on the other hand, I felt ignited with purpose knowing that staying connected, mindful and grounded is more important than ever.stay presentThese times are challenging in many ways, a significant rise in disease & death is certainly no light territory, many face financial hardship or even collapse. And … these times are also fascinating in so many ways. I’m sure you hear enough about the concerns in the media and we cannot ignore or dismiss the bad. However, my mission in this post is to help you focus on the good and the lessons that we can learn collectively in this time of transition.

We are forced to surrender our illusion of control and reminded how vulnerable we are. The only power we really have is to choose how we relate to this situation. The rise of solidarity, community and connection, random acts of kindness is moving. Awareness and deep learnings come from pausing and these give us immense clarity on what it is that really matters : enjoying good health, well-being and feeling connected. LOVE is at the core of our humanity, this is what makes us feel alive and happy. We all want to be healthy, happy, peaceful and be loved and many of us have lost the roadmap to experience this in modern life. We need to find our way and mindfulness can provide us with focus and direction to cultivate a supportive mindset.

With every change comes opportunity. With chaos comes creativity. Any major transformation comes with its challenges and is also a huge opportunity for growth and healing.

Resisting the situation by denying it, not taking it seriously, numbing, indifference, fighting, resisting, judging, complaining, being a victim or a bully, getting caught up in fear or anxiety isn’t helpful. We may experience these emotional reactions at times, understandably with the overwhelm of the situation, but it is also quite intuitive to see how these reactions are simply not helpful and causing more suffering. These are stress reactions and stress and anxiety supress our immune systems making us more vulnerable to disease.

“To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain, and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain. Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain” – Howard Cutler

The mindful attitudes can serve as a compass to find the good in the midst of obstacles big or small. They can help reframe our perspective and navigate turbulent times.  

Beginner’s mind – We are being faced with uncertainty. Our minds don’t do well with uncertainty. Uncertainty brings fear. The more we are afraid, the more we need to exert control over our environment.

“We want things to be clear, so we can maintain our illusions of safety. Certainty breeds tremendous smugness. “– Gunilla Norris

When we learn to become comfortable with not knowing, our minds open, becomes more perceptive, we see with fresh eyes. This expansive state brings us into our creativity.  

beginner'smind

Non-Judging – We are constantly formulating judgment about ourselves or others. This is deeply harmful, unnecessary and limits us in many ways. In this situation, while there has been huge displays of solidarity, there has also been “othering”, racism, judging of cultural approaches and ways of handling the situation. Everyone has an opinion on everything it seems. Some don’t feel threatened personally by the situation and disregard completely national guidelines continuing to hug, kiss and shake hands defiantly for instance. It is our collective responsibility to protect the most vulnerable. These are not only the elderly but also a much larger group, those already battling with disease, cancer, cardiovascular, auto-immune diseases, etc. I found out in the last days that a few of my friends are asthmatic, have chronic bronchitis or have contracted serious lung disease in the past, I had no idea until now. Not everyone enjoys the same level of health. We are all invited to realise how interconnected we are and to practice caring for the most vulnerable. This is not a time to be self-absorbed but to wake up to our unity. The actions of one impacts the whole. “It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us” – Jackie Mutcheson

Trust – Trusting in ourselves and trusting life. Trusting in our resilience. Trusting that even if we don’t have a clue somehow things will work out. Something good will come out of all this. Trusting others. The current atmosphere of social distancing can bring mistrust, with others potentially being “infected” Other aren’t the enemy. When we get trapped in fear, there can be no trust and no empathy.

Taking time to listen within, to our intuition, to what we are being called to do. How can we serve? This is a time that is inviting us to be more internally focused and less reliant on the external world for guidance. There is opportunity for us to create our own structure, tune into our own rhythm, listen to our needs, follow our curiosity. What is it you need? Surrounding ourselves with positivity is important in these times, reading or watching news headlines multiple times a day probably isn’t serving you and just creating more anxiety. How much information do you really need? Notice what triggers your stress response vs what grows your trust. Make sure you are privileging the latter.  There is much to discover if we can apply curiosity and see this as an opportunity to discover something new!

