There are so many techniques I use with my clients (and personally), to help come back to the present with self-compassion and loving kindness.
I’m a big advocate for being your own best friend, and I also realize it take practice to master this. Working with these techniques over time, helps to sooth the nervous system by shedding the extra stress we add on a daily basis when we are not kind to ourselves.
These are three techniques I use to help love myself even though I am far from perfect! I hope you also can find some helpful tools here too. Repetition is key!
Mindfulness helps us to continue to come back to the present without judgement by just observing. Our minds are wired to pull us into our many stories and limited beliefs. Practice over time helps to rewire our reactive go-to responses by reminding us to come back to what’s REALLY happening NOW instead of what our mind is pulling us into.
This is a short version of a mindfulness exercise. You’ll be able to practice being the “observer” of yourself. This type of exercise allows us to get more present in our experiences even when our mind hooks us and pulls us in
Begin by shutting your eyes and becoming aware of your breath.
Observe all aspects of your breath:
1. Are there any sensations you’re experiencing with the waves of airflow?
2. Is the air of your breath warm or cool?
3. Do you breathe through your mouth, nose or both?
4. What movement does your body experience with each inhalation and exhalation? Do your shoulders move up and down? Does your chest rise and fall or your belly expand?
Don’t try to change or control your breath. There’s no right or wrong way to breathe. Just observe and notice what occurs naturally.
Now gently shift your awareness to what you’re hearing. Don’t try to seek any sound out or control anything. Just be the observer of what your sense of hearing is like.
1. Is there a certain pitch to what you hear?
2. What is the volume like?
3. Are you hearing any background noise or a soft buzzing?
4. Maybe you hear the pulsing of your heart.
You can even label it if you’d like.
As you’re observing your sense of hearing, notice any time your mind hooks you—and pulls you away from your direct sensory experience and—away from the present moment. Notice where your mind takes you:
1. Are you pulled away by your to do list?
2. a memory perhaps?
3. you might be anticipating an upcoming meeting or date.
Just notice. Notice where you get stuck and begin to step back and allow your attention to shift. Realize this is a natural tendency of the human mind to pull us in various directions at every moment. Just simply observe without judgment, accept you’re mind has done this and shift back into your observer seat—back into the present moment.
Now move your attention to what sensations you feel in your body.
4. Do you feel the beating of your heart?
5. Does your skin itch anywhere?
6. Do you have any discomfort?
7. Are you hot or cold?
Again just notice.
Bring awareness to the many internal and external changes that are happening moment to moment and witness how nothing ever remains the same. Notice how easily your mind hooks you away from your direct experience. Intentionally shift your focus back to where you want it to be in the present moment.
All of this internal and external motion is like a downpour of rain in the middle of a bright sunny day. One moment the sun is shining brightly and the next moment the rain pours down under a blanket of thick grey clouds, only to be finished off by a rainbow and bright sunshine a few minutes later.
Everything around us…..and in us….is flowing all the time. Nothing is permanent. Over time as you train yourself to be the observer of all your experiences, you will learn to maintain a state of non-reactivity, no matter what presents
itself. You can make room for all that flows into your awareness, whether comfortable or uncomfortable, pleasant or unpleasant. It doesn’t matter. You are only the observer of these constantly changing events—you are not the
Moment to moment you then get to choose how you want to be and what you want to do that’s meaningful to you.
Slowly bring awareness back into your arms and legs and slowly open your eyes when you’re ready. With this type of practice, we can step back from all the ongoing content that often traps us into believing we are locked into being certain ways.
RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture
I’m a big fan of Tara Brach and her work on self-compassion. She describes this practice as follows: The acronym RAIN – Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture – guides us in bringing mindfulness and compassion to difficult emotions. With practice, we can find our way home to open-hearted presence in the midst of whatever arises.
“Don’t turn away.
Keep your gaze on the bandaged place.
That’s where the light enters you.”
Listen to her guided meditation:
You can also purchase her book Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN on Amazon.
verywellmind.com states that: During loving kindness meditation, you focus benevolent and loving energy toward yourself and others. You can expect to feel warm feelings of care and compassion in addition to gaining the well-documented benefits of traditional meditation. Emerging research specifically on LKM is also helping social scientists to understand the unique benefits that it provides, although most study authors note that more research is needed.
How to Practice Loving Kindness Mediation
There are different ways to practice this form of meditation, each based on different Buddhist traditions, but each variation uses the same core psychological operation. During your meditation, you generate kind intentions toward certain targets including yourself and others.
- Carve out some quiet time for yourself (even a few minutes will work) and sit comfortably. Close your eyes, relax your muscles, and take a few deep breaths.
- Imagine yourself experiencing complete physical and emotional wellness and inner peace. Imagine feeling perfect love for yourself, thanking yourself for all that you are, knowing that you are just right—just as you are. Focus on this feeling of inner peace, and imagine that you are breathing out tension and breathing in feelings of love.
- Repeat three or four positive, reassuring phrases to yourself. These messages are examples, but you can also create your own:
- May I be happy
- May I be safe
- May I be healthy, peaceful, and strong
- May I give and receive appreciation today
- Bask in feelings of warmth and self-compassion for a few moments. If your attention drifts, gently redirect it back to these feelings of loving kindness. Let these feelings envelop you.
To read more about Loving Kindness Meditation go to VeryWellMind.com
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