Patience – This situation is temporary and invites us to slow down and look inwards. Can we take this moment for self-exploration, stay curious rather than become impatient? This moment will pass just like everything else in life will. Life is impermanent. Being in a rush creates restlessness and unhappiness. We are only here for a short while, what are we sprinting for? As best we can, trying to appreciate the unfolding moment and what is here to learn in difficulty rather than wanting to be somewhere else. Beauty can come from the darkest and deepest places if we just are patient and remain strong “no mud, no lotus”- Thich Nhat Hanh

Non-Striving – in modern life, we are often in a striving mode. We are most often trying to get somewhere. This creates in us, a state of unbalance, of relentless striving and struggling for the next thing. We can become very absorbed in how we should be, what we should be able to do, what we should achieve, etc. rather than just allowing ourselves to be as we are. We are being forced into BEING and presence, taking things day by day. Mindfulness invites us to be present with what is and embrace things as they are, with all their imperfections. To try and be as content as you can now, because now is effectively the only moment you have to live. 

Acceptance – Acceptance is clear seeing. It is allowing the situations to be as it is because that is the reality. It is not about passive resignation but simply recognising that fighting what is, is not only draining but a lost battle. Acceptance of things as they are brings with it a certain peace. We can focus our energy on being with what is and creating from there rather than resisting it which is completely wasted energy and potential.

Letting Go – Once we accept what is, we can surrender to it. This situation is calling for us to surrender. And when we do, it can feel quite liberating. Many experience this slowing down as a relief to an extent, a chance to reset and recharge. The pace of life is quite hectic and pausing can be deeply nourishing. Often we don’t allow ourselves to slow down because we feel guilty, that we shouldn’t take it too easy, we compare ourselves to others and their achievements or we try to meet or even exceed other’s expectations. Being given the permission to slow down is a gift. Also knowing that we are not alone in this can release feelings of guilt or fear of missing out. We are all in the same boat (albeit some may have a more comfortable seat).

Kindness

More than anything this situation calls for kindness and compassion to ourselves and everyone. It is a time to connect to your heart and practice radical self-care. The more you care for yourself, the more you can be there for others. I need to keep reminding myself of this too personally. I have a burning desire to be of service for others, my family but if I don’t have enough personal space that becomes challenging.  

we stand together

Even if we practice social distancing, we can smile and greet people in the street. I’ve had more people pause and smile back at me today than in a long time. I’ve also spoken to more of my neighbours than I have in the last year. This situation is connecting people in new ways. Many of us are spending more time with our family. Sometimes this may be online if they are far or vulnerable. And some elderly or younger single people may be feeling on the contrary very lonely and isolated which is a recipe for depression. Plenty of online support groups and communities are popping up here and there to support those who are alone and in need of support. Many companies are offering their services free to support working at home and kids out of schools. Tonight at 20h we clapped for 3 minutes to celebrate the amazing work done by caregivers to look after our sick, the sacrifices they are making, the risks they are taking, the importance and vitality of their work _ their dedication is simply amazing.  

It is beautiful to witness how this crisis is bringing out the best in many of us. What an amazing opportunity for us to evolve collectively.

“Whatever you frequently think and ponder upon, that will become the inclination of your mind” – The Buddha

We all have this incredible capacity to use our mind to become self-aware as humans yet it is often underutilised unless consciously cultivated. The core qualities of mindfulness, non-judging and kindness among others, are essential pillars to become better versions of ourselves, more fulfilled and shape a brighter future in which we understand and nurture the interconnectedness of everything. 

I hope these mindful attitudes can help you focus on the good and find the hidden gems in this situation.  I’ll be facilitating many sessions online in the coming days and sharing more recordings to do what I can within my community to support people in staying mindful, compassionate and positive. Please stay tuned on my website, Instagram or Facebook. 

Hope to see you there. I’d love to hear how you are experiencing this, what you find challenging as well as what the lessons learned are for you so far. 

Wishing you well and sending you love.

Nurture peace inside and out with this loving kindness practice

Earlier this week, I closed another rewarding 8-week MBSR journey with a beautiful group of people. It was my last mindfulness session for the year and the last meditation practice I guided was a loving kindness practice. I recorded it during our session and wanted to share it with you. (please note that as this is a live recording with a large group in the room, the sound quality isn’t perfect, there is some background noise but I am ok with imperfect, hope you are too?).

With the holiday season approaching, often connected to peace, joy and shared moments with loved ones, don’t you agree it is the perfect opportunity to nurture and spread some love and kindness?

Why practice Loving-Kindness? 

If you are unfamiliar with this practice,  below is a bit more context:

Loving-Kindness is originally a Buddhist practice (sometimes referred to as metta-meditation). It involves mentally sending kindness and warmth towards others by silently repeating traditional phrases (or mantras).

Loving Kindness is one of the most direct routes to happiness. It is a powerful practice in dispelling negative emotions such as anxiety and depression. It encourages us to be less self-absorbed. Furthermore, it actually makes us more inclined to react positively to others (there is plenty of research to support this).

How do you practice Loving-Kindness?

In this practice, we begin by sending compassion to ourselves. Developing self-compassion is an essential first step to allow us in turn to become a more compassionate person. After that, we can express this compassion increasingly outwardly.

If we feel inadequate or insecure, we harm ourselves by beating ourselves up. Furthermore, we also tend to harm others around us, either by taking out our anger, irritation or frustrations on them. Sometimes by needing or expecting them to love us in ways that we are not able to love ourselves. On the other hand, if we suppress our feelings, we keep ourselves from really, truly connecting with others in a meaningful way as we are too absorbed with our own ill-being.

Mindfulness and self-compassion can free us from past painful and self-limiting beliefs. Learning to open our heart to the loving-kindness within us and in the world around us will eventually help us live more freely and fearlessly.

 We cannot achieve world peace without first achieving peace within ourselves … inner peace. In an atmosphere of hatred, anger, competition and violence no lasting peace can be achieved. These negative and destructive forces must be overcome by compassion, love and altruism which are the essential teachings of the Buddha.” – Dalia Lama

Do you trust in yourself and in life?

As, I was guiding the second session of an MBSR training yesterday and sharing the 8 mindful attitudes, someone became really curious about TRUST. I love it when that happens as it invites all of us to be curious and ponder on something we may have overlooked. This person shared that trust is probably the toughest inclination of mind to cultivate, at least for her. I invited her to work with it and explore it this coming week and it also made me reflect.

Interestingly enough, trust is something that has always been there for me but pretty dormant. It has been a force slowly but surely awakening in me and am amazed at what an immense power comes from TRUST. I’ve always enjoyed adventure and exploring the unknown and I certainly wouldn’t have ventured there without a healthy amount of trust. Trust in myself to figure out things and trust in life. I would have never moved to Italy without speaking the language and without a job or home if I didn’t trust that I could fall back on my feet. I certainly wouldn’t have gone travelling around Asia for 6 months on my own. I wouldn’t have chosen for a home birth (that ended up being in the hospital…). And I definitely never would have become a mindfulness teacher, a total leap of faith, if I hadn’t trusted somehow that it would work out (if curious, you can read more about my journey here). My most precious and defining life experiences came from getting out of my comfort zone and TRUSTING that it would all be ok eventually… And the more I trust, the more I grow and the more I trust so it is a virtuous cycle:)

I slept on my trust reflections and awoke this morning with this beautiful quote from Rumi in mind.

What if trust was just about allowing ourselves to pursue what we enjoy, what we are curious about, what we love? It can start small, little rain drops of joy until we allow that to grow and become our path, the river of our lives.  

What is it you feel drawn to? Can you allow yourself space to explore that and let it grow? We can become so absorbed into endless doing that we can easily forget to make space to what is calling us, to tune into our intuition. This is the place where we belong, where we become aligned, where joy flows and beauty is created.
It all starts with TRUST so please do:)

If you have a story or some reflections around trust of your own, please share them, I would love to hear them and they empower others. 

My journey to mindfulness

I thought it was about time I share my personal mindfulness journey so here we go.

I discovered mindfulness in 2013 and I’ve been dedicated to supporting people towards greater well-being with the practice of mindfulness for almost 5 years now. As any major life transition, it has been quite a journey to become a mindfulness trainer, one that started with a big leap of faith and surrendering to the unknown with plenty of ups and downs along the way.

Before walking the mindful path, I worked in the corporate world for 15 years, in media agencies, in a rather fast-paced, deadline-driven environment _which I suppose is pretty standard nowadays in any corporate jobs especially in a senior role, as we take on more responsibility. My last client was Heineken so I was involved in the process of selling beer to people. It was fun, the parties were great and I worked with a lot of nice, smart people, many who felt really ok and sometimes very passionate about selling beer. However, I was really missing connection with what I was doing and found it difficult to just ignore that and go on as if it didn’t matter all that much. I never really fit in that world and was always fantasizing about doing something else with my life, something different than selling the latest range of shampoo or beer, something that actually made a difference and added value in people’s lives. This wasn’t new, for as long as I can remember I had always been searching for meaning and thinking there must be more to life. Becoming a mom propelled my journey into mindfulness. I began to feel the lack of purpose in my work more intensely, becoming a mother made me even more conscious about my contribution to the world was and how I was shaping the future. And of course, becoming a mom was such a transformation and a radical lifestyle change in itself. I found myself wanting to spend more time with my daughter, stressed with juggling the demands of work and parenthood. My old work rhythm didn’t fit my new mama life. I was frustrated that work was so often in the background in the moments I had with my girl. I left the office early to make it to day care at a decent time but work was never finished and I resented turning my laptop on again as soon as my daughter was asleep. Everything was ok on the surface but I wasn’t happy. I felt I was always running trying to keep up with my life rather than living it, enjoying it.

I registered to a mindfulness course in my desperation and this was a huge wake up call for me. Practicing mindfulness made me look at my life with new eyes and experience things differently. I realized I wasn’t really present for a lot of my life, very caught up in my head, as if almost sleepwalking through life. Nothing in my life had changed except my presence & perspective, but simply by practicing and applying mindfulness I could enjoy the day more and make small steps to improve my daily routine. My focus and efficiency at work improved, even my relationship with my boss was better. I started setting boundaries, really disconnecting from work when I got home, being fully there for my girl, enjoying the moment and not checking my emails in the evening or in the morning. I could actually enjoy the cycle to work and the scenery. All these little things and the fact that I was present for them made a big difference in the quality of my day.

I was so inspired by mindfulness that I decided that I wanted to find a way to share these amazing tools. The concept of mindfulness wasn’t completely new to me: I had already been practicing yoga for quite some years and was somewhat familiar with Buddhist meditation, I had read many books and attended many workshops around personal development.  More importantly I had lived, known all sorts of joys as well as challenges. I had also experienced mental health challenges in my early 20s, lived in 5 different countries, adjusted to different cultures, etc. I knew what a gem mindfulness was to hold everything, all the beauty as well as curve balls that life can throw at you.  The mindfulness practices I had finally discovered were so profound and at the same time simple and applicable in modern life.

Mindfulness gave me a huge amount of perspective, it put me in touch with what it was that really mattered to me, what made me happy and I started honouring that and making it a priority. I discovered my intuition and started listening, slowly but surely mindfulness has allowed me to create a life more in accordance with my values rather than one driven by external pressures or what I felt I should be doing.

What mattered to me was clear:

–          Being a mom: I realized I didn’t want to outsource childcare half as much as I was doing, I wanted to see my kids grow up

–          Being of service: contributing positively to the world

–          The freedom to live my life my own particular way

–          My well-being and happiness was a priority and also what was going to enable me to actually be a good mom and contribute positively to world.

It dawned on me that deep inside we all feel this way, that our well-being is the foundation for everything we do. Happiness is something we all seek and need and are sometimes equally confused about how to find it. Mindfulness, creating the conditions in your mind for contentment, is certainly a very powerful practice for greater well-being.

Because mindfulness was transformative in my life it gave me the inspiration to share these tools with others knowing that it would benefit them too. Now my hugest source of motivation comes from simply witnessing people transform right before my eyes. It is amazing what loving attention can do and it warms my heart to see the magic happen time and time again! Through facilitating mindfulness courses and workshops, I have touched more lives positively than ever before and it feels extremely rewarding to get to do this beautiful work.

In a “nutshell”, that’s the story of what brought me here. Of course there are a lot more layers and depth to it that I can write here. Since I have begun, I’ve expanded my experience and skill set to increasingly support people towards thriving.

I continue to support open groups with mindfulness and have recently extending my offering to include self-compassion practices and tools in workshop formats. The relationship we have with ourselves, our sense of self, is the source of everything. Self-compassion is a super highway into healing and transformation.

On top of open groups, I have specialized in supporting expecting and new  parents. My path to supporting expecting parents was born through my own experience of falling pregnant a second time and witnessing how immensely supportive mindfulness was in the transformative process of pregnancy, birth and parenting. Since 2018, I teach the Mindful Birthing & Parenting program and have become a doula. I also host plenty of workshops for new and not so new parents.

I feel passionate about women empowerment and sustainability (which are very much related) so I am increasingly involved in those areas as well in the form of workshops, nature walks and speaking or attending events.

Finally, I have recently started my journey as a coach to support people increasingly on an individual level. My aim is to support people experiencing high levels of stress, burn-out or personal difficulties as well as those in life transitions looking for support and direction (whether it be becoming a parent and/or adjusting to parenthood, looking for more alignment in professional life or creating a heart-centred business).

This mindful path is not a destination but a continuous journey of exploring and discovering, learning and deep diving, integrating and applying, sharing and spreading where creating more harmony in and around me is the heart of the matter. It is not always an easy path and I’ve had some bumps and falls but it is an adventure that is empowering and liberating and makes life much more enchanting and interesting. Hope to meet you soon along the way!

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that´s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that´s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. The often surprising results of that hunt – that´s what I call Big Magic” – Elizabeth Gilbert

 

 

 

Self-Compassion is the source of healing and thriving!

“Learning to embrace yourself and your imperfections gives you the resilience needed to thrive”

In my work of guiding people in their mindfulness journey over the last years, I’ve noticed just how much harsh self-talk, judgment and self-doubt many people can engage in. And I can totally relate to this, in the past, I didn’t treat myself kind for so many years. We can undermine ourselves in so many ways. Especially when things get tough, instead of treating ourselves nice we often add a layer of suffering by shame, self-blame and feelings of inadequacy. There are many reasons for this and I won’t delve into the causes here. But the good news and most relevant right now is that with awareness and compassion practices we can shift things around. Self-compassion is so powerful and transformative. Self-compassion significantly helps reduce anxiety and depression and enhance overall well-being and confidence.

I believe self-compassion, the ability to treat yourself the way you would a good friend who is having a hard time, is a key to healing old and present wounds (which are connected) and breaking away from unhelpful patterns, usually variations of those that involve turning against ourselves be it generally or when things go wrong. When we heal the relationship with ourselves, we can heal our relationship with others, our environment, the world. Self-compassion is NOT selfish but the foundation to being more compassionate to others without depleting ourselves in the process. It actually starts with ourselves and when our own cup is full we can gradually extend our compassion from inside out.

Please join me for one of my upcoming self-compassion workshop series and learn tools to increase your self-compassion.

For more information (including guided practices ) about self-compassion, check out www.self-compassion.org

For inspiration about self-compassion please have a look at this TedTalk from Kristin Neff, co-founder of the Mindful Self-Compassion Program together with Chris Germer.